Archive for the ‘Soups’ Category

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Kitchen Crush

November 14, 2011

As may be apparent from the previous post my current, primary kitchen crush is with Dan Lepard. An extra helping of his recipes courtesy of last week’s Saturday Guardian provided these spicy Bonfire Night Biscuits.

A quick and easy recipe to knock up even if you’re not lucky enough to have a bonfire in your back garden to provide the autumnal smell of wood smoke, the aroma of these baking in your kitchen will make the dullest November day sparkle. The recipe asks for glace ginger but I used stem ginger and the comments section suggest that crystalised would do just as well if you wanted. I also cut out into rounds and adjusted the baking time down a bit to compensate. The base biscuit recipe I imagine is adaptable by swapping the spices and additions – I’m planning a Christmas version. Watch this space.

My other current crush is on Mr Hugh Fearnly-Wittingstal. My summer holiday this year was spent in Dorset taking part in the Four Day  Cookery Course at Park Farm, the headquarters of River Cottage. They run day courses that cover everything from bread and baking to curing meat, even seashore foraging.

I’ve long wanted to do the four day course; which dedicates a day each to meat, fish, veg and bread and baking; and I’m so glad that I did. It’s not cheap, but I turned it into my summer holiday – with a few days spent exploring and walking the surrounding area – and I can honestly say that having done the course it was the best value for money of any holiday I have ever taken.

I’ve tried to blog about it, but I can’t find the words to do the week justice. I could write a list of the dishes cooked, decipher my notes into recipes to share with you, but this would not convey what I learnt or the fun that I had. The team at Park Farm go out of their way to ensure you have good fun and the hours whip by as their share their passion and knowledge and you share, with the others on the course, the fruits of your labour.

I made and ate things that I would not normally try and it has given me more confidence in the kitchen and with my palate and skills. Should I try to more accurately describe all that I learned, made and ate I would run out of adjectives by the first lunchtime. There are photo’s on my Flickr page which chronicle the dishes cooked and eaten over the four days and I hope they give an indication of the fun that was had.

On the course I bought a copy of  ‘River Cottage Veg Everyday!’ book – the latest from Hugh. It accompanies his current TV Programme where he extolls the virtues of a veg based diet by giving up meat and fish for the summer. The book accompanies his current TV show on C4 which follows the usual River Cottage format of HFW taking something he’s passionate about and making an entertaining and informative programme to share his passion. Whilst Hugh isn’t going to be a life long vegetarian he wants us to eat more veg and realise that veg-centric meals needn’t be dull.

The book is broken down into sections on salads and soups, raw things and bready things and mezze and tapas to name a few.

First off for me was the veggie biryani made for 12 – want to feed a crowd? Who could ask for more than succulent spicy veg with curried rice garnished with crunchy almonds? A breeze to prepare and cook, and if you can lift the casserole dish containing enough for 12 people and carry it to the table to reveal and serve, all the better (I needed help just getting it out of the oven – damn you Le Cruset with your sturdy based pans, wrist splints should be sold alongside them IMO).

For dips and salads, please make the roasted carrot hummous – this has replaced Peamole (it is what it sounds like) as the dip-tastic choice of the season and the raw beetroot and walnut and cumin salad add a fab crunchy side – try it with a smoked fish platter.

Above is a warming Sunday night dinner for friends, a puy lentil and spinach soup (made with the veg stock recipe from the same book) filling and warming, perfect  after a long walk in the crisp autumnal sunshine. Should you want a little meat in there, I added some pancetta as there were some in the fridge that needed using. I don’t think Hugh would mind.

What I enjoy about veggie cooking, and all the things I’ve made from this book so far, is the ease with which each dish is adaptable in terms of using up what’s in the fridge or buying what’s currently in season. I feel more able to play around without the meat – perhaps because the total cost of the dish is cheaper so the risk is less. Perhaps also just because I’m more comfortable with cooking veg and less fearful of over or under cooking and more confident of how the dish will fare as leftovers. I’ve made more than I’ve covered here, and yet more are flagged. This book is one that I will return to over and over again.

