Tuesday, March 25, 2008

21.03.08: Harira + Cafe Cairo

The final Soup Kitchen for now coincided with the Equinox, Good Friday, and a Full Moon, so it was an auspicious date for Cafe Cairo to host their third - and first officially licensed! - night at the Pullens Centre. For lunch, Rhiannon and Daisy made a vegetarian Harira, along the lines of the one they first made on 18.01.08, which should become emblematic of the cafe when it goes on the road, travelling around festivals this Summer. Keep up with the Cairo crew via their MySpace and Facebook pages.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

20.03.08: Spicy Red & Black Bean

With Kai assisting on the production of my final soup of the season, I opted for what has been, I reckon, my most successful recipe. One of my personal goals for the Soup Kitchen was to develop a deep bean recipe and this one incorporates two ingredients that have become emblematic of the soup kitchen, for me: biber salçası (red pepper paste) and creamed coconut.

I followed the Nearly Perfick Recipe, pretty much. Soaked the beans over night and boiled them up separately for an hour. Added chopped garlic and three minced Scotch bonnets to the usual mirepoix of carrots, onions and celery and sweated the mixture down thoroughly in the soup pot, seasoning with jeera 'n' dana (cumin and coriander) before adding the contents of a 340g jar of tatli biber salçası (sweet red pepper paste). I had a litre of bean soup frozen in my 'fridge, so added that to the pot. Then I added two thirds of the beans with four litres of Marigold bouillon, simmered for fifteen minutes and relaxed for five before blending. Finally, I incorporated the rest of the beans, finished the soup with 100g creamed coconut dissolved in a litre of boiling water and garnished each bowl with freshly chopped coriander.

Sanchez - who discovered us late, but has been coming in daily over the last week - pronounced this a "serious, black man's soup" which I guess means hearty and soulful. Mind you, Sanchez did not like the yoghurt I swirled into his soup and demanded a replacement bowl. He wasn't the only one who declined the yog, though most of the others are vegans.

25 people enjoyed this soup and several others popped in who couldn't pause for a bowl, but to say thanks for all the soups over the past months. Several wrote extravagant praise in the dairy, with repeated entreaties to revive the Soup Kitchen when the season rolls around again. And there were a couple, caught in the pic below, who were visiting the Soup Kitchen for the first time!

Last soupers: Sayonara!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

19.03.08: Potato & Leek

The Soup Kitchen has essayed several leek and potato soups and produced a Nearly Perfick Recipe, but Daisy's and Holly's novel spin was potato and leek. They produced a terrific soup that was typically chunky (unblended) and herby, with lots of thyme and lashings (or should that be grindings?) of black pepper. Frugally, it also incorporated a jug full of Spring onion soup left over from the day before.

The Ladies Who Lunch always bring a great vibe with them, as you can see (that baby does not belong to Daisy, BTW;-). Maybe they'll get it together to offer food the Pullens Centre sometimes over the coming months, after the Soup Kitchen closes? Let's hope!

18.03.08: Creamy Spring Onion

For my penultimate soup, I wanted a straightforward single-varietal vegetable recipe based upon the traditional mirepoix and maybe made creamy with the judicious addition of coconut. I thought to refine the Spring Onion soup improvised on 06.03.08, when there were no leeks in the market, blending the soup and straining it through a sieve to achieve a silky consistency.

I bought a 3kg box of Spring onions from pals in East Street, bruv, for a quid more than I paid last time, plus a couple of leeks, a kilo of spuds and a bunch of parsley. I went to Oli's for bread and to get a head of their celery, which always seems greener and bushier, and saw that they had wonderful white onions, so I bought a couple of them, too, as per the pic.

Back at base, I peeled and diced the white onions, washed and diced the leeks and half a kilo of carrots, plus a whole head of celery, and sweated this mirepoix over medium-low heat in a splash of oil in the bottom of the soup pot with its lid on to retain the moisture, stirring every couple of minutes to prevent sticking. I peeled the potatoes, chopped them into a rough dice, and added them to the pot. The spuds will cook down completely to thicken the soup.

I washed and then I started to chop Spring onions, adding them to the pot as they were chopped, stirring the contents and adjusting the heat to prevent sticking. Fresh Spring onions give off quite a lot of moisture, so no further liquid was necessary until all the Spring onions had been chopped - which took a minute or 45 - and added to the pot. Then I covered the contents with four litres of Marigold bouillon and simmered for ten minutes before turning off the heat and leaving the pot to cool for ten minutes more before blending.

I blended the soup thoroughly, adding another litre of bouillon and a litre of boiling water with 100g of creamed coconut dissolved into it. However one blends and blends, little bits of onion will always remain, with a slightly slimy texture that's not too pleasant, unless you pass it. Yes force all this soup through a sieve into another pot, using the back of the ladle. It's worth the effort, I guarantee.

One person described this soup in the dairy as 'very Springy' and someone else wrote, 'fucking lovely', but they should watch out, because language like that can get you excluded from Pullens Tenants & Residents Association. A third person put, 'totally gorgeous', which is the same sentiment expressed in a less spunky form. And then there's the woman who has so fallen for my soup that she talks about it in her sleep, to her boyfriend's consternation. She reckons 'soup of souperman are so gooood!!' C'est vrai, cherie. What are you going to do without me?
Defeated ping pong champ sniffs the soup (pic of Victoria by Bruce Webb)

Monday, March 17, 2008

17.03.08: Irish Broth

I set out this morning to make a chunky vegetable miso soup thickened with pearl barley, but then I realised it's St Paddy's day and miso is hardly very Oirish, is it begorrah? So, I figured I'm leave out the miso, amp up the herbiness and call this stand-your-spoon-in veggie stew-soup, 'Irish'. It was a chilly day and this rib-sticker hit the spot with 20 people, several of whom wrote nice comments in the dairy: 'I finally feel warm again'.

I used a kilo of pearl barley (pot barley might've been better, but that's for another time) and bought a selection of roots, including a couple of different types of turnip, parsnips and swede. And cabbage, nice Savoy cabbage. And some baby button mushrooms, just for the hell of it. I boiled up the barley with a couple of dessert spoons full of dried herbs, diced a mirepoix and sweated it while peeling and dicing the roots into 1cm cubes. I wok-fried the diced roots (and mushrooms) - as they do in Ireland - before adding them to the pot, then added the cooked barley, plus six litres of Marigold bouillon. Simmered the soup for fifteen minutes and finished it with shredded cabbage. Garnished with shamrock.