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.