Friday, November 23, 2007

23.11.07: Red Miso Beany Veg

It's properly cold now and people appreciate a soup that really warms them up, so I thought I'd do something with miso, using red kidney beans to thicken the soup base rather than the pearl barley I used in the miso vegetable soup on Day 13 and more beans to bulk out the soup, instead of root veggies.

Over night, I soaked 500g of red kidney beans and, separately, a 500g packet of Tesco exotic bean mix: dried black eyed beans, alubia beans, Dutch brown beans, baby Lima beans, butter beans and haricot beans. This morning, I went to buy vegetables in Somerfield and ended up with two swedes and a couple of plastic pillows of curly kale that were offered at a reduced price.

I boiled the two lots of beans in separate pans for an hour. I diced carrot, onion, and celery, minced half a head of garlic, and began to slowly cook the mixed vegetables in a splash of oil in the bottom of the soup pot. I peeled and diced the swedes and stir-fried the dice in a wok until it was thoroughly cooked, setting it aside. The kale was finely shredded and the stalks discarded.

When the beans were soft, having been simmered for an hour, I added the red kidney beans to the cooked mirepoix in the soup pot and covered it with two litres of Marigold bouillon and added another litre of boiling water with a 240g tub of Organic Mellow Field Bean Barley Miso dissolved in it before blending. One of my customers tells me that's all wrong and the miso should only be added at the last mo. so that its goodness isn't too compromised by cooking. But I wanted a strong, almost meaty flavour in the soup base..

Having thoroughly blended the red kidney beans and mirepoix with the miso and bouillon, I then assembled the soup by adding the cooked exotic bean mix, the stir-fried diced swede and the shredded kale with another two litres of bouillon (making five litres of liquid in all).

This was a popular soup - 'hot, healthy and ready to go', said someone in the log bok - and it was all gone before 3pm. A party of school girls doing a workshop and looking for somewhere to eat their lunch came in and six of them had soup; Jonathan, from the Buddhist Centre, must've had three bowls;-)

22.11.07: Re-Guguk + Kandi

I forgot to mention the salad leaves that Carlo (eyes right) presented yesterday along with his soup. Today, having quite a lot left, he served 'yesterday's soup with today's new touch'. Which was a slice of garlic bread served in the soup as a great big crouton. His soup taken care of, Carlo also produced a couple of side dishes: a fresh salad, comprised mostly of bean sprouts and grated carrot, matched with a curried mayo dressing; and 'kandi'.

Kandi - a.k.a. Kandy - is the name of a town in the middle of Sri Lanka which is either the home of or the inspiration for this mixture of spinach and pulses with tofu. When I say spinach, I mean Natco spinach puree (eyes left) and when I say pulses, I mean Asda's exotic bean mix. Carlo reckons Asda is the best supermarket (Somerfield is the worst). Ideally, Carlo would've soaked his beans overnight, but instead he soaked them with bicarb. for an hour and boiled 'em for another hour. As you do. In contrast to his hurrying up of the beans, he cooked his onions slowly and no doubt mixed in some spices before he added the spinach and the cooked pulses, slowly stirring in cubes of tofu. It was unusual and, according to Alan, 'very enjoyable'.

Mr Atif enjoyed himself at the Soup Kitchen and will return next week for more. He's talking about maybe doing something one evening next week. So, if you're reading this because you got a flyer through your door and you're intrigued but you work in the day, this could be your chance to experience the delights of the community kitchen in action. Maybe.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

21.11.07: Guguk

Today, Carlo essayed his Guguk, which apparently means, 'peace to everybody' in German and, like it says on the blackboard, evokes sunny coconuts and lemon trees. One may not associate Germany with lemons and coconuts, but Carlo has a German girlfriend, so maybe his perspective is a bit warmer, like that Señor Coconut.

Carlo quartered onions seven smallish onions, he roughly chopped a dozen carrots into fingers and minced the stems from a bunch of coriander, cooking the mixture in a generous splash of oil in bottom of soup pot until the onions browned and carrots began to 'get a bit crusty' (whatever that means).

Separately, he boiled two kilos of yellow split peas, a.k.a jumbo lentils, with a teaspoon of bicarbonate in the water to make them softer and a whole lemon with three deep cuts for flavour for about twenty minutes. While the lentils were still quite firm, Carlo added half of them to the soup base while continuing to simmer the other half.

