Posts Tagged ‘soup’

When day and night are of equal length and druids encircle Stonehenge; the moon grows fat and glows blood-red.  Summer turns to autumn.  Farmers and their families work hard to ensure their crop comes in before the first frost.  It’s harvest time.

The more delicate crops, beans and leafy greens, get picked first.

The pumpkin, large, round and orange, peaking out from under its deep green leaves, soaking up every last ounce of summer sunshine until eventually it too must be picked.  But whilst the rest of the crops are ready to be consumed, the pumpkin has another month to develop.  As it further ripens, its starches turn into sugars giving the pumpkin its sweet taste.  The pumpkin needs this time to mature and for its skin to harden.

Come late October, the pumpkin has reached perfection.  The excess of them meaning that they get churned out as Halloween pumpkins but for others, it is time to give thanks to the hare, the spirit of the land, for a bumper crop in this year and for the next.

And a whole pumpkin baked in the oven, a la river cottage, can’t be anything less than delicious!

Whole Oven Baked Pumkin

Ingredients:

1 whole pumpkin

250g Grated cheese (Gruyére,cheddar, emmental, etc)

300ml Double cream

500ml Vegetable stock (or chicken stock should you prefer)

2 Bay leaves 

Rasp of Nutmeg

Salt & pepper

Method:

1st: Pre-heat your oven to 190°c. Place the pumpkin on a baking tray and cut the top quarter off the top of the pumpkin. Reserve to one side.

2nd: Scoop out the seeds from the interior and any fibrous bits.

3rd: Fill the pumpkin with the cheese.  Use any cheese you wish, I used a packet of pre-grated cheese which had a mix of Emmental, Gruyére, Cheddar and Red Leicester, but you are more than welcome to stick to one cheese or combinations of cheeses that you prefer.

4th: Pour in the pot of cream.

5th: Add the bay leaves, nutmeg and salt & pepper.  Top up the pumpkin with your choice of stock but make sure not to fill it to the brim.

6th: Put the lid back on the pumpkin and place it in the oven for approx 1hour (this can take any length of time from 45mins to 1hr 15mins), until the flesh comes away from the pumpkin’s skin or a knife can be pushed through (careful not to pierce the skin).

“At this point the pumpkin is in real danger of collapse.  The larger the pumpkin, the greater the danger!  Don’t panic, it will look deflated but will taste delicious.” HFW.

7th: Fish out the bay leaves and serve piping hot.

If there is any leftover, scoop the remaining flesh out and blitz with some extra cream, cheese & stock.

The perfect pumpkin recipe to celebrate this fantastic gourd and welcome in those longer autumnal evenings.

Advertisements

Noodles in a Jar – the perfect lunchtime snack!

I get asked regularly, “What would make a healthy, lunchtime meal for a school child’s lunchbox?”  But as much as we want children to have a nutritious meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the reality is that a simple sandwich, a piece of fruit and plenty of fresh air is all they need to keep them going until home time; especially as many children have a substantial tea when they get indoors.

I’m more inclined to help the grown-ups who often struggle to eat properly at lunchtime.

The working adult worries me the most – diminished lunch breaks, snatching something quick on the go, scoffing food at their desk, eating greasy take-aways, paying ridiculous prices for a filled roll or forgoing lunch altogether.

Mundane lunches leading to calorie induced foraging come 5pm.

All that can change with these simple to prepare, convenient and easy to eat noodle soups in a jar.  If you’ve only got a short lunch break, these are ideal and can also be conveniently eaten, if sadly, you’re chained to the desk.

Shrimp-Pho-Noodles-in-a-Jar-937x703.jpg

noodle jars – photo taken from phillymag.com

There are no rules; no wrongs, just a few simple points to bear in mind whilst you assemble your jars.  The idea is that everything is piled into the jar in clean layers; without the items swilling around before you’ve added the water, hence, keeping your ingredients fresher for longer.

What you need to make your Noodles in a JarIMG_3102.JPG

I like to use a ½ Litre Kilner Jar with a clip-top but a mason jar would work just as well.  The jar can be as small or large as you want it to be; but unless you plan on making, and subsequently eating, vast quantities of the soup try to keep the size at around 500ml or less.  A pint size is ideal.

