Tag Archives: Soup

Random Erwtensoep of Kindness

Busy Shipping Canal near home

So Cold, Even the Gulls are Ice Skating

I first heard about the Random Soup of Kindness Challenge on Vanessa Kimbell’s blog via Twitter. I was immediately drawn to it, because it is a brilliant idea, but also it reminded me of the people  that I used to work with in a former life, when I was an Energy Efficiency Advice Centre manager.

Every year in the UK (and other places, but it is marked in my home country) thousands more vulnerable people (i.e. the elderly and those with certain medical conditions) die in the winter than the summer. This is called Excess Winter Death (EWD), which claimed over 20,000 people in the UK in the winter 2009 -10. The figures are getting better, but it is still a shocking amount of people.

The causes of excess winter deaths are complex, but a good deal of it can be attributed to people in poor housing conditions being unable to  heat their homes, either for practical or economic reasons. This, in turn, exacerbates ailments and medical conditions, making them susceptible.  I have met elderly people who regularly have to decide if they have lunch or if they put their heating on for an hour.

People who cannot afford to adequately heat their homes are said to be in Fuel Poverty. It affects lots of households, not just the elderly, and the situation will only get worse with rising fuel prices and in the current recession. I am priviledged enough to never have been in fuel poverty, but I have live in a very inefficient rented home. I know first hand how miserable it is to be cold. It is not something that I would want for my neighbours, especially those who can’t move around much to keep warm.

Frozen Boat

Frozen In

I loved this challenge, because it is a really practical way that everyone can help someone address the issues associated with being cold. Please have a go at this easy way to reach out to the vulnerable people in our own communities, make sure they are OK, help them out in this desperately cold weather, and offer them internal heating and a good meal.Of course, not all elderly people are in the same position as I describe above, but who would say no to a friendly visit and some hot soup? It really can make a real difference to your neighbours, and won’t take too much effort on your part. And that is the least that you will get from having a go.

Having got the necessary, if somewhat shocking stuff out of the way, I’d like to tell you about my first foray into Neighboursoup. I say my first foray, because I got so much out of it that I am definitely going to do this again.

Frozen Canal View

Frozen Canal - Near my Street

I live in a great street where all the neighbours are pretty friendly, and we all have a chat if we see each other, or help out with the odd pint of milk, or bucket of water or whatever, here and there. I love it, it feels good to know that there are other human beings in your street, instead of just other people, if you see what I mean. It is the first time I have lived somewhere with such a sense of community since I was a little girl.

One such neighbour is an older gentleman, who is the most helpful man. He is always ready to lend a hand by taking you to the garden centre; or helping us find a scrap metal merchant when we discovered someone had dumped a ton of old metal pipes in our pond; or look out for the flat if we are away. He has been invaluable to us as a neighbour. I am always trying to give him something back, but he doesn’t often let me. He has occasionally accepted chutneys and jams from me, which he repays with more jam jars. I really feel that I owe him.

As soon as I heard about this challenge, I knew this would be the way that I could get to repay his kindness, do him a good deed, and one that he would not be too proud to accept. I also knew that I would have to make him a traditional Dutch soup, because he does seem to have traditional Netherlander taste (for example, he refuses to even try my marmalade!).

There is no Dutcher soup than Erwtensoep (pronounced ur-teh soup), which is a thick, stewy blend of split peas, pork and vegetables, served with a smoked sausage. I have to admit that I have never really fancied this soup, given that I hate peas, and I did try a really horrible version when I come here on a trip as a student.  But, I knew that it would be exactly the right soup for my neighbour, so I decided it was the right soup for the challenge.

Since I had no idea what a really traditional erwtensoep should contain, I had to go digging for a recipe. I stumbled across this one, which seemed like it was as good a place as any to start.

I remained pretty loyal to the proportions given in the recipe, but I had purchased a half kilo of split peas, and couldn’t see any other use for them, so I added all of it, and adjusted up the meat and water accordingly. I stuck with the amounts of the various vegetables, but I used larger ones than suggested too. So the actual proportions were:

500 g Split peas

2.5 l Water

1 Dried bay leaf. I would normally use 2 fresh, but I only have a small bay tree, which I am trying to be really kind to, having lost another one last winter.

