old, cold, french fry soup

Obviously, I am not suggesting anybody goes and buys french fries to try this recipe, but if you ever find you have been entrusted with the care of an abandoned box of french fried waifs and strays with rigor mortis setting in, don’t call social services, don’t arrange a funeral 🙂 MAKE THIS SOUP! Even day old fries work fine.

2 parts water to 1 part old french fries, a clove of garlic chopped. Place in saucepan, bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer until all hard leathery bits have gone completely soft – usually about 10 minutes. Blitz. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
Eh, voilà, before your very eyes will appear a velvety soup of honeyed gold – maybe it should be called cinderella soup – it is more properly a ‘Purée Parmentier’ – undoubtedly it’s the high oil content in the original fries that makes it taste so silky and delicious.

Mr Benz used to do this to me so often -ie, come home with uneaten/unwanted fries (like a bloody cat bringing you dead mice), that I had to come up with variations……
Nasturtium leaves added 3-4 minutes before the end – like watercress soup
A sprig of thyme, rosemary, sage or marjoram added at the beginning and removed before blitzing.
A few leaves of basil added just before blitzing.
A 1/4 of a porcini stock cube added to the cooking water, and a dribble of truffle oil added upon serving – a particular fav.
A dribble of olive oil you’ve fried with paprika and garlic, upon serving.

On this occasion, I added some of the wild garlic leaves about 2 minutes before the end of cooking.

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Baked Bean Soup

I don’t actually like british baked beans very much – they’re too sweet and bland – unless they get a serious make over. My ex’s blindingly good Jamaican style baked beans for a fry up (a recipe for another day) and this soup are the two recipes I use a lot…and you can use the cheapest beans going.

Ingredients makes two bowls (800 ml-1 l), 15-20 minutes

2 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2-3 slices of fresh red chilli – optional
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (or a quarter of a can, if you don’t have fresh)
1 can cheapest baked beans going
1-1 1/2 cans water
Salt to taste
2 sprigs sweet marjoram (other herbs are available 😉 )

To serve – dribble of olive oil (optional/only if you’ve got some)

Method

In a pan big enough for the finished soup, soften the onion over a low to medium heat for 2-3 minutes, add garlic, and chilli if you’re using it, cook for a further minute, then the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes soften and begin to release their juices. Add beans, bring up to heat, add a canful/ canful and a half of water. Add majoram leaves. Bring up to heat again and simmer for 5 minutes and then blitz. Taste for salt.

If you haven’t got a machine to blitz with, mash the bean mix before you add the water, then pass through a sieve with the back of a wooden spoon at the end…
I particularly like sweet marjoram and I’ve got some in my garden – fresh thyme, rosemary, basil or oregano would also work or dried oregano, herbes de Provence…you get the idea!
If you serve this to guests, I suggest you call it haricot bean soup – somehow makes it sound more grown up.

This was lunch last Wednesday week.

Soup for a springcleaning day

A cheer-you-up-in-winter/nice-bright-spring-day-but-still-a-bit-nippy-outside soup

The first time I made this soup, I’d bought a reduced price 700g bag of winter casserole veg mix- which is sometimes called winter soup veg mix- and when I’d made it, it was nice but a bit bland, so I mixed in (reduced price!) bearnaise sauce, and the tarragon really did the trick….all supermarket veg is vastly overpriced, and it’s much cheaper to buy it on the market – so, now the recipe is vegan and it has evolved thus………

To make roughly 2 litres of finished soup

About 700g (pound and a half) of swede, carrot, leek and onion, in equal quantities – this translates as 1/2 a swede, 2 or 3 medium carrots, 1 leek, and 1 large onion or 2 small ones.

1 tablespoon cooking oil

1 level teaspoon dried tarragon

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

1.5 litres (generous 2 1/2 pints) water

salt to taste

Method -takes about 20-25 minutes to cook

Peel and chop the root veg into smallish cubes, slice and chop onion and leek finely – if your leek has a lot of dark green leafage, chop this off whole and either save it for veg stock or boil it whole in the soup for flavour and remove it before you blitz the soup, so your finished soup stays a bright and cheery apricot colour – the green will make it look too muddy.

