Friday, October 12, 2007

Day Ten: Turkish Red Lentil

Today went by so fast, I failed to photograph it, so here's one I made earlier of Oli's, the Turkish supermarket in Walworth Road that provided all the ingredients of today's soup and, indirectly, the inspiration to make Ezo Gelin Çorbasi, the Turkish Red Lentil 'Ezo The Bride' Soup. What actually happened was that Nadia, who works in one of the architects' offices in Iliffe Yard, gave us this recipe. So we gave it a go.

Louisa was making the soup today along with Kadett from Beautiful & Damned and she had some paprika. I went to Oli's and shopped for the rest of the ingredients before meeting them at 10:30. Ish. They were a bit slow to get going and I left them to it until gone midday, when Louisa came round to say what she'd thought was paprika was obviously cayenne, so I hot footed it round to Oli's...

Half an hour later, when I went round with the log bok, the soup was far from cooked and so I left 'em to it for another hour, when I got a panicky phone call saying Louisa was swamped! What had happened was that Kadett had to leave at 1:30 and, soon after, a legion of architects from DSDHA trooped in and set about the soup. By the time I got there at ten to two, it was all gone! Or just about. I did warn Louisa not to use that gigantic ladle for portion control!

Louisa managed to extend the soup to get a few extra portions out of the pot for Caroline and Gareth, who nipped off to the Italian deli at the bottom of Brixton Road for a loaf to go with. I still didn't get any pictures. Log bok comments included: 'I didn't manage to spill it down my new shirt,' (Bruce); 'a truly tasty tummy filler, but if I end up married I will complain,' (Jan); and 'what's next?' (Anon).

The perfect end to a pretty good week, I felt Louisa and I had earned ourselves a treat so we went and spent thirty quid from the donations on dim sum at Dragon Castle. Have a good weekend, won't you?
Soup Makers: Louisa and Kadett
Soup: Turkish Red Lentil
Other ingredients: Paprika, cayenne pepper
No. of bowls served: 28
Expenditure: £10.77
Donations: £48.34
Dim Sum subtraction: £30
Running balance: +£92.76

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Day Nine: Carrot & Coriander

Today I set out to copy the soup that made the New Covent Garden Company famous, Carrot & Coriander. Well, I say copy, but I didn't use any nutmeg and instead concentrated upon building coriander flavours by toasting a generous handful of coriander seeds in a dry pan, then grinding them in an electric coffee grinder. This spice I put in the base of the soup, which I finished with an injection of intense fresh coriander flavour, produced by putting the stalks of a couple of bunches of the herb through a masticating juicer with a stalk of celery to produce a bright green chlorophyl-rich liquor.

Six kilos of carrots, a big onion, a head of celery and a bunch of coriander cost me a fiver in East Street market. Back at base, I chopped the onion and sweated it in a little oil in the bottom of the soup pot with the lid on, adding the ground coriander seed and then the leafier parts of the celery, chopped up. I peeled and chopped up all except two of the biggest carrots and added them to the pot with four litres of Marigold bouillon, simmering for twenty minutes. Then I pureed the soup with the stick mixer.

To finish the soup, I used creamed coconut instead of dairy cream to give a rich, smooth texture and this is actually becoming a bit of trademark of Pullens Soup Kitchen. If I'm making the soup, I'd prefer it to be vegan and dairy free, but the addition of a little fat always gives a more unctuous mouth feel (as I'm sure they'd say at the New Covent Garden Soup Company). I melted a block of creamed coconut in a little boiling water before adding it along with the green liquor from the juicer.

The texture of New Covent Garden's patented carrot 'n' coriander is varied with the inclusion of chunkier pieces of carrot, so I grated the two big carrots I'd held back into my soup, added another couple of litres of Marigold bouillon to the pot and brought it back to the boil before serving, garnished with fresh chopped coriander

Customers for my better-than N.C.G.'s c'n'c soup were slow to arrive and it was half past one before Gordon showed up. He said there wasn't enough salt in the soup, which is what he always says. I offered him LoSalt but he wasn't impressed and said next time he'd bring his own Maldon salt, which is fine by me. I mean, I wouldn't mind him smoking a cigarette after thoroughly enjoying his soup, but it's against the law, innit.

