Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Peking Duck Soup With Pancakes

Last Tuesday it was pancake day, and someone on twitter asked me why I wasn't making pancake soup.  A few thoughts went through my mind - the first of which was Wow, what an awesome idea, closely followed by Pancake Soup? That sounds awful, surely.  This was then followed by a quick Google search which revealed that yes, pancake soups do exist and yes, they seem very nice.

At about the same time, Mrs Soup returned from the market with a duck (Why does this sound like it is turning into a fairy tale?  Perhaps I should have checked to see if the duck laid golden eggs before I cooked it...) and several things clicked into place.  Duck... pancake... duck and pancake soup!

So after Sunday Lunch, where the majority of the duck was consumed, I set about making duck stock in preparation for the soup

For the stock
1 Duck Carcass
1 Onion
2 Carrots
2 Stalks Celery
2 Bay Leaves
1tsp Black Peppercorns
2 Cloves
4 Egg Whites

To make the stock, simply put all the bits in a large pan. Don't worry about chopping the vegetables too neatly, just rough bits will do.  Then add 2l of water, bring the pan to the boil, cover and leave for 3 hours.  This will make your whole house smell wonderful - I did it before I went to bed and ended up having dreams about this very soup!

Let the stock cool and then strain all the bits out.  You can skim off the fat at this point, or let the stock cool completely, when it turns into a jelly.  Then the fat can be collected and used, either for the soup recipe, or for making rather wonderful roast potatoes to go with your Sunday Roast.

To clarify the stock, you will need the four egg whites, whisked and then stirred into the COLD stock, otherwise they just cook straight away and you end up with a horrible mess.  Stir the egg whites into the stock and then slowly bring the pan to a boil.  Don't stir it at all, but the eggs will start to cook and form a scum on the top. After about 5-10 minutes on a gentle boil, you can skim this scum off the top and you will be left with a nice, clear stock.  Passing it through a fine sieve or muslin bag wouldn't hurt either!

Once the stock was done, I could start on the soup itself.

250g Shredded Duck Meat
25g Fresh Grated Ginger
1.2 l Duck Stock
1 Onion
2 Cloves Garlic
Duck Fat
1 Orange
2 Star Anise
1 tsp Sechuan Peppercorns
2 tbsp Plum Sauce
1 Red Chili

For the pancakes 
55g Plain Flour
1 Egg
Pinch of Salt
100ml Milk
35ml Water
25g Butter

1.  Chop the onion roughly.  Heat some duck fat, or oil (about 2tbsp) in a pan.  Add the onion, garlic and ginger and fry gently for 3-5 minutes, until the onions have softened but not coloured.

2. Remove the zest from the orange.  Add this, and then the juice from the orange to the pan, along with the half of the duck stock (500ml), Star Anise and Peppercorns.

3.  Bring the soup to the boil and then cover and simmer for 30 minutes

4.  Let the soup cool slightly, then sieve out all the vegetables, return to the pan and add the rest of the stock, the shredded duck meat and season to taste.

Disclaimer : I hate making pancakes.  There was swearing!
5.  Prepare the pancakes, roll them up and slice them into thin strips.  Place a pile of the sliced pancakes in the middle of warmed dishes, then serve the soup over these.

[I'm sure you don't need telling how to make pancakes, but if you need a reminder, let Auntie Delia guide you.  I made half the quantity she makes]

6. Garnish with chives and thinly sliced red chili. Serve and enjoy!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Weekly Bake Off - Cupcakes

I have a confession to make. A dire and dreadful confession...

Despite being an avid baker, I'm just not that into cupcakes. The rest of the world seems cupcake mad, and looking at the other beautiful entries on this week's Weekly Bake Off, I can almost see the appeal. They are lovely little things, but I can't quite get over the feeling that they're not for me. Cakes should be large and substantial, and fill a plate!