In a small cup, immerse the dried tarragon in the lemon juice and set aside.

In a pan big enough for the finished soup, put all the chopped veg and the oil and stir to coat – set over a low to medium heat to sweat until the veg begins to soften – you can put a lid on to speed this up, but do check it and stir every couple of minutes, because you don’t want anything to go brown…this should take between 5 and 10 mins, depending on the size of your pan.

Add water and leek tops, if you’re using them, and a generous(thumb and two fingers) pinch of salt.

Bring to the boil, and then turn down and simmer for 15 -20 minutes – when you can squish a piece of carrot or swede easily against the side of the pan, it is done.

Remove leek tops if you’ve used them, add lemon and tarragon and blitz. If you haven’t got one of those handheld soup whizzers, I recommend you pour most of the liquid off into another clean pan before you either put it in a liquidiser or mash it by hand, then add it all back together.
Check for salt, and adjust to your taste – serve with fresh bread, or if you’ve only got horrid white sliced, then toast. If your lemon was unwaxed, toast can be zipped up a notch by rubbing first with the lemon skin, and then with a clove of garlic.

If you want to add cream (I don’t think it needs it, but..) or you too have a jar of bearnaise you can’t think what to do with, add it at the end and don’t let it boil when you bring it back up to heat, because it will curdle. Using bearnaise would mean that you leave out the lemon and tarragon. 😉

If you want to make more or less, it’s about 500g/1lb veg for every 1 litre/2 pints water you use, and adjust your lemon tarragon accordingly.

If only spring cleaning was so easy….

Free food and weekly shop

I really, really have stuck to the budget in my cyber absence but I have bought some things like rice (£7.50 for 5 kilos) and the like… last week I bought a chicken reduced to £2.85 from £4, which went straight in the freezer, potatoes, garlic, ginger, chillies and a Chinese cabbage, which I haven’t used yet, but I also bought posh goat’s butter – more about that later…and dark soya sauce..and..and
Spring has come extremely late in London, but now it’s here, it’s going great guns, so there’s loads of nettles, wild garlic and other ‘weeds’ that are great free food if you get the young tips. It’s a window of about 2 or 3 weeks, so I’m trying to think of how to freeze some of this harvest, and come up with some recipes to make it a bit more interesting. Basically, nettles (which sting) and dead nettles (which don’t)taste like spinach and are really good for you – however, they are more fibrous, they cook down like amaranth – Jamaican callaloo – which is used, by different names, all over the world. The bestest ever name I found on wikipedia for amaranth is the Nigerian Yoruba -arowo jeja – apparently this means ‘we have money left over for fish’!
Nettle soup is lovely, if a little ‘too good for you’, but how much of the same thing can a person eat in a week – or feed to their long suffering family – so, along with a basic soup recipe, I am going to post a potato, onion, and ‘green’ pakora recipe and one for my version of Jamaican Pepperpot Soup.

Recipe for coriander and sweetcorn soup

I make loads of variations of this soup, depending on what’s in the kitchen…it’s a bit like the chicken and sweetcorn soup you get in the Chinese takeaway, albeit vegan, and it takes about 10 minutes.

1.5 litres water

3 heaped tablespoons finely chopped coriander – I used the scrag end, mainly stalks, of a bunch I had left over, but in general you can use a high quantity of stalk and leave most of the leaves for another recipe (something pretty!).

2 or 3 handfuls of frozen sweetcorn.

1 heaped teaspoon shitake flavoured instant bouillon – optional

1 level teaspoon salt or to taste

2-4 level tablespoons cornflour mixed well in a glass of water, depending on how thick you want it.

Bring water to a boil, then add coriander, salt and bouillon, if using. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add sweetcorn and return to a simmer. Stir the cornflour mix – it settles to the bottom of the glass really quickly – and pour into the soup. Stirring constantly, cook until the soup clears and thickens…about 3 or 4 minutes – if you stop stirring, you might end up with frogspawn at the bottom of the pan. Check seasoning and serve.

The easiest way to ‘chop’ the coriander is actually to snip it with a pair of scissors.