Friday, 30 March 2012

Weekly Bake Off - Jammy Swiss Cakes and Clandestine Cake Club

I've fallen a little behind with blogging, but with 2 bakes last week, I had to prioritise!

First was the inaugural meeting of the Pudsey and West Leeds Clandestine Cake Club - this was organised by Sharon Clarkson, and on seeing that the places were going fast I signed up for both the first March meeting and the May meeting (this one booked up in about 2 hours!). Since I didn't sign up to take a guest, and apart from Sharon (twitter friend), I didn't know anyone I was a bit nervous, but I shouldn't have worried - after turning up with my American Chocolate Ripple Cheesecake a bit early, the evening went incredibly well. I was stunned by the number of cakes, and will have to go to future meetings with a strategy of only eating the smallest sliver of each to get a taste! One of the best things about the evening (apart from all the new cakey people I met) was at the end of the evening we all piled our cake tins up with leftover cakes - thus benefitting Mr Soup (who had been a bit grumpy about me making cake he wasn't going to get to taste!).

The event made the Yorkshire Evening Post, but I'm really looking forward to the article in a local magazine where the reported/photographer took pictures of all the attendees with their cakes - a far better image of the spirit of the event!

And so on to my Weekly Bake Off entry for this week - Jammy Swiss cakes. The recipe uses apricot jam, but with the vast surplus of homemade jam in the house, I decided to use (my homemade, delicious) blackcurrant jelly and strawberry jam instead. These little cakes wouldn't have caught my eye normally, but I'm very glad I made them. Piping the mixture into the cupcake cases took a bit of work, and negotiation with the piping bag (my nozzles are really for icing and were a bit small for the thickish batter), but once they were cooked, they were little melting parcels of deliciousness - not too sweet biscuity base set off nicely by the jam (they remind me of Viennese whirls). Mr Soup reckons they are a way to his heart, so I'm keeping this recipe on the top of the pile! And despite my rather wonky piping, they did look very pretty once baked and jammified...

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Lamb and Mint Soup

Ah, spring is here, the sun is in the sky and birds are tweeting.  At the weekend we went for a walk in the countryside, and the fields were full of lambs, gambolling around without a care in the world, and it was this sight that inspired today's soup.
A roast dinner on a Sunday (or any other day of the week for that matter - it's too good for just a weekend!) is one of my favourite things in the entire world, and a good bit of roast Lamb is the best Sunday roast of all.  I try and do one every week (although I refuse to submit to the emotional blackmail that a certain instant gravy company that shall (*sniff* ahhh) remain nameless insist on putting in it's adverts that your family will fall apart if you don't make a roast once a week, and presumably be taken into care, your neighbours will whisper behind your back and you will become an alcoholic and die and be buried in a pauper's grave - or am I taking this a bit far?)
On top of a mountain.  I'm the one on the left...
At one of Soup Tuesday's weekly soup and cake planning meetings (yes, we have meetings...), I had the idea to soup-ize meals, and this is an attempt to turn a roast lamb dinner into soup.  The soup is actually made with left over roast lamb, but you could buy fresh if you wanted. Also, instead of making the roast potatoes and parsnips, if you have any left-over mashed potato, you could make mini potato cakes by adding some flour, rolling the mixture into little balls and frying them, before adding to the finished soup

2 Carrots
2 Leeks
2 Parsnips
1 Large Potato
1 Onion
250g Lamb
1.5l Stock
Frozen Peas
1 Lemon (Zest)
Handful Fresh Mint Leaves
Salt and Pepper
Thanks to Lizzy for parsnips straigh from the allotment
1. Put the over on to heat up to 200ºc

2.  Chop the carrots, leeks, parsnips, potatoes and onion into small cubes / slices

3. Heat some oil in a pan and gently sweat the carrot, onion and leeks for 5 minutes

4. Put a roasting tin into the oven, with some oil in it, and get the oil nice and hot.  This should take about 5 minutes.  Then put the cubes of potato and parsnip in it, tossing them in oil so they are covered all over.  Put the tray back in the oven and let the vegetables roast for 25-30 minutes.  Check on them regularly, so they don't burn, and shake the tray so the vegetables brown evenly on all sides

