Friday, March 14, 2008

14.03.08: Pumpkin & Split Pea

The Soup Kitchen reveres Delia Smith, even when having a gentle dig at her for promoting McCain's frozen discs of mash potato as a soup thickener. But of course there are people who just don't have the time, inclination or skillz to mash! These days, Deals is driving a vehicle called How To Cheat At Cooking in which she cuts corners by incorporating readymade products into her recipes. In that spirit, I offer this interpretation of my friend Jennifer's soup, the secret ingredient of which is a 425g jar of Loyd Grossman's Jalfrezi Sauce.

To make 30 portions, you'll need 2kg of yellow split peas and a couple of pumpkins, or one big one. I saw some lovely green skinned pumpkins in East Street yesterday, but today they were gone and so I had to haggle with a wily Jamaican pumpkin purveyor instead and pay his price. Not that I minded, because his pumpkin was every bit as good as he claimed and he was grateful for all my change. Plus, with a couple of the Scotch bonnets left over from t'other day for added heat, I could (and did) claim that this soup is coming direct from JA:

1. Soak the split peas overnight and start by boiling them up and simmering for at least half an hour.

2. Finely chop a mirepoix of onion, carrots and celery, about a pound or half a kilo of each. As this soup will not be blended, it's important that the dice is small and neat. And a couple of de-seeded and minced Scotch bonnets (left), or more if you dare, but be aware that these peppers are HOT.

3. Sweat the mirepoix over medium/low heat in a good splash of oil in the bottom of your soup pot with the lid on to preserve moisture, taking it off every few minutes to stir the contents with a wooden spoon and prevent them from sticking or burning.

4. While the mirepoix sweats, peel the pumpkins, remove their seeds and dice their flesh into centimetre cubes.

5. When the mirepoix has cooked down and begun to caramelise in the bottom of the soup pot, add a dessert spoonful each of ground jeera 'n' dana (cumin and coriander), stirring it into the mixture. Then add the jar of Loyd's jalfrezi sauce and the contents of a tin of tomatoes, stirring that into the mirepoix as it continues to cook.

6. Now add the diced pumpkin, stir, cover with two litres of boiling Marigold bouillon, turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Add another couple of litres of bouillon and simmer for ten minutes or so before adding the peas.

7. Now add the cooked split peas with a further two litres of Marigold bouillon, making six litres in all. Stir the soup so that it's well mixed and simmer for a further ten minutes. The soup will continue to thicken as the split peas disintegrate.

8. Check the seasoning. If you've overdone the chilli, calm down the flavour by grating creamed coconut into your soup. Garnish with freshly chopped coriander as you serve.
19 people enjoyed this soup, which was an improvement on the day before, but the experience was a lot more pleasant. A small party came in from the Buddhist Centre up the street, where Ira doesn't cook on Fridays, and one of them also tried a bowl of yesterday's left over cauliflower soup. As did Joe, because he's a bit young to appreciate chilli. Several of the Soup Kitchen regulars lingered over second bowls and wrote compliments in the dairy: 'legendary - makes me sweat in a good way.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

13.04.08: Cauliflower, White Bean & Fennel

Strange day. Uneasy atmosphere, with funereal talk and the news of Irene at no.89 having been burgled. I've got used to shifting most, if not all of the soup and seeing twenty three friendly faces, but today I struggled to serve 14 bowls to lost souls, same as the day we started, on 01.10.07, when cauliflower was also involved. Not that I'm blaming the caulis, mind, nor Kai, who helped to make this soup. It was inspired by the sight of perfectly decent looking cauliflowers on a stall down East Street for 70p each. I bought five. I thought the combination with fennel and white beans was pretty good when I first tried tried it on 14.01.08, but I got left with loads and served it up again the following week. Still, the version with turnips I did at the beginning of last week went down well. So, I thought I was onto a winner. Mmm...

I'd intended to produce a definitive recipe, but now I can't be bothered and so I'll keep it concise: sweated mirepoix augmented with three bulbs of fresh fennel; seasoned with fennel seed and powdered turmeric; added cauli stalks and leaves, reserving the florets, covered with two litres of Marigold bouillon; added three 800g cans of butter beans and another 2l. bouillon; simmered for ten minutes and rested for five before blending. After blending, returned pot to heat and added cauliflower florets with a final 2l. bouillon (making six litres in total) and simmered for ten minutes before blending again, just enough to break up the florets, leaving some texture in the soup. Served garnished with chopped Spring onion and scattered fennel seeds. Yum, yum? Ho, hum!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

12.03.08: Carrot 'n' Ginger + Chilli

Carrot and Ginger. Or is it the other way round?

