Friday, February 15, 2008

14.02.08: 'Greenland'

I forgot to mention and neglected to depict the freshly black-boarded panel on the font of the Pullens Centre, which prevents a certain person from knocking over our sign (or, once, turning it around to a notice written back in November that read, 'no soup today due to 'flu').

This week, it's felt like someone else - actually, a committee - wants to knock us, if not knock us out. This blog is purely about making soup and the politics of the Pullens Centre is kept out of it, but the outcome of the TRA meeting next Tuesday will determine if the Soup Kitchen closes at the end of the month. So, if you have a vote and value what we do, come along.

Carlo's girlfriend lives in Germany and it's Valentine's Day, so maybe that's why he was so spectacularly grumpy. When the Soup Kitchen sitcom comes on TV, nobody will believe his character. Or maybe he meant it and won't be returning to sling his distinctively smooth, curried soups - this one based on green lentils - before insufficiently grateful swine. Watch this space!

13.02.08: Minestrone


Life, say Kasia and Daisy, is a minestrone.
Although not, in this case, served up with Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

12.02.08: Leek Y Potato

Today, I met up with Seba. and Olga at 9a.m. and we soon found out that we were too late for effective scrumping @ Nine Elms. What hadn't been picked up, already, had been swept up by the cleaners, who seem to be starting earlier these days. We found a solitary leek and some potatoes. Then we found a celeriac root with a few dodgy bits that needed cutting out and a bag of spinach that was on the turn. So, I thought, Leeky Potato (geddit) with additions. Except that I didn't have hardly any leek and not enough spud. See:
Back @ Pullens Centre, I got Seba. and Olga choppin' while I nipped down the market and scored another 3kgs leeks plus a quid's worth of big floury white spuds. We made the soup in the standard manner. Seba wouldn't believe that iceberg lettuce was a legitimate soup ingredient, but I shredded and sweated it down with the mirepoix, added the spinach that Olga had carefully picked over and sweated that, too. Then, we added the diced spuds and cubed celeriac, plus the shredded leeks, continued to cook for ten minutes before covering with a couple of litres of Marigold bouillon and cooking for ten minutes more.

We decanted several great big ladles full of soup into another pot and whizzed the soup up with Brenda the blender, slowly pouring in another litre of bouillon. Once it achieved a smooth-ish consistency, we amalgamated the chunky bits to make a good pot full of soup. "That's as much soup as we ever make," I told Olga, our new recruit, "about 30 portions". Turns out, we served 29 bowls and it was all gone by 2pm! Here's Olga & Seba. with their empty pot:

11.02.08: Seven Pulses Soup + Veggie Stew

Carlo re-rocked his Seven Pulses concoction at the request of a bunch of architects (what is the collective noun for architects?) who wanted to serve soup at their Monday meeting. I put a couple of packets of mixed pulses in to soak overnight and tasted a creamy soup base that apparently incorporated polenta, but I lost track of how these two elements were put together. All I can say is that creamed coconut was involved and the finished soup was garnished with torn basil leaves. Mmmm.

Groovy though this was, it paled in popularity against Carlo's 'fantastic, realistic' lunch plate deal: 'Buddhafield' stew with aromatic brown rice and mushrooms, chestnuts and tofu for £2.80. I wasn't sure how much demand there would be for this on a Monday, but I needn't have worried because it was incredibly popular and all went so quickly that I didn't get a chance to taste it, myself. Hopefully, I'll do better on Thursday, when Carlo is promising to serve the same 'Buddhafield' stew (which he named after the festival where he created it). If you'd like to try it, too, my advice: be early.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

07.02.08: Yellow Satay Soup + Veggie Stew

Inspired by the Chinese New Year, apparently, the basis of this soup is yellow split peas, aka jumbo lentils, soaked and cooked down with paprika and cracked black pepper (the pepper corms roasted in hot oil until they crack) then blended to the consistency of polenta. Carlo made his own vegetable stock by boiling up carrots, celery and onion with garlic - your basic mirepoix mixture - and straining the resultant liquid, which he used to liquidise some peanut butter, seasoned with coriander and more paprika. Then he mixed the peanutty liquid with the creamy split pea base, uttered a few inscrutable incantations under his breath, and voila: another big hit soup!

The next day, Carlo extended his soup from the day before by adding pureed mushrooms and called it 'Morning Glory', oblivious to the English slang connotations of that phrase;-) This, however, was a side attraction to his second weekly experiment in offering a lunchtime plate of food for a set price, £2.80. Today's stew comprised various pulses with tomato, onion and garlic, plus parsnips, carrots, and organic red potatoes, with tofu, flavoured with parsley and coriander. Served on Basmati rice and accompanied by a little salad, it was pretty special.

Jan Duke had walked around the yards, telling everyone that a lunchtime special was in the offing at the Pullens Centre and so, by the time I came over at half-past-midday, the place was rammed and there wasn't anywhere to sit. The February weather was so clement that some people took their plates of rice and stew to sit outside at the benches in Iliffe Yard. Consequently, Carlo fed at least forty people, all of whom were quite content, with many happily giving more than the prescribed £2.80, making the day a roaring success from every point of view. Here's a photo from my P.O.V., when I eventually got a seat:
Graham rocking the David Live look; Naomi gazing into space

Carlo will return on Monday when, at the request of DSDHA, he will be reviving his 7 Pulse soup from last week. Some kind of vegetable stew-type punch plate may well also be offered. Seba. and Russell will (probably) be ransacking Nine Elms on Tuesday and may be joined by a new soup maker. On Wednesday it's Daisy, Rhiannon and Holly, essaying another of their ingenuous freegan creations. Carlo returns on Thursday and, on Friday, Cafe Cairo will be decking the hall for their event in the evening, so it's not certain what we'll be doing so far as the soup is concerned. But you can be sure it will be tasty.