Tag Archives: soup

Sort of borscht

12 Oct

I’ve mentioned it before, but I love beetroots. I never used to, but as a child my only experience of beetroot was from a jar full of vinegar. Whenever I see fresh beetroot in my local farmshop or farmer’s market I buy it. And then it often sits in my fridge till the following weekend for me to do something with it (what could I do with a beetroot quickly on a weekday evening after a long day at work and the train journey home)?

So there was a bunch of beetroot in my fridge this morning, wasn’t there? Three large beetroot. They could have become a tart, or another jar of spiced beetroot relish. Or that salad with dill and shallots and oranges.

Or borscht.

I don’t know if it really was borscht or not, I just made it up.

Valley Borscht

  • A bunch of beetroot
  • a large onion
  • a couple of sticks of celery
  • a knob of butter
  • caraway seeds
  • a chicken stock cube, or some chicken stock if you have some kicking about (use veg stock if you’re vegetarian, obviously!)
  • a bay leaf
  1. Chop the onion and celery finely (ish) but don’t fret about it if it’s not all teeny wee chunkies
  2. Melt the butter in a heavy based pan and add the onion and celery; sweat them gently
  3. Peel the beetroot and grate it coarsely (if you don’t have a food processor then you might prefer to just cut it into wee chunks)
  4. Pop about 1 TBsp of caraway seeds into a pestle and mortar and smoosh them up a bit. They might have been even better if I’d quickly toasted them first
  5. When the onion and celery is looking slightly translucent add the caraway seeds and stir
  6. Then add the beetroot and stir again
  7. Add the bay leaf
  8. Cook it for a wee minute and then add the stock cube and hot water from the kettle. I added enough water to cover the beetroot plus an extra centimetre
  9. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 30-40 minutes
  10. Remove the bay leaf
  11. Use a handheld blender and zizz it all up (or pour it into a liquidiser and liquidise it that way)
  12. Ladle into bowls and add a swirl of cream, or a couple of basil leaves, or a swoosh of basil oil or some chopped dill sprinkled over it

Perfect lunch with a chunky slice of homemade bread (preferably sourdough).

And now I’ve made the borscht, I have a perfect quick supper for later this week. Perhaps with a poached egg on toast. Imagine that dark yellow yolk on a plate next to a bowl of dark beetroot soup. Lush.

 

Vegetable broth (and croutons if you want them)

21 Sep

It’s clearly the beginning of the soup season. The days are cooler, and the evenings are outright cold. Yesterday it rained and rained and rained all day. Today it’s still cold, but it’s gloriously sunny and I’ve already got two loads of laundry merrily blowing on the whirligig line.

It’s not just nature that is going through a period of change. My life is also changing. Quite dramatically really.

A couple of weeks ago I moved house. I had been living in two places: a lovely wee colonies flat in Leith, in Edinburgh, through the week and in the Clyde Valley with my boyfriend, the Captain, at weekends. Each Friday after work I would travel west to the Valley and the each Monday morning I would travel back east to the Capital. At one level I had the best of both worlds: the city life (and all the benefits of living in a truly wonderful capital city) through the week and then the joy of having a relatively big garden and being surrounded by fields at the weekend.

But in all honesty it was no longer my dream. My dream was to live in one place, and to know that I would have the right accessories to go with whatever clothes I put on in the morning. All too often that perfect necklace was in the other house.

So just after this year’s festival was over I packed all my worldly belongings into boxes and moved out west. And here I am. Sitting in the garden room, looking out onto the garden and across the Clyde Valley. The clouds are just beginning to blow in, and the trees are starting to lose their lush green. Autumn is definitely in the air. So it’s most definitely the season for warming soups.

After yesterday’s smooth carrot soup, I wanted something chunkier today. And I had a hankering for pearl barley. This the perfect soup for using up whatever veg need to be used. Today it was turnip, carrot, potato and leeks. Oh and savoy cabbage, which didn’t really NEED to be used, but I wanted it.

Anyways, here goes, another simple recipe to see you through the Autumn and Winter.