A flavour base is very important for your noodle jars, as otherwise you’d just be eating noodles swimming in hot water, which would be extremely disappointing considering that we are trying to achieve maximum flavour for minimum effort and fuss.  Feel free to use any savoury paste/cube/stock that you prefer.  I’m trying to get through some miso paste (fermented soya bean paste) at the moment but a soup stock paste, curry paste etc can be used.

Soy sauce, coconut milk, sesame oil, chilli sauce, tomato paste, etc can be used as extra flavour enhancers.

This is a great way to use leftover cooked meats – especially the scraggly ends of a Sunday roast; alternatively some frozen prawns, dried mushrooms or hearty greens would provide satisfying ingredients to make your pot tasty, nutritious and filling.

noodles

The noodle part of your soup can take many forms: dry vermicelli, cooked ramen or yakisoba noodles, cooked udon noodles, there are others too.  For total convenience you could even use a pouch of pre-cooked noodles from the supermarket.

I always like to top my soup jar with fresh ingredients such as coriander leaves, sliced spring onions and a wedge of lime.

img_3080

 Assembling your noodle soup jars

Assembling the jars is a simple process:

Empty jar → Flavour base → Meat/Prawns/Veggies → Noodles → Fresh ingredients.

1st: Place your flavour base at the bottom of the jar and add any of your flavour enhancers.  Make sure to spread this around so that when you pour the hot water it will mix through easier.

2nd: Add your meat, prawns or veggies to the jar.  It doesn’t matter if they mix into the flavour base but try to create layers of different items.

3rd: Pack the noodles down – if they are cooked they might stick a bit but they will untangle once you add the hot water.

4th: Top with the fresh ingredients.  Seal and refrigerate.

Place in the office fridge when you get into work but take the jar out at least 1hour before you think you’ll be available to have your lunch, as otherwise the jar and the ingredients will be very cold and your soup will become tepid very quickly.  The jar will keep unrefrigerated for a couple of hours.

When you are ready to eat;

1st: Fill the jar with boiling water, cover and steep for 3 mins.  A recently boiled kettle is best but I use the tea urn at work.

2nd: Stir thoroughly with chopsticks or a fork, making sure to scrape the paste from the bottom of your noodle pot so that the flavour mixes throughout the whole soup.

3rd: If you stored the fresh ingredients separately to the rest of the soup in the jar, scatter them over the top of the soup and eat right away.

0cb609bc-a196-4a21-886e-c21fd279fb3f

It is probably easier to mix the soup as you decant the jar into a bowl but your soup can be eaten directly from your noodle jar; especially if you are trying to ease on the washing up and eating at your desk.

I’ve tried two flavour combinations so far with very similar ingredients in both:
King prawn and coconut milk with dried vermicelli noodles, and
Beef with miso, tomato paste and soya sauce with cooked ramen noodles;

both layered with baby sweetcorn, sugar snap peas, mange tout, spring onions and coriander.

60638d13-5d7b-4d23-a966-fdef7454cea0

The pots can be put together in a matter of minutes and eaten just as quick.  I definitely think I’ll be trying to make noodle pots for lunch again.  I’m already thinking about a pork belly and ramen noodle pot for next time or maybe a chicken, vegetable  and vermicelli soup pot or maybe a lemon grass, ginger and chilli marinated king prawns noodle pot with coconut milk, fish sauce, lime and vermicelli noodles.  Lots of fresh coriander.

Pot noodle …but posh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1415Slurp, slurp, slurp can be heard throughout Japan as people slurp on their ramen noodles.  Ramen was made for slurping.  It is believed that as you slurp the ramen noodles, you create a greater umami experience.  In one of my poorer attempts at this, I wore my ramen broth down the front of my tailored shirt!  Simply put and almost disregarding the recipe’s complex flavours, ramen is Japanese noodle soup.  But leaving the description there is unflattering at best and insulting at worst.

Ramen is a Japanese noodle soup consisting of Chinese-style wheat noodles (alkaline noodles) served in a meat or fish broth, flavoured with soy sauce or miso and served with sliced pork, dried seaweed and green onions.  Nearly every region of Japan will have its own ramen variation.

