Article
2 comments

Recipe: Potato and Leek Soup with Bacon and Kale

Potato & Leek Soup with Bacon & Kale

Potato & Leek Soup with Bacon & Kale

I have quite a few Christmas recipes up my sleeve, but lets take a break from the chocolate, the alcohol and the spice, and think about a comfortable Christmas lunch for the days before and after the crazy indulgent one. I am thinking soup, and who doesn’t love soup? Nourishing and soothing, soup is what I reach for when I am ill, or when I need comfort. Oh, and toasted sandwiches too.

I love an elegant simple soup but I like to spike these with some flavour bombs and textural contrast. Bacon and kale sit on top of this creamy dense soup and provide perfect flavour pops. I crisp the kale a little in the bacon fat too. I promise that even the most grey, most grim days will be redeemed with this.

Before I crack on with the recipe, a few things! I was thinking of launching a reader recipe request feature, what do you think? Are there any dishes that you have always been keen to know but didn’t know where to start? Let me know! I am also tweaking the site at the moment, adding new features and changing the design. The current design is temporary while I work on the site features. The changes are long overdue but I am doing it myself, so it is taking a little time. Your feedback here would be immensely valuable if you could take the time.[Read more]

Article
4 comments

Rice Soup with Chorizo, Pumpkin, Kale & a Poached Egg

Chicken and ham broth with rice, pumpkin, chorizo, sage and a poached egg

Chicken and ham broth with rice, pumpkin, chorizo, sage and a poached egg

I don’t like telling you what to do, but on this occasion, I must. It is almost the weekend, and it is very much Autumn, so what I need you to do, is to go out and buy a couple of raw chicken carcasses (most butchers will have them, and failing that 500g chicken wings), some ham bones, if you can get them, or a ham hock. You see with these, and some veg, you can make a sublime broth which will keep you in gorgeous soups for the week, as I have done. I just needed soup and lots of it.

A home made broth is wonderful, far surpassing any commercial pretenders. Even those home made ones you see in shop fridges will not have been made with the love and care that yours can be made with at home. Love and care brings flavour, and health, and joy. I am insisting that you give this a go.

A good home made stock will have clear strong flavours, but it is gentle too, and only ever supports what you add to it, it never dominates. Shop bought stocks, especially the cubes, always do. It is an effort, but making a big batch when you have the time is very rewarding, the bulk of the work lies in waiting for it to be done.

There are many things you can do with this stock. A steaming mug of it on its own brings great pleasure and sustenance. With shredded chicken, leftover or not, some spring onions, some coriander and some chilli, you have a vigorous bright chicken soup, with a ham backbone. It also freezes well. [Read more]

Article
27 comments

For What Ails You: Aromatic & Hot Chicken Soup Powerhouse [Recipe]

Chicken soup for what ails you - but not as you know it! [Recipe]

Chicken soup for what ails you – but not as you know it! [Recipe]

So, I told you all about my curry eggs cold smasher the other day. Yes, it is a cracker, but it didn’t smash my cold quite as quickly as I wanted to. So, there was nothing for it, I had to call in the reserves: chicken soup, with a twist.

There is scientific evidence that supports the notion that chicken soup is in fact Jewish pencillin (as it has always been said to be). It tastes great too and is not too traumatic a recipe for when you are poorly, as long as you have a chicken in the house. I didn’t but a friend kindly brought one round for me and so I was set. [Read more]

Article
12 comments

Recipe: Prawn Tom Yum Kung (a vibrant and delicious Thai soup)

IMG_5331

Pichit and the Prawn Tom Yum Kung that he taught me to make

I have returned to London for a short stretch, and minutes off the plane it seems, I have contracted the brutal head and chest cold that has been taking London down. I was doing so well, I have not had one cold this winter.

For relief and to fight it, I need something simple, firey and potent to blast the germs out. I also need something cheerful and bright. My life is full of lemon, honey & gingers. I now also need to introduce Prawn Tom Yum Kung soup.

