Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Beetroot Soup with Goats Cheese

By my count, this is the third soup that I've made involving Beetroot, and that's what I'm enjoying so much about writing this blog.  Even after 2 years, there are still so many soups left un-made, so many ingredients yet to so soupified and so many classics yet to be tried.

Speaking of which, I'll hopefully have a new challenge coming up in the next few weeks - along the lines of the Olympic Food Challenge, but less stressful as I'll be doing it on my own and won't have anyone else cracking the whip at me to get posts done on time, but nevertheless, should open the door to many new and interesting soup recipes - watch this space for details

All soup and no play makes Dan a dull boy...
I love beetroot, although it always looks like someone has been murdered in my kitchen, especially if there is a food blender lid malfunction, as happened today.  On the other hand, I now have free Halloween decorations in the flat - it's a scene from The Shining...

Although I started this post by saying that this is the third different soup I've made with beetroot, this could be seen as a variation of Borscht.  I'm assuming though, that Borscht has to have cabbage and/or ham in it to be proper Borscht.  If that is true, then this is a completely different soup, of not, then this is just a variation on a theme.

The vodka and horseradish give it a bit of a cheeky kick, and the sharpness of the goat's cheese is the perfect complement to the earthy sweetness of the beetroot.

750g Beetroot
800ml Beef Stock
1 Tin Chopped Tomatoes
1tsp Fresh Thyme
1tbsp Horseradish
3tbsp Vodka
1 Large Onion
2 Cloves Garlic
Olive Oil
Black Pepper

1.  Top and tail the beetroot, the scrub them under cold water, like you would new potatoes.

2.  Heat a large pan of water, bringing to the boil and then put the beetroot in, simmer and cook for 30 minutes.  When they are cooked through, remove from the heat, drain and allow the beetroot to cool.  Cut into cubes.

3.  Chop the onion and garlic.  Heat some olive oil in the soup pan and then fry off the onion and garlic.

4.  Add the beetroot, stock, tomatoes, thyme, horseradish and vodka to the pan, bring to the boil and then simmer.  Cover and cook for 15 minutes.

5.  Once the soup is cooked through, let it cool and then use a stick blender to make it nice and smooth.  Return to the pan and heat through.  Adjust seasoning and then serve.  Crumble some goats cheese on top of each bowl to garnish -  lots of goats cheese, as it tastes brilliant.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Cullen Skink

On Saturday, I attended what seems to be rapidly becoming an annual tradition - Trafalgar Day (It must be a real thing, it's got its own wikipedia page...) which regular readers will remember, last year I made some hilariously inedible ships biscuits to take with me.

The good Admiral...
This year, amongst the colossal amounts of rum being drunk, and the highly inaccurate re-telling of Nelson's victory against the Villeneuve and the French (I don't remember Gerard Depardieu being a member of the Napoleonic French Navy...) we were served some lovely Fisherman's Soup (And it was very nice, thanks Mrs Atkinson) which was, to all intents and purposes Cullen Skink.

Cullen Skink, besides having the best name of any soup, is a rather nice fish and potato soup from Scotland, made from smoked haddock (although originally made from beef).  It's very similar to a chowder, (and I always think of The Simpsons when I think of chowder - it's pronounced 'Show-dare') and seemed to fit nicely with our nautically themed evening, so I thought I'd have a go at re-creating it for the blog

I have to admit to a vague phobia about fish, and especially fish with the head on - I don't know what it is, and I'm not normally squeamish about foodstuffs (see Tripe Soup or my love of Black Pudding for evidence)  However, fish staring at me with their dead, Doll-like eyes makes my stomach turn.  So haddock fillets are great as they don't look up at you as you cook them!  Also, most recipes recommend not using the dyed fish (bright yellow) but I couldn't find the non-dyed variety in the supermarket.  The soup, I'm glad to say, didn't take on a bizarre yellowish hue though

The flavour of this soup is nice and delicate, but improves if you make it a day before and keep it in the fridge overnight.
300g Smoked Haddock
1l Milk
1 Medium Onion
1 Large Potato
2 Small Leeks
Spring Onions
Bay Leaf
Salt and Pepper
40g Butter

1.  In a large pan, put the haddock, bay leaf, parsley and milk.  Bring to the boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer (making sure the milk doesn't stick) for 6 minutes, poaching the haddock.  Turn the fish after 3 minutes, so it cooks on both sides.

