Wednesday, November 28, 2007

28.11.07: Organic 'Blue' Peas

This chick pea soup is apparently from Carlo's blue period, hence the name. When challenged, he said something about Andy Warhol, perhaps a reference to his Campbell Soup cans. Who can say? As a wise man might have said, unless it's clear to the bottom of the bowl, the meaning of soup may be opaque. It may be meaningless, beyond the taste experience of its consumption and the energy derived from its nutrition. One man - Sumana - was inspired by this soup to whip out his banjo and give it some strumming there and then (see below).

Carlo was less vague about how his soup - organic 'blue' peas with creamy curry coconut, cumin & coriander - to give it its full title, came to be:

1 First, wash your hands and soak your beans. 2kg of chick peas, ideally soaked overnight, but an hour with bicarbonate of soda will do. Boil them separately for an hour.

2 Heat your pan slowly with organic olive oil in the bottom. Chop 6 small white onions roughly in quarters and 6 carrots into batons. Cook slowly in the bottom of the pot until caramelised.

3 Add spice/herb mix: cumin and coriander seeds, paprika; plus two cloves of garlic.

4 Add a quarter of the part-cooked chick peas to the pot, cover with water and cook for a further 40 minutes, stirring often. Continue to cook the rest of the peas, adding a dessert spoon full of Marigold bouillon powder to the boiling water to improve the flavour.

5 When the melange (in the pot) is cooked, add the two lots of chick peas together and blend with a stick mixer.

6 Finish the soup by adding a 200g bar of coconut cream dissolved in half a litre of boiling water. Serve it with a swirl of cinnamon yoghurt.

That recipe isn't complete because tomato puree comes into it somewhere and 'crunchy appeals', which I'm guessing are actually crunchy bits of chopped apple. Kadett wrote, 'yummy, yummy, not sure what makes it so good.' Nor can anyone be sure of the secret ingredient when the soup maker won't say. Bottom line: 'a phantasmic soup and a cockle warmer'.

27.11.07: 4 Grain Tomato & Basil

Lou used this recipe on, which is by Nava Atlas from her book, Soups For All Seasons. Except the given quantities are intended to free two, so Lou increased the volume of each of the four grains - pot barley, brown rice, millet, and bulgur wheat - from two tablespoons to half a kilo. That turned out to be quite a lot and this 'soup' took on the consistency of a risotto - one you could stand you spoon in - but was non the worse for its rib-stickingness.

FYI: According to Nigel Slater, the difference between pot and pearl barley is that the former has only its outer husk removed, while the latter is more refined. Mr Slater likes to soak his pot barley over night, but it's not strictly necessary. Unsoaked, it takes at least 50 minutes to simmer until soft, but adds much in sustenance, not to mention its nutty flavour, and is 'great in cold weather', Slater says.

Indeed, it was a cold day and this semi-solid soup went down very well with one person awarding it six stars and an effusive - though barely legible - recommendation that includes the words 'Body & Soul'! Saucy Siren wrote, 'too good not to come back for more' while Cathy put, 'very delicious soup. My first visit. I'll be back'. On the subject of grains, Jan wrote: 'now wait a millet, isn't that bird food? Well, it was tweetific, a twoo delight and another great tummy warmer'.

Because of the Open Yards weekend, when the Pullens Centre will house an art exhibition of work by residents of our flats, as well as the brilliant kids from the local primary school, the Soup Kitchen will not be in operation on Thursday and Friday this week. Carlo is cooking on Wednesday and our usual daily service will resume next week on Monday.

Monday, November 26, 2007

26.11.07: Brussle Sprout & Chestnut

Brussels sprouts and chestnuts are a classic seasonal combination and one which I'd been keen to try, but for the fact that fresh chestnuts are a right pain to peel (not to mention that they cost a fiver per kilo). Sprouts aren't exactly fun to peel, either. So what possessed me to attempt this soup this morning, when I started late anyway, I dunno.

I looked in Somerfield for a can of unsweetened chestnut puree (some hope!) and found 200g packets of roasted, peeled and ready-to-use whole chestnuts, vacuum packed by Merchant Gourmet, right next to the raw chestnuts. So I ended up spending the best part of a tenner on two packets of prepared chestnuts and a kilo of the fresh 'n' wild kind.

I started making the soup by dicing a mirepoix of carrots, onions and celery and starting to cook the dice in a generous scoop of margarine, adding the contents of the two 200g packets of chestnuts, a grated nutmeg (a couple of teaspoons full) and a generous sprinkling of ground cinnamon. I mixed these ingredients thoroughly as they continued to cook over low heat while I peeled the sprouts.

I spread out the kilo of fresh chestnuts onto a tray and roasted them in a hot oven. Apparently, I should have cut a slit in the skins first and then they wouldn't have started popping in the oven and would have been easier to peel. But I only found out about that after Marie had laboriously peeled them.

Marie came into the soup kitchen early, when the soup was barely begun, and stayed for a cup of tea. When she saw how long it was taking me to work my way through 3kg of Brussels sprouts, she volunteered to help, thankfully. Between us, we peeled the sprouts and I chopped then in half and added them to the soup pot with two litres of Marigold bouillon.

When all the sprouts were added to the pot and covered with bouillon, I turned up the gas and simmered the soup for fifteen minutes and let it cool for five before blending with Gaynor the stick mixer, adding another couple of litres of bouillon , plus a litre of boiling water with 100g of creamed coconut dissolved in it (that's five litres of liquid in total). Et voila!

Marie had peeled half the roasted chestnuts by the time I finished the soup so I blended them in, too. One of our arty regulars came in before the soup was finished, so I asked her to chalk up the blackboard while she waited, which is how come this soup came to be so spelled. Jan is allergic toBrussle sprouts, or something, and wrote in the log bok, 'unfortunately not a soup I can eat, but it looks and smells fantastic'.

It was good: very nutty, with a bit of crunch in its texture. I served it with a swirl of freshly-made EasiYo Greek-style yoghurt. Ange wrote, 'what a gorgeous soup!! Seasonal and fresh. Very addictive - but I've kept to one bowl. PS: I.O.U. a double donation next time'. Sure, Ange. That's what they all say.