Friday, October 26, 2007

Day 20: Celery/Celeriac

Here, I was looking to construct a two-tiered flavour with the creaminess of the celeriac, enhanced with coconut cream, serving as a background for fresh celery spiced with coriander. At the heart of the soup were five small, fresh bulbs of celeriac, organic and locally grown, which I purchased from Fare Shares for about a quid each. They looked not unlike the ones in this photo, only dirtier.

Antonio, who lives on Crampton Street, helped me this morning and he says he's going to make soup himself one day soon. We went to buy bread at Oli's and, having walked through East Street, ended up getting the rest of the necessary vegetables there, too, including a magnificent head of celery.

Back at base, Antonio peeled the celeriac roots while I toasted and ground a good handful of coriander seed, which I added to the mirepoix cooking in the bottom of the soup pot. Antonio picked the leaves off the head of celery and put them to one side for later incorporation.

We added the celeriac, diced, and celery, chopped, plus four litres of Marigold bouillon, brought the soup to the boil and simmered for 20 minutes before finally added the celery leaves, turning off the gas and leaving the pot to stand with its lid on for ten minutes before blending.

The soup was whizzed up with the Dynamic liquidisizer, then we added another litre of bouillon plus half a block of creamed coconut melted in a litre of boiling water and whizzed it again. The soup was still a bit stringy, so I passed it through the sieve into the smaller, 6 litre soup pot for service.

Again, I used the creamed coconut for texture rather and put some spice in the base of the soup to counteract or compliment its flavour, which improved the creaminess of the celeriac. Hopefully. This was a very green soup. Louisa wrote, 'although it looks like snot it didn't taste like it' and some one else wrote, 'the soup was out of this world'.

I counted out 29 bowls, which equals yesterday's record. A couple of those were left over Caulinut soups, served to a couple of guys who came in early doors, and a couple were refills for hungry folks. My portion size is a pretty consistent 250ml, this soup incorporated six litres of liquid and every drop of it was eaten, so you do the math.

I didn't take any photos, so here's a shot of the London Park Hotel, which is being demolished to make way for a tower designed by Richard Rogers. It's got 44 storey and is 13 meters (45 foot) shorter than the Multiplex Tower nearby. No prank.

Soup Makers: Russell + Antonio
Soup: Celery/Celeriac
No. of bowls served: 29
Expenditure: £16.76
Donations: £26.12
Running balance: +£165.28

Day 19: Cauliflower & Walnut Cream

I wasted time this morning hunting celeriac, first in the great big Tesco in Kennington, then in Sainsbury's @ Nine Elms, but to no avail. So I went back to basics as to East Street, to buy what's cheap: cauliflower at three for a quid; walnuts at a quid a pound.

I've seen a recipe in Debra Mayhem's Soup Bible (that title gets more wrong every time I type it) that uses equal quantities of skimmed milk to stock to improve creaminess, but I replaced the low-fat milk with full fat creamed coconut, keeping it Vegas. This time, I used half a block dissolved in 500ml boiling water.

Back at the Pullens Centre, I roughly chopped a mirepoix of onion, carrot and celery and sweated the chopped vegetables in the bottom of the soup pot, lid on. I added a couple of teaspoons of curry powder, not so much for the sake of its flavour as to counteract the coconut. In retrospect, I wouldn't have bothered, because the flavour of walnuts in this soup was ultimately hard to detect (although they were there in the crunch).

Shelling 3lbs walnuts - one per cauli - was arduous. Although they were fresh enough to crush under the heel of my palm, I was v.pleased to see Jen and Mike come in early doors and immediately set them to work, cracking nuts open with a knife.

I cut the outer florets off the caulis and set them aside, then diced the stalks and added the dice to the cooking mirepoix in the pot. Then I added the walnuts, stirring them into the contents of the pot and leaving it to steam with the lid on for ten minutes or so before pouring over four litres of Marigold bouillon, whacking up the heat and bringing the the pot to the boil, then simmering for ten minutes.

I blended the soup fairly thoroughly with the Dynamic stick liquidimizer, which is sounding sicker with every passing day. After the first blending, I added another two litres of boiling bouillon, plus the coconut and all the reserved florets, returned the pot to the hob and brought the soup back to the boil. Then I turned off the heat, gave it five minutes and blended again, whizzing the just-cooked florets into the soup.

By this time, there were people waiting for today's soup. I'd kept their interest with the ends of yesterday's borscht served with a dollop of Sainsbury's organic reduced fat Greek style natural yogurt, but the natives were getting restless and declining to be photographed (left). I served the soup garnished with roughly chopped flat parsley.

Louisa came in to take over so I could leave at three, by which time I'd served 19 soups, but some of them were borscht. Lou served another ten bowls, but if I counted as many as half a dozen borscht, maybe the number of nutty cauli soups served was twenty three.

