Thursday, 27 September 2012

Home-made Sausages (Adventures in Meat Grinding)

So it was my birthday at the weekend.  Whereas normal people get Xboxes or new shirts, Mrs Soup bought me a sausage making machine.  When I tore the wrapping paper off the box, my slightly girlish shrieks of joy probably woke the whole street up!  As well as the meat grinder itself, there were also a pack of sausage skins and a book of sausage recipes, methods and tips.

I've always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with the humble banger. I absolutely love good sausages, but in my student days I used to eat a lot of bad, cheap and nasty sausages, so I tend to think of greasy, nasty, 90% eyeball type sausages, instead of the juicy, meaty things that we all know and love.
Just think of the possibilities...
As far as the cost of shop bought, good quality (80 or 90% meat) versus doing it yourself, how does it work out?  Well, once you have bought the machine (and as it was a present, I didn't ask how much it cost, so you may have to do that particular bit of research yourself, or ask Mrs Soup...) it's not too bad.  A lot of pork sausages in particular use belly or shoulder, which isn't too expensive.  This first batch made about 1kg of sausages for around £4.50. which is pretty good value for money.

As well as the value issue, there is also the benefit of knowing exactly what goes into your sausages - even some 90% meat sausages can contain various things like connective tissue (whatever that is... personally, I'm not all that bothered, as a big fan of offal to start with, I'm not too squeamish about what bits of an animal I eat)  As I used a whole cut of meat, this sort of thing isn't a problem.
*****History Factoid*****
In World War II, sausages weren't rationed, but there was no minimum meat content set by the government, which lead to the scarce meat being bulked out with bread, as well as shredded newspaper, sawdust and other unsavoury things. Offal was similarly 'off-ration.
The sausages were also very tasty, fun and pretty easy to make, and also, now I have the kit, my mind is racing with the possibilities for future fillings - black pudding, haggis, offal-based sausages are all within my grasp!  My first batch, however were some pork sausages with a little spiciness to add a kick...

Spicy Sausages
1kg Pork Shoulder Joint
1 Onion
75g Breadcrumbs
5 Garlic Cloves
15g Salt
2g Black Pepper
2g Cayenne Pepper
4g Thyme
1tbsp Tabasco Sauce

1.  Cube the pork joint, and then pass through the mincer and into a bowl.  This was the first fun stage of the process - there is something primal about doing this - I imagined myself as both Sweeney Todd and a kid with a play-doh machine as it oozed out of the grinder!

2. Mix in the breadcrumbs, and other dry ingredients. Finely chop the onion and mix this in as well.  Cover the bowl and leave to marinade overnight.

3.  Now comes the fun bit - putting the filling into the sausage casing.  The stuff I had was dry, but some skins need soaking first.  Another thing was, until this point, I hadn't realised there were different sizes of casings.  Mine didn't quite fit over the nozzle of the sausage machine...  However with some jiggery-pokery (and with the help of Mrs Soup) I managed to get the filling flowing into the casing.  And surprisingly, it didn't go all 'Generation Game' but was quite easy - although I reckon it's a two-man job, at least until I'm a bit more practised at it.

4.  Twist the sausage into links and then put in the fridge for an hour or two before cooking (I froze some at this point as we did make 1kg)

5.  Fry and eat! They smelled so much more meaty and delicious than any shop-bought sausages I have ever encountered!  I served mine with the traditional mash and thick, rich and tasty onion gravy.... Enjoy!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Leek and Bacon Soup with Squash Dumplings

It's raining!  It's cold and wet and miserable.  Welcome to Soup Tuesday, where we have soups for every occasion, to suit every taste  and whatever the weather, there always be something hot and tasty on the stove!

Today's soup has it all!  Bacon! Interesting vegetables!  Dumplings!  Un-necessary exclamation marks! Continuing the the theme of conjouring something up from the vegetable box which is delivered every Tuesday morning, we have Squash dumplings, made from a rather pretty Harlequin Squash, which, ummm, seems to be pretty much the same as a butternut squash but a bit paler flesh and with green bits on the skin.

