Sunday, August 16, 2009

Tomato and Cumin soup

You have been working late but have finally arrived home. Tired and hungry you gaze hopefully into the fridge, but there is nothing that interesting there . . . so what do you do?

Open a tin? Of course you do, but not of some preprepared foodstuff that probably tastes like every other ready food out there. No you are a creative individual and so open a can of the best invention ever . . . tinned tomatoes. 

- Peel and chop half an onion and a big clove of garlic and fry slowly in some olive oil.
- Add in a small potato, peeled and diced, and continue to cook slowly until the onion is translucent - ten minutes or so.
- Pour in a tin of tomatoes, half a pint of half strength vegetable stock from a powder and a handfull of chopped fresh parsley in you have some.
- Bring to a gentle boil and continue to cook for another ten minutes until the potato is soft.
- Meanwhile pop a dry frying pan on to heat. Put a teaspoonful of cumin seeds and let them toast for a few minutes. Watch carefully in case they burn removing the seeds from the heat just as they turn a darker brown and smell lovely.
- Once the soup is cooked mash up the potato, onion and tomatoes with a potato masher, leaving it all a bit chunky.
- Check and add salt if neccesary and reheat.
- Ladle into a bowl and sprinkle over some of the cumin seeds along with anything you may have found in the fridge - I had sour cream but feta would have been nice as well ( don’t add salt to your soup before tasting it with the feta, as feta can be pretty salty)

 This is a very simplified version of Tomato and Rosemary soup with Cumin instead of Rosemary. Cumin seems to be my favourite spice at the moment, especially with tomatoes - the lemonyness of the Cumin complimenting the tomatoes beautifully. Just be carefull not to add too much as it can easily overpower everything else, a teaspoonful between two people seems about right to me, but taste it and see . . . 

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Potato, Rosemary and Brie soup

Definitely a Winter soup this one. Potatoes, onion, bacon and cheese - all good things that are warming, filling and go together beautifully. Tie that all together with rosemary and saffron and you know that whilst it may be cold outside Summer will soon not be far away . . . 

- Pop a pan on to heat with some butter and olive oil.
- Pop in half an onion, a clove of garlic (peeled and roughly chopped) and a slice of bacon cut into pieces.
- Leave to cook on a medium heat until all is cooked and the onion is translucent and brown at the edges.
- Add in a couple of potatoes, peeled and chopped, and fry a bit longer stirring occasionally until the potato absorbs the flavours and begin to brown at the edges as well.
- Pour over a pint and a half of vegetable stock , bring to a gentle boil and pop in a sprig of rosemary and a pinch of saffron stamens.

Now rosemary is pretty strong and can easily overpower everything else so keep tasting the soup and as soon as you think the flavour is getting too strong fish out the rosemary. My sprig was about three inches long and it was in for about 5 minutes but it all depends on your plant. If at the end you do not think the rosemary flavour is strong enough, just put the sprig back in again whilst you warm the soup up again.

- Continue to simmer gently until the potatoes are soft - say another ten minutes or so.
- take the soup off the heat and allow to cool for a minute or so then blend almost smooth.
- Put the soup back into the saucepan along with a handful of chopped up brie and reheat gently but do not boil because the soup will go tough and stringy (or so I have read, it has never happened to me).

I left the rind on the brie for texture and because I think it looks pretty this way.

- Check for seasoning adding a little salt and black pepper if required and once warmed through serve.

I had some bacon in the fridge so this is obviously not a vegetarian soup . . . but it could easily be, just miss out the bacon and add some celery instead.

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Roast Tomato soup

I spent today thinking of Tuscany. I am not sure if this is exactly true but I seem to remember reading that in Tuscany they use a lot of bread in cooking. The reason for this is because the powers that be at the time decided to raise some money by taxing salt. Hence to save money the Tuscans made bread without salt. But the downside of this was that the bread went stale more quickly resulting in various dishes that used stale bread imaginatively.

This soup has nothing to do with Tuscany of course, but it was delicious . . . . and I think the best way to use stale bread is to make croutons!

- Put your oven on to it’s hottest setting.
- In an oven proof dish put 5 or six tomatoes, an onion, a couple of cloves of garlic and a bunch of Thyme. (Peel and roughly chop each as appropriate.)
- Sprinkle over some salt, ground black pepper and a couple of tablespoonfuls of olive oil. 
- Stir it all about a bit and pop in the oven.
- Leave to cook until the tomatoes are blackened around the edges - twenty minutes or so depending on how hot the oven is.
- Meanwhile roughly chop some stale bread, I had a bit of left over ciabatta, put in a bowl with salt, pepper and a crushed and chopped clove of garlic.
- Pour over another tablespoonful or two of olive oil, stir, and leave to sit.
- Ten minutes before the tomatoes are ready put the croutons onto a baking tray and place in the oven.
- The will be fine, but watch the croutons because they will quickly burn. Take them out just as they get golden brown and just charred at the edges.
- Take the tomatoes from the oven, allow to cool fro a few minutes then pour into a sieve over a bowl.
- Use a wooden spoon to rub the tomato mixture through the sieve, removing the skins, seeds and stalks etc in the process.
- Put the tomato sauce into a saucepan with an equal amount of vegetable stock and a small potato peeled and chopped smallish.
- Bring back to a simmer and cook until the potato is soft.
- Finally crush the potato up a bit with a masher, check and add more salt or pepper if required and the soup is made.

Serve with the croutons, a squeeze of lemon juice and some bright green chopped parsley.

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