Sunday, 30 January 2011

Moroccan Harira

A few weeks ago, my friend Michelle mentioned in passing that she really liked the Covent Garden Soup Co's Moroccan Tagine soup, but that it was too expensive to buy on a regular basis (and, for the ingredients, it is vastly overpriced). So I invited her over for dinner with the intention of showing her how to make it. 

The Covent Garden soup is based on harira. Harira is traditionally served to end the fast of Ramadan and is cooked slowly, so as to intensify the flavours. I made a second batch later on in the week as I'd forgotten to photograph the batch I made when Michelle was over, and this time I added chicken to the soup. If you leave the chicken out, you are left with a delicious vegan soup which is pretty close to the Covent Garden soup it was based on.

Ingredients (serves 6):
1 red onion
5 cloves garlic
100g dried green lentils
50g long grain rice
250g chick peas
400g chopped tomatoes
Juice of one lemon
1 litre vegetable stock
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
2 chicken breasts (optional)
10g fresh flat leaf parsley
10g fresh coriander
1 tsp harissa paste
Salt and pepper

If you are using dried lentils, check the packet for directions - mine required an hour's pre-preparation before they were ready to use. So, to begin, prepare your lentils for use. Mine needed soaking in cold water for half an hour, rinsing, then boiling for a further 30 minutes. 

Once your lentils are ready, chop a red onion and in a large, heavy bottomed pan, sauté them in a little oil with the cumin and coriander powder. As they start to soften and turn translucent, peel and crush in the garlic. After a minute, add in the vegetable stock, lemon juice, chopped tomatoes, harissa, rice, lentils, chickpeas (I used tinned to save time) and a little salt and pepper. Stir to make sure everything is evenly distributed, cover and leave to simmer for 30 minutes.

If you're adding chicken, grill it until cooked through and then set aside to cool for about 10 minutes. Then, using your hands, peel off small shreds of chicken, tearing along the grain. Once you've shredded all the chicken, add it to the soup and stir.

Finally, roughly chop the parsley and coriander and add it to the soup, reserving a little for garnish. Stir into the soup and simmer for a final 10 minutes. Serve in soup bowls, sprinkling the the remaining parsley and coriander on top. I served this with homemade spelt bread and a delicious bottle of Bordeaux.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Homemade Bread

I am something of a cautious baker, and for a long time the thought of attempting to make my own bread left me paralysed with fear. However, thanks to the very generous gift of a Kitchenaid which was going slightly underused, and as I had a glut of flour left over from the time the boy made pizza, I decided to have a go. After all, what's the worst that could happen? Rock-bread?

Thankfully, my fears proved unfounded and I shall be making bread again. I might even deviate from a simple wholemeal boule. It is so simple that I'll definitely make it again. Apparently you can leave the kneaded bread in the fridge overnight for the first prove, which really saves time. This makes a delicious loaf though - light, a little springy and slightly crumbly with a delicious crust. I worked out that it costs about 80p a loaf too. A definite advantage!

350g strong white flour
150g wholemeal plain flour
7g fast action yeast
200ml skimmed milk
100ml boiling water
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp salt

Weigh out the flour, add the salt and yeast and then sift into a large bowl. Some of the larger flakes of wholemeal will remain - tip these into the bowl and gently mix them in using a wooden spoon. If you're using a Kitchenaid to knead your dough, transfer the flour to the mixing bowl and make a well in the middle. If you're making the bread by hand, continue to use the large bowl, but also make a well. Pour into the well the olive oil, milk and boiling water - make sure the milk and water have mixed first - you want the liquid to be just warm, or you'll kill the yeast. 

If using a Kitchenaid, using the dough hook, let it knead on speed 2 for 5-10 minutes. If kneading by hand, mix well then transfer the mixture to a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth. In both cases, once kneaded, transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a slightly damp, clean dishcloth and leave to rise in a warm place for an hour. The mixture should double in size.

Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper, then knock back the dough and then gently mould it into a ball. Place it on the greaseproof paper and cover with the damp dishcloth. Leave it to prove for another hour.

Heat the oven to 200°C, dust the loaf with a little flour and cut a cross about 10cm long into the top of the loaf using a sharp knife. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown and it sounds hollow when you tap it underneath. Cool on a wire rack, and as soon as it's cool enough to handle, cut yourself a slice, slather it in butter and revel in the delights of fresh homemade bread. I love it most when it's still warm, with a little butter and marmite.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Spiced Carrot and Lentil Soup

In my overenthusiasm for soup-making, I bought an awful lot of carrots with the intention of making carrot and coriander soup. However, also in my overenthusiasm for soup-making, I managed to break my blender so I needed to turn my hand to something that would work well when a little more rough and ready, though an emergency purchase of a hand blender has been a lifesaver. 

