Thursday, 1 November 2007

Spicey roast butternut squash and sweet potato soup

Another soup... But this was a good one so I feel the need to put the recipe up... I know it looks like quite a lot of ingredients, but everything is very easy to find in shops in and markets. And all those spices give it a really nice deep, rich flavour which is very comforting!

What you need is:

1 Butternut squash (you could also use a small - medium pumpkin)
2 - 3 Sweet potatoes, depending on their size
3 - 4 Carrots, depending on their size
3 Onions
3 cloves of garlic
1 - 3 red chillies, depending on their heat and how hot you want it
A piece of ginger the size of your thumb
Lemon grass (optional)
Thai (red) curry paste
A tin of tomatoes
A tin of coconut milk
1.5 litres of stock (chicken or vegetable)
A bunch of fresh coriander
A few springs of rosemary
A few pinches of dried ground coriander
A few pinches of sweet paprika
A couple of bay leaves
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Roast pumpkin seeds (optional)
Greek yogurt (optional)

Heat the oven to 200 degrees.

Peel the carrots and sweet potatoes, and chop them into 2 cm wedges / chunks. Chop the squash into a similar size.

Put some olive oil in a baking tray and heat in the oven. After a few minutes, put in the chopped veg and arrange in an even layer. Tuck in sprigs of rosemary, and season with salt, pepper, and paprika. Bake for about 30 minutes until they're looking likely they're almost getting blackened in the corners, and feeling soft and tender.

Meanwhile, chop the onions, garlic, chilli, and ginger, and sauté in a large pan. Add the Thai curry paste and dried coriander, and keep softening on a medium heat. Don't let anything brown too much. 'Bruise' the lemon grass and throw that in if you have it. When the onions are soft, add the tomatoes.

When the roast veg is ready, add it to the pan, but leave out the rosemary if possible. Then mush it all a bit, as if you were making lumpy mash. You want some of it to b very smooth, and other bits to be chunky.

At this point, add the coconut milk, and stock, and bring to back to the boil. You don't need to use all the stock if you like it thick and you think it has reached the right consistency.
Let it simmer for 5 minutes or so, while you chop the coriander, and warm some bowls.

Check the seasoning, and then stir most of the coriander.

Serve with a some yogurt spooned on top, and a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds, and some more coriander. Add some crusty bread on the side and you have a fine meal in front of you to warm you right through on an Autumn day!

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Earl grey tea

I've just realised that earl grey has the same qualities as the stock in Bun Bo Hue.

Despite it being 5.40, and me having spent the last hour and twenty minutes feeling bored and lethargic, I feel great now. I've only had three sips.

Bon Bo Hue

Got in late yesterday evening after a trip into central London... Not much food in the fridge and no inclination to cook. That wasn't a problem though, as thankfully I live above a fantastic Vietnamese restaurant which serves very good food, very quickly.

I've eaten from this restaurant many times now, and it is consistently brilliant, but Anyway, the particular dish that inspired me to write this post was their excellent Bun Bo Hue. (This picture isn't their Bun Bo Hue, by the way, it's a picture from Wikipedia. Their's looks a lot better, and you get a larger portion.)

Bun Bo Hue is a wonderful noodle soup dish, made with lots of fragrant herbs and mild spices, which makes it a bit more flavorsome than the classic Pho noodle soup.

The reason I wanted to write about this dish was because as I was slurping away, dipping prawn crackers in to help fish out bits of juicy round noodles or chunks of chicken, I thought about my last post, and the power that soup has to heal the soul!

The thing I really like about Bun Bo Hue, and Pho, and any good, well made soup, broth or stew is the stock. But the stock in South East Asian soups in particular seems to have a real purifying quality to it to me that sets it apart.

I guess it has something to do with the goodness that comes from deep within the bones and shells of the meat or fish, and the vitamins and nutrients within the lemongrass, galangal, and other herbs and vegetables.

This stock is both clear and delicate in it's 'weight', yet rich and intense in flavour. It's crisp, yet multi-dimensional, sharp yet has notes of sweetness. it has a spiciness, yet is smooth and never bracing. And it's warm and comforting.

Essentially it has all the qualities of an inviting personality. Except maybe the 'smoothness'. You don't want your soup ending up like Des Lynam.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Heavy weekend = hearty soup

Bit of a heavy weekend this weekend...

And that normally means that Monday night is a night for a wholesome, hearty home made soup, packed full of seasonal veg and pulses.

Tonight is no exception, and I've been waiting for just such a night to try out one of the fabulous autumn recipes that were featured in last month's issue of OFM. I think it will be a variation of the Spinach and Chickpea Soup, although I'm going to use Kale instead, as I have plenty in the fridge... Just picked up plenty of smoked pancetta too which should make it taste all the more wonderful.

If you're interested, my usual recipe for wholesome minestrone as as follows:

Two onions
Two large carrots
One stick of celery
At least two plump cloves of garlic
A couple of courgettes
One potato, chopped into small cubes
half a small savoy cabbage
one tin of cannelini, flageloti, or black-eyed beans, drained
a handful of small past shapes, or broken up spaghetti pieces
a litre of veg stock
olive oil to finish
A parmesan rind (optional)

There is no science to this, just chop all the ingredients into similar size pieces, then sweat off in a large pan, starting with the onions, celery, and carrots (which I believe is called a sofritto, and is the basis of many Italian soups and stews), then the garlic, then the courgettes, and potato.