500 g belly pork

3 large leeks

1 medium celariac

1 large carrot

4 potatoes

Handful celery leaves. It is common to find ‘leaf celery’ sold as a pot herb in the Netherlands. If you can’t find this, you can use the celeriac leaves, lovage, or flat leaved parsley, as a suitable substitute.

1 smoked sausage.

Because this is a really common dish here, I was able to find this sausage in my organic butcher’s shop. I have never seen it in a butcher’s in the UK, but it is basically the same as the smoked sausages you can get in the chiller cabinet  – e.g. this one from Matteson’s, although I am sure there must be others available.

First Stage of Making Erwtensoep

At this stage, I was still thinking it would not be for me

I followed the recipe, and found that it took about an hour on a low simmer for the pork to be cooked so that you could easily shred the meat. The original recipe does not make that clear, but I guess it depends on the cut of the meat you use (should be fatty meat, that benefits from slow cooking).

I did not want to reintroduce a lot of the fat and the rind back to the soup. Of course, hating waste as I do, that is currently in my freezer to wait until I have a ham bone to make stock with.

I would have put a ham bone in the pot with this lot, to enrich the soup, but it was -14°C this weekend, so I guess many Netherlanders were making the same soup, so the butcher had run out.

This amount made LOADS of soup, and it filled about two thirds of my huge stock pot. It was enough for quite a few batches, so I gave soup out to four elderly neighbours, and still had enough left over for us to have some too. Much to my surprise, I actually really enjoyed it. I hope that my neighbours also decide it is Lekker (tasty)!

Erwtensoep

Erwtensoep - Warming, Kind and Tasty - Who Knew?

It was brilliant to go and chat to people and practice my broken Dutch with them. People were very happy to receive their random soup of kindness. It gave me more of a warm glow than the soup itself did.

Unfortunately, my Dutch is not good enough to explain what a blog is to these elderly neighbours, so I gave up on the idea of trying to ask if they minded me taking a photo of them with said soup. You’ll have to imagine the look of joy on their faces.

So, I hope that you decide to join in the random soup of kindness. You don’t even have to have a blog to write about it on. You needn’t spend much money or time on a soup, but the sense of having contributed something really good to your community will be worth it in spades.

I am certain that you will get much more out of the experience than the time you put in. I have repaid kindness shown to me; met a few new people; been able to practice my Dutch; found out that I have been closed-minded to the delights of a pea soup; and have been glowing brighter than the readybrek kid because I did something nice for other people. I am already thinking about what soup I can do next that will be acceptable to my neighbours. I am thinking a pumpkin one, which I can also give to neighbours for whom pork may not be an option

Like with most voluntary acts, it really was a case of give a little, gain a lot!

Random Soup of Kindness Logo

4 Comments

Filed under Feast

A Pho for Tết

Vietnamese Pho

Pho what a lovely soup!

Yesterday was the Lunar New Year, which is celebrated by the Chinese, Korean, Bhutanese and Vietnamese cultures. It marks the first new moon of the first  lunar month. There will have been celebrations wherever there are communities of these cultures. They are also traditionally times for family, so there is even more reason to celebrate.

What better way to kick start my own New Year’s Resolutions than to jump right in at Lunar New Year and have a go at some asian food? I have eaten a lot of Chinese and Vietnamese food, so I thought that this is where I shoud start on this quest. Never one to make things easy for myself, I decided to have a go at Hom Bao (steamed buns) from scratch, but that will feature in my next post.

Because the Hom Bao would take up a lot of time, I decided to go simple with the Vietnamese dish. Pho in one kind or another is a staple dish, and it seems that every Vietnamese household has a recipe. I can’t say how authentic this is, but this is my version.

I chose Pho because it has lovely clean flavours, but also because it is a versatile recipe that is easy to adapt to local ingredients. The fact that I was ready to go with some chicken stock may also have helped in the decision, but I can’t say for certain!

Feel free to adapt the recipe below. Obviously, I used a meat stock, which gives the soup a big umami hit.  I have made a version of this soup with different vegetables and with beef stock before. The essential ingredients are the noodles, the chilli, the coriander, the lime and the asian spices and seasonings, to be honest. Use what you have, use stuff from the garden, or from the bottom of the fridge. You will still end up with a really tasty and filling soup. The amounts given here will serve 2.

