Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Day Two: Roasted Tomato and Sweet Peppers

The day dawned grey and damp: good weather for soup. But then, miserable weather makes people reluctant to leave their cosy comfort zones. For whatever reason, too few people climbed the stairs at the Pullens Centre today. Which is a shame because today's soup was delicious. According to one comment in the log bok, it was 'soupylicious'.

What happened was I went down to Nine Elms to see what I could find there for free. Went into New Covent Garden through the gate in the corner of Sainsbury's car park and mooched about a bit, nonchalantly checking out those skips that weren't bolted shut. I passed over half a box of shitake mushrooms and bundles of asparagus, because I wasn't prepared to actually dive into those dumpsters. I walked past a discarded bag of perfectly good basil and around the corner to find a discarded box of very ripe tomatoes and some yellow bell peppers that had been spilled on the ground.

When picking discarded vegetables, the basic rule is to leave anything that's skin is broken. Mud can be washed off and bruised bits can be cut out, but if the skin's been breached, it's no good. I picked up at least a kilo of tomatoes and another kilo or more of yellow and red peppers. And I went back for the basil.

Back at base, I had a head of garlic and half a packet of red lentils - probably 150g - which I thought would work well for flavour and thickening, respectively. Louisa had volunteered to help and so while she got chopping, I nipped out to Somerfield on Walworth Road and picked up half a kilo of carrots, a few French sticks, and a tub of Flora: £3.18.

We roasted the cleaned and chopped peppers and the tomatoes to concentrate their flavours. The oven at the Pullens Centre is a cheap domestic model, only a couple of years old, but it's not much cop. I can't imagine where it's all gone, but most of the kitchen equipment that was there only a few months ago isn't. There's no saucepans, only one oven shelf and no roasting trays.

Anyway, we roasted the tomatoes and peppers with the peeled cloves of garlic for about half an hour and at the same time cooked down a mirepoix of diced carrots, celery and onion, before combining the two and covering the mixture with three litres of bouillon. Then we liquidised the soup and passed it through a sieve to take out the bits of skin and seeds. Finally, we returned the soup to the cleaned pot, added the red lentils and cooked them in the soup for another twenty minutes, until they softened. The basil leaves were torn and used to garnish each bowl as served.

Likesay, soup hungry punters were few, but appreciative. We got our first homeless person in. Rick has been living on the library steps on Walworth Road for the past six months, but is now reconsidering his options after last night's shenanigans, in which some kids set light to the bottom of his sleeping bag. Rick wrote in the log book that the soup kitchen was a 'life saver'. He said he'd be back with all his homeless mates, but that's what the workmen who came yesterday said and we didn't see any of them today.

Soup Makers: Russell & Louisa
Soup: Roasted tomato and sweet peppers with red lentils
Other ingredients: Garlic, basil
No. of bowls served: 11
Expenditure: £3.18
Donations: £5.13
Running balance: +£2.09

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