Saturday, February 2, 2008

01.02.08: Blue Cheesy Parsnip + Veggie Stew

As an experiment today, alongside his soup-by-donation, Carlo offered a substantial lunch plate of rich vegetable stew with fresh tofu on a bed of aromatic pearl barley for the set price of £2.80. I sent an e-mail round the businesses in the Yards and the set lunch proved to be very popular. While some of the people who came in had soup as well as stew, most of those who opted to pay for the stew failed to make an additional donation for the soup. Indeed, the lunch plate was so substantial that few bothered with soup and there was masses left over. Which is a shame, because this was a wicked soup, made with gorgonzola blended with an ultra smooth parsnip puree.

The incorporation of cheese into a Soup Kitchen recipe, based upon a roux, was unprecedented and the danger of doing that was quickly demonstrated by the first person, Linda Brooker. Lactose intolerant, Linda emphatically does not do cheese. So she had the stew instead. Likesay, though, the soup was awesome. I'll be eating it all weekend. Maybe with cauliflower and broccoli florets?

31.01.08: Seven Pulses

Carlo claimed this soup contained seven pulses, including at least four varieties of lentil, plus chickpeas and some little brown peas he called 'Ghana peas', prolly black eye peas. OK, that's only six pulses and I can't adequately describe the method by which Carlo invented this soup, either, but I can tell you it worked brilliantly well, however he did it. From somewhere, he'd picked up a bag of crispy fried onion bits (sic) which he mixed into the soup as he served it to vary the texture and add flavour to a concoction that someone described in the log bok as being 'ooh, coriandery and coconutty and chunky and smooth. Marvellous. I want more!' Someone else wrote, 'fantastic'. Which it was, in its characteristically Carlo type of a way. Popular, too.

Look, I know these blog posts have become a bit perfunctory and I haven't posted many images recently, but to paraphrase the late John Lennon, life is what happens from day-to-day while you're busy making more grandiose plans. Normal service will be resumed when I've got a bit less on my plate;-)

Thursday, January 31, 2008

30.01.08: Chunky Green Vegetables with Thyme

Daisy and Holly - a.k.a. 'the wholesome darling girls' - didn't do so well down at Nine Elms this morning, perhaps because they were too late and all the freegan bargains had been snaffled by earlier worms, so they went down to East Street and returned with bundles of gear: asparagus, celery, onion, spinach, leek and thyme.

Asparagus in January does represent something of an ethical dilemma, but the important point is that these wholesome darling girls didn't pay a premium price for their 'grass, which would probably have been thrown away if they hadn't negotiated it into their soup. Dasiy also had reservations about using Knorr vegetable stock powder, which contains MSG, but the Soup Kitchen had run out of Marigold and needs must, is it not?

Anyway and for whatever reasons, the soup was delicious. An unblended, chunky and very herby stew that Cathy declared in the log bok, 'the best thing I've slurped all year' while Crispin - winding up Daisy over her resemblance to fellow Brits School graduate, Adele - said it was 'superb'.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

29.01.08: Yellow Sunshine Soup

I set out to evoke some January sunshine with this sweetcorn (2X£1, Iceland) chowder, thickened with yellow split peas (1kg, about 75p) and potatoes (half a bag of them Roosters that were going cheap, 50p) and enlivened by yellow bell peppers (eight; £3 from Oli's) plus a 680g jar of tatli biber salcasi, sweet red pepper paste (£1.79). I was late getting going this morning, for reasons I won't go into suffice it say the neighbours have noticed my speaker is fixed, and the soup wasn't ready before 12.45pm.

I did it by soaking the kilo of yellow split peas over night and simmering them for half an hour this morning while sweating a mirepoix of onion and leek and carrot and celery. I cleaned half a dozen yellow peppers, removing their cores and seeds and cutting them into inch wide segments, and roasted them in a hot oven with a generous splash of oil. I peeled and roughly cubed the potatoes, adding them to the soup pot, stirring, turning down the heat and adding a splash of liquid to prevent sticking. Then I added half the cooked split peas to the pot with a couple of litres of Marigold bouillon and brought the pot back to simmer.

For that sweet smack of sunshine, I wanted pure flavour and none of the stuck-in-the-teeth texture of sweetcorn. Or bell peppers, FTM. So, I boiled up the frozen sweetcorn with a couple of litres of Marigold bouillon and churned it with Brenda the blender, adding the roasted yellow peppers and blending again and then forced the mixture through a sieve to obtain a broth so rich and luxurious it would have made the Jolly Green Giant impersonate Freddie Mercury: Galileo, Magnifico!