IMG_4808

Ingredients for Prawn Tom Yum Kung

This recipe is another from Thailand from my class at the cooking school at the Khlong Lat Mayom floating market. This is an authentic recipe and is full of flavour. I think it is also the perfect thing for a cold. There are two ways of making it, one is clear and one is milk with some more firey heat. In Thailand they use tinned milk which is quite sweet and lighter than coconut milk.

IMG_4799

Thai blue river prawns

I am going to work on a coconut milk version, and for now share the recipe for the clear soup, which is adapted from the recipe taught to me by Pichit (in the photographs). I had to change the recipe a little to adapt to the size of our prawns and the availability of ingredients, but the taste is very similar to what I had in Bangkok and still very good.

Note on the recipe: we used giant blue Thai river prawns. I would suggest the best raw prawns that you can find. Cooked prawns will just cook further in the broth and become leathery.

You might also like to check out my recipe for Thai Seafood Green Curry from the same class.

IMG_5328

A slightly blurry photo of the finished soup in Bangkok – it was insanely hot and steamy there and I was just about holding it together towards the end :)

Recipe: Prawn Tom Yum Kung Soup [Read more]

Article
12 comments

Recipe: Chicken Broth with Prawn and Chorizo Meatballs and Herbs

Recipe: Prawn & Chorizo Meatballs in Chicken Broth with Herbs

Recipe: Prawn & Chorizo Meatballs in Chicken Broth with Herbs

When I am in London, my time is pretty packed. Catching up on meetings, working, organising everything (I need a PA!). My weekend are precious and often work filled. When I can, I will snatch a Saturday and cook.

I have a ritual on those Saturdays, some things I really like to do and that I find very relaxing. I start with a coffee and a newspaper in one of my favourite local cafés, then I trot to the farmers market to gather some bits. Always much more than intended, for it is full of delicious things.

This week: purple and green kale, raw honey, lots of free range eggs (which are much cheaper here than at the supermarket), a lovely plump chicken, chicken wings, and deer bones. It is eclectic, all the food comes from good places, and really, it is quite cheap if you choose well.

One thing I always bring back, either from the market or my local lovely butcher, are chicken carcasses, or failing that chicken wings. From these I concoct a large red pot of delicious stock. Rich and gorgeous, it will pepper my weekly meals.

This week I got 6 chicken carcasses (no wings) and roasted them to brown and extract the sticky delicious schmaltz (tasty chicken fat), both go into my stock pot with diced carrots, garlic, carrots, celery, shallots, bay and thyme. I then tuck into the paper and let it simmer. It is one of my favourite ways to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Having this pot of liquid gold on hand throughout the week leads to delicious and very quick meals that tell tall tales of long cooking and exertion. Of course, there was long cooking but that was days ago, and today I reap the rewards of a fabulous soup.

You may have noticed that I love mixing creatures in a meatball. I just love a tasty meatball or pasty. On this occasion I mixed raw prawns with some soft chorizo. I also add some breadcrumbs which lighten them. Because it is so rubbish outside, I must lighten my bowl too, so I added fresh chilli, parsley and spring onion.

Now I am calling it a meatball, but being more of a meatfishball it has a different texture, being primarily prawn. Lovely though, and it brings a little character and interest to a simple bowl of broth. Lots of protein too, and not a lot of fat.

Enjoy and let me know how you get on with it.

Ps. there is ginger in the bowl in the photo, which doesn’t exactly go, but I have a poor tum and ginger is terrific for it. The recipe is better without it so I have excluded it below.

Note on the recipe: You can use hard cured chorizo too but just make sure it is pulsed fine in your food processor, and it if it is not binding because it is dry, also add an egg. This isn’t necessary with soft chorizo. This recipe is much easier with a food processor.

Recipe: Prawn & Chorizo Meatballs in Chicken Broth
[Read more]

Article
8 comments

Evening Standard Column: Lentil Soup with Harissa Croutons

I love proper bread, bread that has been allowed to develop properly and not been rushed through a commercial process. I think sourdough is my favourite.