Keeping with the basic carrot and coriander theme, I remembered seeing Niamh's recipe over at Eat Like A Girl for a delicious-looking carrot and lentil soup, so I decided to try and create something similar. So here you have it - a delicious, gently warming carrot and lentil soup.

Ingredients (serves 6):
600g carrots
150g red lentils
1 red onion
1 red chilli
15g fresh coriander
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 litre vegetable stock
2 tbsp lemon juice
200ml skimmed milk
Natural yogurt (to garnish)

To begin, rinse the lentils and then transfer to a pan and just cover them with water, then simmer for 15-20 minutes until they are soft. Keep an eye on them - if it looks like they are getting too dry, add a little more water.

While the lentils are cooking, grate the carrots into a large bowl and set aside. Then, peel and finely chop an onion. In a large heavy-bottomed pan (I used a Le Creuset) toast the cumin and coriander powder for a minute, until it starts to smell. Then, add a little olive oil and gently fry the onion. Deseed and roughly chop the fresh chilli and add to the pan. Next, add the grated carrot, lentils, chilli flakes, lemon juice and vegetable stock. 

Simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the carrot is soft. While the soup is simmering, roughly chop the fresh coriander, then add the milk and most of the fresh coriander (reserve a little for garnish) to the soup and transfer, in batches to a blender and roughly blend it. 

To serve, ladle into bowls and then add a dessertspoon of yogurt to each bowl and a sprinkle of coriander. I served this with a small naan bread to complement the spicy flavours.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Whoopie Pie

Many moons ago, the lovely Tara (you should check out her blog - For Your Random Knowledge) came over for dinner. She cooked stuffed cannelloni, then we cracked open another bottle of red wine and set to work making whoopie pie. Lots of whoopie pie. 

The recipe itself is from an Amish cookbook, and is truly amazing to look at - it is entirely handwritten. I've adapted the recipe for a predominantly UK-based audience (though the original quantities are in brackets next to the metric amount) so those without cups can also have a go.  This makes approximately 64 5cm sandwiches -  32 whoopie pies.

For the sandwiches:
350g sugar (2 cups)
250g unsalted butter (1 cup)
2 eggs
550g plain flour (4 cups)
75g cocoa powder (1 cup)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
250ml buttermilk (1 cup)
2 tsp baking powder
250ml hot water (1 cup)

For the filling:
4 egg whites
200g icing sugar
3 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 200°C, then cream together the sugar and butter, then add the eggs. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder and salt, and beat the mixture together (I used a Kitchenaid for this). Slowly add the buttermilk while mixing, then add the vanilla essence. Put the baking soda in the hot water and pour into the beating mix.

Line 2 baking trays with greaseproof baking paper, and then spoon six dessertspoons onto each tray. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes. If, like me, you don't have an industrial oven and unlimited trays at your disposal, you'll need to bake the sandwiches in batches. It took me 5 turns.

Place each batch of sandwiches onto a cooling rack, and then when done make up the filling: using a bowl placed in a saucepan of boiling water, gently beat together all the ingredients until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is opaque. Transfer to a Kitchenaid and beat over a high speed until it is thick and holds its shape. Scoop a generous amount of the filling onto the flat surface of the cooled whoopie sandwich and top with another sandwich. 

Voila! Whoopie pies!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Super Chicken Noodle Soup

I first blogged this just under a year ago and as it is once again cold and horrible outside, I thought I'd repost it. However, this is an updated and, ahem, souped up version, before any of you accuse me of getting lazy with the blogging! It's still one of my favourite soups. It's light and healthy, but thanks to the chilli has a real kick to it. Brilliant for seeing off those winter colds.

I made this version using Udon noodles, which I love. However, I realise that they tend to be quite divisive - people seem to either love or hate them - so if you fall into the latter camp, just use Ramen as in the original recipe. I bought my Udon noodles - you should be able to find fresh or frozen ones in any good Asian grocers. However, if you fancy taking a stab at making your own Udon noodles, the wonderful Leela at She Simmers  blogged a recipe. It looks like a lot of fun too - you have to knead them with your feet!

Apologies, the ingredients list is a little on the long side, but if you keep a well-stocked larder, you should hopefully have most of the non-perishable ingredients to hand. 

