Wednesday, December 19, 2007

18.12.07: Another Borscht

Lou had some of her puréed beetroot soup leftover from Friday and so she extended it with the addition of sweet red peppers and shredded red cabbage, which worked particularly well. She made a mirepoix using a couple of large and one smaller onion, eight carrots and six celery stalks, with six cloves of garlic. As these diced veg sweated down, she chopped and added the pepper and cabbage, plus four cans of plum tomatoes, then the beetroot purée and four litres of water. It was served, with a swirl of yoghurt and garnish of chopped dill, to 23 appreciative people.

Monday, December 17, 2007

17.12.07: Leek & Potato

I chose to go with L+P this morning in order to record at least one more Almost Perfect Recipe before we break for Christmas and also because mighty fine looking leeks were on special offer in Somerfield, so I bought three kilos (@ £2.50/kg). As for the other main component of this soup, I used most of a 2kg bag of Désirée, a versatile variety that mashes well but is waxy enough to hold its shape when diced and boiled in a soup.

The challenge when making leek and potato soup is to produce a variety of textures and flavours: a creamy background to tangy leek with some chunks of potato. On 3.10.07, I mashed the spuds separately and finely chopped all the other ingredients. On 15.10.07, I whizzed the soup and experimented with coconut instead of dairy products to get a creamier texture (and I rather overdid it). This recipe combines both approaches and makes at least 25 250ml servings:

1. Slice the leeks lengthways and clean them thoroughly under running water. Make a mirepoix by dicing three medium sized onions, three biggish carrots and half a head of celery. Peel and smash half a dozen cloves of garlic.

2. Cook the mirepoix and garlic, with a couple of Bay leaves, in a generous splash of vegetable oil over medium heat in the bottom of your soup pot, with the lid on. Stir often to prevent sticking.

3. As the mirepoix cooks, finely shred the cleaned leeks and add them to the pot as you do so, stirring and replacing the lid. Add a litre of Marigold bouillon.

4. Peel and dice your spuds. The leeks will sweat down quite a bit, so you don't need an equal quantity of potatoes (unless you want to make Potato & Leek soup): a bit more than half and lees than two thirds by weight is about right. In this case, with 3kg of leeks, I used about 1.75kg of spuds. Add the diced potato to the soup pot and cover with a further four litres of bouillon.

5. Bring the soup to the boil and simmer it for fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, melt 50g of creamed coconut - a quarter of a 200g block - in a litre of boiling water. Turn off the heat under the soup and leave it to stand for five-to-ten minutes more. Fish out any Bay leaves before blending.

6. Remove about a third of the soup to a separate container and then blend the rest with a stick mixer, adding the coconut mixture (to make a total of six litres of liquid in this soup).

7. After blending, reincorporate the chunky portion of the soup and serve. Popular garnishes include chopped parsley and Spring onion, or chives, but I grated nutmeg over the surface of this soup to give it a slightly spiced finish.

The log bok is full and, rather than replace it, I want to get a page-a-day diary for people to comment on their Soup Kitchen experience, so no specific remarks about this soup were recorded, but it went down very well. So well that almost every single person who sampled it had seconds, several had third bowls, and it was all gone by 3.30pm.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

14.12.07: Fresh Beetroot

Magda works for the cleaning company that has its offices almost next door to the Pullens Centre and is one of our regulars, often bringing in her own bowl so she can take her soup back to the office. Being Polish, her house mates assume she must make a pretty good borscht and no doubt she could if she put her mind to it, but this weekend we agreed to help her out and Lou made beetroot soup for everyone, but especially for Magda and her dinner party guests.

As on Day 12, Lou bought a net of beets from Crusons in Camberwell and followed the absurdly simple recipe she found in The Great Green Cookbook: boil 'em up, rub off their skins, add stock (enriched with Marmite) and puree. I'm calling this 'Fresh Beetroot Soup', rather than 'Borscht', because I don't think it would work unless the beets were absolutely fresh. As it happened on Friday, however, they were and this soup certainly hit the spot.

I did manage to slip over the Pullens Centre for soup, but wasn't able to there much over the second half of the week because the contractors finally got around to my flat and I had a yard full of Polish guys in florescent vest (see left). I don't want to moan (but I'm going to anyway): I put up with four months of living in semi-darkness while the scaffolding was up, all Summer long, yet they waited until the coldest days of the year to paint my window frames and front door. Wonder what the Polish is for 'sod's law'?