5.  Once the carrots, leeks and onions have sweated for 5 minutes, add the stock (I put left-over gravy from the Sunday roast in with the stock to add extra flavour) and the cubed roast lamb.  If you are using fresh meat instead of left overs, either roast the meat beforehand, or brown it in the pan before sweating the carrots and leeks
6. Grate the zest of the lemon into the soup, bring to the boil and cook for 30 minute.

7.  5 minutes before serving, add a handful of chopped fresh mint to the soup (or use mint sauce) as well as a few frozen peas, taste and season.

8.  Serve in warm bowls.  Garnish with the roast potatoes and parsnips and a few mint leaves

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Braised Pig Cheek and Black Pudding Pie

One year ago today (that's 22nd March) one man had a vision.  That vision was to make some soups and then blog about said soups.  He came up with a name for his blog, based on a mis-remembered Futurama line, and set about making his first ever blog post. Little did he realise that 365 days later, he would still be making soups, still be blogging about them and be having fun doing it too!

(Please note - the image to the left has nothing to do with either the blog or soup, but was painted for me by a friend for christmas when I jokingly asked her to paint the most awesome painting ever concieved - I think you will agree she pretty much knocked it of the park and I thought it deserved to be seen by more people...)

That man was me, and that blog was this blog (in case you hadn't got it) and the best part of this whole malarkey is that I have met some lovely people on line (both commenting here and on twitter) as well as making some lovely soups.  And I always appreciate people popping by to say 'ahoy hoy', so why not do it!

But being the contrary beggar that I am, the happy birthday post is not a soup at all, but a ha-pie birthday post, as you may have guessed by the title. And if you are wondering what to get the blog by way of a present - we celebrate not with cake but with pie in the Soup household, so you know what to do...

And before we get to the pie (and I'm getting all choked up here) a big thank you to you, yes you the reader for reading my blog, and hopefully enjoying what you read - and maybe, just maybe cooking along at home...

Ingredients for the pie filling
(For the slow cooker)
50g Celery
100g Leek
100g Carrot
100g Mushrooms
1 Onion
1kg Pig's Cheeks
5 Peppercorns
1 Star Anise

(For the filling)
175g Mushrooms
150g Black Pudding

You will also need the ingredients for the pastry, or you can just buy some ready made short crust if you aren't into the whole pastry thing...


1. First you need to prepare the pastry.  We made Rough Puff pastry (Mrs Soup's contribution) but as it's someone elses recipe we will leave the exact quantities up to you.  Suffice to say you will need enough to line and cover your pie dish.

I used the recipe for Rough-Puff pastry from the Hairy Bikers' Pie book. Starting out with cold butter, I cut small cubes and mixed it in with the flour. I then kept slicing the butter and mixing with the flour until the bits of butter were fairly small. (I've included a picture as I had no idea how small to go, and now know this size gives a decent puff pastry!)
 Then mixed the water and lemon juice into the mix and mixed a bit until it came together. Then rolled the pastry out, folded it in thirds, and repeated rolling and folding 5 times. This all went into the fridge overnight until it was time to assemble the pie.

Next, you can make the pie filling

2.  Cut the pig's cheeks up into roughly 2cm chunks, then fry in some oil in small batches until the meat is nice and brown
3. Roughly shop the vegetables, throw the lot into a slow cooker along with the browned meat, peppercorn and star anise. Cover with cold water and then cook for 4 hours. Let the mixture cool and then drain the liquid into a pan.  Fish out the meat and discard the vegetables.

