Archive | September, 2012

Vegetable broth (and croutons if you want them)

21 Sep

It’s clearly the beginning of the soup season. The days are cooler, and the evenings are outright cold. Yesterday it rained and rained and rained all day. Today it’s still cold, but it’s gloriously sunny and I’ve already got two loads of laundry merrily blowing on the whirligig line.

It’s not just nature that is going through a period of change. My life is also changing. Quite dramatically really.

A couple of weeks ago I moved house. I had been living in two places: a lovely wee colonies flat in Leith, in Edinburgh, through the week and in the Clyde Valley with my boyfriend, the Captain, at weekends. Each Friday after work I would travel west to the Valley and the each Monday morning I would travel back east to the Capital. At one level I had the best of both worlds: the city life (and all the benefits of living in a truly wonderful capital city) through the week and then the joy of having a relatively big garden and being surrounded by fields at the weekend.

But in all honesty it was no longer my dream. My dream was to live in one place, and to know that I would have the right accessories to go with whatever clothes I put on in the morning. All too often that perfect necklace was in the other house.

So just after this year’s festival was over I packed all my worldly belongings into boxes and moved out west. And here I am. Sitting in the garden room, looking out onto the garden and across the Clyde Valley. The clouds are just beginning to blow in, and the trees are starting to lose their lush green. Autumn is definitely in the air. So it’s most definitely the season for warming soups.

After yesterday’s smooth carrot soup, I wanted something chunkier today. And I had a hankering for pearl barley. This the perfect soup for using up whatever veg need to be used. Today it was turnip, carrot, potato and leeks. Oh and savoy cabbage, which didn’t really NEED to be used, but I wanted it.

Anyways, here goes, another simple recipe to see you through the Autumn and Winter.

Vegetable broth with croutons

Vegetable broth

  • A splash of oil, or a smudge of butter
  • A couple of leeks, washed of dirt, then sliced finely
  • A carrot, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • A medium potato, peeled and cut into the same size(ish) chunks
  • Turnip, peeled and cut into the same size chunks – I used a piece about the same size as the potato, maybe slightly larger
  • A handful of pearl barley
  • 1 1/2 stock cubes (veg, lamb or beef work well)
  • A few big outside leaves of savoy cabbage, the central spine removed and sliced finely
  • Parsley
  1. Put the oil/butter in the bottom of a large heavy based pan over a medium/low heat
  2. Put a kettle of water on to boil at this stage
  3. Add the leeks, the carrot, the potato, the turnip. Just add them as you chop them up, they don’t all need to go in at once
  4. Sweat the veg for a few minutes, stirring to stop them from sticking/burning
  5. Add the pearl barley and stir
  6. Add a good few grinds of black pepper and the stock cubes and a wee bit of water, just to wet the pan, and cook for a further minute or two
  7. Add the kettleful of water, stir, and bring back to the boil
  8. Simmer for about an hour, till the whole thing is looking thick and gloopy and the barley is soft
  9. Add the savoy cabbage and cook for a further 5 minutes or so
  10. Serve with a sprinkling of chopped parsley. It doesn’t need croutons, but I couldn’t resist them.

If you have any bay leaves throw one or two in while it’s simmering, and if you have celery in the fridge, then cut some up and add it all in with the other veg. Somehow, I never seem to have any celery around though.

Croutons

  • Whatever’s left of an old loaf of bread
  • Olive oil
  • Celery salt
  • Black pepper
  • Herbs and Spices (I have a harissa style spice mix, with chilli, garlic, coriander and who knows what else)
  1. Cut the bread into thick slices. Then cut each slice into long batons. Then cut each baton into chunks. They don’t need to be precisely the same size, but it’s best if they are similar sized chunks
  2. In a big bowl, pour some oil around the sides of the bowl so it dribbles down into the bottom of the bowl. You don’t need a lot, but enough that the inside of the bowl is coated in a thin film of oil
  3. Now sprinkle in your chosen flavours – I grind lots of black pepper, then a sprinkle or two of celery salt, followed by a good skoosh or the harissa spice mix
  4. Now through in the bread chunks and gently mix it all around. A
    good squidgy spatula is the best implement for this. What you’re trying to do is to give all the bits of bread a chance of absorbing a wee bit of the flavoured oil. The chunks should not all look soaked in oil, although some of them might. But really, you’re trying to make this with as little oil as you need
  5. Pour the coated bread into a baking tray and pop in a very low oven
  6. I leave it for about 45 mins in an oven at gas mark 2. But this is not a precise recipe – check on the croutons and take them out when they are ready – they will have taken on a slightly golden colour and will be slightly crispy (they crisp up a bit more as they cool down).
  7. Sprinkle in your bowl of soup, or serve them in a pretty bowl so people can help themselves. If you have any left keep them in an airtight tub for a few days.

Please don’t use good fresh bread for these – the bread will be much nicer just served in chunks with the soup. But if you have the heel of a loaf left, just take 5 minutes to make these and then you’ll have them ready for next time you have soup (which surely won’t be long away).

Carrot soup

20 Sep

I say ‘carrot soup’ but really this could be any root veg soup. But seriously this is the easiest thing in the world to make. If you can cut with a knife you can make this soup.

Pimped up carrot soup

Before you start I should fess up. It’s not strictly a carrot soup, as I add some lentils to it – to give it a bit of body and also add some protein. If you want to omit the lentils do, and it will be ready much quicker too. But I’d be tempted to throw in a wee sprinkle of flour and mix it in before adding the water, to thicken it slightly.

Carrot soup

  • 1 large onion, chopped as best you can
  • about 6 medium/large carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
  • a dash of oil
  • 1tsp or so ground coriander
  • about 1/3 cup red lentils
  • 1 Knorr chicken stock cube
  1. Using a heavy bottomed pan, splash the oil into the bottom of the pan and ‘sweat’ the onion and carrots over a gentle heat.
  2. At this point you should put a kettle full of water on to boil
  3. Add the coriander, the lentils and the stock cube and continue to cook for a few minutes, stirring well to prevent it burning or sticking to the bottom of the pan
  4. Pour the kettleful of water into the pan, and bring to a simmering boil
  5. Simmer for about 45 minutes
  6. Pour into a liquidiser and zizz it up till it’s beautifully smooth
  7. Serve – feel free to glamorise it with some yoghurt and/or a sprinkle of parsley. Or croutons. I’ll tell you about my croutons another day.

There are lots of ways to play about with the recipe – grate some orange zest and squeeze some orange juice into it; add some harissa paste; add other root veg – parsnips and turnip would work well.

And of course you can use this same basic principle, of sweating veg then adding liquid to make all manner of other soups – swap out the onion and carrot for leeks and potatoes, or keep the onions and use butternut squash instead of carrots.

Sourdough

20 Sep

So, I start my sourdough starter today. I’m expecting good things from this – I have an exceptional guide: Sourdough by Yoke Mardewi¬†and I have the right products (OK, so that’s just wholewheat rye flour and water) so what could possibly go wrong?

There will be photographic evidence as I go along, so keep coming back to see how it goes.

 

 

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