Daisy was absent with the sniffles today and so Rhiannon made the kind of pungent soup that would probably have made her better if she'd had any. But, seeing as Daisy stayed under her duvet, all her soup got eaten by others. Fantastic it was, too, with gob-smacking flavour: ginger upfront, hotly pursued by the almost smoky Scotch bonnets; the carrot coming through nonetheless, with the tang of fresh coriander, as garnish. 'Twas truly, deeply, madly orange.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

11.03.08: Chickpea & Spinach

This soup proved to be as popular as any served at the Soup Kitchen and caused someone to remark that the soup making is peaking as the season draws to a close while some others expressed sadness that their soup supply is to be cut off at the end of next week. But let us not mourn the passing of time and rather celebrate the turn of the seasons' wheel. Let's write down a few more definitive recipes while this blog is still active. And let us also get the table tennis tournament played out before the middle of next week!

To make 30 x 250ml portions, you will need: two kilos of dried chickpeas; two 800g cans of Natco spinach puree; a jar of tahini; a whole head of garlic, at least; plus a pound, or half a kilo each of onion, carrots and celery for the mirepoix and a kilo of floury white potatoes to thicken the soup. (Alternatively, you could use gram flour as a thickener.) This soup is seasoned with jeera 'n' dana - cumin and coriander - which you can buy as powder, or grind yourself for a fuller flavour and finished with Cayenne pepper, or a squeeze of lemon juice, if you prefer.

1. Soak the chickpeas over night. Start by discarding the soak water and boiling the peas in fresh water, simmering for an hour or more.

2. Wash, peel and cut the onion, carrot and celery into a rough dice. Peel and crush the garlic. Sweat this mixture of chopped veg. over medium heat in a generous splash of oil in the bottom of the soup pot with the lid on, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

3. Season the cooking mirepoix with ground cumin and coriander, two desserts spoons full of each. Make up two litres of Marigold bouillon and add a splash or two to the soup pot to stop the seasoned mirepoix from sticking.

4. Peel and roughly chop the potatoes and add them to the pot with the rest of the two litres of bouillon. Turn up the heat and bring the soup to the boil.

5. Prepare a further two litres of Marigold bouillon before adding two thirds of the chickpeas to the soup pot and then pour it over and continue to cook. If the peas left in the pot, which will be added to the soup later, are soft, take them off the heat. Otherwise, continue to cook them until soft.

6. Simmer the soup for fifteen minutes, then turn the heat off and leave it to stand for ten minutes before blending. Blend to a smooth consistency.

7. Return the blended soup to the heat and add the cans of spinach puree and the rest of the chickpeas with a further two litres of Marigold bouillon.

8. Stir in tahini to finish the soup. I used a full 450ml jar, but you can vary the quantity according to taste.

9. Serve garnished with a sprinkle of Cayenne or a squeeze of lemon juice to cut the flavour of the chickpeas and tahini with something a bit sharp. Enjoy!

Monday, March 10, 2008

10.03.08: Rooty Miso

All weekend the forecasters kept predicting that heavy weather was imminent so, this morning, I thought I'd better make a proper hearty soup to insulate us all against low, low pressure. Plus, I've been intending to revisit my experiments with miso that began back with winter vegetables on 17.10.07, continued with various beans and pulses on 23.11.07, and reached some sort of a conclusion with root veggies on 10.12.07. Also, I wanted to have a go with Marigold Organic Instant Miso Bouillon Powder.

I bought this array of ingredients from Somerfield (swede, kale, carrots, potatoes) and Oli's (white radish, two types of turnips, 3 tins of kidney beans for a quid). I might say I spent a bit more than I usually do and then I spent £2.69 more at Baldwins for a tub of the aforementioned miso powder. Previously, I've mixed fresh miso paste into a soup stock made of Marigold bouillon and learned to add it last and then not to let the soup boil in order to preserve the precious enzymes as far as possible. But this powder is a whole lot easier to use and the 140g tub makes 7 litres, which is exactly how much I require. So, thanks once again, Marigold, and lets talk about sponsorship, eh?

To make the soup, I peeled and diced the swedes and turnips and radishes into centimetre cubes, put them in a roasting tray with a little vegetable oil, and roasted the dice on high heat for half and hour or forty minutes, stirring the mixture occasionally. Since this soup was not going to be blended, I took extra care chopping a finely diced mirepoix of leek instead of onion, with carrot and celery, plus half a dozen cloves of garlic, and sweated it in the bottom of the pot. I peeled six large white potatoes and steamed them for about half an hour, until they were cooked right through.

I assembled the soup by adding the roast root veg. to the mirepoix in the soup pot, covering with four litres of Marigold Miso, then squeezing the steamed potatoes through a ricer into the soup to thicken it, adding a further two litres of boiling miso bouillon, stirring, and finishing with shredded curly kale plus the last litre of miso. Looking back, shredded curly kale has been the green component of all four of my miso soups. To paraphrase Al Murray, all hail to the kale.

I garnished this rooty miso soup with fresh bean sprouts for crunch and served 21 people with at least 28 portions, as many had seconds. A bowl was left over for me to enjoy and, while I don't necessarily concur with the person who wrote in the dairy that this was the 'best so far', it was better than OK if I do say so myself.