Upon my return, I went to Fare Shares to replenish the Marigold stock (we go through a 500ml tub a week at least; that's 25 litres of bouillon) and blow me down if they didn't have 'local' organic celeriac @ £2.45 a kilo. So I did get my celeriac in the end.

Soup Maker: Russell
Soup: Cauliflower & Walnut Cream
Ingredients: Curry powder, coconut
No. of bowls served: 29
Expenditure: £14.10
Donations: £30.80
Running balance: +£155.92

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Day 18: Complex Borscht

I called this one 'Complex' Borscht in contrast to the Simple Borscht that Louisa made last week, which was basically a puree: a single varietal soup. This version comes straight out of The Soup Bible, incorporates apples and mushrooms and is garnished with very fresh yoghurt soured with lemon juice, so its flavours are more complex. If it's not a lot more complicated to make, it is more laborious.

I was able to offer a jug of very fresh yoghurt for the people to swirl into their soup because I've invested in an EasiYo yogurt maker. I it got off the internet from a firm at which EVERYONE WOULD LIKE TO THANK YOU FOR SHOPPING WITH US. Don't cha hate that, when they can't quite bring themselves to actually thank you? I mean, in my stairwell on the Pullens, there's a notice from Makers, the contractors who are refurbing the estate saying, 'WE WOULD LIKE TO INFORM YOU THAT THE SCAFFOLDING WILL BE COMING DOWN ON...' So, one wonders, what were their reservations?

Anyway, I digress (and the scaffolding came down weeks ago). The thing is, I've bought a yogurt maker that requires sachets of dehydrated milk powder. The sample worked really well so, as soon as I obtain a supply of these sachets, a jug of yogurt to swirl into your soup will become a staple of the Soup Kitchen.

There was about three kilos of beets, I reckon, in the 'fridge and I arduously peeled every single one first thing this morning, before a trip to Somerfield, where I was served by Alice and Lady Madonna by the Beatles was playing as I queued, segueing into You Can't Always Get What You Want by The Rolling Stones as I left. Which reminded me of Gimme Shelter, which I stayed up to watch on TV last night, remembering the first time I saw I saw it as a teenager. This time, never mind the murder, I savoured the juicy bits, like that scene at Muscle Shoals when they listen to the playback of Wild Horses for what looks like the first time.

I digress. Anyway, I assembled the indgrediments, seen on the left. Got the mushrooms the recipe called for, 250g, and looked around for a darker concentrated vegetable stock to work with the 'shrooms to give bottom to the flavour of the soup. Traditionally, borscht is made with beef stock. Louisa, in her Simple Borscht, substituted Marmite mixed into Marigold bouillon. I thought about using Marks & Sparks veggie stock concentrate, which is pretty good, but then I saw that new Oxo Concentrated Liquid Stock and thought I'd give it a go. I also picked up a couple of purple onions to co-ordinate with the beetroot, innit.

I had some celery in the fridge and probably one and half kilos of apples, 'local' Bramleys I got from Far Shares. Don't ask me what 'local' means in this context. Maybe someone's got a tree on their allotment? Or perhaps they've been scrumping?I also had about half a dozen red peppers, not the bell peppers, but those slightly more elongated and more piquant peppers that are sold by the stainless steel bowlful for a quid down East Street.

I chopped the onions and celery and sweated them over low heat in the bottom of the soup pot with a couple of bay leaves, adding fresh thyme (left over by Louisa) and cumin seeds, then seeded and chopped the peppers and added them to the pot. Adding a splash of hot water to prevent sticking, I chopped and added first the mushrooms, then the beets, and finally the apples, adding each to the pot and turning the cooking vegetables in their juices.

Then I added the Oxo Concentrated Liquid Stock, or tried to. It's two tablespoons to half a litre. The stuff isn't very runny and I probably needed two bottles to make the six litres of stock I needed. In the end, I added hot water to the bottle, gave it a shake, and mixed the contents 50/50 with Marigold. I poured four litres of this stock over the steaming vegetables, brought the pot to the boil, and simmered it for half and hour before blending.

Our liquidimizer - it's a Dynamic, apparently you can tell by the orange handle - needs servicing, to say the least. Louisa remarked on how it was grinding yesterday but she achieved a very silky consistency to her beany soup without, so far as I know, passing it through a sieve. I gave out a couple of bowls of rough borscht before deciding to pass it and I reckon it was well worth it. Everyone seemed to like it. At least, no one complained. Spookily, for the third day running, the number of bowls of soup served was 23.

