Monday, October 8, 2007

Day Six: Fresh Sweet Pea

I trapped the tip of the index finger of my left hand in the hinge of the cupboard door, so when I say I take pains to publish this blog every day, I mean it literally today. So I'll keep this brief. There's no market in East Street on Mondays, so I thought I'd try the soup Jennifer makes with frozen peas. In this case, three one kilo bags (@ £1 each) of frozen peas from Iceland.

My recollection of Jen's instructions about the base of her soup was a bit hazy, but the crucial point was that it included ginger and green chillies, but cumin in lieu of garlic. She said you've got to use both ground jeera from a packet and fresh cumin seed that you toast and grind yourself. I added a generous fist full of coriander seed, since I had some in the cupboard (not the one I trapped my throbbing finger in). The soup is finished with lemon juice and fresh coriander and/or mint.

Figuring that the soup kitchen may not be so busy on a grey Monday, I started in the smaller six litre pot with one huge onion I got from Oli's, roughly diced and softened in a little oil with the leafier parts of a head of celery, lid on, while I minced the about two cubic inches of fresh ginger and half a dozen small plump green chillies, which I added to the vegetables in the pot. My spice mix consisted of about a generous tablespoon full each of toasted and ground whole cumin and coriander seeds, plus the same quantity of ground jeera powder from a packet, which went in first.

While these flavours were getting acquainted and despite the pain from my finger, I peeled and diced half a dozen small potatoes to thicken the soup, added them to the pot, and poured over two litres of Marigold bouillon. I brought the pot to the boil and simmered for twenty minutes, until the potato started to dissolve, then I whizzed it with the stick mixer. Returning the pot to the heat, I added two litres of boiling Marigold bouillon and tipped in the three kilo bags of frozen peas.

When the pot boiled, I turned the gas off under it and left it to stand with the lid on for ten minutes before blending. Then, the soup was a wee bit on the thick side, so I transferred it to the bigger pot and added two more litres of bouillon - that's six litres of bouillon altogether with three kilos of frozen peas - together with a bunch of mint leaves and another bunch of coriander, plus the juice of half a dozen lemons, before giving the soup a final whizz.

By the time it was done, around a quarter to one, a few people from the workshops in Iliffe Yard were browsing the free clothes rail while waiting for their soup. Jan Duke refused to be photographed, but said that she'd like to have a go at making soup herself one day soon. Of today's Fresh Sweet (and sour) Pea soup, Jan (I think it was she) wrote in the log bok: 'nice as it is, the Broccoli and the Pepper have the edge on the Pea'. But someone else wrote,'lovely. Slightly spicey, full body, and a hint of lemon.' And Steve and his boys cleaned their bowls!

Today's other notable visitors today included Jonathan and Ira from the Buddhist Centre on Manor Place (seen left) one of whom may have written in the log bok: 'be proud of your super powers to make healing soups', which is a comforting thought when your finger throbs. Anyway, Louisa's making the soup tomorrow with Graham, so I should have a day off to rest my poor finger, and I think I can set a precedent by announcing the flavour of their in advance: it's going to be Curried Parsnip, adapted from the classic Jane Grigson recipe.

Soup Maker: Russell
Soup: Fresh Sweet Pea
Other ingredients: Lemon,
No. of bowls served: 20
Expenditure: £13.90
Donations: £22.01
Running balance: +£59.28

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