If you celebrated yesterday, Vietnamese style, chúc mừng năm mới!

Recipe: Vietnamese Pho

Ingredients

500 ml decent chicken stock. Rich, homemade stock if you can – it isn’t hard to do, and the results will be worth it. If you really, absolutely must, use the stock you can buy from the chiller cabinet, don’t try this with a stock cube.

1 cinnamon stick

2 star anise

5 cm root ginger, cut in half lengthways

1 red chilli, cut on a diagonal. Use whatever strength of chilli you can handle. If you really don’t like spicy food, don’t use a whole chilli, but you need at least a little.

Roots or stems of a small bunch of coriander

2 tbsp fish sauce (nước mắm)

3 tbsp Tamari Soy

Juice ½ lime

100g shitake mushrooms

50 g oyster mushrooms

2 servings rice noodles

20 g bean sprouts

½ red pepper (paprika)

2 carrots

A few mange touts

2 Spring onions

Some coriander leaves

Some mint leaves (if you can get vietnamese mint, so much the better), cut into a chiffonade.

Lime juice,  and pepper to season

Method

Add the cinnamon, star anise, ginger, chilli, fish sauce, soy and lime to the stock, and heat it gently. If you have coriander roots, scrape them clean, then press them with the flat of a knife to flatten them before adding to the soup. If you only have coriander stalks, cut them very finely, them add to the soup. Allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes, while you thinly slice the mushrooms. Add these to the soup and continue to simmer.

Meanwhile, julienne the carrot and the red pepper, so that the pieces are all of equal size. if you can get them really thin, you won’t need to cook them later. Halve the mange tout, and thinly slice the spring onion, both on the diagonal.

Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions, then drain and refresh under the cold tap. Divide the noodles between two deep bowls. Add some bean sprouts over the top of the noodles, and the spring onions and mange touts over that.

Remove the spices and ginger from the soup. If you have sliced up the vegetables into fine matchsticks, there is no need to cook them, so add them to the deep bowls. If you have not managed such small vegetables, then add them into the soup and cook for a minute or two.

Season to taste. The most important seasoning here will be the lime juice, which will balance the saltiness of the fish and tamari sauces. You may need a little or a lot, so it is important to tase before and during its addition.

Ladle the soup over the noodles. It is important that it is steaming hot, but not boiling. Sprinkle over the corander and mint, and serve immediately with chopsticks and a spoon.

2 Comments

Filed under Feast

A Yuletide Legacy

Ham and Bean Soup

A Legacy of Leftovers

The best legacy of a Christmas dinner has to be the leftovers! Since my mantra is Taste not Waste, I am delighted when I can challenge myself to use up everything, so that nothing is thrown out.

The recent festivities yielded an obvious, yet exciting choice. I had a 2cm slice of the baked ham left, along with some cooked carrots from the christmas dinner. I also had a pot of gelatinous stock that came from the boiling bag that I had kept. I initially thought that it might be too salty to use, but you should never pour fat down the drain, so I tipped it into a container, and put it to one side. It turned out that there was actually very little fat in it, and the stock itself was rich, but definitely not too salty.

For the mince pie and mulled wine party, I had intended to make a couple of dips, so I had soaked some chickpeas and some cannellini beans, but as usual my ambition far exceeded the time I had given myself, and something had to give.I was considering just cooking the pulses up, and freezing them, they would have been fine to add to soups or stews from frozen.

However, beans and ham are an excellent combination. If I had more ham left, I would have made a version of a cassoulet, with the addition of some sausage and a tomato liquor to stew it all in. There are a hundred other types of dish I could have tried, but I settled on a soup, as it would make what little meat I had go the furthest.

The result that I achieved from such humble ingredients was brilliant. The soup was so flavoursome and satisfying, it made me quite proud. It really was the perfect way to end the Netherlands Christmas celebrations.