How I really love bread is not in a slice or in a sandwich. I love it as an ingredient with other things, to thicken soups, in Italian panzanella or pappa al pomodoro, and especially as a crouton or fried. I really love bread fried in pork fat. Big slices, little chunks. I’ve burned my tongue on them far too many times. (I will never ever learn). Naughty I know, but really delicious.

Croutons are incredibly versatile, they are just the perfect vehicle for many things. Whatever you want really! So, in this weeks Evening Standard recipe, I have pimped my croutons with some delicious homemade spicy harissa. I love serving this with a red lentil soup. The simplicity and rustic nature of the soup is a great counter to the spicy, crisp harissa croutons.

The recipe for the soup & croutons is on the Evening Standard.  I have included the harissa recipe (from Comfort & Spice) here.

Enjoy!

Evening Standard Column: Lentil Soup with Harissa Croutons

My Harissa Recipe

To make homemade harissa, roast a red pepper over a gas flame until black all over. Place in a plastic bag and allow to cool. Peel and blitz with 4 red chillies, deseeded, 1 tbsp toasted and ground cumin seeds, 2 garlic cloves chopped, 1 tbsp red wine vinegar and 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Season with sea salt.


Article
2 comments

Recipe: Borlotti Bean & Broken Pasta Soup

Whenever I travel, it’s inevitable that I bring back random ingredients to play with when I get home. My cupboards are rammed with randomness, so much so that I nearly knocked myself out when something came hurtling at my head on opening the cupboard door earlier. I appreciate that even the idea of this creates stress for a lot of people, but I love my Aladdins Cave cupboard full of random delights.

Last week in Croatia I picked up lots of curious things including three brands of paprika (I want to see what they’re like starting with some goulash experiments soon), a big bag of dried corn kernels that I bought from an old lady at Pula market, and lots of fresh borlotti beans from another old lady who grew them in her garden.

Fresh beans? Why? They’re not easy to come by in the UK and I love them. When I do find them they’re quite expensive. Fresh borlotti beans are succulent and firm, with lovely flavour. They require no soaking, and in relative terms cook quickly. Housed in a bright pink pod they are speckled and cheerful. It’s such a shame that they lose their pink blush as they cook. They are wonderful in the traditional Italian pasta e fagioli, and perfect for any little soup that you might throw together.

When last in Italy I bought lots of random charcuterie, including some guanciale. Guanciale is cured pig cheek and has the most delicious flavour, probably as it is mainly fat! It’s the preferred cut for carbonara, but I also love it in a minestrone soup.

So, this soup was born. A bright, cheerful winter soup with beans, veg, guanciale and broken pasta. Rather than get specific soup noodles I just broke some spaghetti into small chunks and that worked really well.

Now, you might be thinking ‘is she mad? I can’t make that! I can’t get dried corn or fresh beans, and what is this guanciale she is banging on about?’. Don’t worry, you can substitute and I will tell you with what. Or, give it a go, and stick whatever you have in your veg box in. Use your favourite beans and pasta shape and go with it. It’s just a soup after all.

And by the way – the dried corn was really worth the effort, it’s delicious!

Recipe on iVillage: Winter bean and broken pasta soup

Article
19 comments

Recipe: Spritely Halloween Pumpkin Soup with Lemongrass, Chilli & Ginger

Pumpkins are not just for Jack O’ Lanterns or pumpkin pie. No sir! Pumpkins are utterly delicious. You may remember my recent pumpkin & pecan mash on this blog. This time I have turned the humble – and cheap – pumpkin into an aromatic dish for Halloween.

Now, don’t be afraid of pumpkin. They look big and intimidating, but roast it in quarters with the skin on and you can scoop lovely soft flesh out which is perfect for soup. Not only is this the easy way, it is also the best for flavour, the water evaporates off and you are left with something far more pumpkin-y than before.