Some people from the workshops in Iliffe Yard are getting very good about bringing their own bowls to get their soup and then scuttling back to their drawing boards, or kilns, but if no one hangs around for a chat it can be a bit boring, so I was pleased to see Natty and Oskar, who held the fort when I had to leave at 3pm. Louisa kept the Soup Kitchen open till six and served another eight or ten bowls to people including Amy, who wrote in the log bok: 'Awesome! Great job!!'
Soup Maker: Russell
Soup: Carrot 'n' Coriander
Other ingredients: Creamed coconut
No. of bowls served: 24
Expenditure: £9.70
Donations: £18.83
Running balance: +£85.19

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Day Eight: Butternut Squashed

Today's soup was determined by a butternut squash donated by Mandy, who works on an organic veg. stall in Marylebone on Sundays. She's given me this perfectly good squash that's a bit bashed at one end and a few sweet potatoes to play with. She reckoned they'd make a nice soup, perhaps finished with creamed coconut? I had some garlic and a small sack of shallots, so I thought I'd roast them to give the soup another dimension.

I went down to Oli's on Walworth Road to get the creamed coconut and coriander, plus one of their great big onions (as seen, below right) and their corek bread was fresh out of the oven soon after 10am, which is wonderful. I can't find a decent link to describe this plaited bread that's covered in sesame seeds and has been a great hit at the Soup Kitchen and nor can I provide a photo because it always get scoffed. Anyway, I assembled the following ingredients:
coriander, coconut,sweet potatoes, shallots, squash, carrot, celery, onion

My other expenditure today was on a roasting tray, which I used to roast off the peeled cloves of garlic and peeled and chopped shallots at high-ish heat, using a little olive oil and moving the chopped vegetables around in the tray so that they browned more evenly and began to caramelise. Meanwhile, I made a rough mirepoix of diced onion, carrot and celery and sweated it in the smaller, six litre soup pot over a low flame with the lid on, stirring every few minutes.

I peeled the squash, split it and scooped out the seeds, cubed the flesh and added it to the mirepoix stewing in the pot, then did the same with the three (or was it four?) sweet potatoes I had, mixing the contents of the pot well. Then I added four litres of Marigold bouillon, brought the pot to the boil and let it simmer with the lid on for a quarter of an hour. Then I turned the gas off and left it to cool for ten minutes before liquidizising. I melted the coconut cream in hot water and added that along with another two litres of bouillon while continuing to run the stick mixer and, I must say, the consistency of my soup today was silky!

Natty came in early doors, fresh back from Korea, where he's been entertaining the locals with Ska Cubano. Nat tells me he and Megumi - 'probably the world's top ska saxophonist' - ran a soup kitchen at the Pullens Centre themselves, back in the day! Apparently, they served miso soup with lots of vegetables in, which sounds great, but it was hard work and they didn't make any money so they gave up after three weeks. I challenged Nat to collaborate with Megumi to do and udon soup kitchen one day soon and I think he agreed but don't hold your breath because you know what musicians are like.

Nat got the first bowl of soup, officially, but Jan and Angela are also developing the knack of turning up around 12:30 when the soup is usually ready, and Oskar happened along soon after, so today's soup was critically appraised by four sets of taste buds and none found any fault with it. In fact, three of the four had a second portion. Somebody wrote in the log bok today: '10/10, the best soup yet!' Someone else wrote, 'all problems can be resolved at the soup kitchen. What a great thing'.
Soup Maker: Russell
Soup: Butternut Squash & Sweet Potato
Other ingredients: Garlic, shallots, coriander
No. of bowls served: 18
Expenditure: £9.48
Donations: £19.62
Running balance: +£76.06

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Day Seven: Curried Parsnip

Louisa and Graham started bright and early on what turned out to be a very wet day with an actual written-down recipe, to serve 24:

6 tsp. coriander seeds
6 tsp. cumin seeds
3 tsp. ground turmeric
3 tsp. mustard seeds
6 large onions
12 garlic cloves
4.5 kg parsnips
12 plum tomatoes
6 litres of Marigold vegetable bouillon
6 tsp lemon juice

What distinguishes this particular curried parsnip soup is that the 'snips are coated with the spices and roasted for half an hour with the garlic, chopped onions and tomatoes before being blended with the stock. This intensifies the flavours and saves a certain amount of faffing about with the spice mix, which otherwise would be toasted and ground.

Also mildly controversial is the use of tomato, adding another dimension to the soup, which proved very popular. Nobody had a bad word for the log bok and positive comments included: 'twas full and wholesome and well welcomed on such a dank day'; 'that's just what me and the baby needed' (Iraxte & Irene); 'soup, soup, soup, soup, soup...' (Jen and Esme); 'I had seconds and that says it all. Yum.'

Apparently, quite a few people came in from Iliffe Yard workshops early doors and Louisa used the great big ladle to weigh out her soup in portions so generous that she only counted out 20 bowls before her soup was all gone, by 2:30pm.

Soup Makers: Louisa and Graham
Soup: Curried Parsnip
Other ingredients: Coriander
No. of bowls served: 20
Expenditure: £16.73
Donations: £23.37
Running balance: +£65.92

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