Aug 15 2011

Vegetable Soup

But first I need a warming Vegetable Soup for a quick lunch. There’s nothing as comforting as a big bowl of homemade soup when dogs and I have been blown home from the farmyard by a sharp south easterly.

I choose the ingredients for soup according to the sort of stock I have in the freezer.(see Making Stock below) This time it’s ham. Onions or shallots are a must and peas go so well with ham but the other ingredients just happen to be in the fridge; the last piece of a large pumpkin, a potato, a couple of large shallots, two big garlic cloves, some parsley stalks, a little salt (ham stock can be salty) and pepper.

The principle is the same for most soup; sweat the chopped shallots or onions, garlic too if you like. Add a peeled diced potato; this will act as the thickening agent. Add diced pumpkin, carrot or other root vegetable but keep the balance of flavour in mind. Remember for example that parsnips, though delicious, are much more dominating than a carrot, pumpkin is mild but will enhance texture and so on. Once your chosen veg are sweated, i.e. softened in their own steam and a little oil in a pan with a heavy lid, you can stir in the stock; simmer gently for about twenty minutes, taste and season. To liquidise or not to liquidise is a matter of taste. Do you like your soup smooth or with bits!

Serve with hot crusty bread and good slightly salted butter.

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Sep 05 2008

Making Stock

A friend of mine who has recently had to take on all the cooking for the first time looked at me in a puzzled way the other day and said “When you’re making soup where does the liquid come from?” If you’ve never cooked before it’s a very good question! I laughed and explained about making stock, ‘take the meat off the cooked chicken, put the carcass in a pot. Fill the pot with water, add a bay leaf, some herbs, a carrot, an onion and put the whole thing in the bottom of your kitchen range and go to bed’! “Goodness” he said and looked delighted. Just then someone else spoke to me and our conversation on soup finished. But I overheard him trying to find out more from a photographer friend. “Where do you get the liquid from?” he asked again ” A stock cube, of course!”. I laughed to myself. It was like me taking my happy snaps to Boots to have them processed when I know my friend works for hours printing to perfection in her dark room. So horses for courses, make your stock or use a cube!  The basis of soup is the same. Sweat vegetables slowly in a covered pan over a gentle heat in a little butter and oil until they are soft. If you want a thick soup add a potato or some rice and stir in a little flour. Omit these if you want a clear soup with bits! When the vegetables are just tender stir in the stock, simmer season and serve.
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Jun 01 2007

Nettle and Spinach Soup

Take a large bag of young nettles, some spinach leaves and a little sorrel. Remember sorrel has a strong lemon flavour. Chop an onion, a medium potato and a carrot and a crushed clove of garlic and sweat as described above. Add the nettles, spinach and sorrel well washed, wilt in the oil and butter. Now stir in the chicken stock you made from the carcass or that stock cube. Bring to the boil, simmer for 5-8 minutes. Season and puree in the liquidiser or push through a mouli. Return to the pan ,reheat gently and stir in a little cream or crème fraiche. Check the seasoning again and serve sprinkled with chopped herbs.

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Jun 01 2007


Now for some comfort eating while we wait for spring! Old English Boiled Beef and Carrots, Italian Minestrone, Welsh Cawl, Suffolk Stew, and then there’s Garbure. Somehow this last wonderful pot of South West France brings so many regional dishes together. And as an English woman who am I to say how it is cooked! Well bravely, here’s my Anglicised version!

To begin: soak 500gms of dry white beans overnight. Make a good rich stock with a chicken or duck carcass in the usual way ( see making stock). Drain and rinse the soaked beans and bring to the boil in a heavy pan. Boil briskly for ten minutes, rinse and drain again. Blanch a 500gm piece of belly of pork.

Next put the pork belly, a ham hock, an onion stuck with cloves and the blanched beans into the strained stock. Simmer for about an hour. Add a couple of diced potatoes, 2 leeks, a turnip, a few carrots, green or red pepper cut in strips, salt, pepper, crushed garlic, a little paprika and a dessert spoon of dried herbs. Simmer until the vegetables are nearly cooked. Add a shredded white cabbage, 500gms of garlic sausage and most importantly, confit of duck. Opinion varies as to whether or not the duck fat is added too. It’s a matter of taste, a little will enrich the whole, I think. Warm the Garbure through.

Just before serving take the meat from the pot and keep warm. Serve the broth on thick slices of bread as a first course and follow with the meat.

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Jun 01 2007

Apple, Cabbage and Ginger Soup

Fresh, spicy and delicious this is a great way to use up a few windfalls and a bit of cabbage. But, a big but, it’s essential to have some good chicken stock to back up the flavour.

Shred half a large white cabbage and chop three onions and four green apples. Turn them over in melted butter, then put a lid on the pan and sweat for about ten minutes until soft but not, absolutely not, brown. Add a clove of garlic crushed with salt, a small piece of finely chopped fresh ginger and a litre of chicken stock (…made from that carcass you were going to throw away……see making stock ) Simmer a few more minutes until the cabbage is tender. Then blend, reheat, taste, season and serve. Very quick, very nice!

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