Ingredients (serves 2 hungry people):
1 courgette
2 heads pak choi
100g chestnut mushrooms
100g sugar snaps
10g coriander
4 spring onions
1 red chilli
1 chicken breast
200g Udon noodles
800ml chicken or vegetable stock
2 tsp dark miso paste

For the chicken marinade:
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp miso paste (dissolved into 50ml warm water)
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
2 garlic cloves
1 spring onion

I'm not going to lie, the trick to making this dish utterly painless lies entirely in the pre-preparation. And I'm only going to tell you once - before you get cooking, get everything ready and prepared, then you're just left with the simplest assembly job known to man. It also helps a lot to be familiar with the recipe before you begin.

So, add all the marinade ingredients to a small bowl and whisk together. Thinly slice the spring onion and crush the garlic and add those too. Then slice the chicken into 5mm ribbons and add to the marinade. Leave for an hour, stirring occasionally.

Next, slice the courgette into 5mm slices, Do the same with the mushrooms. Roughly slice the pak choi. Slice the spring onions and the red chilli and roughly chop the coriander. 

Add 2 teaspoons of miso paste to the chicken or vegetable stock, and then pour a dessertspoon of olive or groundnut oil into a wok and turn up the heat. Once hot, add the courgettes and pak choi and fry for a minute. Then add the chilli and most of the spring onions. Fry for a further minute. Add the sugar snaps and mushrooms and fry for another two minutes. Make sure you're constantly tossing the ingredients with a flat wooden spoon - you don't want them to stick and burn. 

Now add the chicken and marinade and fry for about 3 minutes, until you can no longer see any pink showing. Add most of the coriander (you're reserving a little of the spring onions and coriander as a garnish) and then pour in the stock. Simmer for about three minutes before adding the Udon noodles, then simmer for a further three while they cook. 

Transfer the soup to large bowls, garnish with the remaining spring onions and coriander, and slurp immediately.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Extremely Green Soup

A happy accident, this soup came about as I had some leftover green beans and kale in the fridge and I had intended to turn them into soup, so I bought a few extras to fling in alongside it. However, half way through making the soup, I took the beans and kale out the fridge only to discover that they looked rather worse for wear. The only place they were going would be the compost heap. 

However, all was not lost. With the addition of some frozen petit pois and a pinch of chilli flakes, I flung the soup in the blender and hoped for the best. The result is delicious - a vibrant green, healthy soup with a faint kick from the chilli and spices. It's especially delicious with a sprinkle of parmesan on top.

Ingredients (serves 6):
1 litre vegetable stock
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
2 heads of broccoli
250g baby leaf spinach
200g petit pois
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp chilli flakes

Bring the vegetable stock to the boil in a large pan. While the stock is heating up, chop the broccoli stem into 1cm chunks, and then pull apart the florets at the top. Once the stock is boiling, add the broccoli stems and simmer for 5 minutes before adding the florets. 

While the broccoli is cooking, gently fry the chopped onion and garlic over a low heat until the onion is translucent. After adding the florets to the stock, simmer for a further 5 minutes or until the florets are just soft, then add the spinach, petit pois, onion and garlic. Simmer for a further minute before transferring in batches to the blender. Don't blend it too much - you want the soup to have a slightly rustic texture.

This is best eaten  when really fresh or it'll lose its vibrancy. Serve with warm crusty bread and a sprinkle of parmesan.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Mushroom Soup

In France, frozen food doesn't seem to have the same degree of stigma as it has over here. Indeed, while we have Iceland, famed for its turkey twizzlers and pepperoni lasagnas, France has Picard which is an altogether different beast. Delicious canapes and pates, perfect little amuse bouches and our annual Christmas chapon are among the treats to be found. A recently discovered family favourite is their mushroom soup, which thanks to an excess of food at the end of Christmas made it back to England.

I looked at the back of the pack and the ingredients were as follows: Champignon de Paris, eau, pomme de terre, oignon, crème fraîche, carotte, céleri rave, beurre, sel, ail. So I decided to try and see if I could recreate it myself.

The recipe below makes an awful lot of soup - enough I would guess for 12 people. So if you can, I would suggest freezing half. If you freeze it in an ice cube tray and then decant the frozen cubes to a freezer bag, you can have individual portions of soup as and when you want. It is, however, an absolutely delicious soup, so is entirely worth the glut!