Roasting the squash with a bit of ground coriander made the whole kitchen smell amazing all morning, and the resulting dumplings are a bit more like gnocchi than the sort of dumplings I usually make (of the suet variety).  I think these squash dumplings would go well with a tomato sauce and lots of basil and parmesan.

Squash Dumplings

350g Squash
300g Plain Flour
50g Butter (Frozen)
1tsp Baking Powder
1/2tsp Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Oregano
1/2tsp Ground Coriander
Pinch Chili Pepper
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil 

Leek and Bacon Soup
100g Bacon
2 Large Leeks
1 Large Onion
1 Large Potato
1.2ml Chicken Stock
100ml White Wine
1 Sprig of Rosemary
Salt and Pepper

1.  Heat the oven to 200ºc. Peel and cube the squash, Put on a baking tray with the Oregano, Coriander, Chili, salt and pepper and olive oil.  Place in the oven and cook for 30 minutes, until the squash is golden.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

2.  Finely chop the onion, peel and dice the potato and cube the bacon.  Heat some oil in your soup pan and then toss in the bacon, letting it fry for 2 minutes before adding the onion and potato.  Let that fry off for 3-4 minutes, until everything starts to colour.

3.  Add the stock, wine and finely chopped rosemary.  Bring to the boil and then add the sliced leeks and then let the soup simmer for 20 minutes

4.  Break up the squash in a bowl with the back of a fork.  Sieve in the flour, nutmeg and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Grate the frozen butter in and mix into a firm dough.  You may need to add a little more liquid to get the dough to the right consistence to roll it up.

5.  Roll it out into a strip that's about 3cm wide, and then cut into 2cm thick pieces..  Cover in flour and then set aside.

6.  Add the dumplings to the soup and let cook for another 8-10 minutes, then the soup is ready to serve.  Enjoy!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Chocolate Gateau with Rum and Hazelnuts - Happy Birthday Mr Soup!

Happy Birthday!
Today is Mr Soup's birthday, and in celebration we are having a slap up meal (in true Soup Tuesday style we're making it ourselves). Mr Soup is in charge of the meat as he'll make a much better job of it than me, but I am making pudding.

Now, everyone knows Mr Wallace is a big fan of the pudding, and when I saw his 'Favourite Puddings' book, I knew there would be some fantastic puddings in it, so onto my Amazon wishlist it went. Shortly after it landed in my Christmas stocking, and it's now our go-to for special occasions (the Soup Parents had rum-and-raisin ice-cream (p150) when they came round for dinner to much admiration!)

So when choosing a dessert for this evening, I handed the book to Mr Soup, and told him to pick whatever he wanted, and to my surprise (I was expecting something like a sticky spongey warm pudding), he went for a chocolate gateau with run and hazelnuts p84) (supposed to be walnuts, but I'm not a fan!).

Cheesy 80's sci-fi movie in the background.
The recipe was quite straightforward and in true Wallace style was absolutely delicious! The only thing I wasn't sure about is that the cake didn't have any cocoa in it, so came out quite a bit lighter than I expected. The icing more than made up for it in chocolateyness.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Russian Kale Soup with Smoked Sausage

Well, the nights are drawing in and I've noticed a lot of people saying it's Soup Season.  Well, guess what, here at Soup Tuesday, it never stops being soup season.  I never seem to be one for seasonal dishes anyway.  I eat stews in the middle of summer and salads in the snow.  It's all good to me.

However, what I do enjoy at this time of year is the later crops that arrive, like turnips, swede, big carrots and dark cabbages.  Today's soup involves just one of these, but it's my favourite!.  As I'm on a bit of a crusade to make soups from the more un-loved soups, I remembered when I was a kid and my favourite dish was Steak and Kidney pie (Still is my favourite actually) and my Mum would always serve it with a type of cabbage that I just can't seem to find anywhere any more - it had dark green leaves like a savoy, but was smooth, and had a taste that was almost bitter.  If anyone knows what variety it was, or even where to get my hands on said cabbage, I would love you for ever and dedicate a soup to you...