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Still Loving the Soup

December 3, 2009

As I mentioned previously, my trip to Scotland reignited my love for soup and I’ve made plenty since, adapting the original recipe from the River Cafe quite a bit over the weeks. Then I saw the invitation on What’s for Lunch Honey to take part in the 38th Monthly Mingle – Warming Soups for the Happy Soul. Well, I don’t really believe in the concept of the soul as such, however if there’s something that lifts and warms my heart it’s chopping and stirring, creating over a low simmer and then enjoying the fruits of my labour, and this soup has warmed me, both literally and figuratively quite a bit over the past few weeks.


Firstly, the tinned cannelini beans were a bit hit or miss, too often dry and grainy. Textures are always important in food, whether complimentary or contrasting, and I make this soup with plenty of very chunky vegetables in order to provide some bite, the greens added at different times to give variation. The beans are by no means the main ingredient, but there’s nothing worse than glancing at the next mouthful on the spoon, spying a bean and feeling a sense of trepidation. I bought some Cerrato ‘Organic Minestrone with Kamut’ bean mix containing various beans and lentils from Waitrose on a whim, the pre-soaking is a bit of a pain, but worth it as they’re just delicious.

I’ve added a decent amount of tomato puree for some extra depth and a sprinkling of chilli flakes too. I’ve also, thanks to an excess in a colleagues veg box and their generosity, discovered calvo nero and can’t seem to get enough at the moment. I don’t know how many the following recipe would feed as it keeps me going for nearly a week, the flavours developing all the time. The great thing is it’s infinately adaptable – take out or add as your taste or the seasons dictate.

200g beans pre-soaked for 12 hours
Olive oil
1 large leek
1 large carrot
1 head of celery
Tin of chopped tomatoes
Bunch of parsley
Tomato puree
1/4 tsp chili flakes
large bunch of Calvo Nero or cabbage/greens of your choice, roughly chopped

  • Cover the beans with water, cover, bring to the boil and then simmer for 40 minutes.
  • Chop the carrots, leeks and celery roughly, I like my veg to still have a bite at the end so keep the pieces quite big.
  • Put a dash of olive oil in a large pan, when hot add the chopped veg and cook slowly over a medium heat for 20 mins, stirrring all the time to prevent them browning or sticking.
  • Add tomato puree, chopped parsley, chili flakes to your taste and coat the vegetables before adding the tin of tomatoes, simmer for 10 minutes or until the tomatoes are reduced.
  • Add the greens – if using a more delicate green reserve half for adding at a later point
  • Add the drained beans and pour boiling water over to cover the contents of the pan and simmer for 20 – 30 mins.
  • If you’ve reserved some greens add them 5 mins before the end.
  • Serve with some parmesan and fresh bread should you wish.

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Bring on the Soups

October 23, 2009
So, the clocks go back this weekend, the evenings are drawing in and if the Today programme are debating us Brits (or perhaps just the English and Welsh, depending on where in the argument you fall) joining European time once again, then it must be time for soup.
I’ve had a nasty bout of gastric flu which is lingering as I’m unable to stop eating and stick to clear fluids (gin doesn’t count, I checked). Today I was a bit better and also bored, so following a bowl of the most amazing minestrone soup at the Glebe Cairn Cafe at the Kilmartin House Museum on my recent trip to Scotland I felt now was the time to try and move into soup season. A search through my recipes and a brief Google led me to this version from the River Cafe. I substituted the onion with a leek, left out the garlic (not a fan) added runner beans and used up a pointed cabbage (in two stages) instead of the chard and cavolo nero. Whatever recipe I found I would leave out any pasta, but this had none. Next time I make it (and there will be a next time) I will add more beans, and maybe some tomato puree to add a little more depth. It also needed more stock than was called for, but I liked it stew-like. I can’t wait until tomorrow to see if the comments are right about it being better on the second day.