That's not to say I don't make cupcakes when the occasion calls for it. It just doesn't call that often.
That's why this week's bake wasn't a huge thrill for me - and with my preference for coffee or chocolate flavours outweighed by the necessity of following MB's recipe exactly, I wasn't terribly excited about the final product, which is why despite making these on Wednesday and having friends round to eat them on Thursday the blog post is only being typed on Sunday evening!

The bake was easy - throw everything in a bowl, mix, spoon into casings and bake. I'd misjudged how much icing sugar I had, so had to scale down my icing to about 1/3 of the quantity, but since the cupcakes were quite sweet anyway, I think a thinner layer of icing worked well.

Any baking book should have a cupcake recipe in it, but I'm glad this is out of the way now. Onto more exciting bakes!

(I made the Orange Scotch Pancakes (p127) this morning for breakfast - no time for a photo as they were scoffed almost as fast as they came out of the frying pan! Will definitely be making them again.)

Tuesday, 21 February 2012


Today's post is dedicated to food that is unnaturally coloured (even if it contains no artificial colourings).  As the second beetroot based recipe on the blog, I've already talked at length about the amazing colour of the vegetable and the love/hate relationship I have with the flavour (see here)

When I was taking the photos for today's post it looked like someone had committed bloody murder in the kitchen.  As a strange co-incidence, for some reason the shower started running by itself at the same time I was snapping away, scaring the bejesus out of me. Perhaps the flat is haunted by the ghosts of all the beetroot I have brutally slain over the years - their purple juice is on my hands...

Anyway, that got me thinking about all the foods I've eaten that have unnaturally strong colours, and how most of these rank on my list of most-hated foodstuffs. These include -

Piccalilli - like radioactive snot.  Sandwich fillings shouldn't glow in the dark

Semolina with Strawberry Jam mixed into it - turns the colour of a melted My Little Pony.  Not any old semolina pudding, I should point out, just the wallpaper paste consistency mess I was served as part of school dinners at Primary School in the 70'2

Sweet'n'sour sauce - specifically the gloopy orange stuff that comes from bad take-aways, sends shivers down my spine thinking about it - like the blood of an alien the Jon Pertwee incarnation of Doctor Who might have fought

And beetroot was also amongst the list, until recently, when I learnt to love the taste, and the colour too. I guess it's all part of growing as a person (why does that sound like the trite moral of a corny American sitcom episode?)

Which brings us to today's soup - a creamy and wonderful dish of pink heaven, set off perfectly by the hint of vinegar and sour cream.  Your mouth will never forget it, or your best white tablecloth...

300g Beetroot
100g White Cabbage
75g Smoky Back Bacon
1 Onion
2 Cloves of Garlic
2 Stalks of Celery
1.2l Stock
1tsp Thyme
1tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
Bay Leaf
Salt and Pepper 
Sour cream


1. Heat the oven to 200ºc

2. Peel and dice the beetroot (about 1cm square cubes should be okay), then peel and roughly slice the onion

3.  Put some oil in a roasting tray, then toss in the beetroot, onion, thyme and some salt.  Put the tray in the over for 45 minutes to roast the vegetables until they are golden and soft

4. Roughly chop the cabbage and celery.  Crush the garlic cloves. Cut the bacon into small slices

5.  In your soup pan, heat some more oil, then toss in cabbage, celery, garlic and bacon.  Sweat these in the pan for 5 minutes until they become so, but not colour too much.

6. Add the stock to the pan, then add the beetroot and onions. Finally, add the bay leaf and balsamic vinegar.

7. Bring the soup to a simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

8.  Using a hand blender, liquidise the soup until it's smooth, and at this point, feel free to pass it through a sieve, pressing down with a wooden spoon to get all the lumpy bits out and make the soup silky smooth

9.  Heat through just before serving, and garnish with sour cream and parsley.  Serve with fresh bread and enjoy!

Friday, 17 February 2012

Weekly Bake Off : Blueberry and Lemon Austrian Curd Cheesecake

Well, this week's Weekly Bake Off bake turned out to be sheer torture! We are meeting up with friends this evening for a regular music-related activity, and being rather useless at creating music, my contribution is normally cake related.