2.  Remove the pan form the heat, set aside the fish and reserve the milk.

3.  Finely chop the leeks - white parts only, onions and potatoes.  Heat the butter in your soup pan and then gently fry the vegetables for 8-10 minutes, until they start to soften.

4.  Add the milk that the haddock was cooked in, back to the soup pan.

5.  Flake the fish, removing the skin and any bones, then add that to the soup too.  Bring to the boil and then simmer, cooking the soup for 15-20 minutes.

6.  Check seasoning, adding the grated nutmeg at this point, garnish with finely sliced spring onions and serve in warm bowls with hearty bread.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Pumpkin Soup with Sage and Bacon

On a trip to the supermarket the other day,  I had to wade through aisle after aisle of skeleton themed sweets, plastic vampire fangs and bottles of bleach in the shape of Frankenstein's Monster (although I may be making one of these up...) which led me with the swiftness of Sherlock Holmes, to deduce that Halloween is almost upon us.

Me, with terrible wounds...
Much like Chrismas, birthdays and that day when they roll cheeses down a hill somewhere and people chase after them, Halloween seems to be a decisive event.  From people moaning about it being an American holiday, being over-commercialised to people objecting on religious grounds and so on and so forth.  Me, I love it - always have done, back from when I was a nipper and we used to make turnip lanterns as pumpkins were such stuff as dreams were made of back in the 70's in Leeds. 

On to student days when we dressed as zombies, lobster creatures and, erm, werewolves with jaundice (yes, we still remember that Kris!) and now in more sedate times re-watching old Hammer Horror films like Frankenstein and The Monster From Hell and Taste the Blood of Dracula (man those films had way better names that modern horror films do...)

And yes, it goes without saying that the one vegetable that symbolises Halloween is the pumpkin (which are everywhere now...) so here is a pumpkin soup to warm your bones as you prepare to chill your soul this Halloween.

Of course, you could leave out the bacon and use vegetable stock if you wanted, but scientists have discovered that the addition of bacon improves any dish by 1027%, and who am I to argue with science?

40g Butter
2 Onions
1kg Pumpkin
2 cloves Garlic
1.2l Chicken Stock
60ml Sherry
50g Smoked Bacon
Pumpkin Seeds
1tbsp Chopped Fresh Sage
Grated Nutmeg

1. Finely chop the onions and garlic.  Heat the butter in your soup pan and then gently fry the onion and garlic until it starts to colour.

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!
2.  Peel the pumpkin, de-seed it and then cut the flesh into cubes.  Add these to the pan and cook for a further 10 minutes, until the pumpkin flesh is soft.

3. Add the stock, sherry, sage,and some salt and pepper, bring the pan to the boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 30 minutes, until the pumpkin is very soft.

4.  Remove the pan from the heat and then blend until smooth, pass the soup through a sieve to remove lumps and make it extra smooth at this point if you like, then return to the pan.

5.  Re-heat and serve.  Garnish with grated nutmeg, toasted pumpkin seeds, basil leaves fried in a little butter until crisp and some cubes of fried smoked bacon.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Tuscan Chicken Soup With Orzo

I remember the first soup I ever learned to make, when I was about 12 in Home Economics lessons at school.  The teacher didn't actually teach us how to make it, but let us all cook one thing that we ate at home.