Ramen has become a staple food in Japanese culture and is more popular than sushi with many salary men queuing up for hours at the more popular ramen hotspots to get their bowl to slurp.

Believed to have been brought back from China at the end of the second Sino-Japanese war, many soldiers, familiar with this Chinese cuisine, set up Chinese restaurants throughout Japan serving ramen.  But like everything the Japanese do, they made it better.  Eventually the instant ramen created by Momofuku Ando allowed anyone to make a simple ramen dish at home just by adding boiling water – indulge me if you will – Japanese pot noodle but better.

Unapologetically absolutely delicious!

However, if you are aiming for authenticity in your kitchen you need to plan well in advance.  If you want a bowl of ramen on Friday, you need to start with the recipe on Wednesday!

ramen10Momofuku

If you follow Dave Chang’s Momofuku (Lucky Peach) recipe, we’re talking

BROTH: 1) steeping Kombu (kelp seaweed) in hot water for 1 hour, 2) adding chicken backs and necks to this water simmering gently for 5 hours, 3) skimming, straining and chilling the stock,
TARE: 4) make the tare by roasting chicken backs for 20 minutes until mahogany brown, 5) deglazing the pan with sake, 6) adding mirin and soy sauce, 7) add pork belly/shoulder pieces to the liquid, 8) simmer gently for 1½ hrs, 9) strain the meat and bones out of the tare, 10) chill the liquid and remove the fat that rises to the top (Keep this fat to add to the ramen dish when serving).
ASSEMBLING THE RAMEN DISH: 11) season the broth with tare and salt, 12) add bacon fat, 13) serve with whatever accompaniments you want.

There are so many stages – each adding levels of depth to what inevitably becomes a complex flavoured dish screaming UMAMI at you from every direction.

Even though the stages themselves are not complicated they are time consuming and no-one has the time or the inkling to carry this out in today’s busy routines.  So I’ve come up with a cheat’s version of this dish cutting out the need to boil kelp for hours on end and roast chicken carcasses into the mahogany spectrum.

Cheat’s Ramen – serves 2

Ingredients:
1 pouch of good quality chicken stock                      1 carrot
4 spring onions                                                                Ramen noodles
4 Dried Shitake Mushrooms                                        Bean sprouts
Pork belly                                                                           Soy sauce/Miso paste
2 boiled eggs                                                                      Nori
Seasoning

To make the tare:
Olive Oil
2 cloves of garlic

Method:
1st: Pour the chicken stock into a large saucepan and heat gently.
2nd: Add 3 spring onions cut in pieces from root to tip and add to the stock.
3rd: Cut the carrot into chucks and add to the stock.
4th: Reconstitute the dried shitake mushrooms in boiling water and add this to the stock with some of the mushroom flavoured water (mushroom dashi), simmer gently until the dish is ready to assemble.
5th: Season to taste with soy sauce, salt and pepper.  Simmer for 20 mins.
I used chestnut mushrooms as dried shitake mushrooms are sometimes hard to find.

6th: Put the pork belly into a 200˚C oven for 20-25mins until the pork is cooked through.
7th: Prepare the tare by heating olive oil and pouring it over the grated garlic.
8th: After the pork belly is cooked bring it out of the oven and allow to cool slightly.  Pour the rendered fat into the chicken stock.
9th: Boil your ramen noodles following the instructions on the packet.

Ramen1

ramen

10th: Assemble and serve: Pile your ramen noodles into the centre of your ramen bowl and assemble the shitake mushrooms, bean sprouts, pork slices, sliced spring onions, and boiled egg around this.  Pour ladles of your chicken broth into your noodles until you have a bowl filled with soup.  Spoon some of the tare over the noodles.  Serve with a nori rectangle.

I know it is inauthentic but it’s a long way from pot noodle, ingredients are accessible, easily recreated and unapologetically absolutely delicious.

Ramen6

ramen

 

 

 

 

 

After the over indulgent aftermath of the Christmas period, new year’s resolutions, crash diets  and penniless pockets, January takes on a cloak of austerity.  Our tastes become less extravagant and simple; we re-introduce the aspect of portion control in the hope that we will regain a waistline before the summer.