Lemongrass, with its gorgeous citrus high notes, is wonderful with pumpkin. Some chilli is required for a Halloween soup – it has to be a little scary – and to round it all off some lovely fresh ginger. If you haven’t used lemongrass before, worry not. It’s also easy when you know how and is very easy to source these days too in most supermarkets. Simply peel the outer rough leaves – usually about two – and shred finely.

Now, if you’re ever feeling poorly, this soup – minus the chilli – will do wonders for your tum. It’s very gentle and soothing and the lemongrass will pep you up, although maybe reduce it to one lemongrass stalk. Pumpkin itself is an anti-oxidant powerhouse and is rich in B vitamins too. If you are watching your weight, pumpkin is very low in calories. So, it is a winner all around, wouldn’t you agree?

Recipe on iVillage: Spritely Halloween pumpkin soup with lemongrass, chilli & ginger | iVillage UK

Article
1 comment

Video: Making Fiddlehead Soup & Pickling Fiddleheads (Canning) in New Brunswick, Canada

So, we picked the fiddleheads and washed them (as per the video in my last post). We then brought them back to O’Donnells Cottages and made a delicious fiddlehead soup for lunch. We preserved some of the rest and took a jar back home with us. I am saving mine for dirty fiddlehead martinis. Yes you did read right,and yes, isn’t that genius? I got the idea from a lovely lady in New Brunswick.

Apologies for the camera flash in the middle of the pickling video, I didn’t spot it until I rendered it and am struck down with a chest infection so can’t face doing it again.

Hope you like!

Article
3 comments

A Recipe: Gammon & Cabbage Soup

I am not much in the mind for cooking, that is new, and possibly a bit worrying. I cook so much now for others, with a full day of prep, followed by 2 days at the market, and two 16 hour days in a row at that, that I find I have little enthusiasm for cooking for myself at home. Call me jaded.

I do however, crave something really healthy. My body is battered and I feel a bit weary. I also want to hide out at home and eat here.  It has been a very challenging month. Something quick that I can make that sings of hearty full flavour, that will settle my tum, and soothe my frazzled senses. It sounds like I need a good solid soup.

But, what soup? I am not really in the mind for something complicated, I want it to be fresh and wholesome. I am thinking back to my pea & ham soup that I made for the market on Thursday, and sadly forgot to photograph! The absence of my DSLR is making a very bad blogger of me. I am so disappointed with the results from my old point and shoot, I find that I am demotivated on the photographic front, so until I replace it and get my mojo back, please forgive the crap photos.

Back to the soup, it was very good in my humble opinion, and as an Italian customer said, it had the essence of the pig. You really can’t beat a good soup at this time of year and this one  is one of my favourites, made simply with Irish ham hocks, lots of fresh veg for stock, and an abundance of peas, nestled in a gentle and translucent onion & garlic base.

But, what for now? Sadly, I have no ham hock or peas so I can’t recreate. I do have some fantastic leftover gammon, savoy cabbage, lentils and lots of vegetables. That sounds like a soup to me! It also sounds comforting and nurturing, which is just perfect for today. And a little naughty with that glint of salty ham. I don’t want to be too good after all!  I love that it’s that fabled Irish combination of bacon & cabbage, that we were all raised on, like it or lump it. I lumped it at the time, and hated the sulphurous odours emanating from the kitchen, however, I have matured into a bacon & cabbage loving lass, so bring it on.

So, this really is not posh or glamorous, but it’s good home cooked food. There’s lots of body from the lentils mingling with chunks of ham, ribbons of cabbage, and the occasional sweet carrot.  It’s frugal, it’s tasty and I’d wager that it’s healthy. I served it with some home made croutons made with seasoned day old bread fried in oil until crispy. Perfect.

Makes enough for 4. Tuck in!