Vegetable broth with croutons

Vegetable broth

  • A splash of oil, or a smudge of butter
  • A couple of leeks, washed of dirt, then sliced finely
  • A carrot, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • A medium potato, peeled and cut into the same size(ish) chunks
  • Turnip, peeled and cut into the same size chunks – I used a piece about the same size as the potato, maybe slightly larger
  • A handful of pearl barley
  • 1 1/2 stock cubes (veg, lamb or beef work well)
  • A few big outside leaves of savoy cabbage, the central spine removed and sliced finely
  • Parsley
  1. Put the oil/butter in the bottom of a large heavy based pan over a medium/low heat
  2. Put a kettle of water on to boil at this stage
  3. Add the leeks, the carrot, the potato, the turnip. Just add them as you chop them up, they don’t all need to go in at once
  4. Sweat the veg for a few minutes, stirring to stop them from sticking/burning
  5. Add the pearl barley and stir
  6. Add a good few grinds of black pepper and the stock cubes and a wee bit of water, just to wet the pan, and cook for a further minute or two
  7. Add the kettleful of water, stir, and bring back to the boil
  8. Simmer for about an hour, till the whole thing is looking thick and gloopy and the barley is soft
  9. Add the savoy cabbage and cook for a further 5 minutes or so
  10. Serve with a sprinkling of chopped parsley. It doesn’t need croutons, but I couldn’t resist them.

If you have any bay leaves throw one or two in while it’s simmering, and if you have celery in the fridge, then cut some up and add it all in with the other veg. Somehow, I never seem to have any celery around though.

Croutons

  • Whatever’s left of an old loaf of bread
  • Olive oil
  • Celery salt
  • Black pepper
  • Herbs and Spices (I have a harissa style spice mix, with chilli, garlic, coriander and who knows what else)
  1. Cut the bread into thick slices. Then cut each slice into long batons. Then cut each baton into chunks. They don’t need to be precisely the same size, but it’s best if they are similar sized chunks
  2. In a big bowl, pour some oil around the sides of the bowl so it dribbles down into the bottom of the bowl. You don’t need a lot, but enough that the inside of the bowl is coated in a thin film of oil
  3. Now sprinkle in your chosen flavours – I grind lots of black pepper, then a sprinkle or two of celery salt, followed by a good skoosh or the harissa spice mix
  4. Now through in the bread chunks and gently mix it all around. A
    good squidgy spatula is the best implement for this. What you’re trying to do is to give all the bits of bread a chance of absorbing a wee bit of the flavoured oil. The chunks should not all look soaked in oil, although some of them might. But really, you’re trying to make this with as little oil as you need
  5. Pour the coated bread into a baking tray and pop in a very low oven
  6. I leave it for about 45 mins in an oven at gas mark 2. But this is not a precise recipe – check on the croutons and take them out when they are ready – they will have taken on a slightly golden colour and will be slightly crispy (they crisp up a bit more as they cool down).
  7. Sprinkle in your bowl of soup, or serve them in a pretty bowl so people can help themselves. If you have any left keep them in an airtight tub for a few days.

Please don’t use good fresh bread for these – the bread will be much nicer just served in chunks with the soup. But if you have the heel of a loaf left, just take 5 minutes to make these and then you’ll have them ready for next time you have soup (which surely won’t be long away).

Carrot soup

20 Sep

I say ‘carrot soup’ but really this could be any root veg soup. But seriously this is the easiest thing in the world to make. If you can cut with a knife you can make this soup.

Pimped up carrot soup

Before you start I should fess up. It’s not strictly a carrot soup, as I add some lentils to it – to give it a bit of body and also add some protein. If you want to omit the lentils do, and it will be ready much quicker too. But I’d be tempted to throw in a wee sprinkle of flour and mix it in before adding the water, to thicken it slightly.