The temperature having finally dropped means that we want wholesome, hearty, comfort food.  Soup becomes a regular staple which not only caters for the cold weather but also our pockets (as soup is the epitome of thrift.)

For those of a superstitious disposition there would have been much lentil consumption as you hailed in the New Year – or perhaps on Blue Monday (Monday 19th January 2015) the most depressing day of the year – to help break the curse of the January blues.

But as January draws to a close, for those that chose to revel in it, there is one final celebration that you could choose to indulge in:  Robbie Burns Night.  Usually celebrated on the eve of the great Bard’s Birthday, 25th January or thereabouts, can be the perfect excuse to celebrate surviving the uphill struggle that can be the month of January.

Looking at the event from a culinary perspective you are required to follow certain practices.  Whiskey needs to be omnipresent throughout the meal, there has got to be a haggis served with ‘neeps and tatties’ and cock-a-leekie soup should be the ideal starter to warm you through before you continue with the evening’s proceedings.

Starter: Cock-a-leekie Soupcock-a-leekie soup

Ingredients
2 leeks washed and diced
4 rashers of streaky bacon
A whole chicken or
8 chicken pieces
Splosh of white wine
180g stoned prunes
1 bouquet garni (thyme, bay, parsely)
Water/stock to cover the chicken)
Oil/Butter for frying
Seasoning

Method
1./ Melt the butter and fry the chicken pieces until golden brown, then remove and set aside.

2./ Add the chopped bacon to the pan and fry until some of the fat is rendered out and fry one of the leeks in this until the whites are translucent.

3./ Splosh in the white wine and boil rapidly whilst scraping the bottom of the pan.  Return the chicken pieces (making sure to pour in any liquid it may have released) with the bouquet garni and add enough water/stock to cover.  Simmer for 45 mins or until the chicken is tender.

4./ Remove the chicken from the pot and allow to cool slightly.  Chop the second leek and add it to the pot.  Simmer until tender.  Remove the bouquet garni.

5./ Remove the chicken skin and bones and discard.  Shred the chicken or cut into coarse chunks and add this to the pot.  Add the prunes and simmer for another 20-30mins.

6./ Skim off any excess fat using a turkey-baster and season to taste.

Main Course: Haggis with ‘Neeps and Tatties’

Not so much a cheat but a necessity – BUY THE HAGGIS – don’t even attempt to recreate this at home.  Most supermarkets will stock a decent haggis that you can be proud to serve.  You can now even get vegetarian haggises (or is it haggi?) and to simplify matters you can microwave them if that would make matters simpler. 

“Great chieftain o’ the pudding race!”

To be honest you should spend more time thinking about your ‘neeps and tatties’ and how you’re going to serve these.

‘Neeps and Tatties’ cause annual controversy.  The ‘tatties’ are mashed potatoes and the world is in unanimous agreement over this, however, the ‘neeps’ cause such contention that no one is truly sure what these are anymore; even amongst the Scots there is disagreement.   Possible options are: turnips, swede, parsnips and I’ve even read about someone using celeriac.  Having researched around on the topic, I believe that traditionally turnips would have been used but I was unable to find decent turnips at the grocers so opted for parsnips instead.

My ‘Neeps and Tatties’ were treated the same way: peeled, boiled, mashed with butter, cream and nutmeg, salt and pepper.  I made a quick port and red wine reduced sauce to serve with.
Timbale of haggis neeps and tatties

After one of my guests performed the ‘Address to the Haggis’ and with alacrity sliced open the haggis with the finely honed edge of his ceremonial dirk (actually my kitchen knife!) we served ourselves from the centre of the table.   I made a quick port and red wine reduced sauce to serve with.  Experimenting with the leftovers the following evening I served this as a timbale as can be seen in the photograph.

cranachanDessert: Cranachan

Ingredients
5 tbsp porridge oats
2 punnets of raspberries
600ml double cream
3 tbsp heather honey
5 tbsp whiskey
Method
1./ Spread the porridge oats on a baking sheet and grill until it smells rich and nutty.  It will not darken quickly like almonds.  Set aside until cool.

