Friday, March 7, 2008

07.03.08: Butter Bean & Parsnip

I soaked a couple of kilos of butter beans over night in the expectation that there would be someone to help me shuck their skins off this morning. Wrong! So, that was an unexpectedly happy hour, which put the time of soup readiness back to nearly one o'clock. By then, Iaxte and baby, plus husband, had been sent away once and returned already, hungry. Happily, they declared the wait for this super smooth soup to have been worthwhile.

The news from my (provisionally) favourite cheap veg. stall down East Street is that the character who runs it has learned a new word and it is the South London diminutive of 'brother' that's usually used only by close friends, innit, bruv? However, it's hard to take exception to inappropriate expressions of familiarity, I've found, when they are made by a Breugelesque bloke of indeterminate Eastern European origin who is sorting you out with 3 kilos of parsnips, a head of celery, half a kilo of carrots and a packet of three garlic bulbs for a fiver, bruv.

I made the soup in my usual way: starting with a sweated mirepoix with garlic, ground jeera 'n' dana (cumin and coriander); adding the diced parsnips to the soup pot, covering with four litres of Marigold bouillon, boiling and simmering for twenty minutes with the de-skinned butter beans; resting the cooked soup for ten minutes and then blending it, adding a further two litres of bouillon, until smooth and silky. I garnished each bowl with a teaspoon of finely chopped Spring onion.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

06.03.08: Spring Onion

Kai has been one of the Soup Kitchen's most regular customers. He comes in practically every day after 2.30, even when he's overdone it a bit and really doesn't have the stomach for any kind of food. Maybe sitting around in the soup kitchen doesn't beat sitting around at home, but at least it's a change of scenery, eh? Anyways and for whatever reason, Kai declared himself ready and willing to make soup and the Soup Kitchen accepts all levels of ability. Kai rocked up at ten o'clock this morning, as arranged.

He said he fancied Leek & Potato but East Street market was all out of leeks and full to bursting with great big fat fresh Spring onions, so that's the way it went. I got a whole box of Spring onions - 3.5kg, maybe? - for £3.50 from what's becoming my favourite stall (finally!) I also got another 3kg of white spuds from them, plus carrots and celery: a fiver, all in (that's why they're my favourites). Back at base, we got choppin' and there was a lot of choppin' to be done. Because the soup was to be only partially blended and some chunks would remain, I explained to Kai, the potatoes must be diced quite precisely into 5mm cubes. He duly complied.

Like I keep telling anyone who cares to hear, my soups follow the method I was taught a quarter of a century ago by a bloke who had read, digested and taken to heart Michel Guerard's Cuisine Gourmand: stage one, sweat a mirepoix and season it; stage two, add the main ingredient(s), cover with liquid and boil; stage three, blend. Adjust seasoning. Garnish. Serve. Simple, innit?

Kai seemed to get the hang of it. He chopped those spuds mighty fine. At stage three, I removed a third of the cooked veg before blending and returned it tot he pot after, to give texture. People loved this soup: 21 of 'em finished the pot, which is usually about 30 portions, so I guess that half had seconds. Someone wrote in the dairy: 'it put a Spring in my step'.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

05.03.08: Minted Pea

This vivid green soup proved so popular that it was all gone by 2.30, when I went to try a bowl. Rhiannon says it was an easy soup, made with frozen peas a bit like the one back on Day Six and obviously it was delicious because it all got eaten up PDQ and, by the time I arrived, the Ladies Who Lunch had moved on to tea and tamarind, as seen here:

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

04.03.08: White Bean and Cauliflower with Turnip

This soup started out last night as a half kilo bag of haricot beans that I put in to soak over night with the vague intention of marrying them with cauliflower and maybe using gram flour as a thickener. But then, buying veg. in East Street, I picked up one of those stainless steel bowl bargains, probably a couple of kilos of turnips gone a bit soft. And then again, buying bread at Oli's, I picked up a couple of 800g cans of butter beans. So, this soup was going to be thick enough with no need for flour.

Back at base, I boiled the soaked haricots for half an hour while I chopped and cooked a mirepoix of onions, carrots, and celery - roughly half a kilo of each - with the peeled cloves of half a head of garlic and sweated the diced veg in a splash of vegetable oil in the bottom of the soup pot, keeping its lid on to preserve the moisture, but stirring frequently to prevent sticking. That's what I usually do. Then I seasoned the slowly cooking mirepoix mixture with turmeric, ground cumin and ground coriander, about a dessert spoonful of each.

I peeled and roughly diced the turnips, adding them to the pot and mixing them in with two litres of boiling Marigold bouillon. I removed the florets from four cauliflowers, discarded the outer leaves and diced the stem, adding the dice to the pot. I drained the contents of the two cans of butter beans and added them to the soup, which I brought to the boil and simmered for about ten minutes before adding a further two litres of bouillon and the cauliflower florets. I brought the soup back to the boil and simmered it for ten minutes before turning the heat off and leaving the pot to cool for ten minutes before blending.

While blending the soup, I poured in another couple of litres of Marigold bouillon - making six in total - and when the soup had achieved a smooth consistency, I added the cooked haricot beans and returned the pot to the hob. Served with copious freshly-chopped parsley, I thought this was a pretty fine soup. V. Soup Kitchen and, in our finest tradition, 23 persons were served (several of whom had seconds).
Joe (right) and Esme (left) did art today: Esme's lady with chicken is shown.

Monday, March 3, 2008

03.03.08: Freegan Auberginey

In just a few weeks, Olga a.k.a. Ola has established a signature soup style using ingredients she fetches for free from the wholesale market at New Covent Garden, where one can usually pick up sweet peppers and tomatoes-on-the-turn, as well as a variable selection of other stuff. Ola's style is a vegetable potage, thickened with potatoes in the base, perked up with tomatoes in the top and usually incorporating at least one other prominent ingredient.

Today, Olga and Eugene came back from the market with various items, including a few bulbs of fennel and eight or so big aubergines, individually packaged in cellophane. Mmm... Aubergine soup? I advised Olga to slice and roast the aubergines with quite a lot of oil to concentrate their flavour and I didn't stick around to watch, but I guess that's what she did. I know she put the fennel in the base of the soup with onion and leek, carrot and celery. Then, I expect, she added the aubergines that had been roasted with tomatoes and peppers and pureed the lot with Brenda the blender.

Garnished with chives, this was a thick, distinctly 'auberginey' (Eugene's word) concoction that went down very well with 21 people. However, it was also Ola's last go in the Soup Kitchen for the time being. Having beguiled us with her filling and zesty soups, Olga is going home to see her folks in Lithuania leaving not even a picture for us to remember her by. Eugene endures!