Ingredients:

1 small onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 fresh or 2 dried bay leaves
1.5l good stock, ham if you have it, chicken otherwise
300g red lentils
300g chopped cooked gammon (can substitute bacon)
Small head of savoy cabbage (can substitute other greens), shredded

Method:

Saute the onion and carrot in olive oil over a medium heat until the onion is translucent.
Add the garlic and saute for a further 30 seconds.
Add the stock, the lentils, bay leaves and the ham. Cook for 15 minutes or so until the lentils are mushy.
Remove the bay leaves and add the cabbage.
Cook for a further 5 minutes until the cabbage is just soft but still a lovely green colour.
Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Serve immediately with good crusty bread or croutons

Article
27 comments

Salsify & Roast Garlic Soup

Salsify & Roast Garlic Soup

Salsify is a most underrated vegetable. It’s ugly, and it’s awkward. It’s like a stroppy teenager that refuses to wash. It’s not much fun to prep and goes off colour really easily. Dark brown and holding onto every bit of dirt, I had some ground into my palms which took so much scrubbing, I  think I’ve lost some layers of skin. It requires a lot of TLC. Putting it mildly. 

So, why bother?

Once  you crack it and this shy vegetable shows you it’s smile, you can’t help but fall in love with it. Tender and delicate, it’s often referred to as the oyster of the vegetable kingdom as it’s reported to have a similar flavour. I find it a little nutty, and so I like to pair it with roast garlic, which I think compliments it well. Once you take the beast that is garlic with some firm roasting, so that it relaxes and releases a sweetness, it holds hands with the salsify in this soup, and they become the best of friends. They don’t overpower each other, it’s a very delicate soup.

This aside, I wanted this to be a robust little soup, thick with lots of flavour, and I really wanted it to be healthy too. So, I added lentils and a carrot and a potato, along with the base shallots. I used a light chicken stock but you could substitute vegetable if you would like a vegetarian soup. 

This would serve 4 very healthy portions. Nice with good crusty bread.

Ingredients:

700g salsify, unpeeled
1 bulb garlic
2 large shallots or 4 small, finely chopped
2l light chicken stock
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
100g red lentils
2 bay leaves
a few sprigs of thyme
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Olive Oil for frying
S&P

Method:

Scrub, scrub, scrub that salsify. Peel, taking care not to strip too much of the skin. Chop into one inch sections and leave in acidulated water (water with a squeeze of lemon), so that it doesn’t discolour.

Roast the garlic. I like to roast at 180 degrees, it takes about 20 minutes. Slice the top off a bulb of garlic, exposing the top of each clove and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Roast and allow to cool, then squeeze each clove out of it’s papery jacket. I adore roast garlic. It should really have a post all of it’s own.

Saute the shallots in the olive oil until translucent. Add the carrots and potato for a couple of minutes. After, add the stock, bay leaves, thyme, garlic cloves, lentils and salsify.

Bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the salsify is tender. Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaves and blitz in a blender. Season to taste with salt & pepper.

Serve with some thyme leaves as a garnish. I added a swirl of olive oil but cream would work really well too.

Enjoy!

Article
7 comments

Onion & Thyme Leaf Soup

The Ballymaloe Cookery Course is a fantastic book containing 1175 recipes, 370 variations and more than 100 basic skills from staple recipes that are quick and easy, to master recipes with twists to change them and more complex challenging dishes. There are many irish recipes and international recipes also, it’s more a culinary bible than a book and would be well placed in any kitchen. It is written by Darina Allen, the co-founder and one of the teacher’s at the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Cork, Ireland. She’s the Irish answer to Delia Smith and a promoter of slow food and traditional cooking techniques. The cookery school is famous and has been the first step for many in a culinary career. It’s located in the middle of its own 100-acre organic farm outside Cork City, in an idyllic location near the coast.I am offering this cookbook as part of the prize I have donated for Menu for Hope 4 so, I thought that I should cook something from it to show you how lovely it is. I have chosen something very simple and quick as I had very little time yesterday. It was delicious, very rich and flavoursome, a perfect winter soup. The devil is in the detail as always, covering the potato and onion with the paper while it sweats really concentrates the flavour, be sure to do it. I used a chicken stock but a nice rich veggie stock would be great with this too, I just used what I had to hand.