Recipe: Ham and Bean Soup

Ingredients

1 stick celery, finely chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

1 medium carrot, finely chopped

1 leek, trimmed, washed and sliced into half moons

1 clove garlic, very finely chopped

Bacon fat to sweat the vegetables in

80 g ham, diced, more would be great, if you have it

1 tsp smoked paprika

200 g soaked weight chickpeas

300 g soaked weight cannellini beans

350 g ham stock. I have given a weight here, because the stock was solid when I added it to the soup. I would normally say that you could substitute one stock for another one, but in this soup, especially if you don’t have that much meat, I think that ham stock is integral to the flavour

Boiling water to cover

50 g cooked carrots. If you don’t have any leftover carrots, then use more raw ones

Small bunch chopped parsley

Method

Firstly, if you need to, soak and cook the pulses. You could also use a single tin of cannellini beans if you must, but the dried version will bring an extra dimension to the soup.

Prepare the vegetables, and sweat them off. I never throw away fat (of course) and I had a little fat left over from frying bacon, which I used to sweat off the vegetables, in order to maximise the flavour. This is by no means necessary, you could just as well use olive or sunflower oil.

Once the fat has melted, sweat off the onion, celery and the raw carrots for three or four minutes, before adding the leek. Leek burns easily, and the last thing you want is the bitter taste of burnt leek in this soup. When the leek is translucent, add the garlic and the smoked paprika, and let them cook off for a minute or so.

Stir in the ham and the beans, until they have a light coating of the smoked paprika, then add the stock and a little boiling water. The stock will melt down quickly. Top up the soup with more boiling water, so that the liquid covers the rest of the ingredients.

Simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until the vegetables are tender to your liking. Add the cooked carrots, and simmer for another minute, to warm them through. Before serving, stir through some chopped parsley.

Great the day that you make it. Even better when you reheat the last bowlful for lunch the next day.

1 Comment

Filed under Feast

Pumpkin, Bacon and Swiss Chard Soup

Bacon Pumkin & Swiss Chard Soup

A soup for this season – warm and velvety

It is that time of year when my cooking is populated with soups. They are great for using up slightly too tough or slightly too old vegetables. And in the Netherlands, it is practically compulsory to have soup and a sandwich for lunch, whatever the weather outside. I am likely to be making quite a few more before the winter is out.

This year, I lost my young pumpkin plants to something, most likely slug-shaped. However, the chard has been going strong for a while now. As I would ordinarily be feasting on my own pumpkins, I have decided that it is not really cheating to add this to the ‘Farmed’ category.

I like my soups quite chunky, and my greens slightly underdone – having been subjected to many an overboiled brassica in my youth. You may prefer to pre cook or even use frozen greens in this soup, and chop or blend them a bit finer. This soup keeps very well in the fridge, and should also freeze well, although I have not tried it.

This soup is easily adaptable for vegetarians, just omit the bacon, and fry the onion in olive oil. I would suggest that you add slightly more smoked paprika at the end instead of the bacon.

Recipe: Pumkin, Bacon & Swiss Chard Soup

Ingredients

450 g pumpkin

A pinch dried chilli flakes

2-3 cloves garlic

2 tsp lemon thyme leaves, plus stalks

1 medium onion, finely chopped

500 ml stock (veg or chicken)

200 g Swiss chard (spinach would also work well, or maybe a savoy cabbage – it needs to be an iron-rich green vegetable)

200 g bacon, diced

80 ml white wine (optional)

Nutmeg and smoked paprika to taste

Method

Heat the oven to 180°C. Cut the pumpkin in half or quarters, depending on the size and type of your pumpkin. Essentially, it has to fit in a roasting tin. You should leave the skin on. Sprinkle with a little oil (any type except your best olive oil) and season with salt, pepper, and the dried chilli. Rub the thyme sprigs over the pumpkin, and tuck the stalks into the dish as well. It may seem like a pain, but it will save you having to remove the stalks from the soup later. Put the garlic cloves inside or between the pumpkin. No need to remove the papery cover, this will come off much easier when the garlic has been roasted.

Roast the pumpkin in the oven, until the flesh is dry, and it comes away from the skin easily. The time this takes will depend on which type of pumpkin that you use.

