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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

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Lentil & Spinach Soup with Harissa Croutons

Homemade chicken stock, and a bag of spinach. I foresaw a healthy dinner. I wanted it to have a kick, but I didn’t want it to be complicated, I simply didn’t have the energy. I had a tin of harissa, and I thought it would make a nice change to spice up some croutons and have them provide a lovely contrast in colour, texture and heat to a relatively mild lentil and spinach soup.

Lentils are ridiculously underrated. They are so tasty, earthy and dense, and work so well with spices, or as a supporting texture and flavour to other ingredients. There’s lots of types too, people describe lentils with offence, like they are describing one hideous smell to grace their table, the ingredient with B.O. as it were.

To those people I say pah! Praise the lentil, the puy and the red, the toor dal and the split pea. Adore them and cook them, nurture your body and soul.

Too far? Ok, back to the soup.

This was a great evening snack, comforting with some ooomph, and survived well for lunch the next day. I used about 1/3 of a baguette for the croutons (exactly 100g). This would serve 3/4, depending on how hungry you are;

Ingredients:

1 x 200g bag of baby spinach
100g split red lentils
1 banana shallot, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 mild green chilli, finely chopped
1.25l light stock, I used chicken but vegetable would be good too
1 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground or the equivalent in ground cumin
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp harissa
sunflower oil (or similar)
S&P
a squeeze of fresh lemon to finish
100g leftover good bread, cubed

Method:

Harissa Croutons:

Preheat your oven to 150 degrees celsius.
Combine the harissa and olive oil, and season with S&P.
Toss the bread in the mixture until coated well.
Toast in the oven for 20-25 minutes until crisp.

Lentil & Spinach Soup:

Saute the shallot until translucent over a moderate heat for 5 minutes or so.
Add the cumin, chilli and garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
Add the stock and the lentils and cook for 10 minutes or so until the lentils are cooked.
Add the bag of spinach, stir in to wilt, and turn off the heat.
Squeeze a little fresh lemon juice and season to taste and serve immediately while still a gorgeous green with the spicy croutons on top.

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This is not mushroom soup

Picture the scene. Sore tum. Poor abandoned house guest. Need for healthy food, and need to feed a vegetarian. Vitamin B sounds like a good plan, good for the nerves, good for the metabolism and enhances the immune system. Sounds like everything I need in my current fragile state. Afflicted with an angry tum which won’t accept any food without severe complaining and, forgive the detail, swift ejection.

The underrated mushroom offers bountiful Vitamin B and I just happen to have lots of them in my fridge. Large flat portebellini mushrooms, their gills exposed to the stars, and small coquettish button mushrooms, less bolshy in flavour, and bright white in complexion. I wanted lots of flavour, and lots of elusive umami in a vegetarian soup. I also wanted it to have a bright summer flavour, so decided I would serve it with some chive cream.

The mushrooms had to be as intense as they could possibly be, so I roasted 5oog of the portebellini, with a liberal splash of extra virgin olive oil, some chives and some good sea salt for about half an hour at 180 degrees celsius. Then I sauteed 200g  button mushrooms in butter with a couple of cloves of chopped garlic, added the roasted mushrooms and 500ml of a nice vegetable stock. This smelled intensely of mushroom, almost meaty, I was very happy. I whipped some double cream and added lots of chopped chives. I shredded a bunch of spring onions (green bits and white) and added them to the soup, to preserve that summer flavour amongst the rich deep mushroom one.

I tasted the soup, it was ready, and it was delicious. Some good bread was just toasted in the oven, rubbed with fresh garlic and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. It was crisp and fragrant.I reached for the blender and…

BOOM! The power went.

How annoying is that? It’s extra annoying as I am especially useless in these situations. I approached the fuse box cautiously flicking switches on and off, figuring it must have been the trip switch, which for the life of me I could not find. For those of you not in the know it is not a big red button labelled TRIP SWITCH – FIX EVERYTHING WITH THIS.

Damn!

Sigh. I called my flatmate, left her a voicemail, sent her a message, then went to appeal to twitter. But, no internet either. ARGH!

Headless chicken much? Just as I had reached the end of my rope, it came back on. It was a power cut.

But I had already given up hope, and had converted my soup to a rich mushroom bruschetta with chive cream. And it was very nice. So, the few hours I edged off the end of my life aside, it was a good result.