4. Heat the meaty liquid and reduce it down to about 1/3 its quantity, thicken with a bit of cornflour if needed to make a rich and tasty sauce.  The star anise flavour works well with the meat to bring out it's rich pork flavours. Leave this to cool .
5. Line your pie dish with pastry, then add the meat, chopped mushrooms and cubed black pudding.  Pour the rich gravy mixture over this until it covers the filling.  If you have any left over, set this aside to use as a gravy for the finished meal.

6. Brush the crust of the pie with beaten egg.

7. Put the pie in the oven at 220ºC for 30/40mins

8.  Make your veg - we had greens and mashed potato, with extra butter, horseradish sauce and chives, and used the rest of the meaty gravy, with added red wine to make a sauce.

9.  Serve and enjoy!

Special Bonus... We had some left over pastry so we made some jam pasties - like me mum used to make...

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Wild Garlic and Chorizo Soup with Black Pudding

There is a definite feeling that spring is in the air, after all, the sun is shining, birds are tweeting, the clock will be changing and confusing everyone (one unforeseen consequence of the DVD revolution is that at least no-one has to fiddle with their VHS machine and spend 20 minutes shouting at it anymore)

And with spring comes new growth, and the start of the season where we wander the hills and dales looking at things we find on and under trees and wondering if they are safe to eat, and more importantly, can they be turned into soups?  (And the side-effect I've mentioned before, of people looking at me like I'm mad when I turn up to the local park with a carrier bag and start gathering nature's harvest)
So first up on the menu of things I have pulled out of the ground with my actual hands and not just bought in a shop is wild garlic, which I was introduced to a year ago when a friend made a wild salad when we were camping (It was a 40th birthday party and that salad was about the only fruit or veg that entered my body for 4 days, unless beer counts as part of my 5-a-day)

Although I knew what the plant looked like, and the smell of it (that wonderful onion-y, garlicky smell you often get when walking through woodland in springtime) I had no idea you could actually eat it - looking back, I think it was this incident that inspired me to find out what else is growing around us and eatable, so thanks for that Wendy!)

This delicate spring soup was made with freshly picked wild garlic (it doesn't keep very well)

100g Wild Garlic
100g Chorizo
100g Black Pudding
2 Onions
3 Medium Potatoes
1.5l Chicken Stock
2tsp Balsamic Vinegar
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1.  Peel and finely chop the onion.  Cut the chorizo into thin slices (peel the tough outer skin off too, if you want.  I hate it as it makes the sausage chewy, so I usually remove it)

2.  Heat some oil in your pan.  Put the onion and chorizo in the pan and gently fry for 5 minutes, until the onion is soft and the chorizo is starting to release its golden paprika infused oils

3.  Peel and cube the potatoes then add them to the pan. Add the minced garlic cloves  Let them cook for a few more minutes before adding the stock and balsamic vinegar.

4.  Bring the pan to the boil and then simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes are starting to break up - you can always give them a helping hand with a potato masher to start the breaking up. Check the seasoning at this point and add salt and pepper to taste

5. In a bowl, mash up the black pudding with a fork (it helps if the black pudding is at room temperature).  Then roll it into balls, about 1/2cm diameter.

6.  Heat some oil in a frying pan and gently fry the black pudding balls for 3-5 minutes, until they are cooked.

7.  Chop the wild garlic and add it to the soup, cooking for 5 minutes.

8. Pour the soup into the bowls and garnish with the black pudding balls and a few wild garlic leaves.


Sunday, 18 March 2012

Weekly Bake Off - Lemon Yogurt Cake

Yogurt is one of those words whose pronounciation divides people, rather like scone and data. I tend to flip between the two - having grown up in a culture with equal parts American and British influence, I have a confused vocabulary - after 5 years in the UK I still forget myself at times and refer to trousers as pants!

However you choose to pronounce it, this week's Weekly Bake Off recipe is a lovely cake. The yogurt does make it rather dense, especially if, like me, you don't bake it for quite long enough, but it has a lovely springy texture, and is beautifully moist.

