Thursday, January 17, 2008

16.01.08: Freegan Soup

I haven't foraged for free food at the Nine Elms wholesale market, New Covent Garden, since 02.10.08, but Sebastien inspired another go this morning and equipped himself for the expedition with a bicycle pannier improvised from a plastic bin that he somehow managed to strap to his rear wheel, as seen on the left. He was ever so apologetic at arriving 15 minutes late for our rendezvous, but I was too amused by his ingenuity to care.

We scooted round the market on our bikes, looking for viable produce that had been dropped, or thrown away. Although Sebastien didn't say so, specifically, I got the impression that one advantage of the bike is that it facilitates a quick getaway in the event of being challenged by authority figures. Not that any were in evidence. By 9.30am, I expect they're all in the pub. I did see several other scroungers on bicycles, much like ourselves, often with added dreadlocks, and I guess there's going to be a lot more 'em as Babylon crumbles.

First, we found a trove of new potatoes, then some yellow peppers. Tomatoes, in various states of decrepitude, were all over the shop. The rule of picking up such things off the concrete or out of a skip is that mud can be washed off and bruises can be cut out, but if the skin is broken, it's not worth the risk of contamination. By the bins, where we were sorting through boxes of discarded plum tomatoes, we met this chap in the Royal Mail waistcoat, Jacob, who had a big bag of peeled garlic cloves, going slightly brown.

With the garlic, peppers and tomatoes, this soup was shaping up to be remarkable similar to the soup that emerged from my last foraging expedition. Only this time, instead of thickening the soup with red lentils, we found a nice butternut squash and a couple of parsnips to put with the potatoes. We also found a big bundle of very good quality flat parsley, a couple of bundles of chives and a sealed bag of oregano. Oh, and a big bag of shallots. All of which went into the soup.

Back at base, between us we cleaned and roughly chopped the tomatoes and yellow peppers, mixed with then with some of the garlic and shallots, and roasted the mixture in the oven for about half an hour over medium high heat, to concentrate the flavours. Meanwhile, we chopped and sweated a mirepoix of onion, carrot and celery with more of the garlic, adding a lot of parsley - a couple of two handed bunches - chopped with stalks and all. To this cooked mix, we added the roughly diced root veg. and squash, covered it with four litres of Marigold bouillon, brought the pot to the boil and simmered it for twenty minutes or so, until the veg were soft enough to meet Brenda the blender.

I took the roasted tomatoes and peppers out of the oven and boiled them up with another couple of litres of bouillon before liquidising the mixture and passing the resulting liquid through a sieve to remove the pips and bits of skin. Then I amalgamated the contents of the two pots, the fresh, sharp flavour of the toms and peppers meeting the creaminess of the potato and squash. Finally, I added the chopped oregano and gave the soup a last little whizz before serving it garnished with generous amount of finely chopped parsley and chives.

Today was a lot of fun and we'll definitely do this again. In fact, we're going to do it next Monday, 21st, and you're welcome to join us foraging in the bins of Covent Garden and then making soup. Call 07863 100 711 first.

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