(And by music related - this video might give you an idea of what we do - record cover versions of songs, get drunk and then listen to them - below is a slightly un-seasonal example - if you look hard enough, you might spot Mr. Soup)

Having bought all my ingredients (and boy did it take a while to track down semolina in my supermarket - finally found it in the 'International' section!), I settled in on my own last night to get a bit of baking done. I'd decided to use blueberries instead of raisins, and since my ricotta came in 250g tubs, I scaled the recipe down ever so slightly to compensate for using 500g instead of 550g - fairly straightforward, and I just used 4 medium eggs instead of large ones. Other than that I followed the recipe to the letter, and once it was popped into the oven I got stuck into some TV.

After about 30 minutes, the smell was absolutely gorgeous! I rapidly started making plans to slice the cake as soon as it came out of the oven 'for photos', rather than this evening, and then of course, having cut it, I'd need to test it... A quick peek in the oven while putting some silver foil over to stop the top burning showed a promising looking top, and it brimming almost to the top of my (rather deep) cake tin. And then... I read the rest of the recipe! After baking, you turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake in for another hour. Then you take it out and allow it to cool completely. Obviously I was not going to be eating cheesecake last night - and yet I still had to sit and smell it for the rest of the evening!

Here's the picture I took after it came out of the oven - it turned out to be too hot to take the bottom of the tin off, even after an hour cooling in the oven, and another hour out of the oven, so I've left it in the tin (it's also easier to transport that way!) (sides removed for the picture).

After the cake was transported from Soup HQ to the secret location where the music event took place, it was served up to a hungry crowd who were very appreciative - even a non-cheesecake lover (yes, there are such people in this world...) had to admit that it was a rather nice cake.  Another convert to the cause of the cheesecake?  Only time will tell, but when the cake tastes so good and looks his nice, I think we can count them as won over...

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Haggis Soup

So, there was lots of snow when we went away.  Please look at this lovely picture of a church and then we will never mention snow again...

It's time to talk about something serious - something some of you might find disturbing, but nonetheless, I think it's time we addressed this thing.


A word that  can often strike fear into the hardiest of souls.  But I come to praise offal, not to bury it.  I am an addict.  Liver and onions is one of my favourite dishes, the kidney in a steak and kidney pie is the bit I eat first.  On a recent trip to a Chinese restaurant, my starter was tongue, tripe and heart in a chili and peanut sauce.  I get stared by the women behind the checkouts in the supermarket for buying things their Grandfather probably ate.

And I think you should embrace the offal too!  It's cheap, it's tasty and it's a bit unusual (plus it appeals to the same part of my brain that made me giggle like a child when the fishmonger chap at my local Morrison's asked me if I wanted the tentacles with my squid (yes please!) so banish your memories of tough, overcooked liver for school meals, and explore the exciting world of innards!

Probably the most accessible of the offal based meats is haggis.  Pay no attention to the fact it is heart, liver and lungs wrapped up in a sheeps' stomach - just think of it as super tasty mince and you should be okay) And it's not just for Burns' Night either.  I've made lasagna and Shepards' Pie with haggis instead of minced beef and both were delicious.

So give it a go (and I'm sorry that today being Valentine's Day I didn't make a soup with heart in it, which would have been much more appropriate, don't you think?) This is another wintry warmer type of soup - very rich and great for this time of year.  Try and get good quality haggis for that extra special taste!

2 Red Onions
2 Turnips
2 Cloves Garlic
450g Haggis
1 Leek
1tbsp Oil
1.5l Chicken Stock
100g Pearl Barley
Salt and Pepper

1. Finely chop the onion, garlic and turnip - about 1cm sized cubs should be okay for the turnip

2.  Heat the oil in your soup pan.  Then add the onion, garlic and turnip and gently sweat for 5 - 10 minutes until they are soft.

