Friday, February 29, 2008

29.02.08: Butternut Bisque

I took a walk down East Street market and at its far end I found a stall selling two big butternut squashes for a pound, so I bought four and figured I'd refine and quantify the Carroty Gingernut recipe what I rocked on 04.02.08.

Having onion and celery for the mirepoix, I spent another pound on carrots and ginger. I also had the end of a jar of biber salçası in the 'fridge, so all I needed from Oli's when I went there to buy bread was a slab of creamed coconut and also a bunch of fresh coriander for the garnish.

1. First, make a mirepoix by chopping onions, celery and carrots - about a pound, or half a kilo of each - and sweat these chopped vegetables with a few peeled cloves of garlic in a splash of oil in the bottom of a soup pot, keeping its lid on to preserve moisture.

2. Add the ginger. If added to the base of the soup and allowed to cook down with the mirepoix, the flavour of fresh ginger will mellow and be pervasive without being over powering. It's hard to overdo it and, if you do, you can always calm down the gingery-ness with coconut. Anyway, in this instance, I used probably four fat thumbs or maybe 12cc of fresh ginger, peeled and minced and mixed into the cooking mirepoix.

3. Peel the butternut squashes. If using a speed peeler, make sure all the skin is removed, down to the orange flesh. Cut the squashes in half and remove their seeds, then chop them into roughly 2cm cubes.

4. Before adding the diced squash to the soup pot, first add 200-250g of biber salçası (red pepper paste), if you have it. If not, use tomato puree.

5. Now add the diced squashes to the soup pot and cover with four litres of Marigold bouillon (one litre per squash). Bring to the boil and simmer for twenty minutes, until the flesh is soft enough to be blended.

6. Turn off the heat and leave the pot to stand for five or ten minutes. This is particularly important in this recipe, because you want the texture of the soup to be as silky as possible and, therefore, all its contents must be thoroughly cooked before blending.

7. While the soup is cooling, before it's blended, dissolve 100g of creamed coconut in a litre of boiling water and make up another litre of Marigold bouillon. As you blend the soup, slowly pour in this extra liquid to achieve a smooth consistency.

8. Check the seasoning. If the ginger flavour is too pronounced, you can calm it down by grating more creamed coconut directly into the soup. Serve garnished with chopped coriander.

This soup went down really well, BTW, with many second and third bowls served;-)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

28.02.08: Definitive Borscht

As regular readers of this blog well know, borscht has been a recurring theme. Way back on Day 12, Lou essayed a recipe so simple that we could hardly call it Borscht since it was basically a beetroot puree. Then I had a go with a recipe from the Soup Bible. Then I had another go and so did she. By now, I reckon we're about ready to settle upon a definitive recipe.

Borscht is traditionally made with beef stock, so the main issue with making a vegetarian version is how to get that flavour and the secret is: Marmite! Not just Marmite, but mushrooms, too, sweated right down in the mirepoix to surrender their bosky essence. Like this:

For the mirepoix, you will require a pound or half a kilo each of onions, carrots and celery, plus half a head of garlic. Buy five kilos of beets, four decent sized Bramley cooking apples, and a 750g punnet of field mushrooms. You'll also need cream or yoghurt and chives or dill for the garnish. I like thick Greek yogurt thinned with a little lemon juice to make it runnier and a clump of chives one can cut straight into the soup with scissors.

1. Roughly chop the onions, carrots and celery and sweat them in a splash of oil in the bottom of your soup pot with the peeled and crushed garlic. Keep the lid on the soup pot to keep the moisture in, but stir the contents often.

2. Next, add the mushrooms. You don't have to bother chopping them. You'll want to sweat them right down and they will release a lot of moisture. Keep the lid on, but keep stirring.

3. Apples are a bit of a controversial ingredient, but add a delightfully fruity note. Peel, core and chop the Bramleys and add the to the pot, stirring them into the mixture.

4. As the soup pot continues to cook over low heat, peel and chop the beets. Add them to the pot, stirring them into the mirepoix, and add sufficient liquid to cover, probably two litres. You need a dark vegetable stock: Marigold bouillon mixed with a dessert spoon of Marmite per litre.

5. Boil the beets quite vigorously for half an hour until they're soft enough to be blended and then liquidise, homogenise and blend, blend, blend your borscht. Add more liquid to create a silky texture and achieve your desired consistency.

6. Serve with an optional swirl of yogurt, or cream, chopped chives or dill, and black pepper.

Dairy comment: 'borscht as good as a Porche!'

Occupational hazard: beetroot hands

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

27.02.08: Herby Onion

Daisy writes:
'Made with onion tears of love. While we didn't actually cry into the pot, we definitely shed enough salt water to substitute a small ocean. (The Indian Ocean, Daze?) I mean, we chopped a hell-of-a-lot of onions!
Somehow, we blindly managed to add some delicious herbaceous ingredients, including thyme and a nice amount of black pepper. The soup was served with garlic croutons and garnished with chopped parsley and Spring onions.
Hopefully our puffed-up panda eyes and slightly onionified temperament didn't frighten too many people!

Ladies Who Lunch: Sophie, Daisy, Holly

26.02.08: Baltic Freegan Soup

Food Not Bombs pacifists, Olga from Lithuania recruited Eugene from Belarus to go cotchelling down Nine Elms today. They are Baltic Freegans and their soup was well Baltic in that it was potato-based and typically Freegan in that its top note was tomato and sweet peppers (which are discarded every day at the wholesale market).

Olga, a.k.a. 'Ola' (its supposed to be a diminutive, but I don't get it) started with onions that Carlo had left over, some carrots and a leek. I saw two celeriac roots and a couple of parsnips go in the body of the soup, which was filled out by potatoes that Carlo had boiled and left in the 'fridge. I noticed that she emulated my technique of roasting the tomatoes and peppers to concentrate their flavour and passing them through a sieve to remove pips 'n' skins.

Eugene sliced courgettes, which Ola fried and added to the blended soup to give it texture and finished it with copious quantities of dill. I can't help but say it was dill-icious. I know, I know. I beg your pardon. That's the kind of thing Jen might say. Actually, she wrote in the dairy (which is the new log bok): 'Really yummy and filling - nice to have some salad, too, Friendly faces - hope you carry on'.

In other news:

* Following Carlo's frustrating experience on Monday - of which we shall never speak - he's flown to Germany to chill out with his girlfriend and so we say, arrivederci, Signor Bueno.

* Pullens Ping Pong Club's inaugural tournament was supposed to reach its climax on Friday, but not a game's been played! However, word is that the crucial first round tie, Alex vs. Alexa, is scheduled for Thursday lunch time.