Archive for the 'Soup' Category

Pumpkin, chard & chickpea soup

sweet potato chard & chickpea soup

I sprained my ankle. It was not graceful (are they ever?), I was not drunk (contrary to popular opinon) and it was not a dramatic fall (kind of boring actually). I slipped on some leaves I was kicking- and no the leaves were not soaked in tequilla. It was just a cold Sunday evening and I was out for a walk with the food team and the next thing I knew I was grabbing my ankle in a dizzy sweat by the side of the road. I knew the instant swelling was not a good sign.

Working in a kitchen on one leg is not an activity I recommend doing at home. But this was a big filming week for us, so I knew I had to pull weight, quite literally. I spent the first day sat with one leg on the counter, julienning ginger and chillis. It was not graceful nor elegant- I’m beginning to think these two qualities are not applicable to my nature. So on day two I adopted a different approach- with the bad leg kneeled on a wheelie office chair I wheeled and wove around the kitchen, using my good leg to power me along. Effective, if not slightly luny. But lets just emphasize the effective part. Watch out people the bossy one is now on wheels!

sweet potato chard & chickpea soup

Making dinner after long days of high intensity wheeling is never going to be creative. Filling a bowl with soup I’d made a few days ago and heating it in the hotel microwave is frankly as good at it gets. But this soup is a pretty welcome tummy-filler after a long day working. It’s comforting for the belly and soul if not for the swollen bruised mass that I once referred to as my left ankle.

It’s full of veggies and a little bit of bacon- for uh, protein and flavour. You can leave it out if you wish, but I love the smokyness it brings to the soup. This is one of those soups that I think is best left sort of chunky. Actually, in all honesty the fact that the chard stems turned the liquid pinkish made me quite hesitant to blend it. What colour would it turn out? Plus, I find if I’m having soup for dinner it feels like more of a complete meal if it has some texture to it. So I puree’d a little, just to thicken then stirred through the chard leaves until wilted to serve.

So now that I’m sorted on the working and making dinner thing I’d really appreciate it if someone could provide me with ways to get me back running! The Director down here has been trying to convince me that eating potato chips will mend it nicely….now wouldn’t I love to believe that one!

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A RECIPE: Parsnip Soup

parsnip soup

The prospect of parsnip soup may not have you volunteering to do the washing-up after supper tonight or have you hovering around the kitchen like there’s bacon frying but if you could just spare me five minutes of your time (I mean you have only just arrived) then I will try to sway you otherwise. To me this soup is Christmas in a bowl- creamy, warm and wholly satisfying (still with me?). What makes it unlike Christmas? Oh, perhaps the simple fact that it takes only one single solitary pot (just one!) barely any chopping and a measly thirty minutes to literally throw together (twenty of which can be spent sat on the sofa writing your list for Father Christmas). So, perhaps what I should of said was parsnip soup = Christmas in a bowl – all the work + almost immediate satisfaction = why you should make parsnip soup. Now. It’s a simple mathematical equation folks.

If that hasn’t convinced you, bare with on this little diversion. My mum cooked a mini-Christmas roast every Sunday supper that I can remember and although the roast chickens, roast potatoes and gravy were always memorable- it was the bread sauce that was so frequently forgotten by my mum to make that we have always squabbled over. Well, we were probably also fighting about so and so sitting in so and so’s seat and how long so and so had hogged the computer but mostly, it was about the bread sauce and how much was on so and so’s plate. And though, the days of weekly roasts have passed, come Christmas, the wintry smell of this gruel like substance, which costs pennies to make wafting through the house still has me hovering in the kitchen offering a few too many seasoning-checks.

For those unfamiliar, (poor deprived souls) bread sauce is made using milk (or cream if your feeling indulgent) infused with onion, bay leaves and cloves- a delicately spiced concoction to which breadcrumbs are added to thicken the milk and to finish a knob of butter is thrown into the mix for good measure. It’s served hot as a royal accompaniment to roast chicken or turkey and for members of the Helm family it’s one of life’s greatest pleasures. This parsnip soup takes the same concept of infusing the milk, only the parsnips replace the breadcrumbs as the thickening measure. It’s also pureed smooth, so if it’s the porridge-like texture that scares you about bread sauce then here’s one less off-putting factor (I’m fighting for you hard on this one!). The milk makes it creamy but not too rich and a touch of sweetness from the parnsips adds a whole new dimension to the mix. And if you’re still not sold go back to paragraph one- this is a one-pot Christmas, with all the timmings and you can still turn it into curry the day after.