3. Slice half of the leek and add that to the pan as well.  Save the rest for garnish

4.  Cut your haggis into chunks - this will help it break up in the soup.

5.  Add the haggis, stock and pearl barley to the pan. Bring up the heat and stir, breaking up the haggis even more.

6.  Simmer the soup for 35-40 minutes, until the haggis and barley are thoroughly cooked. Remember to stir regularly, so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.  Check the seasoning at this point, and add more salt or pepper to taste.

7.  Cut the remaining leek into thin strips.  Place them in a pan of boiling water for about 1 minute, then remove.

8.  Serve the soup and then dress with the strips of leek


Sunday, 12 February 2012

Weekly Bake Off : Apple and Almond Dessert Cake

This is a very late and rather short entry for this week's Bake-Off as Mr Soup and I have been away since Thursday in a cosy little cottage in North Yorkshire, celebrating my birthday.

As this recipe is more of a pudding than a tea accompaniment, I decided to make individual sized cakes, and jazz it up a little with toffee-coated apples in the middle. (Inspired by a lovely sticky toffee pudding eaten this weekend). To do this I melted equal quantities of sugar and butter in a frying pan until it went a nice golden colour, added the sliced apples, tossed them in the syrupy mix and cooked for a couple of minutes. I allowed the caramelised apples to cool, and then layered them as specified in the recipe. This meant that the middle of the spongey pudding had a gorgeous toffee-apple flavour.

I misjudged the depth of the sponge in the individual ramekins I used to bake them in, so had a few overflowing puddings, but a few turned out alright - just the thing for a Sunday evening treat!
That's Jack Ryan in the background - he wants cake! (and an end to the drug trafficking and high level corruption, but mostly cake.)

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Soupy Birthday!

There's a birthday in the Soup household, and so we are off the the countryside for a few days, weather permitting!  So if this blog is never updated again, it's because we are frozen in a cottage somewhere (Malton, to be precise) and even the warming power of the soup couldn't revive us.

I bet there's more snow and less chickens when we get there
Next week there will be new recipes - Haggis Soup! and another entry into the Weekly Bakeoff and, if you are lucky, some pictures of snow, because I'm sure you will all need reminding of what it looks like!

Also, because we cook, eat and then at least one of Team Soup does the washing up (me - yes, my hands are red-raw with Fairy Liquid poisoning!)  most of the birthday gifts were food related, including...

** A Jam Funnel ** Because otherwise your jam will go everywhere

** Perfect Pies ** Because we love pies, and The Hairy Bikers - about the only TV cooks that seem to enjoy the food they cook, and also they come across as really nice guys.  And did I mention we love pies!

** A Kitchen Blow-torch ** A weapon of mass destruction in my hands probably!

So have a nice weekend and keep souping! (And if you have any ideas for soups you would like to see us do on the blog, or any suggestions, like 'stop blabbering and start cooking' then feel free to drop us  a line in the comments section)


Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Thai Chicken Noodle Soup

Snow!  Snow!  Oh blimey, you would think that the world was ending after a few hours of the white stuff on Saturday night!  I remember in ye olde times when it snowed and everyone would help each other clear drive ways and push stuck cars, but now it just seems to bring out the more petty aspects of people - moaning about the lack of grit for the roads, chuntering (good word eh?) about how to get to the shops etc.

Maybe it's just me getting old, but I really wish more people would enjoy the snow - it really does bring out the child in me - snow ball fights, sledging, staring drunkenly at orange sodium street lamps in the dark, watching huge white flakes drifting silently to the ground.  Who cares if you can't get in to work.  SNOW DAY!

At least my cold disappeared in time for me to enjoy Snowmageddon 2012, and allow me to go for a lovely walk along the frozen canal, before returning home to a lovely roast chicken.  And me being me, I couldn't let any single tiny bit of the chicken go to waste, so into the slow cooker went the flesh-stripped carcass to cook overnight for stock.