Having learnt to not mess with Mary's recipes, the only modification I made was adding a squeeze of lemon juice to the cake batter to ensure a good lemony flavour to the cake. I also only had a 23cm diameter deep cake tin, so my cake is a bit thinner than it should be (and also explains why I slightly undercooked it - I should have gone for the 1hr15min, but got nervous about overcooking it at 1hr05min, so pulled it out early). As a result it sank a bit in the middle, and I ended up with a puddle of icing in the middle.

However, a day later, and we've already had a slice each for pudding after dinner, and a slice with tea this afternoon, so I'd judge this cake a success, and a nice moist change from a normal lemon sponge.
In other news, this Thursday I'll be attending my first Clandestine Cake Club meeting in Pudsey - I'm very excited to be meeting at least one other Weekly Baker, and many other cake-lovers!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Callaloo Soup

I love food, I love cooking and I love trying new eating experiences.  That much should be obvious to anyone who's even taking a passing interest in this blog, which will shortly be celebrating it's first birthday - and thanks to everyone who's taken the time to read my witterings, and even perhaps tried a recipe or two that I've published.  And if you have, I'd love to hear if they turned out well!

Sometimes, when making a soup that I've never tried before, I feel a bit guilty for not doing the spirit of the dish justice.  None more so than one of the first recipes that I tried on the blog - Callaloo soup.  Although there are any number of variations on the recipe, there are some ingredients that make Callaloo, well, Callaloo.
Amongst these are Callaloo itself, which when I first made this soup, I used spinach instead, Salt Beef, which I got confused with Corned Beef (The Fray Bentos stuff) so I left it out, and Okra, which I did find and use.

And I always felt like I'd only made half a soup, that anyone would look at my recipe, shake their head and say "Oh come now Dan, that's not right, that's not right at all.  How would you like it if we made Yorkshire puddings and put jam on them, it would be wrong, wouldn't it?" (And yes, I know some un-godly people from the wrong side of the Pennines do that kind of thing, but it won't wash in Leeds!)

Tinned Callaloo and Okra
So here is my actual Callaloo recipe, with Salt Beef with I made myself (method is here) and Callaloo, courtesy of Asda, in a tin, but hey, nobody's perfect...

200g Tin of Callaloo
200g Salt Beef
75g White Crab Meat 
150g Okra
1.2l Chicken Stock
100ml Coconut Milk
1 Onion
2 Sprigs of Thyme
1 Red Chili
2 Cloves Garlic
1tsp Turmeric
2tsp Corriander
1 Tomato

1 .  Chop the Onion.  Heat some oil in a large pan and fry the onion for 3-4 minutes, until it starts to soften.

2.  Add the garlic, turmeric and coriander.  Fry for another minute

3.  Add the stock, callaloo, cubed salt beef, thyme, finely chopped chili and crab meat.  Bring the pan to the boil and then simmer for 30 minutes

4.  Add the tomato, chopped okra and coconut milk, cook for another 5 minutes, season to taste and then serve.  garnish with thinly sliced chili or tomato.

This soup can be blended before serving it, but last time I tried that, it turned into a horrible swampy mess that looked pretty un-appetizing, so this time I left it lumpy and it looked much nicer.  If you want to blend it though, have at it...


Sunday, 11 March 2012

Weekly Bake Off : Hokey-Pokey Coffee Cake

This week's Weekly Bake Off was a Hokey Pokey coffee cake. For those that aren't in the know (like me a week ago), Hokey Pokey is a praline made with nuts. The recipe specified walnuts, but I much prefer pecan nuts, and will use any excuse to eat them, so pecan nuts it was!

As with most of the recipes in the book, the cake was very easy to bake - another one bowl batter, and as my sanwich tins aren't quite 4cm deep, I used a bit less of the batter.

The praline was a bit more exciting - I made mine while the cake was in the oven, and was very nervous about it burning, but managed to get a lovely brown colour.