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A RECIPE: Turnip soup

Smooth and creamy

I was a little late off the mark this year. All winter I complained bitterly of the cold, longed for the days when I could pluck tomatoes off the vine again and yet for the first winter in the history of my memory I didn’t make soup, at all, all winter, no soup. What was I thinking?! I don’t even know what I ate for lunch all these months in the back of the garage-style work kitchen, with the doors wide open and the cold air blazing in- but i’m sure it wasn’t soup. Of course last Saturday presented the first true day of spring as far as the sun was concerned (running outside in a tee-shirt- hurrah!) and there I was finally making a decision to post a soup recipe.

So, I’m feeling rather short changed because it was really only a mere three weeks ago that my soup craze started and very swiftly onwards I’ll be putting the pans away and searching my cupboards for a salad bowl. In truth, it wasn’t even me who kicked off the soup mania but a colleague of mine, Allen, who happens to be quite masterful in soups and sauces production. We had ordered turnip greens for a cooking segment and had ended up with a bag of turnips (and when I say bag, I mean 50 some turnips). And so we made soup. Lots of turnip soup, and then this led to potato, corn chowder, chicken and vegetable, cream of asparagus and wild mushroom- just to name a few. I’ve been slurping soup everyday- sometimes twice a day, trying to make up for all this lost time and I still have stacks of containers in my freezer!

It was the turnip soup out of all of them though, that really caught my attention- mostly because I’d never eaten it let alone thought to make it. I was instantly captivated by it’s pure creamy white colour, it’s delicate smooth texture, it’s indisputably alluring scent of butter…..

You see, Allen trained in France and so his soups tend to be of the more luxurious genre and less of the weight watchers. When I stood, mouth gaping at the block of butter he was about to add to the pan he looked back at me quite officially and said: “If you want to eat a salad, eat a salad.” I suggested as kindly as I could muster that maybe, he could cut the amount in half-“I’m not too keen on making a trip to the morgue today for death by butter. Reluctantly, he removed a small part of the butter and so it was, turnip soup a la buerre- and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Winter outside, summer inside

America is a country of extremes- they just don’t do things by half, it’s all or nothing. Portion sizes are huge. When you order a muffin you’ll get a muffin large enough to feed your entire family, and some. At an event I went to last summer they weren’t selling meagre chicken drumsticks but deep fried turkey legs- the length of my arm and the circumference of my thigh. I was told a taste of one of these cave-man-like delicacies makes a person weak at the knees. What I didn’t ask was whether the knee weakness was due to the clogged arteries preventing blood flow to the brain or because they tasted so unbelievably good. I’m going to hope that it’s the latter but assume that it’s the former. But it’s not just size that is extreme or obscene (you decide) that I’m thinking about. Right now, as I’m sitting in my apartment in a sleeveless tee shirt and shorts with the widows open in the middle of January I’m thinking about extreme temperatures. It’s freezing outside. Apparently it’s going to get even colder and this is just the effect of global warming. But meanwhile I’m sitting in my sauna/apartment desperate for some cooler air so that for just once I might be able to go to bed and snuggle-up under my duvet without perspiring like the man controlling the turkey fryer. I was expecting to feel this kind of heat in the summer- but this included getting a tan. I shouldn’t complain, as I don’t pay the heating bills- it’s all controlled by the landlord. But I know that come the heat of the summer I’ll be sat inside in my sweats and fleece- lined coat with the windows open trying to get warm. It just doesn’t make sense to me. It makes deciding what to cook for dinner a challenge. Outside I want a hot bowl of soup, warming and filling. When I get home I want salad finished by cooling bowl of ice cream. This soup is winter warming but with the addition of cooling avocado and tomatoes on top it feels more summery. If the tomatoes are really poor, then use whole tinned, strained from their juices.

Spinach bean and chorizo soup
The Italians cook something similar to this called Ribolata- but I’m not Italian, nor am I an expert in Italian cuisine, so I’m sure that you’ll find this very different to anything you’re used to. This serves 6-8 depending on how accustomed you are to American portions.

100g/4 oz chorizo, chopped
1 large onion, diced
3 large carrots, diced
3 celery sticks, diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
8 ripe tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and chopped
450g/1 lb spinach, washed and tough stalks removed, chopped
1.3 litres chicken stock (good quality is better)
2 x 400g tins cannelloni beans
½ loaf of stale ciabatta, torn into 1inch chunks
8 crispy slices of proscuitto, to serve I find it easiest to do this between sheets of paper towel in the microwave)
1 avocado, diced, to serve
2 tomatoes, diced, to serve

1 In a large pot, fry the chorizo until crispy, remove from the pan, leaving most of the fat (this has a lot of flavour in it so use in place of oil). Slowly fry the onion, carrots and celery in the pot, covered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes and garlic, cover and cook for a further 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2 Add the spinach, stock and beans, bring up to the boil and let gently simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Add the chorizo back into the pan along with the ciabatta and cook to heat through. Serve in large bowls topped with the crispy proscuitto, diced avocado and tomatoes.

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