Ingredients (serves 12):
500g chestnut mushrooms
30g dried porcini mushrooms
2 medium onions
2 baking potatoes
3 carrots
1 small celeriac
4 garlic cloves
2 litres chicken stock
1 tsp thyme
salt and white pepper
75ml crème fraîche

Begin by peeling and chopping the onions,carrots, potato and celeriac - I cut everything into rough 1.5cm dice. Gently fry all the diced vegetables and the garlic in a heavy bottomed pan with a little olive oil for about 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent, then add the chicken stock, (or vegetable stock if you wish to make it vegetarian) thyme, salt and pepper and simmer for 20 minutes. 

Just after you've added the stock to the vegetables, soak the porcini mushrooms in hot water for 20 minutes too. While the vegetables are simmering, roughly chop and flash-fry the chestnut mushrooms, then add to the simmering vegetables. Finally, once the porcini are soaked, add them and their liquid to the vegetables.

Next, in batches, puree and push the soup through a sieve before transferring back to the heavy bottomed pan. Finally, stir through the crème fraîche. When you are ready to use the soup, take care not to let it boil as the crème fraîche will curdle.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Leek and Potato Soup

So, new year, new resolutions. Starting the blog last year, I had no idea that nearly a year later I'd still be doing it, and for the best part it's been a very enjoyable experience. It's broadened my repertoire of recipes enormously and it's been wonderful watching my list of followers grow and the number of views and comments increase. But it's still a baby blog and it's got a long way to go before the hits and page views could be termed "heavy traffic".

But I digress. As a result of blogging so much last year (I think I averaged two recipes a week) I've managed to put on a stone in weight (14lbs or 6.4kg) and none of my clothes fit properly anymore, so I decided that something has to be done about it. This month is soup month, and this is the first of many hopefully delicious and healthy soups. Enjoy!

Ingredients (serves 6):
3 leeks
2 baking potatoes
1 large onion
2 carrots
1 litre vegetable stock
75ml crème fraîche
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and white pepper

Chop the onion, slice the leeks and carrots and fry in a large, heavy bottomed pan over a low heat for 5 minutes. Peel and dice the potatoes and add to the other vegetables in the pan. Once the leeks and onions are soft, add the vegetable stock, the nutmeg, a pinch of salt and a little white pepper (be careful, it is hotter than normal black pepper) and simmer gently for 20 minutes, until the potatoes and carrots have also softened.

Then, in batches, puree the soup mixture and push each batch through a sieve to make it extra smooth (this stage is optional, but does make a huge difference to the creaminess of the soup). Transfer back to the large pan when done, and stir in the crème fraîche. When reheating, take care not to let the soup boil as this will cause the crème fraîche to curdle.

Serve with a green salad or lovely, crusty white bread and butter. I like my soup with a dash of Tabasco which I think really complements the flavours.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Prawn and Avocado Salad

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a lovely end to 2010 and that 2011 brings all sorts of treats and delights. The recipe that follows was from my New Year's Eve. I'm not big on New Year, which is mostly down to a distasterous night out in Kings Cross when I was in my early 20's - I left the nightclub I'd gone to at 3am, then got the bus to the station, but no buses were going any further west so I ended up soaked to the skin in a shoulderless vintage 1950's prom dress and no coat while I waited four hours for the first Tube of the new year, but that's another story!

This year, the boy and I had agreed not to go out. I went so far as to suggest doing nothing, which was perfectly fine until I told my mother and sister, who were adamant that I must do something to mark the new year. So I told them what I had in my fridge and then popped to the supermarket to get the remaining ingredients. This was the starter, which is a definite throwback to 1970's dinner parties. It's an oldie, but it's still a goodie.

Ingredients (serves two):
1 perfectly ripe avocado
200g king prawns
1 garlic clove
1 tbsp olive oil
1 dsp lemon juice
1 dsp mayonnaise
1 tsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper

In a bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, mayonnaise and mustard, and add a pinch of salt and pepper then set aside.

Next, roughly slice the garlic, add a drizzle of oil to a frying pan and when hot, throw in the prawns (I used uncooked but ready shelled king prawns) and the garlic and fry until the prawns have turned pink all over. Allow to cool, then discard the garlic slices and roughly chop the prawns. Add the prawns to the mayonnaise dressing and mix well.

Then slice the avocado in half - one half per person - and, discarding the skin, slice again into 5mm slithers then arrange each half on a plate. Brush with a little lemon juice to prevent browning and divide the prawns between the two plates. Serve immediately. We had this with a glass of Pouilly Fumé, which was absolutely delicious and complemented the seafood beautifully.