In lieu of that cabbage, I am including Kale in tonight's soup, which is a hearty winter warmer to get you in the mood for longer evenings, snow drifts and mince pies in the shops (I know they are already there, which is good news, bring on Xmas...)  Kale is pretty simialr in taste to the cabbage I remember from being a kid, and I know that its flavour is not to everyone's taste, but I like it as it has the strong, almost bitter thing going on, and is a prefect complement to the smoked sausage that goes into the soup as well

1 Onion
1 Large Bunch of Red Kale
200g Smoked Sausage
1 Tin Tomatoes
1 Tin Borlotti Beans
3 Cloves Chopped Garlic
1tsp Chopped Fresh Rosemary
1tsp Chopped Sage Leaves
1.2l Chicken Stock
Salt & Pepper

1.  Heat some olive oil in your soup pan.  Gently fry the  finely onion, garlic, rosemary and sage for 3-5 minutes, until the onion starts to colour

2. Add the tomatoes and stock, then bring to to boil

3.   Finely shred the kale, removing the stalks, and add this to the soup, as well as the beans and 2/3s of the sausage, cut into cubes.

4.  Bring the soup to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes, until the kale has completely cooked and softened.

5.  Slice the remaining sausage and fry this in some oil until it starts to brown.

6.  Check the seasoning of the soup, serve in warm bowls with a couple of the fried sausage slices on top.  Enjoy!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Weekly Bake-Off : Cappuccino Cake

Cake, we've missed you!
After a summer-holiday induced hiatus, we're back this week with the Weekly Bake-Off! This is a Good Thing, as there had been a couple of comments at work about it being a while since there had been cake!

As I'm now cycling to work, and a ride on a bike is not particularly conducive to cake-staying-togetherness, I made this on Tuesday evening to take in on the bus on Wednesday (after my Orange Wednesday movie night I prefer not to cycle home). The recipe for this week was Cappuccino Cake (p20), and it was very easy to throw together on a work night - the mix was made all in one bowl, and baked in 2 deep 20cm tins (I only have 1 deep tin, so did 2 batches, but I think just making 1 deep cake and slicing it would have worked as well).

I'm not a big fan of cream for icing, but decided not to mess with the recipe - and am very glad I didn't! Flavouring the cream with coffee (no sugar added) made for a light, tasty, slightly bitter (to offset the sweet cake) icing without the heaviness I normally associate with cream cake. The cake itself was light and moist - this might become my go-to chocolate sponge recipe in fact.

Mr Soup is more of a savoury man but even he absolutely loved this cake - when I was getting ready to take it to work I was told to leave 2 slices for him! Everyone at work enjoyed it too - a very good introduction back into the Weekly Bake Off routine.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Turnip Soup with Bacon and Rosemary

Way back in the mists of time that was 2010, I was spurred on to write this blog by a few things.  One of them was a desire to have my name up in lights on t'interwebs (still waiting for that to happen...) and the other was two soups I made in the cold depths of winter that made me think 'Hey, soup is awesome, but it's not sexy like cupcakes, thai food or bacon, it needs someone the be it's champion.

So, like some kind of brothy St George, I vowed to take up the cause, riding off into the jaws of the internet armed only with a wooden spoon and a desire to spread the good word about soups, broths and (maybe) consommes.  I was looking through the blog, reminiscing about the good old days, when I realise that the two soup recipes that had provided the catalyst  for Soup Tuesday never even got written up, consumed, as I was, by the desire to find newer, more amazing soup recipes and add balck pudding to them...

So here is a version of one of those soups (the other shall remain shrouded in mystery until nearer Christmas, when I shall unleash it upon you in all it's cruciferous goodness....)

