Thursday, February 7, 2008

06.02.08: Freegan Fennel, Potato, Watercress + Rocket

'This morn, the luscious ladettes (pictured) battled the early morning commuters and raging winds to fetch spectacular ingredients from the corners of the Earth.' Or, more accurately, from the four corners of New Covent Garden Market's skips. Apparently, 'it felt like we were travelling through Mordor, with ogre-like market officers and such...' Which I can't say is ever a feeling I've had while rummaging through the bins at Nine Elms, but obviously my imagination isn't quite as vivid as that of the average luscious ladette.

The ingredients they gathered for free included several bags of potatoes and loads of herbs, plus watercress and rocket and the resulting soup was in the style that's becoming characteristic: chunky, greeny and herby. Or, as one commentator wrote in the log bok, 'FAB! As usual'. Someone else wrote, 'the best things in life are free (like soup)', but that can't be right, can it?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

05.02.08: Cream of Asparagus + Pancake Day

Yesterday, Seba scarfed up ample asparagus and we'd intended to roast if off for our lunch, but never did. So, I thought I'd make soup out of it. I had a few spuds and some parsnips for thickening and the best parts of three heads of celery, plus big bunches of flat parsley for a sprightly mirepoix. I chopped the stalks of the parsley, reserving the leaves, and mixed their dice into the sweating mirepoix, in the soup pot with the lid on.

I washed the asparagus and snapped each stem, reserving the tips and chopping the woodier lower part of the stem into a dice, then mixing it into the sweating vegetables in the soup pot. This is how to squeeze maximum flavour from the asparagus, but it's stringy: you have to pass it through a seive once it's cooked. Having sweated the diced veg thoroughly, I added two litres of Marigold bouillon and then two litres more and simmered until the diced stalks were as tender as they were going to get.

While cooking the mirepoix/asparagus, I peeled and diced the root vegetables - potatoes and parsnips - and simmered them in two litres of Marigold bouillon.

When the mirepopix mixture with the chopped parsley and asparagus stalks was cooked, I whizzed the cooked mixture and passed the resulting coarse liquid through a seive into another pot before returning it to the main soup pot. Then, I added the cooked root vegetables and fresh asparagus tips, brought the soup to the boil and simmered it for five-to-ten minutes, until the tips were tender enough to amalgamate, m8. Then I gave the soup a last loving going over with Brenda the blender

I don't suppose there were many more than a couple of dozen portions and, naturellement, many regulars had seconds, so my supply of creamy asparagus flava-inna- bowl expired around the nineteenth customer - before 2pm! - but by then I was well into flipping pancakes, because today was Shrove Tuesday.

I wish I could honestly say I didn't have to check Delia to know the basic formula for pancake batter: 2oz flour X 1 large egg X half a pint of milk + a drop of melted butter. Let's make that a mantra. From Somerfield, I got a litre of Gold Top full fat Jersey milluk, half a dozen free range eggs and a 250g bag o' flour to add to a little bit I had left over.

I must have flipped thirty something pancakes today, carrying on serving pancakes until the mix was all used up without ever quite getting my eye in. Still, there were no complaints. And plenty of seconds. And thirds.

04.02.08: Carroty Gingernut

Seba. & I went foraging at 9.Elms this a.m., but we were late and the pickings were slim. In the market, I scooted ahead to suss out the main ingredient, hoping to find a discarded case of Jerusalem artichokes. Chance would be a fine thing but, as it happened, I did discover a trove of butternut squashes that had been well squashed. I suppose they'd fallen off the back of the lorry and the lorry had kept on reversin'. Out of the squished tubers, I picked up about ten butternuts with only superficial bruises, or the odd bit that wanted cutting out.

Meanwhile, by some kind of innate Gallic instict, Seb had assembled the basis of a mirepoix: onions, celery, carrots, plus a goodly selection of herbs. He found asparagus, too, of which we'll be hearing more about tomorrow... Back there in the then, there was an abundance of carrots and not a few scattered tomatoes. So one picked up a few of the less dodgy-looking specimens. The other main ingredient of this soup is carrots and we picked up quite a few to put with a bag of organic carrots I had left over from the weekend.

Back at base, we laid out the pickings on a table, as per the picture on the left. Seba got busy peeling carots and butternut squashes and chopping them up. I washed the tomatoes and put them in roasting trays with roughly chopped onion and peeled cloves of garlic, as per the picture on the right. Then I went and got ginger from our friendly local Sino/Viet market on Walworth Road and creamed coconut from Oli's, along with the bread.

Upon my return, I sweated a mirepoix of onion, celery and lots and lots of carrots, prolly 4kg. Peeled and finely chopped a lot of ginger: maybe 250/300g and added it to the soup pot. Put the roasted tomato/onion/garlic in another pot, covered it with 2 litres of Marigold bouillon, then whizzed the mixture and passed it through a seive to remove the pips and skin. To the main soup pot, I added the peeled and cubed squash - let's say 5kg - with another 2 litres of Marigold. Simmered for 20 mins, rested for five and then introduced Brenda the blender to the soup. Finally, I added the liquidised tomato, plus 100g of creamed coconut dissoled in a litre of boiling water. Gave it a last loving blending with Brenda.

Et voila: a gingery, carroty soup that was almost sweet, with a velvet texture if I say so myself. It went down very well with everyone, including our final visitor, Tracy, who brought in the Pullens newest resident, Johnny. Being three weeks old, he's strictly a breast milk man and didn't partake of the soup, directly, but ginger gets into the bloodstream so no doubt he'll know about it sooner or later.