Ingredients:

Serves 6 approx

450g (1 lb) chopped onions
225g (8oz) chopped potatoes
45g (12oz) butter
1-2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper
900ml (12 pints) homemade chicken stock or vegetable stock
150ml (3 pint) cream or cream and milk mixed, approx

Garnish:
fresh thyme leaves and thyme or chive flowersMethod:

Method:

Peel and chop the onions and potatoes into small dice, about 1 cm.

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. As soon as it foams, add the onions and potatoes, stir until they are coated with the butter. Add the thyme leaves, season with S&P.

Place a paper lid (I used baking paper) on top of the vegetables directly to keep in the steam. Cover the saucepan with a tight fitting lid and sweat on a low heat for 10 minutes or so. The potatoes and onions should be soft but not coloured.

Add the stock, bring it to the boil and simmer until the potatoes are cooked – about 5-8 minutes. Liquidise the soup and add a little cream or creamy milk. Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary.

Serve, sprinkled with thyme leaves.

For information on how to donate and enter a raffle to win this book, please see the Menu for Hope – Raffle announcement & prize post.

Article
7 comments

Something Halloween-y – Pumpkin, Celeriac & Chilli Soup

Happy Halloween! I love festive occasions, any excuse for a bit of fun and a party. Halloween was one of my favourites as a child. We were always on mid term break and so had ample time to fashion costumes, from, *cough*, the most humble of substances. Witches costume from a refuse sack? No problem! I blame Bosco (all you Irish readers can nod your head).

Pumpkins were never something we could get our hands on in the wilds of Waterford, so we use to raid the local sugar beet fields and fashion jack-o-lanterns out of them. I wish I could communicate using words the foul stench of burning sugar beet, but we persevered and carried them from house to house. There was a big band of siblings, cousins and neighbours that would march for a mile or so, stopping at the sporadic houses, singing in 3 parts everything we knew – stuff from TV (yes, Bosco), school, church, you name it. We didn’t want monkey nuts, we despised them, just money or sweets please, thank you very much. It’s a wonder they answered the door to the refuse sack clad, sugar beet wielding, singing children on a dark and cold Halloween night!

So, what did we eat? Sweets, lots of them. I’ve kept up that tradition here today, I’ve eaten way too many jelly snakes and percy pigs, but it had to be done. There was also apple bobbing, and putting a grape on top of a pile of flour and nudging the flour without knocking the grape… and lots more I can’t remember now. Certainly not pumpkin anyway, but as an adult, I eat alot of it this time of year and today is one of those days.

So, criteria for a halloween dish? Preferably pumpkin-y, should be spicy, and orange would be good (pumpkin helps!). I am not at home tonight so settled on a halloween lunch of pumpkin and celeriac soup with chilli which I made last night for today.

Pumpkin & Celeriac are a great match. Both really good for you too, pumpkins are full of beta-carotene, potassium, vitamin C, calcium and fiber and celeriac is rich in vitamin C, phosphorus & potassium. Their texture in soups is wonderful, so smooth. Chilli is great with pumpkin, it livens the flavour and adds that spice we want. Any pumpkin or squash will work, preferably an orange fleshed one, butternut squash, onion squash or pumpkin are great. I add red split lentils to thicken the soup and to provide some protein, garlic and onions as a base, and some good light stock, vegetable or chicken are great. This is a really quick soup and takes care of itself as most soups do. I am a bit greedy when it comes to soup and am like a pig at the trough swilling bowl after bowl, so, it’s difficult to estimate portion sizes but I would think that this would serve 6 normal people.

[Read more]

Article
7 comments

Carrot, Coriander & Lemon Soup

Summer is here! At long last! Sun, sandals, walks along the South Bank, maybe even some picnics. And last night a bright summery soup. This soup is so bright and cheerful, a twist on my usual carrot & orange inspired by an indian dal. I toyed with the idea of adding a tarka (spices tempered in oil added to a dal before serving) but decided the simpler and lighter the better. Lemon and coriander work so well together, as do carrots & coriander so I thought this should work, and it did. I like lemon, but I don’t like it to overpower so I added just a couple of tablespoons, you may want to add more or less – I suggest you do to taste.