2./ Crush some of the raspberries into a purée.  Whisk the double cream until set and stir in the honey and whiskey.  Stir in the toasted porridge oats.

3./ In glasses assemble layers of the cream mixture with the raspberry purée and the raspberries.  Serve with a sprig of mint.

Although not truly authentic, adding other berries might add to this dessert – blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries would enhance its creamy-fruity lusciousness.   Anyone who knows me well, knows that I cannot stomach whiskey but here the subtle ghost of whiskey, mist-like in this dessert was just right; I almost feel as if it needed more honey or sugar to just lift the taste.  Perhaps serving it with some shortbread biscuits.

The leftover cock-a-leekie soup became a quick chicken and leek pie for lunch the following day:

Food for thought for next year: cock-a-leekie starter worked very well but maybe some crusty bread to go with, turnips instead of parsnips, serve as a timbale, more port and red wine sauce, more berries and honey in the cranachan.

Generally more whiskey!

Nostalgia

Posted: February 7, 2012 in Childhood, Family
Tags: , , , , ,

My parents are in the process of redecorating their kitchen and getting rid of kitchenware they no longer want; subsequently passing it onto me! In between random cutlery sets and unwanted easter-egg mugs they have given me a stainless steel pot which according to both Mum and Dad, they bought in Portugal some 20 years ago.

20 years ago I was only 13 years old! At this age we still lived at my Grandparents’ house and it got me thinking about the meals that this pot would have catered for us over the years.

My Granny was fantastic in the kitchen. She fed 7 of us a cooked lunch everyday. Mum helped Gran with dinner when she got back from work . On Saturdays another 4 of us would be present for lunch! This was no easy achievement on a limited budget, supplies and a small kitchen area.

But like all women of her generation she made the most of every penny that was in the food budget and made sure never to waste anything.

The family never went hungry. Yet how was this all possible?

Organisation. Granny had a repertoire of set favourites that we all loved. For lunch between Mondays and Thursdays we ate combinations of the following: Shepherd’s Pie (really cottage pie) with baked beans or pastel de corned beef (corned beef pie); chicken/corned beef/tuna in rice; gallina al horno (chicken pieces in a white wine gravy); sausage, egg and chips. Fridays was always a steak and kidney pie and chips (as Gran went to the hairdressers), Saturdays would be Rosto (macaroni in tomato sauce with chopped sausages and topped with bacon) which she could bulk out with pasta and Sundays, the quintessential roast.

On some occasions and when the weather called for it Granny would make potaje (pronounced po-tah-hay). This could be in the form of a chickpea or butter bean stew with chorizo and blackpudding, as well as another one made with spinach or lentil stew with pumpkin and chorizo. Served with fried chickpea flour based tortillas perfect for cleaning the plate. Another of Granny’s winter warmers was sopa de calavacines (white marrow soup with dairylea and small vermicelli pasta).

The sopa de calavacines is super easy to make and one that I make often; see Recipes.

I have never made nor wanted to make potaje before. My brother loathed it and it loathed him! But my mantra, ‘if it doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ meant I was willing to try anything once. Feeling the cold and holding this 20 year old pot in my hands made me feel very nostalgic about the food of my childhood and I tried to evoke it from tast memory. Here goes:

Potaje de Alubias, lomo, morcilla y chorizo (White pea bean stew with pork, black pudding and chorizo)

Using pulses in stews is typical peasant food. They are cheap, highly nutritious and ideal for large numbers of people. Even though they are ‘meaty’ in texture they can be quite bland tasting therefore they need a flavour injection.

1st: Either soak your beans over night and then boil for 2 hours OR buy a jar of precooked beans that you are confident using.

2nd: Chop a medium onion and fry in some olive oil. Add crushed garlic. I also added a chopped red chilli.

3rd: Slice chorizo and morcilla and fry in the olive oil. This will release a lot of sweet, smoked paprika flavoured oil into the pot. Add the pieces of pork and cook in these juices.

4th: Chop a large tomato and add to the pot.

5th: Once the tomato has broken down add the cooked beans. Simmer for a few mins. Serve hot with fresh parsely spinkled over.

Not exactly like Granny used to make but I am sure she would be very proud! ENJOY!