Ingredients: beetroot, Bramley apples, mushrooms
Garnish: Sour yogurt
No. of bowls served: 23
Expenditure: £11.91
Donations: £28.87
EasiYo yoghurt maker: £21.04
Running balance: +£139.24

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Day 17: Butter Bean

Lou followed this recipe for 'Judy's white bean soup with chilli oil' from BBC Good Food but called it Butter Bean because (a) yesterday's soup was a White Bean (b) she used butter beans and (c) we dunno who Judy is. Somebody to do with Cary Grant, is it?

I left a 2kg bag of butter beans to soak overnight, but the bowl I put them into wasn't big enough and not all those beans got properly soaked, which made things a bit tougher for Louisa when it came to shucking them out of their skins this morning. As it says on the Beeb Good Food, 'it's a laborious job, but worth it'. Happily, Jen came to help and, it being half term, she brought Shanti (14) along.

I wasn't watching, but imagine Lou followed the recipe, scaled up with six litres of Marigold bouillon, and she certainly produced a really rich and buttery, beany soup that did exactly what it said on the blackboard. In the log bok, Shanti wrote, 'wosent that nice and looked like costerd' (sic) which does kind of make you wonder what they're learning in skool these days.

Appropriately, since it's the 23rd, Louisa shifted twenty three bowls of her soup and was honoured to have Irene (left) climb the stairs to sample it. She was so impressed she said she'd be coming back every day from now on, so we have a big rep. to live up to.

Soup Maker: Lou
Soup: Butter Bean
Garnish: Thyme, sweet chilli sauce
No. of bowls served: 23
Expenditure: £12.47
Donations: £29.49
Running balance: +£143.32

Monday, October 22, 2007

Day 16: White Bean & Parsnip

There was a chill in the air today, but the Pullens Centre was warm and my bean 'n' parsnip soup was appreciated by 23 peeps, which is not bad for a Monday, and it had all gone by 3pm. The average donation was 115p, which is also not too bad, considering the numbers of people who didn't have change and said they'd donate later, innit. I need to keep a separate count of takeaways because I'd estimate that at least half the soups served are taken back to workshops and offices.

I saw this recipe in The Bible and then I saw a pile of cheap tins of beans at Oli's, three a quid, so I got six 240g tins of white beans, fagioli cannellini, haricot blancs (two of each!) and six big parsnips, weighing about the same as the beans, or around 1.5kg, plus half a dozen medium sized English onions and a magnificent head of celery. They do celery well at Oli's, but their parsnips were a bit leathery.

At the Pullens Centre, I couldn't find the garlic until too late, otherwise I would have minced some and added it to the chopped onions that I started to cook in a little oil over a medium flame. I added about a desert spoon full of powdered coriander seed and the same quantity of jeera, mixing the spices into the cooking onions. I chopped the tops off some Spring onions to use as garnish, chopped up the rest of the onions and and added them to the pot.

I washed the celery and chopped off the leafy top, setting the leaves aside for later incorporation, and chopped up probably half a dozen fat stalks of celery, or all the outer stalks, leaving the heart. In retrospect, I realise that this was the point at which what was to be a white soup took on a green tinge and, with the benefit of hindsight, I could've used those two green chillies that have been hanging around in the fridge for more than a week.

I peeled and diced the parsnips, mixing the chunks in with the spiced cooking vegetables in the pot and adding a few splashes of Marigold bouillon (from a 2 litre jug I made up) to stop the contents of the pot from sticking. I opened the six cans of beans and drained and washed them in a colander. Had I soaked my own beans, I might've used some of the bean water in the soup, as the recipe I was supposed to have been following prescribes, but this bean water was too salty. I added the washed white beans to the soup pot, poured over the rest of the contents of the bouillon jug, refilled it and added two litres more.

I turned up the heat and brought the soup pot to the boil, leaving it to simmer for twenty minutes and to cool for ten before liquidizing the soup. I went through it with the mighty stick mixer thoroughly, then added another two litres of Marigold stock (making 6L in all, to 1.5kg beans and 1.5kg parsnips) and liquidimizised it again. Daniel the potter was first to come in for soup (to take away) before I'd properly evaluated it and I didn't think it was as silky as it could be, so I passed the soup through the new big sieve into the smaller pot, which it just filled.

Likesay, all the soup went over the next couple of hours, garnished with chopped Spring onion and a sprinkling of paprika, with the option of a dollop of ajvar in the mix, and it went down well. Kadett wrote, 'heel lekker soepje hoera wy willen meer', which Kai translated as, 'ultimate soup here, why not more?'

Soup Maker: Russell
Soup: White Bean and Parsnip
Other ingredients: Cumin & coriander; ajvar
Garnish: Spring onion, paprika
No. of bowls served: 23
Expenditure: £10.28
Donations: £26.55
Running balance: +£126.30