That meant that I woke up to a house that smelled delightfully of chicken, but also that I had lots of lovely stock for soup, as well as left-over chicken to use up.  So I decided to make a spicy chicken noodle soup.  I even experimented with clarifying the stock, by mixing 2 whisked eggwhites, 100ml of cold water and some chopped chicken into the cold stock, then slowly bringing it to the simmer, not stirring it until all the egg white floated to the top, bringing with it all the impurities from the stock, then I skimmed this off and was left with a rich golden stock.  I thend to water this down a bit before using it ina soup - about half and half, or the taste can be a bit too strong for my liking, but you can always play around with it

Anyway, with no more digressions, Thai Chicken Noodle Soup...

1.2l Chicken Stock
1 Red Chili
1 Green Chili
2tbsp Fish Sauce
Juice of 1 Lime
60g Roasted Peanuts
150g Broccoli Florets
200ml Coconut Milk
100g Thin Egg Noodles
Oriental Spinach Leaves
Fresh Coriander

1. Heat the stock in a large pan, slowly bringing it to a simmer

2. Add the fish sauce, lime juice.  De seed and finely chop the chilies and add them.

3. If you are using uncooked chicken breast, cut it into bite sized strips and add it to the soup, if you are using left-overs, add them now as well.

4. Crush the peanuts in a pestle and mortar and add them to the soup, as well as the broccoli florets.

5. Cover the pan and leave to cook for around 10 minutes

6. In another pan, heat some water and cook the egg noodles as directed on the packaging.

7. Before serving, add the coconut milk to the soup and adjust seasoning to taste

8.  Add the shredded spinach leaves (or you could use spring onions) to the soup

9.  Put a serving of the egg noodles in each bowl, then top off with soup

10 Garnish with a few fresh coriander leaves

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Weekly Bake Off : Farmhouse Orange Victoria Sandwich

After last week's fantastic chocolate cake I decided to follow this week's Weekly Bake Off recipe to the letter, and was very pleased with the result. Before Christmas I made a rather large batch of Orange, Lemon and Brandy marmalade (a big hit in Christmas parcels), and so I had a good supply of marmalade on hand.

The sponge was very easy, and my new 18cm cake tins were the right size (they looked rather teeny next to my deep 23cm tin, and I was a little worried that there might be overflowing cake, but they were just right).

I was generous with the marmalade in the icing, and found the tang of the oranges and lemons a good contrast to the sweetness of the cake.

All in all a good, moist sponge cake with minimal fuss - I'd recommend the recipe if you're in a hurry but still want to impress with something a little different!

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Orange, Lemon and Brandy Marmalade

In preparation for this week's BakeOff, I thought I'd post my recipe for marmalade. This was my first bash at making marmalade, and it was so successful that the resulting jars made it into our Christmas hampers, along with assorted jams and Chocolate and ginger biscotti.

(That's Crab apple and Chilli Jelly on the left, Bilberry jam in the middle, and a jar of marmalade on the right. And all artistically wrapped below...)

This recipe uses 1.6kg of fruit - you might want to reduce this as I found this amount filled even our biggest pot and there were a few tense moments during the boiling stage! It also made a huge number of jars - far more than any of my other batches of preserves - not that I'm complaining - apart from giving some away as presents I now have gorgeous homemade marmalade to last me through the next year!
You'll need :
1.2kg Oranges
400g Lemons
2.2kg Sugar
2.5l Water
Some brandy (you decide how much!)

Juice the fruit, retaining the peels. Chop the peel into chunks (fine or thick depending on how you like your marmalade!). Place the juice, peel, sugar and water into a large saucepan and warm to dissolve the sugar.

Bring to the boil and cook until it reaches setting point (test by cooling a few drops on a chilled plate). This stage smells absolutely fabulous! Once it has reached setting point, cool a little then stir in some brandy (I added about 100ml - will probably use more next time as I didn't notice the flavour that strongly). Pour into jars, and allow to set.