Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Day 23: Pumpkin

It's the last day of our October souping and I've got a stinking cold. Happily, Lou was fit to make soup and, it being Halloween, she reprised her pumpkin concoction from Day Five, when spicey was spelled as it should be rather than it actually is.

As someone wrote in the log bok: 'Halloween - pumpkin soup? Work that one out!' Evidently, the equation was simple enough people for the Soup Kitchen to achieve a record number of bowls served on our last day of operation: 30!

Lou's variation on her tried and tested formula was lashings of ginger which worked for me with my cold. As someone else wrote in the log bok: 'Damn lovely - I'm not feeling well so it's given me a lift.' And as a third person wrote, 'it's not a trick, definitely a treat.'

So ends the first chapter of the Soup Kitchen. Over the month, we've done better than break even, showing an average profit of nearly nine quid per day! Of course, we don't pay utility bills and we don't pay ourselves. We are going to have to pay about a hundred quid to service the magic wand that makes it all happen, though.

Apparently, the Soup Kitchen was favourably mentioned at last night's AGM - which I didn't attend because of my rotten cold - and our Resident Liaison Officer is enthusiastic about our innovative experiment in social cohesion. Consequently, after a short break, we will resume the daily service of soup next week.

Happy Samhain, everybody. May the Great Pumpkin shower you with Autumnal abundance.

Soup Maker: Lou
Soup: Gingery Pumpkin
No. of bowls served: 30
Expenditure: £15.78
Donations: £26.98
Final score: +£203.96

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Day 22: Moroccan Chickpea

I woke up this morning with a nasty cold, thanking my lucky stars that I didn't have to make soup today and then Lou rang to say she'd woken up feeling terrible and couldn't make soup today! At least Graham was his usual self and he went off down the Walworth Road to do the shopping.

I'd left a couple of kilos of chickpeas to soak overnight and Lou sent me a link to this recipe for Moroccan Chickpea soup, which I compared to the recipe on www.epicurious. Then I blithely ignored both and devised my own recipe which incorporated the end of a tub of tahini that was in my 'fridge and the end of the jar of ajvar from the Pullens Centre 'fridge.

I started by boiling the chickpeas for an hour. I minced ten cloves of garlic and diced four medium sized onions, a whole head of celery, and just a couple of carrots and sweated these chopped vegetables in a little oil in the bottom of the soup pot. I added a tablespoon full of cumin, plus a tablespoon full of garam marsala. What would've perked up this soup and made it properly Moroccan is harissa paste, but I didn't have any so I used the ajvar instead.

When the soup base had sweated down a bit, I added the cooked and strained chickpeas, plus the contents of eight cans of chopped plum tomatoes to the pot. I covered the chickpeas with four litres of Marigold bouillon and brought the pot to the boil, simmering for half an hour.

In retrospect, maybe I shouldn't have whizzed up this soup at all, but I did. I whizzed it a bit, decanted about a third, whizzed a bit more and returned the decanted third to the pot before finishing the soup by mixing in the tahini, probably a couple of generous tablespoons full. It ended up being a very thick and chunky soup, more like a chickpea stew.

The recipe Louisa was intending to follow included broad beans and lemon, both juice and zest. Graham had come back from Iceland with a bag of frozen, chopped green beans and I forgot to tell him to get lemons. I tell you' I'm not well. However, Graham managed to get a couple of lemons when he popped out for milk and we served the soup with a squeeze of lemon over the surface and a sprinkle of chopped parsley.

Graham said he'd take the beans home with him but he forgot them in the 'fridge and so, later, I added them to the soup and served the last ten portions or so with added green bean. I guess this took it even further away from Morocco, but nobody seemed to care. Although one or two commented that the soup failed to scale the heights of yesterdays chilli bean, Alan wrote in the log bok, 'Another bull's eye!

Soup Maker: Russell
Soup: Moroccan Chickpea
No. of bowls served: 22
Expenditure: £9.77
Donations: £23.04
Running balance: +£192.76

Monday, October 29, 2007

Day 21: Spicy Bean

Never mind what the dictionary says, 'spicy' is wrong. At least, it looks wrong. Of course it should be 'spicey', IMO, but in a spirit of willing co-operation, because it's spelled that was in Debra Mayhew's Soup Bible, and because Natty wrote it that way on the blackboard today, on this occasion I will cheerfully conform with the conventional spelling. Maybe the way forward is to opt for 'spiced'?

In this recipe, the spices in question are cumin and Cayenne pepper. I didn't have any Cayenne and used paprika instead, spiked with a hefty pinch of chilli powder. The recipe also calls for red wine and beef stock. For the stock, I used a jar of Marks & Spencer's concentrated vegetable stock. For the red wine, I used a box of Chilean cab. sav. that's been hanging around the Pullens Centre kitchen since the last Annual General Meeting (and the next AGM is tomorrow!)

Overnight, I soaked 750g of black beans and the same quantity of red kidney beans in two separate bowls and, first thing this morning, I boiled them in two separate pans for an hour. The quantities were determined by the fact that, having trawled the length of Walworth Road, I was only able to buy a single 750g bag of black beans. Still, this 1.5 kg of beans turned out to be just the right amount since all the soup (made with 4 litres of stock) was eaten: another 23 bowls full!

I deviated from the recipe by increasing the quantity of red peppers and reducing the celery in the mirepoix of chopped vegetables that forms the flavour base of this soup, to make it richer. I diced a single very large onion, four or five medium-sized carrots and half a dozen red peppers. Rather than bland bell peppers, I used the more elongated, slightly piquant variety. Heating a little oil in the bottom of the soup pot, I put in the diced vegetables and added the spices, about two dessert spoons full of cumin and the same amount of paprika with a teaspoon of chilli powder.

Once the spice was added, I continued to sweat the diced veg. in the soup pot with the lid on over low heat for a further five minutes or so, stirring every now and then to stop the mix from sticking to the bottom of the pot, which I de-glazed with a glass of red wine before straining the cooked beans and adding them to the soup pot. The M&S concentrated veg. stock makes four pints, or not quite two litres, which is about half what I needed, so I added another two litres of Marigold bouillon to the soup and simmered it for half an hour.

I blended the soup a bit with the Dynamic stick mixer then, while it was still fairly chunky, removed about a quarter of the soup to another pot. I continued to blend the bulk of the soup until it was quite smooth and then returned the chunkier soup to the main pot and mixed it, to give contrasting smooth and slightly chunkier textures. I served it with a dollop of full fat cow's yogurt, which went down very well with just about everyone.
This was a very popular soup on what was a cold, brilliantly clear day. Several people had second bowls and Linda wrote in the log bok, 'the best yet! My favourite so far'.
Soup Maker: Russell
Soup: Spicy Bean
No. of bowls served: 23
Expenditure: £12.66
Donations: £26.87
Running balance: +£179.49