Once they have softened, add the stock, and boil for 20 minutes or so. You can add the parmesan rind at this point too if you like - a tip I got off Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, that gives the soup a nice, deep flavour. Add the cabbage, cut into strips, and the beans, and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Check the seasoning, and serve drizzled with a little oil, and chunks of crusty bread.

If that doesn't make you feel healthy, nothing will.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Coming up next...

Thought I would add a note to remind myself about what I intend to post about next...

My blackberries - foraged from a hedgerow of Dorset's Jurrassic Coast. What will there fair be? They're currently adding a nice zing to my muesli in the mornings.

Fig and gorgonzola salad.

Pear and blue cheese salad.

Whitstable. Maybe.

Recipe Number Two...

Three months in and only three posts... Not a great start.

But I do have some excellent recipes to post after all the great things I have eaten.

I'll get one down quickly, and once again it's the recipe for the left over lunch I just ate - Fennel and Broccoli Risotto - Mmmm! Here's what you need (serves 4 - 6):

1 large onion
1 large bulb of fennel (chose one with lots of leaves at the top)
2 sticks of celery
2 fat cloves of garlic
a handful of parsley
a small handful of celery leaves
a small handful of chives
500g of risotto rice or regular basmati at a push (white rice is better really)
a large knob of butter (about a fifth of a pack)
a glug of olive oil
two litres vegetable stock
half a glass of vermouth (optional)

finely chop the onion and celery, and soften in a pan with the olive oil, and some of the butter on a medium/low heat. crush the garlic and ad to the pan after a minute or so. Cut the leaves from the top of the fennel and cut the bulb into 5mm sliced from top to bottom. Add to the pan when the onions are going slightly translucent. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook for another few minutes, then add the rice, and stir around to get all the rice covered in the juices. At this point you can add the vermouth (or white wine if you like) and let the rice absorb as you stir. From now on you want to be stirring almost constantly - you need to stir constantly in order to break the rice down a little and release the starch that gives risotto it's lovely creamy texture.

Gradually add the hot stock, one ladle/cup at a time, waiting for it to be absorbed before you add the next, stirring as you go. This is going to take anything between 20 and 30 minutes at least... It depends on the rice. Occasionally when I make this, all the stock gets used up and I'm left having to add more boiling water to get the rice tender and the risotto the right texture... I suppose this happens if you have the heat too high...

In between stirring, chop all the herbs finely, including the fennel and celery leaves. When the rice is soft and the individual grains are beginning to break down, you're pretty much there... However , keep the heat on low, and keep stirring. The idea is to be stirring right up into you are serving the dish. I like a thick, creamy consistency (as they have it in northern Italy, I believe).

Stir in the rest of the butter and the herbs, check seasoning. Serve a spoonful per person, topped with a drizzle of good olive oil and a few sprigs of fennel, on a large plate as an accompaniment to fish or maybe even grilled lamb. It's also absolutely great on it's own, eaten from a bowl, as pure comfort food.


Thursday, 19 July 2007

The first recipe

I imagine many of the posts on this blog will be recipes. I'll try to keep them as seasonal as possible, however, it's likely to be a run down of what I'm eating, what I've eaten the night before, or what I'm going to eat for my evening meal that night.

Right now I'm eating leftovers from the night before last when my dad came over for dinner. It was a bit of a feast... we had Merguez sausages with roast vegetable cous cous, grilled haloumi, yoghurt dressing, plus greek salad and bean salad on the side. Desert was English strawberries and high-end ice cream, so all in all, a damn fine meal for a warm summer evening. Particularly washed down with a few cold Coronas.

Roast vegetable cous cous with grilled haloumi and yoghurt dressing

I had some of the cous cous, haloumi and dressing left over from the meal, so that is lunch today. It's a great accompaniment to merguez sausages, which you'll be able to get in any decent butcher. It's so simple you don't need a recipe really, but here's what you'll need and what I did:

A cup full / big handful / half a mug full of cous cous per person (I guess about 100g?)
An aubergine
A red pepper
2 courgettes
A dozen cherry tomatoes
A small bunch parsley (optional)
The juice of 1 medium lemon
Olive oil
salt and pepper

A block of haloumi cheese

Half a large pot of non-flavoured bio yogurt
the juice & zest of one lime
Salt and pepper

Chop all the veg (except tomatoes) into large chunks, and roast in for 20mins at 180c.
Meanwhile, chop parsley and herbs, zest & juice lime and add to the yoghurt. Season.

Pre-heat grill or grill pan. Slice haloumi into o.5 cm slices, and toss them in a little olive oil in a mixing bowl. Grill for 3 mins on each side.

Cook cous cous as instructed (I cover it with boiling water, then leave it for five mins before 'fluffing it up' with a fork). Halve the tomatoes, then add them, along with the roast veg to the cous cous. Add the lemon juice, a few decent glugs of olive oil, the parsley and season well.

Serve with warm pitta bread and grilled merguez sausages for a main meal, or on their own as a light lunch.


*I'm not very good at measuring stuff... But with this sort of thing, you can't go wrong.

**I also have a picture of my lunch which I'm going to add here if I get around to it... If it looks half eaten, that's because I was hungry and forgot to take a pic before I dug in.