Brenda thoroughly blended my mirepoix mixed with potato and split peas into a smooth puree, to which I added the strained sweetcorn 'n' pepper liquid, the remainder of the cooked split peas and the contents of a jar of sweet red pepper paste. This last ingredient, of course, turned the yellow soup orange. Finally, I finely diced the two remaining raw yellow peppers for garnish and to give the soup a touch of crunch, which seemed to go down well with the seventeen soupees who tried it, several of whom had seconds.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

28.01.08: Lightly Curried Roots

Monday was becoming our day for rootling through the jetsam of New Covent Garden wholesale market, but Sebastien was otherwise engaged this morning and I didn't want to go it alone, so I mooched off to Lidl instead. Not only is Lidl the land of chocolate-with-hazelnuts and paprika crisps, but it's also the only place I know of locally where one can be reasonably sure of bagging a 'brain' of celeriac. Yer, celeriac brains. As in the roots of the celery plant. Plus, there's this sign in the car park:

At Lidl this morning, never mind the schogetten, I scored a couple of celeriac brains (@ £1.19), a cute lil' bag o' parsnips (79p) and another of leeks (£1.29), plus onions (69p) and garlic (65p). That's five-eighty: not quite a sick squid. On the way back to the Pullens Centre, I swung by Oli's for bread, plus a 200g slab o' creamed coconut (39p: they've got a new brand in) and a bunch of coriander, along with a couple of loaves of bread.

I made the soup the standard way, substituting leeks for most of the onion/celery in the mirepoix, with three diced carrots and about half a dozen crushed cloves of garlic. I peeled and roughly diced the root vegetables, adding them to the sweating mirepoix in the soup pot. Added turmeric and curry powder, about a dessert spoon of each, and mixed with the big wooden spoon. Mixed it pretty good. Mixed it down sweet and added some moisture: slowly, I filled that soup pot up with four litres of Marigold bouillon and simmered it for nigh on a half hour before I brought on Brenda the blender.

Mark was waiting to try the finished soup and he had a cup of tea to warm himself up because, silly billy, he'd locked his dumb self out of his gaff and so he slept in the park last night! I finished the soup with half a block - 100g - of creamed coconut dissolved in a litre of boiling water and garnished it with a generous sprinkling of coarsely-chopped fresh coriander. Just your common or garden hearty neighbourhood soup: I served seventeen peeps, several of whom had seconds, and had a litre left over that I took round to Jen's.

Monday, January 28, 2008

25.01.08: Gorbanos

As if in answer to Carlo's exasperated question, yesterday, when he wondered if it was worth his while struggling half way across London laden with wilting basil plants in order to make amazing soup for less than a dozen souls to enjoy, today was a sell-out. Seriously, a neighbour knocked on my flat door to tell me how good the soup was and, when I went round to investigate, someone else crossed the road to say the same thing. The log bok collected ten written endorsements, or commendations, incl.: two 'fantastics'; an 'absolutely delicious'; one 'damn good and a 'couldn't put it better myself. Yummy!'

'Gorbanos' is another of Carlo's enigmatic appelations. Basically, this soup was made of lightly curried yellow split peas blended with creamed coconut and mixed with fresh spinach. Carlo also dressed some spinach and chopped celery with a lemon vinaigrette to serve as a side salad, which two people described in the log bok as, 'great'. So what was a difficult week finally ended on a high note.

A few things went wrong this week. Lou - who has been on board the Soup wagon since we started - quit (come back!) and my home phone line got cut off, so I've been playing catchee uppee on this blog. On the other hand, I've cured my sick loudspeaker. One of my precious House Pods had developed a mysterious buzz, but I seem to have fixed it by the simple expedient of TURNING THE VOLUME AS LOUD AS IT GOES.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

24.01.08: Pomodoro E Basilico

Back once again came the Bolognese maestro, reprising his creamy tomato soup, this time in a version with chick peas in the bottom, a subtle touch of chilli, and ample quantities of fresh basil torn over and stirred in for tip top flavour. Carlo brought with him a couple of getting-past-it pot plants that all but died on the bus journey, but he wasn't to know that I'd picked up a (literal) shed load of basil @ Nine Elms on Monday. So, however unseasonally, this was another beautifully balanced tomato with ample herbaceousness. But the bad news is that only eleven peeps ventured over the Soup Kitchen threshold to taste it and non saw fit to comment in the log bok, leaving the chef to question whether it had been worth his effort?

23.01.08: Sweet Potato with Red Peppers & Chilli

Returning to the Soup Kitchen following their successful debut last Friday, Daisy and Rhiannon, assisted by Holly, made (according to the new log bok) 'a splendid concoction of the following: sweet potato, red peppers, carrots, chilli, coriander... and a little bit of love'. Sounds delish, no? Well, apparently, it was. I saw, apparently, because I never got to try it. Instead, I spent most of the day trying to get to Tooting: first on a Northern Line tube train that couldn't get past a broken signal; then on a 155 bus for which I had to wait nearly an hour while several buses packed to the gunnels with disgruntled tube passengers sailed by. Cheers, TFL.

Anyway, I digress. Digress while standing at a bus stop near the Oval re-reading a dogeared copy of Metro, that is. When I got back, the soup was all gone and, heinously, our talismanic frog pot that we used to collect donations was in smithereens! According to Daisy - in loco parentis - it leapt off the counter and croaked on the floor. I don't know how she can joke about it. I was very fond of that hungry frog and it served us well over sixty full days of serving soup. But all must pass. So, farewell then, amphibious Friend of Soup. May you attain in this last leap the lilly pad of Nirvana.