Pretty much every Friday thoughout the winter months, dinner was either Macaroni Cheese or Minestrone - made from scratch by my mother, and I did love the minestrone soup, so that was the dish that I decided to cook in school.  I badgered my mum for the recipe and then got all the ingredients, turnied up in the classroom and started to cook.  And suddenly, lo-and-behold, there was soup!  I felt like an alchemist, I had combined vegetables, pasta and meat, and with the judicious application of fire, the end result was soup, and it even tasted pretty good!

And from then on, I realised I could cook (although I didn't actually cook much for another six or seven years when I went away to University)   and I loved the buzz I got from being able to do that.. It's something that hasn't ever gone away.

Which brings us, in a very round about way to today's soup.  Although I'm not making Minestrone (and I still pronounce it Mine Strone in my head...) this soup is very similar, using as it does lots of vegetables, a bit of meat and a rich tomato-y stock.  And it also uses Orzo, which I love - it's pasta that thinks it is rice!  Crazy!

If you can't get orzo, any small pasta shells will do - I was over-joyed when I first found it in a small corner shop, and immediately bought some for Mrs Soup, as she had never been able to find it in this country before, for which I won brownie points, and gained a nice ingredient for soups, stews and casseroles.

3 Chicken Thighs
1 Large Onion
3 Carrots
2 Stalks of Celery
1 Medium Potato
4 Cloves of Garlic
1 Tin Tomatoes
1.2l Chicken Stock
75g Orzo (Pasta Rice)
Fresh Basil
Fresh Thyme
Salt and Pepper

1.  Heat some oil in your soup pan. Fry the chicken thighs until they are golden and cooked through.  Remove the chicken and set aside to cool.

2. Finely chop the onion and garlic.  In the same oil that you fried the chicken in, soften and brown the onions and garlic (add some more oil if there isn't enough left)

3.  Add the chopped carrot, potato and celery and let them soften over a low heat for 3-5 minutes, then add the stock, cooked chicken and tomatoes.  To this add the thyme, salt and pepper, simmer and cover, then let cook for 25 minutes.

4.  Add the orzo to the soup and let simmer for another 10 minute, until the pasta is cooked through.  Check seasoning and then serve, garnished with fresh basil.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Scotch Broth

Another cold day, another warming soup for you!  This one involves the left-overs from a rather lovely Sunday lunch (well, the meaty / gravy parts anyway) and is an old favourite of mine.  If you don't have any left over lamb, you could just get a lamb chop and use the meat from that, it will work just as well.

This is a slight adaptation of Scotch Broth, with the mint and balsamic vinegar being my own additions, as I think both flavours go particularly well with lamb, and help to cut through the fatty taste that you can sometimes get with that meat.  If you want to be more traditional, leave those two ingredients out (and don't write me emails saying I got the recipe wrong, please...)

Also included in this recipe is some pearl barley, which I think in another brilliant but under-rated ingredient, although it does show up quite a bit in Scottish recipes.  It makes a brilliant risotto instead of rice, and can be used in countless stews and soups - indeed, I suspect that as the nights grow darker, more and more people will be reaching for the pearl barley as well as their favourite stew recipes.

2 Large Carrots
1 Small Turnip
1 Large Onion
1 Small Leek
1 Medium Potato
50g Pearl Barley
250g Lamb
2l Stock
3 Cloves Garlic
1tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
Handful fresh chopped mint leaves

1. Cut the carrot, turnip, potato and lamb into small cubes. Finely chop the onion, leek and garlic.

2.  Heat your stock in a soup pan.  Throw in any left-over gravy from Sunday lunch at this point too, and add the balsamic vinegar.

3.  Bring the stock to the boil, put in the vegetables and lamb then cover and bring to a simmer.  Cook the soup for 2-3 hours on a low heat.

4.  30 Minutes before serving, add the pearl barley.

5.  Check seasoning, adding plenty of black pepper before serving and garnish with a handful of chopped fresh mint leaves.  Enjoy!