Thursday, May 28, 2009

An Asian inspired Chicken, Ginger and Spring Onion Soup

After the recent rain it is now one of those clear bright days of Autumn going into Winter. The sun is streaming through the windows and bouncing around the room with a cold intensity that a lazy Summer day could never match. Ever the perfect earth-mother, Nicola has made some stock from the remains of our Sunday roast chicken. It is absolutely delicious, fresh and clean and deserves a starring role in something . . .

I am not an expert but to me the difference between an Asian soup and a Western is their simplicity. Whereas a Western soup would be cooked slowly an Asian one is quick to make, consisting of little more than stock warmed through with a few simple flavourings. This is my take on that idea.

- Put a pint of chicken stock in a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.
- Take a small piece of ginger root, say half the size of your thumb, slice it very thinly and pop it into the stock.
- While the stock is simmering, turn on the grill and prepare the chicken.
- Rub a chicken breast with a little olive oil and lots of salt and ground black pepper.
- Put under the grill and cook until browning at the edges and just cooked through. I do this on a little tin foil box or tray that I fold up so that the juices are collected to add to the soup as well.
- Now back to the stock, and add in half a teaspoon of salt, the same of sugar and about a dessertspoon of light soy sauce. I use an organic Tamari which is quite mild and not too salty, so adjust the amount until it tastes right.
- Slice two spring onions into thin circles.
- Once the chicken is cooked slice or tear it into pieces.
- Add the chicken and spring onions to the stock and serve immediately, nice and hot.

Serve with lots of Winter sunshine.

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Vegetable and Walnut Broth

It is wet and very wild here this weekend. Not the sort of weather you want to be out in. Not unless you have something warm and filling to come back to. Like a broth made with barley and dried peas. I was brought up on Scotch broth that my mum would make in the pressure cooker with a small bit of lamb flank or neck. It was fatty, glutinous and tasted delicious on a bitterly cold day. But down here in Hawkes Bay it is somewhat warmer and although there is plenty of lamb I have made a vegetable version with a few walnuts thrown in as well for variety and because they go with the nuttyness of the barley.

You can buy a mixture of barley and dried peas - yellow and green, called (fairly obviously) “broth mixture” or do as I did and mix your own. It is best to think ahead though, because although you can cook dried peas straight from the packet they will take hours and hours to soften. So it is better to pop some in a bowl and soak them in water overnight. Next day rinse in new water, drain and then use.

- Ok so start by slowly frying a peeled and finely chopped onion in some olive oil until soft. This will take longer than you think, a good ten to fifteen minutes.
- Meanwhile peel and grate some vegetables. I like to go heavy on potatoes (a small one) and carrots (two) with some turnip (a small piece) but use whatever you have.
- Also crush up some walnuts, say three, by shelling them, putting them in a ziplock bag and whacking with a rolling pin.
- Once the onion is soft put in a cupful of the drained broth mixture along with the vegetables and walnuts.
- Pour in a pint and a half of vegetable stock and simmer at a gentle boil until the peas are soft. This could take anywhere from half an hour to an hour so just keep checking until they are as soft as you like.
- Finally check for salt and pepper and serve. Some chopped parley or coriander is nice as well if you have some.

This is the sort of soup that is even better next day and will freeze well. But if you haven’t got the time for all of that I have also made a much simpler version here.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

White bean and Celery soup

Every now and then I get the urge to make some particular thing. Today it was something pure, delicate and white. A brief look in the pantry and fridge revealed a small collection of white things - a tin of cannellini beans, some ground almonds, celery, garlic and white onions. Oh, and some white bread. And the result? A white bean and celery soup. I did not use everything I had found and the soup was not even very white, but it was delicious . . . .

- In a tablespoon or two of olive oil, gently fry a peeled and chopped onion, a couple of clove of garlic, two or three sticks of celery and a sage leaf.
- Once they are soft and translucent add in a can of cannellini beans, drained and washed. Stir around and cook for a further minute or two.
- Pour in a glass of white wine, I used Sauvignon Blanc. Bring the heat up and boil until the liquid has nearly all evaporated.
- Add in a pint and a quarter of vegetable stock, reduce the heat and simmer until the celery is soft, say fifteen or twenty minutes.
- Take out the sage leaf and blend the soup smooth.
- Reheat, adding more stock if it is too thick and some salt and a little lemon juice if you think it needs it.

I served mine just as it was, with just a sprinkling of ground black pepper. Oh and some of that white bread as well of course.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

About me

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Potato, Cumin, Yoghurt and Mint soup

Always the bridesmaid, potato rarely gets the starring role in a soup. This is a bit unfair because it has a lovely texture, smooth and creamy with a stickiness about it that is as comforting as porridge is on a cold day. And a potato is a true friend as well, no matter what dire straights I have found myself in there has always been a potato or two in the larder somewhere to make sure I am fed. So today I celebrate the potato with a quite intensly savoury soup that is at the same time tangy as well.

- Gently fry an onion and a clove of garlic (peeled and roughly chopped) in some oil and butter until softly translucent.
- Add in a teaspoon of ground Cunin seeds, a teaspoon of whole cumin seeds, half a teaspoon of ground Blackpepper and half a teaspoon of Turmuric for it's earthiness.
- Stir the spices around a bit for a couple of minutes then add in two or three potatoes peeled and roughly diced, stir around again to mix everything together.
- Pour in a pint and a quarter of vegetable stock, bring to a gentle boil and leave until the potatoes are cooked.
- Blend or liquidise the soup and return to the now washed pan.
- Stir in a tablespoon of creamy greek yoghurt and a small palmfull of sliced mint leaves along with some salt and pepper if required.
- Reheat gently, don't let it boil or the yoghurt will separate into little white bits.
- Serve with another dollop of yoghurt and some more chopped mint.

Student food really but there is nothing wrong with that. Jamie Oliver would be proud of me I think . . . .

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