The soup base was spiced with powdered coriander, curry powder, and paprika, plus two teaspoons of sugar, salt and pepper. Carlo added a couple of glasses of hot water to prevent sticking and carried on cooking the soup in a covered pan. Then he added 100g creamed coconut dissolved in two litres of boiling water and liquidisized. Finally, the rest of the cooked lentils were incorporated, along with a two kilo packet of frozen fava beans and 200g bean sprouts for crunch.

This was a really unusual soup that went down very well with those who tried it. 'Very new and interesting,' wrote someone in the log bok, 'I loved it!' Even Esme (below) enjoyed it, which is high praise indeed. The meat eaters among us found the flavour intriguing, asking if the soup contained crab, perhaps, or chicken stock? As if!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

20.11.07: Sweet Potato & Chilli

Lou overslept and then she got a shock, down East Street, at the price of sweet potatoes. The ones she got were Jamaican, apparently, and therefore more silky smooth in their texture than other sweet potatoes, such as the kilo bag from Somerfield that I chucked into the pot. Following this recipe to the power of six, Lou paid £13 for 3.5kg of the Sexiest Sweet Potatoes from Jamaica (I added another kilo) and six chillis. Six of those mean little red Jamaican chillies. Maybe they weren't yer actual Scotch Bonnets, but those chillis were hot, hot, hot.

So this was a hot soup. Lou sprinkled paprika across its surface, but those chillies were overwhelming. Happily, there was yoghurt in the 'fridge for those who don't like it so hot. Rather than Gruyere, Lou garnished her soup with coarsely grated Red Leicester, which worked for me. It was a damn fine soup on a cold and drizzly day and I had seconds. Lou only counted out sixteen, though it's not clear if that's bowls or people.

We seem to be stuck on 16 this week, but hopefully the numbers will pick up now that I've put one of the new fliers through every letterbox on the Pullens. The design of these fliers - the back side of which is below - was donated by Stuart Pickering and the printing was done for nothing by a geezer who works nights and is happy to remain anonymous. Thanks to both;-)

The Tenants' & Residents' Association had a meeting tonight, which voted in favour of a funding application for a Small Grant from the tenants' fund for equipment, so I'm hoping that we'll soon be able to spend around a grand on: a water purification system; a stainless steel soup pot to replace the aluminium one we're currently using; a 10 litre soup kettle to keep the soup warm and free up the stove top; a toaster to make toast; and a rice cooker.

Monday, November 19, 2007

19.11.07: Parsnip 'n' Pear

The weather today was miserable, dark grey and damp, and I was a bit slow to get started. I'd put pears out in the fruit bowl at the end of last week and they'd been in the 'fridge all weekend, so I thought I'd put 'em in the soup. Parsnip and pear is not quite so common a combination as parsnip and apple, but it works similarly, with the creaminess of the parsnips offset by the tart fruit. In this case, I enhanced the creaminess with creamed coconut and punched up the fruity flavour with curry.

I went down to Oli's and spent eleven pounds, including three loaves of their corek bread. I bought about six kilos of parsnips, I guess, plus a head of celery and a big onion and a a handful of carrots for the mirepoix and a bunch of fresh coriander for garnish. Overnight, I'd made a litre of EasiYo Greek style yoghurt, a jug of which I put on the counter for people to add to their soup.

Back at the Pullens Centre, I trimmed the leaves from the celery and reserved them, then the onion/celery/carrot mirepoix mixture, throwing the diced vegetables into a little oil in the bottom of the soup pot over medium heat. As the soup base cooked, I added minced ginger - say, a square inch - and two dessert spoons of medium hot curry powder.

I peeled the parsnips and cubed them into roughly 2cm spares, adding them to the pot as I cut them and mixing them into the gently cooking mirepoix, keeping the pot lid on and adding a splash of bouillon from a jug to prevent sticking. Once all the parsnips were in the pot, I peeled and cut out the cores from the pears, roughly chopped and added them to the pot. Then I poured in the rest of the two litre jug of bouillon and whacked up the heat.

Adding another two litres of Marigold bouillon (four in total) and melting a 200g block of creamed coconut in two litres of boiling water, I added the leafy celery tops and simmered the soup for fifteen minutes, until the parsnips were cooked through. Then I blended the soup, pouring in the 2l coconut (making 6 litres of liquid in total) and served it with an optional swirl of yoghurt (I don't think anyone declined).

I only served sixteen people today, but they all loved it and several had seconds. I'm hoping that the numbers will pick up this week as M. brought in the fliers that his bro. has printed, which look lush.

Preview: tomorrow, Lou plans to follow this recipe for Sweet Potato & Chilli Soup; on Wednesday, Carlo is talking split peas 'n' spinach with tofu. Join us!