Carrot soup

  • 1 large onion, chopped as best you can
  • about 6 medium/large carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
  • a dash of oil
  • 1tsp or so ground coriander
  • about 1/3 cup red lentils
  • 1 Knorr chicken stock cube
  1. Using a heavy bottomed pan, splash the oil into the bottom of the pan and ‘sweat’ the onion and carrots over a gentle heat.
  2. At this point you should put a kettle full of water on to boil
  3. Add the coriander, the lentils and the stock cube and continue to cook for a few minutes, stirring well to prevent it burning or sticking to the bottom of the pan
  4. Pour the kettleful of water into the pan, and bring to a simmering boil
  5. Simmer for about 45 minutes
  6. Pour into a liquidiser and zizz it up till it’s beautifully smooth
  7. Serve – feel free to glamorise it with some yoghurt and/or a sprinkle of parsley. Or croutons. I’ll tell you about my croutons another day.

There are lots of ways to play about with the recipe – grate some orange zest and squeeze some orange juice into it; add some harissa paste; add other root veg – parsnips and turnip would work well.

And of course you can use this same basic principle, of sweating veg then adding liquid to make all manner of other soups – swap out the onion and carrot for leeks and potatoes, or keep the onions and use butternut squash instead of carrots.

Gumbo party

14 Mar

Is it a soup?

Is it a stew?

It’s a gumbo!

One of my colleagues is in his early 20s and is really just learning about cooking properly. A few weeks ago he was very proud of the chicken gumbo he had made. He was surprised how easy it was to make something so tasty.

Fast forward to this Monday, and I was at a bit of a loss as to what to cook for supper. All I knew I had in the fridge was a chorizo sausage. So, my colleague suggested chicken gumbo. Perfect!

The basic recipe which inspired this is on the bbc good food website here. If you haven’t checked out the recipes on bbc good food, you’ve missed out.  Go on, have a browse – they have more pics than I usually do.

A top tip here: chop up everything else and put them in bowls (doubling things up that are being thrown in the pan together) before you cut up your chicken. That way, you just need to clean the knife and the board at the end.

Chicken Gumbo

  • 4 – 5 chicken thighs, cut into chunks
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smooshed up
  • 1 green chilli, sliced finely
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped finely
  • 1 TBsp plain flour
  • 1 large tin/carton chopped tomatoes
  • a chicken stock cube
  • a mug of boiling water
  • 1 courgette, cut into chunks
  • 2 red peppers, cut into chunks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a couple of stalks of fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • about 100g chorizo, chopped into chunks
  • a couple of new potatoes, cut into small chunks
  • a few handfuls of spinach
  1. Using a wee bit of oil, fry off the chicken in a large heavy bottomed frying pan
  2. Remove the chicken, and let it rest in a bowl till you’re ready for it again
  3. Add the celery and onion to the pan, and cook over a gentle heat till the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for another couple of minutes
  4. Add the flour to the veg, stir and cook for a minute or so.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes, chicken stock cube and boiling water and stir together
  6. Put the chicken back in the pan, followed by all other ingredients, except for the spinach, and simmer with a lid on for about 20 minutes
  7. Add the spinach and stir through – it won’t really need further cooking as the spinach will just wilt into the gumbo
  8. EAT!
This is great the next day once the flavours have melded together. I had it on its own as there is plenty veg in there with the meat. However, if you want more carbs, it would be lovely with noodles or rice.
It’s a pretty flexible recipe – add peas, sweetcorn, even prawns or fish. And make it as spicy or plain as you want. But you knew that already.
Next year it’s Gumbo instead of pancakes for Shrove Tuesday!

Roasted peppers in a jar

14 Jan

A jar of summery goodness

I love roasted peppers in a jar.  Well, they don’t have to be in a jar, they can be in any container you want really, but they can look pretty so why would you hide them in plastic, or one of those lovely brown stoneware pate dishes?  As an aside, I’m very fond of those brown stoneware dishes – they conjure up happy memories of home. At lunchtime there always seemed to be something delicious in a brown stoneware pot: mackerel pate, pork rillettes, roasted peppers in olive oil, etc.

But, it’s glass jars all the way for me these days, apart from anything else, I can seal them up and take them with me on a Monday morning to the flat in Edinburgh, or the office for jazzing up tasty lunches.