 Having watched people working with sugar and read quite a few blog posts with people's attempts at sugar craft, I knew not to stir the sugar/water while it was heating, and just swirled it in the pan.

Once it had turned the right colour, I tipped in the nuts, and that's the point where I wish I'd had a bit of warning about how fast the mixture would set - I barely had time to mix the nuts in and get them onto the greased baking tray before the sugar had completely hardened.

I had a few fun moments pulling long strands of sugar and thinking that it might be worth experimenting with some spun sugar in the future!

The cake was lovely and moist, with the nuts adding a nice texture, and the addition of the praline to the middle layer of icing was a very nice touch. This is definitely a cake to make when you want to impress someone (without too much work!)

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Miso Soup With Prawn Wontons

We went to the local Chinese supermarket the other day and I have to admit, I was like a child in a sweet shop, especially when I got to the sweet section.  Although I really wanted to try some of the weird and wonderful esoteric ingredients, I feel that the world is not yet ready for my Duck's Tongue and Pig Intestine Soup.

But whilst we were stocking up on huge bottles of Soy Sauce, Sweet Chili Sauce and Shrimp Crackers, I also picked up the ingredients for a few other things, including Pot Stickers, and with the left over wonton wrappers I decided to make this tasty little number.  It also has quite a few other bits and pieces that  you might have to visit an Asian supermarket, but my advice would be to go for it, pick something up you've never tried before and go for it.

Duck's tongues, I have since found out, have bones in them. 

The Soup
25g Dashi Power
1.2l Water
3tbsp Miso Paste
1tbsp Mirin
1tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
6 Bok Choi
2 Cloves Garlic
75g Shiitake Mushrooms

The Wontons
20 Wonton Wrappers
75g Prawns
5 Water Chestnut
2tsp Sesame Oil
2tsp Dark Soy Sauce
1tsp Minced Ginger 

1. Peel the water chestnuts, then chop finely.  Do the same with the prawns, and then mix in a bowl with the rest of the wonton filling ingredients.

2. Put 1 tsp of the mixture in the middle of each wonton wrapper.  With a pastry brush, wet the edges of the wonton wrapper, then gather the edges up to make little parcels

3.  Put the water in a large pan with the Dashi, Miso paste, Mirin, Soy Sauce and minced garlic, then bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.

4.  Chop the mushrooms and bok choi.  Add these to the soup.

5.  Put the wontons in the soup carefully and cook for a further 2 minutes and then serve.  Be careful not to burst the wontons putting the in or taking them out!  Enjoy

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Weekly Bake-Off : Pineapple and Cherry Loaf

I was initially a little dubious about this week's Weekly Bake Off recipe, perhaps because of the pineapples (I'm not sure why - I love pineapple!). For those who aren't big pineapple fans, I left mine as fairly big chunks, and still don't think I could taste them - I think they contribute moisture and sweetness, without being too acidic or noticeably pineappley.

Luckily I decided to stick with it and got everything together by Thursday evening when I had some nervous energy to burn off. Perhaps not the best of ideas as I managed to combine 2 different recipes by accident - I'd already made sure I had enough cherries for this recipe, and only needed to measure out the sultanas, which were bought on the way home. When weighing them out, I looked at the recipe on page 88 instead (Pineapple and sultana cake), and measured out far too many sultanas! Luckily the rest of the recipe is pretty much identical (except the Cherry Loaf has more cherries, so my version just has more fruit in it than either of Mary's). Having read some other comments about this recipe I wasn't fanatical about getting the pineapple dry before including it, and so my loaf turned out nice and moist.

I would definitely advise leaving this cake until the next day before slicing it - I couldn't resist and cut my first slice when it was still warm - it was delicious, but very crumbly, and benefits from sitting in the fridge for a few hours to firm up a bit.
Mr Soup is a big fan of fruit cakes - our first Christmas together his mother told me it was now my responsibility to make him his Christmas cake - she used to make him his own to take home! He really enjoyed this cake, and will be asking for it in the future.