Friday, February 22, 2008

21/22.02.08: 'Cornucopia'

Carlo's corn soup incorporated a couple of kilo bags of frozen sweetcorn from Iceland, melted with onion and slow cooked with spices and coconut until it achieved the desired consistency before being blended and thickened with fine polenta prepared with butter and mixed herbs. It was delicious!

Less successful, IMO, but wildly popular nontheless, was Carlo's lunch plate, comprising a 'non-Indian dal' of yellow split peas, a.k.a. jumbo lentils served with rice and salad. Friday's 'sunshine stew' comprised slow cooked carrots with organic split peas in a thick sauce the secret of which - I'm told - is to sweat down onions with potatoes before you start. I know, it's a mystery to me how he does it, too, but I'm as grateful as anyone.

This week, Carlo is making soup (and his lunch plate) on Monday. On Tuesday, Olga and a friend from Food Not Bombs will be doing their Freegan thing. Wednesday is Daisy's day, accompanied by Rhiannon from Cafe Cairo. I'll be making soup on Leap Day, next Friday and, as it turns out, on Thursday, too, probably. I'm thinking about borscht.

P.S. Re: Comments. Seems like the only peeps commenting were spammers, so I've opted for moderation and verifcation. Don't let that stop you, though.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

20.02.08: Double Tomato + Flat Bread

I've noted before how there's often an abundance of tomatoes-on-the-turn down at Nine Elms and nearly always loads of herbs. Following yesterday's freegan tomatoey soup, Daisy and Rhiannon came back from their foraging expedition with much the same ingredients, plus tinned tomatoes and puree, with which they created what Daisy described as 'double tomato trouble with a touch of lemon thyme and chilli, lashings of basil and some dill'. In other words, 'we made a beautiful red concoction' which went down so well that it all went PDQ.

I didn't get to try it myself, as I was staying out of the way at lunch time to give those committee members who have made assumptions about the Soup Kitchen the opportunity to visit and see for themselves. Consequently, neither did I get to try Nathan's amazing Mexican flat bread (pictured) that he baked especially for the Soup Kitchen. Nor did I get to scoff any of the cakes that Jan brought in, which were leftover from her birthday BBQ the night before. Happy birthday, Jan!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

19.02.08: Freegan Thick Tomato & Sweet Peppers

This morning's New Covent Garden rendezvous with Seba. & Olga was set for 8am, but it rapidly became obvious (to yours truly, at any rate) that Tuesday is not a good day down there. In fact, I was told over the weekend that Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and the best days to forage in the vegetable wholesale market and that info appears to be correct. However, we did scrabble around and return to the Pullens Centre with quite a varied hoard that included celeriac and fennel as well as tomatoes and sweet peppers. So, I asked Olga - who made today's soup - which way she wanted to go and Olga, sensible woman, thought that the tomatoes had to be used immediately. So that's the way we went.

Today I awarded myself the luxury of standing on the other side of the counter, directing, while Olga and Seba. did the work. They chopped the tomatoes and peppers, put them on a baking tray with a good splash of olive oil, and roasted them on high heat for about half an hour. They chopped the mirepoix vegetables and sweated the dice in the bottom of the soup pot. They peeled and roughly diced four large potatoes - which might have been one too many - added them to the pot, covered with four litres of Marigold bouillon, brought the pot to the boil and simmered for fifteen minutes.

Once the tomatoes and peppers had collapsed in the heat of the oven and were swimming in their own juices, Olga liquidised them with a hand Brenda and forced the pulp through a sieve to remove the pips and skin. When the contents of the soup pot were cooked, she blended them with big Brenda. Then she mixed the two to make a thick, tomatoey soup that was given more variety with the addition of sautéed sliced mushrooms and served it garnished with torn basil leaves, of which we picked up masses in the market. It went down pretty well with the folks, at least 25 of them and I was able to sit about and chat for a change and take these pictures, reminding me of what's so cool about our community kitchen:
P.S.: The crucial meeting has been postponed to next week (if you care) and the answer to last week's other cliff-hanger is, yes, Carlo will return on Thursday, when he will be essaying a sweetcorn soup, and will be serving his patented lunch plates full of veggie stew, or something similar, with rice or something like that on both Thursday and Friday. Tomorrow, Wednesday, the young ladies from Cafe Cairo are cooking and Nathan, the baker of Draper House, is providing fresh bread. See you there?

18.02.08: Spicy Red & Black Bean

I haven't concentrated too much on listing Almost Perfect Recipes, but I'm pretty confident of this soup, which began as my twist on Dal Makhani on 16.11.07, continued on 03.12.07, and bridged Xmas/NewYear. So here goes (these quantities serve about 25):

For the mirepoix: 500g Onion, 500g carrots, 500g celery, half a dozen cloves of garlic, red pepper paste (biber salçası)
Main ingredients: 1kg red kidney beans, 750g black beans, 250g black lentils (urid/urad), 5/6l Marigold bouillon
Spices: ground cumin (jeera), chilli powder/cayenne, 50-100g creamed coconut

1. Soak the red and black beans overnight in separate bowls.
2. Start by rinsing the beans and boiling them in seperate pans, simmering for about 45 minutes, until soft. The black lentils (urid) should be boiled for about 20 minutes.
3. Roughly chop the mirepoix and sweat the chopped vegetables with the peeled and crushed cloves of garlic (add more if you like garlic) in a generous splash of oil in the bottom of your soup pot with the lid on, removing it every few minutes to stir the mixture and ensure it's not sticking. Let it cook down for at least 15 minutes.
4. Add cumin and chilli powder to taste: say, a couple of desserts spoons of jeera and not quite a full dessert spoon of chilli powder (add more if you like chilli).
5. Add the red pepper paste (biber salçası), which comes in sweet and piquant flavours. Choose the one you prefer and use as much as you like, but 200g is probably enough.
6. Add three quarters of the red and black beans, reserving some of each to add to the soup later, in order to vary the texture. Cover with four litres of Marigold bouillon and bring to the boil, simmering for ten minutes (so long as the beans are cooked).
7. Liquidise the soup.
8. Add the reserved red and black beans and the cooked lentils to the soup with another litre or more of Marigold bouillon (depending on how thick your soup is and how thin you want it to be) and return it to simmer.
9. Grate creamed coconut into the soup to thicken it and, perhaps, to balance the chilli. Again, the exact quantity is up to you.
10. Serve garnished with a swirl of fresh yoghurt.

Sorry about the lack of a photo (not even the new cliche blackboard shot). Wasn't really feeling myself today after a rough w/e and made this soup on auto pilot, serving 19 bowls and taking about £23 donations. Several of the soup suppers were similarly rough, so this hearty number went down well with all.