Chop everything into a big bowl

Place in a single layer on a baking tray

Roast till peppers are soft and you have caramelised edges

Pop them in a jar

Slow roasted peppers in a jar

3 bell peppers – you can use any colours, but in my experience green peppers often end up looking a wee bit grey, so I prefer to use 2 red and one yellow.

At least 2 big cloves of garlic

2 small onions, or one large

a large sprig of rosemary

a couple of small bay leaves

a red chilli pepper

a glug or so of balsamic vinegar

a tsp honey, if you want it

any other herbs, spices that you fancy – eg thyme, cayenne pepper

a good pouring of olive oil (if you have any at the bottom of a jar of sun dried tomatoes, anchovies, or artichokes, or other such tasty goodies, then use that)

more olive oil – you’ll need enough to cover the peppers once they are in the jar

a grinding or two of black pepper

a mere sprinkle of maldon sea salt

  1. Chop the peppers into large chunks – I like mine about 1.5″ across. Put them in a big bowl.
  2. Cut the onions in half from top to bottom. Lay it on the chopping board on its cut side, and then cut it into wedges. Depending on the size of onion you’ll get 3 – 5 wedges. Add them to the bowl with the peppers.
  3. Place the flat side of a large knife on top of the garlic clove, and then smash it with your fist – this will release the garlic easily from its papery skin and will also give you a nicely smooshy clove.  You still want it pretty much whole(ish) but all squished so you benefit from the release of all that tasty juiciness. Yup, throw these in on top of the peppers and onions too.
  4. Chop the chilli and add as much of it as you want – if you don’t like heat, don’t bother.  I like heat in most foods, but this doesn’t need much, if any, so feel free to omit it.
  5. Strip the rosemary from its stalks and throw the leaves into the bowl.
  6. Add any other herbs and spices you are using.
  7. Now today I had a jar of honey that was solidifying in the jar, so I added a tsp or so of honey into a wee mug and poured a wee bit of boiling water on top and stirred till it was liquid. Then I added a big splish splosh of balsamic vinegar and a good glug or two of olive oil. Mix all this together and add it to the bowl.
  8. Mix all the ingredients together to coat everything in the dressing.
  9. Pour into a single layer onto a baking sheet and sprinkle with a grinding of black pepper and a wee sprinkle of maldon sea salt.  Don’t bother if you only have table salt.
  10. Pop in a medium oven (it was gas mark 3 ish I think).

You’ll probably smell when it’s ready.  Did it take about 45 minutes?  I don’t really know. You don’t want crispy burnt bits, but you do want soft peppers and caramelised brown edges on some of the onions and peppers.

Cool for a bit, then put into a jar. Pour over enough olive oil so the peppers are covered and keep in a fridge for a week or two.  You can eat it immediately if you want, but it’s really nicest after all the flavours have had a chance to infuse in the jar, so I would leave it a couple of hours at least.

In the summer months, you might want to add slices of courgette or aubergine to this. Or beetroot in the autumn. And if you want mushrooms, add mushrooms.

Eat it as a salad accompaniment, or with cold meats, in a sandwich with hummus, or added to a bowl of soup (if you’re doing this don’t do it straight out of the fridge or it will be a bit weird, although I know Nigel Slater would argue for that juxtaposition of hot and cold). Or I’m sure you’ll find other ways of using it to jazz up your meals.

Eat your greens… introducing the greenest soup ever

10 Dec

This morning I had the most delicious breakfast: buttery scrambled eggs and grilled rashers of smoked back bacon from our local butcher.  I really don’t miss my carbs at breakfast time!

My heliboy was out on a mission (fitting a friend’s dishwasher) so I was without a car and kicking around the house.  I could have gone out and put all the garden furniture back where it belonged, after Hurrican Bawbag did its worst on Thursday.  But my wellies were in the car, on the mission.

So, I knitted for a while (Christmas gifts to be made) and then poked around the fridge to see what soup I could make for lunch.  It wasn’t terribly inspiring I have to say, but there was a bag of spinach, and a leek and some onions and potatoes.  It was looking like spinach soup.