I’ll try the soup again another day.

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Savoury Pork Belly, Savoy Cabbage & Noodle Soup

Savoury Pork Belly, Savoy Cabbage & Noodle Soup

Sometimes, the very best dishes arrive as a surprise, twisted children of the products of our store cupboard and leftovers. It’s always a pleasure when something tasty and comforting arrives as a product of these rushed confections and today’s dinner was this.

Most readers are familiar with my pork belly obsession as are my friends, who are capitalising on this now. Of course I love cooking it for them, but it’s gone to the stage where I am cooking so much, I actually have leftovers! In truth, this is mainly because I am cooking a lot more of it, as I want it for sandwiches. I adored the pork belly sandwiches at Konstam, but I am not working nearby anymore and no longer get my regular fix.

Roast Pork Belly

(I’ve really got to exercise a lot more to compensate for this regular fat influx. What to do about the arteries? I use a lot of olive oil. That’s ok? Right? No? I’ll balance it with healthy veggie dishes, promise.)

So, today, I was faced with a mountain of roast pork belly. I’d roasted it in a light chicken stock with shallots, garlic, bay leaves and thyme and rubbed fresh ground star anise and sea salt into the flesh and crackling. So, what to do? Along with the pork belly, I had some gorgeous stock. I was speaking with a friend about how much it is used in ramen recently, so I thought, why not try a noodle soup?

Full of delicious umami, that savoury sense of ours, rich in meats, mushrooms and cheese amongst others, it was the perfect counter to a Winter’s day. Very quick and very easy to make, it’s a one pot wonder. Next time I make pork belly, or roast pork, this is going to be top of my list for the leftovers.

Ingredients:

650ml chicken or pork stock
150g shredded leftover pork belly
3 spring onions shredded
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1 inch ginger, finely chopped or grated
1/2 green chilli, finely chopped
1 tbsp soy sauce
4 leaves savoy cabbage, shredded
1 nest chinese noodles (I like shanghai noodles but any will do)
a light oil for frying like groundnut or vegetable oil
S & P

Method:

Briefly saute the ginger, garlic and chilli in the oil.

Add the stock, pork belly and noodles and cook until the noodles are almost done.

Add the cabbage and cook for a minute or so, so that it retains it’s bite and lovely bright green colour.

Add soy sauce and S & P to taste.

Serve piping hot garnished with the shredded spring onions.

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Pea & Ham Soup

Pea & Ham Soup

I have been going through a slightly obssessive ham and pea phase of late, buying fresh peas at the market and eating them in a variety of ways from speedy dishes like peas with parma ham, spring onions, fresh garlic and lemon, to last minute soups with bacon on top. Peas and ham are perfect partners in every way, from the flavour combination of intensely savoury hamand the sweet pea, to the coarse texture of the ham contrasting with the smoothness of the pea, and the colours, green and pink dancing in your bowl, begging to be eaten.

I had seen a Heston Blumenthal recipe in the Times Online, and was keen to try it, but knew it wouldn’t be a quick affair. As much as I love what he does, I am not sure I have his dedication or stamina, at least with time being so limiting at the moment, amounting to, at most a rare evening or a weekend day. This particular recipe was from The Hinde’s Head, his gastropub, so I thought, surely, it won’t be too intense? I have also eaten there before and really enjoyed it, so I decided to give it a go.

Pea & Ham Soup

How was it? If I had made the stock the day before it would have been very straight forward but doing it all the same day took alot of time. Especially as I started at 4pm. Was it worth it? Yes, every minute, I’d just organise it better next time. The stock was gorgeous, so savoury and I even got a secondbatch of stock from the bone, once I’d stripped the ham from it, I boiled it again with the fat that I wasn’t using, some suitable vegetables, herbs and peppercorns for a couple of hours.

The soup itself was a lovely bright green, with pancetta, ham and peas peeking through, very different to a traditional split pea and ham soup, it is much livelier, more fragrant and so very sweet. It was really substantial, bordering on a stew and would have been an ample main course.

I didn’t alter the recipe in anyway, so I’ll link to it rather than reproduce it. Enjoy!

Pea and ham soup – recipe from The Hinde’s Head, by Heston Blumenthal for The Sunday Times

Pea & Ham Soup