Friday, January 25, 2008

22.01.08: White Bean & Fennel (Slight Return)

There was a time when I worked with New Covent Garden market traders. I say 'worked', but that's stretching it a bit. 'Hung out with' may be a more accurate description of the times we passed together, since they tend to work dread early in the morning and I would usually turn up a bit later. Anyway, they used to talk about 'knife and forking it' or sometimes, sadly, 'having to wipe our mouths'. Well, I wasn't prepared to wipe my mouth over the large quantity of broccoli soup left over from yesterday, or sling it, or walk away. So I knife-and-forked it. I soup-spooned it. Yes, I served it up again today.

No more was I prepared to let that cauliflower, white bean and fennel concoction from last week go to waste. That was in the freezer, probably six litres of the stuff. So I defrosted it, extended it with more fennel and three cans of flageolets (for a quid from Oli's) and served it alongside the broccoli. Actually, it proved to be more popular than the broccoli among the sixteen people who came in today, probably because many of them had already had the broccoli, yesterday, although several remarked upon the great flavour of fennel. Whatever, all the soup got eaten up. Which maybe says something about the value of perseverance. Maybe.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

21.01.08: Broccoli & Watercress

Apparently, the start of the third week in January is the most miserable day of the year, when the vestiges of Xmas cheer have finally faded and the credit card bills from the seasonal excesses hit the door mat. Maybe that's the reason why we've had the fewest customers since Day Two, serving only a dozen bowls of broccoli soup. Or it might be that Mars is retrograde and the moon is full.

Luckily, for our finances, the ingredients for Monday's soup cost nothing as Sebastien and I went down to New Covent Garden @ Nine Elms and picked them up for free. First, he found some potatoes and a couple of onions - one red, one white - and then he found a single, solitary leek. 'Mmm,' I thought, 'leek & potatoes'. Then I found a box of watercress, on the turn with some yellowing leaves, but mostly perfectly OK. So, it was going to be a watercress soup thickened with potato. But then I came upon the broccoli mountain. An entire pallet of broccoli had been dumped. Like the watercress, some of it was past its best but there was plenty that was still nice and green and so I filled a bag full. (We also brought home a lot of herbs: chives, basil and thyme, non of which really belonged in this soup).

Back at the Pullens Centre, we made the soup in the usual fashion, sweating a mirepoix of onion and garlic, leek and celery (no carrots, because there weren't any). Sebastien trimmed the florets from the broccoli and roughly diced the stems while I peeled and diced the potatoes. We added these diced veggies to the pot, covered them with four litres of Marigold bouillon, brought the pot to the boil and simmered for twenty minutes before blending. Once the soup was blended, we added the watercress and broccoli florets with another three (or four?) litres of bouillon, simmered for a further five (or ten?) minutes and whizzed it again.

This was an intensely green soup, served with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice over the surface, which those who tried it said gave a certain je ne sais quoi. At least, I think that's what they said.