Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pumpkin, Carrot and Ginger soup with Strawberry sauce - yes really

Is it cold where you are? Here is a plain soup with the comforting warmth that only ginger can give and with a kick as well caused by adding just a little too much chilli . . .

- The base begins with an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped or squashed and left cooking slowly in some olive oil.
- Grate a thumb sized piece of ginger root and add to the onion along with half a red chilli sliced up.
- Leave to cook slowly for fifteen minutes or so until soft.
- Scoop out the onions etc into a bowl, turn the heat up and put in two carrots peeled and roughly chopped and about the same amount of pumpkin.
- Stir them around a bit until they start to brown at the edges.
- Put the onions etc back in along with a pint and a quarter of vegetable stock.
- Bring to a boil then turn down the heat and leave to simmer until all is soft.
- Liquidise smooth, return to the pan and squeeze in half a lemon and some salt and pepper if it needs it.

Just then Nicola came back . . . .

" Peter, it's 30 degrees out there - why are you making soup?" (30 centigrade is 86 fareinheit by the way)

"errrrrm . . . . " good question I thought, trying to think of a clever answer and stalling my brain in the process.

I hid behind the fridge door until she went away.

And found some strawberries that were a bit past it for eating. Now strawberries go with lots of different things, so popping a strawberry into my mouth I had a spoonful of soup. The result was rather nice.

Hence I liquidised a couple of handfuls to make a sauce to serve with the soup. And after a short competition to see who could make the best swirl we ate lunch outside in the heat.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pumpkin and Roast Beetroot soup

I have grown up not liking beetroot. To me it was always something that came in a jar tasting of vinegar and earth. And then one day I had it roasted, in a salad I should think, and everything changed . . . .

- First roast your beetroots, I like to speed things up by boling them first, so scrub a couple and pop them in a pan of cold water.
- Bring to the boil and boil for fifteen minutes or so until just tender when poked with a knife.
- Put the oven on hottish, say 190 centigrade and pop a dish in with some olive oil in to heat.
- Meanwhile you can get on with the pumpkin part which is my usual recipe, so cook slowly an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic along with a thyme stem or two in some oil until soft and golden brown.
- Once the beetroot has boiled drain and allow to cool so you can peel them and chop them into chunks.
- Take the dish out of the oven and put the beetroot into the hot oil along with a clove of garlic peeled and crushed and a few more thyme stems. Pop it back into the oven to roast for another fifteen to twenty minutes.
- To the onion and garlic add in half a small pumpkin, about a breakfast bowl full, peeled and chopped into thumb sized pieces, turn up the heat and cook until the pumpkin browns at the edges, stirring now and again.
- Add a pint and a half of vegetable stock and turning the heat down leave to simmer until the pumpkin is soft.
- Once the beetroot is roasted take it out of the oven and pour in a dessertspoonfull or two of balsamic vinegar and stir around.

There are two recipes going on at once here of course, but why not? - if I am going to all the trouble of roasting beetroot I am going to roast some extra. This mixed with some feta cheese and some more thyme leaves (I like thyme!) makes a lovely salad and if you then add a handfull of that new fangled microsalad, and some bread, you'll have tomorrows lunch. Anyway back to the soup.

- Add the rest of the beetroot to the soup. How much depends on how strong you want the flavour to be, I used about half as much as the pumpkin which gave a distinct but not overpowering taste.
- Allow to cool a little then fish out the thyme stalks and blend the soup until smooth - it will go a beautifull rasberry red colour.
- Squeeze in half a lemon and serve with crumbled feta cheese and still more thyme leaves.

One of the prettiest looking soups I have made for a long time and a gorgeous flavour, comforting and earthy with an orangy hint in there as well.

And thinking of rasberry red here's a memory from the past . . .

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Bread of course, is the ideal accompaniment to any soup. There is a lot of mysticism attached to bread making, but a simple flat loaf is fairly straightforward to make. A couple of ingredients will make the result more predictable. Firstly, use a strong or breadmaking flour. This has more gluten and makes a more springy dough, so trapping more bubbles and giving a lighter loaf. Secondly use a dried yeast with flour improvers in. Here in New Zealand it is called “Surebake“ but there will be a type in your supermarket, usually next to the flour. You can use ordinary plain flour and normal dried yeast but I find that it makes a more solid loaf. Finally, and this is probably the most important part, remember that your dough is alive! So keep it warm and always treat it gently but firmly.

For a small bread, enough for two or three people, take a warm mixing bowl and pour in two cupfuls of flour. Add in a teaspoonful and a half of yeast, a teaspoonful of salt and the same of sugar or honey. Mix them all around a bit then add in 200ml of warm water. That is warm to the touch but not hot, blood heat I suppose. Mix it all together and you will get a sticky dough. Tip this out onto a floured surface and knead it. You can look up any bread book for how to knead , but basically you flatten out your ball of dough from the middle with your hands then fold it back into the middle and stretch it out again. Do this for a good ten minutes, gently but firmly - it and should become smooth and elastic. If the dough is quite wet then use some sort of spatula to knead it with, scooping it from the outside over and into the middle. It will pick up more flour as you work it and get drier.

Now put some olive oil into a bowl, pop the dough ball in and roll it around a bit. Cover the bowl with Gladwrap (clingfilm) or a damp tea towel and place the bowl somewhere warm for an hour. I use the airing cupboard or a sunny windowsill. The dough will get bigger eventually threatening to engulf the whole bowl!

Put the oven on, I use 190 centigrade. Flour a baking sheet or tray and tip the dough out onto it. Knead it a bit and flatten it out to about ½ an inch thick. Pop it in the middle or bottom of the oven for about ten minutes until cooked and as brown as you like.

I am not a great fan of flavoured breads but I do like toppings – walnuts, cheese, garlic, onions, herbs, olives etc, etc. To stop the drier toppings burning I mix them in a bowl with some olive oil and spread that on the bread before it goes in the oven, pressing it all in as much as possible. Walnuts will come out beautifully toasted this way. They tend to drop off again once cooked, but you are going to pick at them and nibble at them anyway so it makes little difference.

That's all there is to it really. The kitchen will smell glorious.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, February 6, 2009


I love cookery books but they also frustrate me. Being a visual person the pictures always catch my eye first and draw me in, but then the words often disappoint. Sometimes all you want to do is look up a quick recipe and get on with making it and there are books for that but I want more. I want a book I can lie in bed and read. I want to know who wrote the book, why they cooked this or that and who for, I want vision, I want to be inspired to do what they do, but in my own way. It seems to me that cookery books have been written the same way, to the same formula forever. Introduction, a list of store cupboard ingredients, basic utensils . . . . and so on. You know, when I get home with my shiny new book I don't want any of that. What I want to do is to open my pantry, take out what I have and just start cooking right then and there. This can only be accomplished with understanding - by knowing why things are done in a certain way, and yet most recipes just tell you what do without explanation. And this goes further - some of the instructions have been repeated unchanged for years. I myself have never salted and drained courgette or aubergine before use and I think with modern varieties it is unnecessary, yet it appears over and over again. If a book does need a list of knives to buy, then put it at the back. If I need to, I'll find it ; but don't stifle my enthusiasm before I get to pick up so much as an an onion. We mostly all have an eclectic mix of pans already so I'll be using the one at the front of the cupboard not rushing off to buy the one with the authors name on it ( that will go on a list for my birthday).

So character and directness, thats what I want, a book with a personality that reflects what's inside.

My favourite book is of course Appetite by Nigel Slater. It is not perfect by what I have just written but it inspired me from the first page with it's different approach.

So what is your favourite?

Stumble Upon Toolbar
Related Posts with Thumbnails