Turnip is a sadly under-rated vegetable, along with it's yellow cousin the swede.  Lo and behold, one turned up in this week's veg box, so I thought I'd make it into soup, like I did all those months ago pre-blog.  I also dragged the bread maker out to make some crusty bread to go with it - one day I shall graduate to making 'proper' bread, but to be honest today I just couldn't be bothered.

Anyway - turnip soup, made much more exciting by the presence of bacon (is there anything it can't do?) and some home grown rosemary, plus a cheeky splash of white wine, all adds up to lift this soup way beyond what you would expect from a soup made out of turnips...

450g Turnip
1 Onion
3 Cloves Garlic
200ml White wine
150 Smoked Bacon
1l Chicken Stock
30g Butter
2 Sprigs of Rosemary
1 Bay Leaf
Salt and Pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese

1.  Finely chop the onion and garlic.  Heat the butter in your soup pan and fry gently until the onion is starting to brown.

2.  Add the wine and stock, rosemary stalks and bay leaf, season and bring to the boil.

3. Add the chopped turnip and bring the pan to a simmer.  Cover and leave to cook for 30 minutes, until the turnip is good and soft.  Take off the heat and leave to cool

4.  Remove the bay leaf and rosemary.  Blend the soup until smooth (pass through a sieve to remove lumps if you want to soup to be nice and creamy)

5.   Cut the bacon into small cubes or strips and fry until they are nice and crispy..  Meanwhile, reheat the soup, checking and adjusting seasoning as you see fit

6.  Serve in warm bowls and sprinkle the bacon cubes and Parmesan on top.  Enjoy!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Stocafi and Barbajuans - Olympic Food Challenge : Monaco

This is it, the last ever Olympic Food Challenge entry, I promise.  Now the challenge is over, the Olympics and Paralympics are over and done with, I can give up thinking about sport until Brazil 2016!  But not cooking...

Monaco!  The name conjures up images of glamour and riches - Grace Kelly playing contract bridge with Oman Sharif on a yacht whilst a Grand Prix happens in the background.  

When researching the dishes for this entry, I came across a website that had descriptions of Monaco's cuisine  and found this brilliant entry...

  "CHAMPAGNE:- This is the national drink enjoyed by the people of Monaco."
If that doesn't sum up Monaco, then I don't know what does!  Anyway, we present two dishes today to go with your champagne.  The first is Stocafi, which I apologise in advance for as I couldn't find an actual recipe, just a description, so I based the dish a little bit on Stoccaffiso and Bacalau.  I'm using Salt Cod for this recipe, not Stockfish, which is much more dessicated and needs quite a bit more cooking than the Salt Cod.  Bare that in mind if you attempt this dish at home...

Also tonight, we made Babajuans, lovely little deep fried canapes that we washed down with champagne (erm, well cheap cava anyway, but I did pretend I was chatting to Donald Trump about off-shore investments as I ate them, instead of watching Doctor Who...)

Also, Monaco set 6 competitors to London 2012, but they failed to win any medals - presumably because they were all having affairs with models on yachts whilst drinking fancy cocktails.  Also, has anybody ever been to Monaco and can they confirm if my vision of it as a sybaritic paradise?)


Stockfish / Salt Cod
6 Large Tomatoes
3 Cloves of Garlic
1 tbsp Capers
1 tbsp Black Olives
1 Red Chili
1 Bay Leaf
120ml White Wine 

 1. Place the stockfish in a bowl and cover with cold water.  Leave to soak for 24 hours.
2.  Remove the stockfish from the water, give it a rinse and pat dry with kitchen towel, then cut the fish into 5cm squares

3.  Fill a pan with water, bring to the boil and then blanche the tomatoes for 1 minute.  Then skin, de-seed and chop the tomatoes

4. Pot some olive into a pan and then add the chopped garlic cloves and chili, let cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the tomatoes, wine and bay leaf.  Let this cook for 10 minutes, until the tomato starts to break down and make a nice rich sauce.  

5.  Add the black olives, capers and fish and cook for 7-10 minutes more, checking the seasoning and adding a bit more salt and pepper as you see fit.  