Spinach soup

A knob of butter

1 leek

1 onion

1 medium-large potato

1 bag of spinach

chicken stock cube

some grated nutmeg

  1. Finely chop the onion, peel and chop the potato into small chunks, and slice the leek.  I prefer to cut the leek lengthwise and then chop it, so all the slices are half moons.
  2. Melt the butter in a heavy based saucepan, and chuck the chopped veg in on top
  3. Sweat the veg, stirring regularly
  4. Grate in about 1/2 tsp nutmeg, adn throw in the chicken stock cube
  5. Pour in boiling water.  Oh, I don’t know how much, about 3/4 kettle full I think
  6. Stir, then leave to simmer for about 15-20 minutes (and I really don’t care if you leave the lid on or not while it’s simmering)
  7. Check the potato and onion are cooked, then add the whole bag of spinach to the soup
  8. The spinach will quickly wilt down – stir it through and let it simmer for another 3-4 minutes
  9. Zizz it up with a hand held zizzer.  Or do it in a liquidiser if you like washing up
  10. It won’t go completely smooth, but will be completely tasty
  11. Test for seasoning – add freshly ground black pepper and more nutmeg if needed
  12. It would look pretty with a swirl of cream, or a dod of creme fraiche.

This is a subtle, light soup and would make a lovely starter to a big rich meal.  Or even a not so big rich meal.  Enjoy.

Broccoli and stilton soup

1 Oct

So, when Tesco builds a new store, they do all manner of strange discounts.  We have a new Tesco in the valley and today there were bags and bags of broccoli for only 10p each, all marked ‘TEST’, but all looking like fresh and scrummy broccoli.

They also had enormous whole salmon reduced from £35 to £10. I think they were about 8lb weight. But since G’s sister had already bought a whole salmon earlier in the week and stuffed our freezer full of salmon steaks I resisted that particular temptation.

And grabbed the bags of broccoli.  And a wedge of stilton.  You see where I’m heading don’t you?

Broccoli and stilton soup

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 medium large potato, chopped into small chunks

about 1.5l veg stock

1 large head of broccoli, cut into small-ish chunks

about 100g stilton in chunks

  1. Sweat the onion in a heavy based saucepan with a wee bit of oil or butter.
  2. Add the potato and sweat for a few minutes.
  3. Add the hot stock (or boiling water from the kettle and a stock cube). Cook for about 10 minutes, till the potato is cooked.
  4. Add the broccoli and cook for a further 4 minutes or until the broccoli is cooked.
  5. Add the stilton and smoosh it all up with the electric zizzer.
Perfect for a quick light lunch.  And I’ve heard a rumour that it is good to freeze.
Oh hey… if you have a lovely soup recipe and want some recognition… go here: http://www.newcoventgardensoup.com/competition

Lentil soup

30 Dec

Today is a lentil soup day. It will also be an eating out day, so all the more reason to have a nice warming, hale and hearty lentil soup for lunch.

I’d bought a couple of ham ribs before Christmas, and they’ve been languishing in the fridge, waiting to be used. I thought I had lots of carrots, but in the end, only one, large, but going soft at the end.

So, the soup had 3 small onions, chopped small, one carrot, a chunk of turnip and 3 parsnips in chunks, all sweated in a smear of olive oil.

A cup or so of lentils were added, along with 2 bay leaves, and the last of a jar of curry powder (Steenbergs organic, and not very strong to start with, so considerably weaker now at the end of the jar). Then I chucked in the ham ribs.

I filled up with water, from the kettle, and let it bubble away for an hour or so.

Now it’s smelling pretty good, but I think will need more flavour, so I may need to add a stock cube, and some more herbs/spices.

We have a loaf of wholemeal, made in the new bread machine overnight. The new machine seems to need more liquid in a loaf than the recipes suggest – the first few loaves came out loking very rustic, but clearly too dry a dough, so I’m experimenting, adding a wee bit more with each loaf and we’ll get there.

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