Ingredients:

300g carrots, peeled & sliced
100g split red lentils
1 leek, halved and sliced
1l vegetable stock
a handful of coriander
juice of half a lemon

Method:

Sauté the leeks for a good ten minutes or so over a low heat.
Add the carrots, I like to sauté these for as long as possible to intensify the flavour, 10 minutes would do but I left them there for 30, sweating away with an occasional stir.
Add your stock and lentils, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the coriander and púree. Season to taste with S&P and add the lemon juice to taste.

Article
6 comments

Butter bean, red lentil & rosemary soup

Another quick lunch was required and I fancied some wholesome soup. I wanted something healthy so lentils and beans sounded good. I had also recently pilfered some rosemary from a friends garden so wanted to put that in. I toyed with the idea of making a chorizo, tomato, red pepper & butter bean soup but I’ve been eating so much chorizo lately that I thought that I should give those poor Spanish pigs a break, they’re probably having nightmares about me. I did use Spanish beans though, the giant Spanish butter beans – Judion de la Granja. These are huge white butter beans, quite creamy in texture. They can be hard to get and pricey so feel free to replace with butter beans, it will still be very nice, I just like using different ingredients and the drama of the large beans. If you do want them El Navarrico do them in jars and you can get them in most Spanish deli’s. You can also get them dry at Brindisa in Borough or Exmouth Market in London. Garcia’s in Notting Hill sell the jarred ones as do most Spanish deli’s, this just happens to be the one I know well.

Back to the soup. It’s important to use a good stock here. The soup is quite brothy and the stock delivers much of the flavour. You can use chicken or vegetable and preferably homemade. Mine was vegetable made by boiling some carrots, garlic, cloves, celery, leek, rosemary, just bits I had in the fridge really. As long as you think the veg will complement the veg in your soup it will work well. Stock requires alot of veg so make sure you use plenty. Alternatively, just be sure to use a good shop bought stock. The recipe follows. [Read more]

Article
2 comments

Courgette & Sweetcorn Soup

I haven’t been feeling very well recently so haven’t been cooking. Today I started again with something very gentle, almost medicinal, a really tasty courgette and sweetcorn soup. Both main ingredients are reasonably delicate and result in quite a creamy soup which is a pleasure to eat and perfect for tender tums. It’s also seasonal so the ingredients are at their best having grown naturally. I have a really lovely book which I have had for over 10 years and which has travelled with me from Ireland to London and through my many house moves since – The Kitchen Pharmacy by Rose Eliott & Carlo de Pauli. Both authors have great credentials, Rose Eliot is a renowned vegetarian food writer and Carol de Pauli is the Principal of the Institute of Traditional Herbal Medicine & Aromatherapy and the Director of the British and European Osteopathic Association. Their book associates specific foods with ailments and offers recipes for these which if nothing else provide comfort. You are what you eat, a cliché but so true. For a few years, if this were explicitly true, I was in danger of turning into a bag of crisps!

Having already decided to buy a big bag of courgettes at the market I decided I’d take a look at the Kitchen Pharmacy and see how courgettes might benefit me and, sure enough, they have cooling, anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties in your intestine which makes perfect sense considering that I am recovering from a nasty intestinal infection. Your body does remember foods and other ingested items and what it likes and it doesn’t like. I think my poor tum remembered how nice courgettes were to it before and requested them. Incidentally, this is why, sometimes when something doesn’t agree with you you find out the second time you eat it not the first. I was once a physiologist (I have a degree in physiology) and know this to be true but to my shame the precise scientific detail escapes me now.[Read more]