6.  Once the fish is cooked through, it is ready to serve.  Boiled potatoes with a bit of butter and some freshly chopped chives make a good accompaniment.  Enjoy!

2 Tbsp onion (chopped finely)
2 Tbsp leek (chopped finely)
Tbsp olive oil
Handful spinach (finely shredded)
A couple of leaves swiss chard/cabbage (we had Cavolo Nero,finely shredded)
2 1/2 Tbsp ricotta
1 Tbsp parmesan (grated)
1 egg white, beaten to soft peaks
salt and pepper to season
wonton/dumpling wrappers (I know it's a cheat, but we had some in the freezer that needed using!)

1. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan.  Add the onion, leek then gently sweat for 5 minutes or so, until everything is nice and soft, then add the spinach and chard and cook for another 3 minutes

2.  Put the vegetables into a bowl and add the ricotta, parmesan and beaten egg white, then mix all together, season to taste and leave to cool for a bit.
3.  Put  a teaspoon full in the middle of each dumpling wrapper (or make some dough and cut out 6cm rounds instead) and then fold over to make semi-circles and press down the edges.
4.  Heat some cooking oil in a pan and then deep fry the barbajuans in batches of 4 or 5 so they don't stick together in the pan.  This should take 3-5 minutes, until they are golden brown
5.  Serve hot or cold, preferably with Champagne.  Enjoy!

Friday, 7 September 2012

Soupe Djiboutienne - Olympic Food Challenge : Djibouti

Just when I thought it was all over, they pulled me back in... It seems that not all the countries allocated to the various bloggers as part of the Olympic Food Challenge got completed, so there were some going spare.  I put my name in the hat and got two further countries to have a crack at.  The first is Djibouti and because this is a soup blog, I'm making a soup! (Well, I say soup, but this dish is more stew than soup.  It's delicious whatever you want to call it though)

Djibouti (and every time I type that I'm thinking 'shake djibouti' for some reason) sent 5 athletes to compete at London 2012, but sadly failed to win any medals to add to their grand total of 1 Bronze, won in Seoul in 1988.

A lot like the soup I made for Tajikistan, this is a no-frills affair.  No spices, no frying of ingredients or browning meat, not even any stock, just throw everything in the pan and cook it for ages.  When I find a recipe like this, I'm always caught between following the recipe as is, or adding, changing and generally tinkering, but when it came to the Olympic Food Challenge, I decided to try to keep as much as possible to the original recipes, as adding too much myself seemed to be going against the spirit of the thing.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Cabbage and Caraway Soup

 I was planning this soup as a nice winter warmer, but now it's unseasonably warm...  Anyhoo - this week I was away at a wedding, and no, I didn't cry, but I did get rather drunk and sing and dance until I felt creaky the next morning.  So I resolved to get more healthy (which, on reading some old posts I seem to do a lot, yet I'm still not healthy.  Maybe it's a problem of willpower not diet?)

In the veg box this week was some lovely cabbage, which seemed to be ideal for forming the basis of a healthy soup.  Now cabbage soup always seems to get a bad reputation, either as the basis for another fad diet, or as a symbol of poverty (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has a lot to answer for there...) or as a symbol of perceived Eastern European austerity.

Not pictured - 3 caterpillars that crawled out of the cabbage...

When I was thinking about cabbage, two things came into mind, one was bacon, which always livens up a dull vegetable (or anything else to be honest...) and caraway.  I have recently fallen in love with the humble caraway seed, after getting into bread making a bit (well, with the help of a bread making machine - it's not cheating is it?) and caraway seeds make fresh bread even tastier.  I love the aniseed-y flavour, so I thought, why not throw it all together and see what it comes out like.

As it happens, the soup was rich and filling and the caraway smelled so nice when the soup was cooking I was drooling all afternoon.

So think cabbage soup is boring?  Give this a whirl and see if it doesn't change your mind...

Recipe after the jump