Monday, July 20, 2009

Leek and Oatmeal soup

A simple restorative soup for when you are all bunged up with flu and feeling miserable.

Like me.

Fry a chopped leek slowly in some butter and olive oil until soft, translucent and faintly golden brown, ten minutes at least. Add in a good handfull of rolled oats, stir about a bit and leave to cook for a few minutes. Pour in a pint and a quarter of vegetable stock and simmer gently until the oats are cooked but still have some bite, mine took a bit over half an hour. Season and serve.

I had mine with croutons and a handfull of chopped parsley.

Now you may notice that I have posted this recipe before but Tinned Tomatoes and Lisa's Kitchen has a monthly event - "No Croutons required" and seeing as this is one of my favourite soups, and one of my favourite photos, and seeing as I am bunged up with the flu again . . . well I thought I would enter this one.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Carrot and Peanut soup

Another Thai inspired soup today. It wasn’t supposed to end up that way but it is wet and rainy here so I thought some ginger would help keep us warm. Then I overdid the chilli a little and so added coconut milk to cool it down a little and the whole thing headed east . . .

- Simmer a small onion, a couple of cloves of garlic and a thumb sized piece of ginger root (peeled and chopped or sliced) in some oil quite quickly until the onion is turning transparent.
- Meanwhile put a couple of tablespoons of roasted, unsalted peanuts in a blender with enough stock to cover and whizz them smoothish.
- Once the onion is turning clear add in half a rteaspoon of dried chilli flakes and three carrots peeled and roughly chopped followed by a pint of vegetable stock. - Pour in the peanut mush and bring to the boil.
- Simmer gently until the carrot is cooked.
- Blend the soup smooth and reheat with a dessertspoonful of tamari or soy sauce, the juice of half a lime and a third of a tin of coconut milk.

You should end up with a beautiful apricot coloured soup that I served with some coriander leaves.

Carrots have a nuttiness to them that I think echos the taste of peanuts so I’ll probably try this one again but without the ginger and chilli and coconut, hopefully ending up with a much simpler soup that just brings out the flavours of the carrots and peanuts. Some thyme might be nice here . . . .

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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Spinach and Coconut soup

Chilli, ginger and lemongrass complement the lemonyness of the spinach and add a zingy background to this creamy soup. It is also a classic example of the way i make a soup from three parts, the base the thickening and the main ingredient. If you want to know more it is all explained in my book which is absolutely free and has been downloaded over 2000 times now! (If you would like a copy just follow the links and my ramblings on the right.)

Ok the main ingredient is spinach of course but first construct the base.

- In a saucepan put some olive oil then fry a small onion, a clove of garlic both peeled and sliced.
- Add in a third to a half of a red chilli sliced. How much depends on how hot you like your soup. Less is usually better than more if you are not sure.
- Add a thumb sized piece of ginger sliced and a dessertspoonful of sliced lemongrass. (mine comes ready sliced in a tube).
- Quickly cook all this until the onion goes translucent.

All of this forms the base of the soup - slightly thai influenced in this case.

- Now add in a small potato, peeled and roughly chopped. This will thicken the soup.
- Pour in a pint or so of vegetable stock and leave to simmer until the potato is soft, ten to fifteen minutes I should think.
- Now pop in the main ingredient, spinach. A two or three big handfuls should do it, rinsed under the tap to remove any soil.
- The spinach will cook in a couple of minutes and then blend the whole lot smooth.
- Reheat adding a third of a tin of coconut milk, the juice of half a lime and a little salt if you think it needs it.

I served mine with a few mint leaves sliced up. Coriander or basil would have been good as well.

Coconut milk is a great ingredient to have in your cupboard, I try it with just about everything eventually because it adds a slightly exotic creamyness as well as being dead easy to use - just open the tin and pour it into the soup at the end as you reheat it. Taste as you go and reheat gently because it might curdle, although I have never worried myself because it does not seem to affect the flavour. I buy 14oz cans and freeze what is left over in small amounts say a third of a tin because that is what I usually use for a pint of soup.

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Saturday, July 4, 2009


"Nowadays we are so used to getting food pre-prepared, ready to eat,that we hardly consider how it gets there.You order it over the phone or internet, or you open the tin and warm it through, or you take it out of the freezer and microwave it, and hey presto or “ding” should I say, there it is on your plate ready to eat. Even recipes are pretty foolproof, you could probably go from start to finish without tasting and the end result would be fine.
But that is not what we are after here. No, we are constructing something from scratch, so taste everything all the way through. Watch how the flavours change, how the stock overpowers everything at the beginning but then mellows during cooking as the other flavours develop and come through.

And think about what you’re tasting, is it nice? Is it what you expected? Does it need something else? If it does you’ll know, you may not know what, but you will know that the taste is not quite right. Here is where I experiment. I’ll take a spoonful and add a little bit to that spoonful, say yoghurt perhaps or lemon juice or some feta cheese. Then I’ll taste that and if it works – fine, if not I still have my soup. This way you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t, and gather a whole lot of ideas that work (or don’t) for the future."

I have become a bit obsessed with tv chefs lately. Or not them as such but their behaviour. To be specific - whether they taste things as they go along. I have noticed that some do and some don’t. Or do they, as Nicola suggested try things but then that bit is just cut out, hmmmm . . .

Because you have to taste as you go along don’t you? I taste everything, including things I shouldn’t like food my children have touched or some more disgusting things (the cheese sandwich found in a skip (dumpster), comes to mind but is best forgotten!). But does everybody, have recipes become so precise and predictable that tasting and adjusting are no longer required ?

I have noticed that the chefs I like to watch, from Rachel Allen through to Nigella and Jamie Oliver do taste as they go along but that is probably part of their appeal, they cook like I do or rather I would like to cook like they do. Having noticed that leaves me wondering even more about all the other chefs . . .

Perhaps I need to get out more.

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