Article
33 comments

Roast butternut squash, coconut & chilli soup

This isn’t a quick dish like my normal Monday-Friday dishes. It takes a little time as I like to roast the butternut squash. Roasting intensifies the flavour and leaves a beautiful sweet syrup on the roasting tray which I put in my soup. I also add chilli and herbs when roasting it which on it’s own makes a lovely side dish. Any pumpkin/squash will do, I just happened to have a butternut squash. The smaller the better, the smaller ones have a better flavour, large pumpkins tend to have more water. We cooked a giant pumpkin some years ago and while it was great fun and a challenge to use all of it, it just didn’t have that lovely sweet flavour of the smaller ones. I would love another one though. A friends neighbour grows them on his allotment. It was so big it had to be delivered in an old cement bag, it wouldn’t fit in a normal refuse sack. And we only got a quarter of the pumpkin that time.

This is a very comforting and warming soup. I made it up using what I had to hand so think I’ll tweak it in future iterations. I think some lemongrass would work well for example…

Roasting the butternut squash

[Read more]

Article
1 comment

Pasta with potato, red lentil and pumpkin

Pasta with potato, red lentil and pumpkin

It’s been a few days since I’ve posted anything but I’ve got a few things to post from the weekend. I’ll start with a pasta dish that I made yesterday, one of my comfort food favourites. I tend to make this by eye and by tastebud, adjusting it as I go so feel free to be flexible with the recipe. My mood also affects it, sometimes I like it very soup-y with alot of stock, other times I prefer the pasta to be the star of the show. Yesterday was a pasta day!

I got the idea for it many years ago when I visited Italy with some friends, one of whom was a local. I got many ideas that holiday, we had some wonderful food, much of it cooked by my friends boyfriends Dad whom we were staying with. It was my first time having homemade pumpkin gnocchi and proper neapolitan mozarella di bufala. It was out of this world. You just don’t get that mozarella anywhere else and I have tried very hard to find one that matches it. The shopkeeper that sold it used to travel to the farm at 4am every morning and if I remember right used to sell out by lunch time. The slices of mozarella were like big, juicy mozarella steaks. It was also my first time having pasta e patate, which was a revelation! It’s now one of my favourite dishes much to everyones amusement, me being irish and the dish consisting mainly of potatoes, sigh. It’s a favourite for sick days and hangovers especially, it’s like eating a cushion for your stomach :)[Read more]

Article
8 comments

A Spring take on minestrone

The weekend just past was filled with trips to farmers markets in an attempt to buy some sprue asapragus. Unfortunately, all trips were unsuccessful but I did get some great produce in the shape of onion squash, baby carrots, mixed wild mushrooms, garlic chives, shallots and white & green asparagus. Next week, I’ll get down there earlier and get the sprue before it sells out! I am very happy with my haul though and can’t wait to tuck in and start experimenting with all of these goodies.

Having spent the day wandering I wanted something quick, light and tasty last night using some of my farmers market goodies. I decided on a pasta soup using the young carrots and squash as main ingredients. It was delicious and light and is definitely one to reproduce over the summer using seasonal vegetables like broad beans and peas.

The recipe is a rough guide, add more or less of ingredients according to your preference, it’s really flexible.

Ingredients:

170g macaroni
100g red lentils
750ml vegetable stock
200g Squash or Pumpkin
2 carrots
2 large shallots or 3 small ones
1 clove of garlic
a hanful of fresh flat leaf parsley
garlic chives – 2 stalks
Olive Oil

Method:

Sauté the shallots in olive until translucent. Add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds.
Dice the carrots and squash and add to the garlic and shallots. Sauté for about 4-5 minutes taking care not to burn the garlic.
Add the stock and lentils and simmer for 5 minutes or so.
Add the macaroni and cook for 10 minutes or so until al dente.
Stir in 2/3 of the parsley.
Serve in big bowls with the rest of the parsley and some chopped garlic chives as a garnish. Be warned, the garlic chives are extremely garlicky! I love them but if you are not a big fan of garlic use a small amount or use spring onions instead.