Roasting the pumpkin concentrates the flavour a bit. If you don’t have an oven, like many people who I know, you can still use the pumpkin without roasting. just add the thyme to the pot when you sweat the onion, and the pumpkin and the chilli flakes when you add the (now chopped, not roasted) garlic. You will also need to let the pumpkin simmer for longer, until it is tender. Obviously, peel the pumpkin before you add it. No one likes a soup full of skin.

While the pumpkin is cooking, prepare the other vegetables and the bacon. I like the stalks of the chard, but they take much longer to cook than the leaves, so I cut the stalks out, and kept them separate to the leaves. You may decide not to use them, or use spinach. Up to you. Whatever you use needs to be chopped up. How fine you want it is also up to you. I sliced the stalks thinly and the leaves a bit thicker.

Fry the bacon in a deep saucepan. I don’t bother using oil, as the bacon will render its own fat pretty quickly – just keep it moving so that it doesn’t burn.With a slotted spoon, drain the bacon onto kitchen paper, but be sure to retain the fat.

Sweat the onion in some of the bacon fat (you may not need it all). If you are making this a veggie soup, sweat the onion in a little oil. Either way, don’t let it colour.

Add the garlic from the roasting pan, which should slip easily from their skins now. No need to chop them. Add the wine at this point, if you are using it. A glug is fine. Let it cook off and absorb into the onions.

Add the smoked paprika. I usually use about a teaspoon, but this will depend on your taste, and whether or not you are using bacon. Let it cook off briefly while you remove the skin from the pumpkin. This should come off easily with a spoon. Break it into rough lumps, and add to the pan with the onion. Allow it to cook briefly, and take on a paprika coating.

Add the stock, and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

I blended the soup at this stage, but if you prefer a less chunky soup, then you could also blend it after you have added the chard. After the soup was well blended, and smooth, I brought it back to a simmer, and grated in some nutmeg, until it tasted like there was enough in there.

Then I added the stalks of the chard, covered and let it simmer for about 5 minutes before I added the leaves, and allowed them to wilt. If you use spinach, or just the leaves of chard, then this bit will be shorter. If you are using savoy cabbage, I suggest parboiling it a little first before you add it to the soup.

Add the bacon back to the soup, and adjust seasoning to taste.

I served this with a swirl of double cream. You can leave this out if you like, because it is a smooth and unctuous soup without it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Farmed

Smoky Winter Root Soup

Smoky Winter Root Soup

A Winter’s Tale

I have been making this soup for years – since I was a student. I have made it so often that I stopped even thinking about needing a recipe for it, and now it is just easy and instinctive. I still make it a lot, because it is the Big Guy’s favourite now too.

I thought that originally it was a New Covent Garden Food Company recipe, but I have double checked both the books of theirs that I have, and it is not there. If this was your soup recipe initially, I am sorry that I am unable to credit you properly, but it is a much-loved and much-cooked dish.

As with all my soups, the amounts vary a lot, although I do tend to stick to only the ingredients listed for this particular one. I wrote the following out for a friend, after we had it on our weekend in the countryside. These amounts here should serve 4 people, or you can keep it in the fridge. It is even better warmed up the next day. It is a hearty and filling meal.

Recipe: Smoky Winter Root Soup

Ingredients

200g bacon, cubed. I can buy little lardons over here very easily. If you are using actual bacon, it is better to get streaky/ back bacon for this. Smoked bacon also works really well

1 onion, finely chopped

3 medium carrots, diced

500g potatoes, diced

1 green chilli, deseeded & finely chopped

1 can/jar sweetcorn

Splash of milk/ soy milk

Method

First prepare the vegetables. You want the onion pieces quite small and the chilli pieces as fine as you can get them. The carrot and the onion pieces should be about 2cm square.

Fry the bacon in a large saucepan over a low heat, so that the fat renders but does not burn. When the bacon is cooked, and slightly crisp, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, so that you keep the fat. Drain on kitchen paper, and set aside. The amount of fat from bacon will depend on the type and quality of bacon used. You want to fry off the vegetables in the fat, so pour off any excess, but keep enough to coat the vegetables.

Add all of the chopped vegetables, except the chilli to the pan, and fry until the onion has turned translucent. You will need to stir the pan occasionally. Meanwhile boil a kettle with about a litre of water. Once the onion has softened, but the vegetables have not coloured, add the chilli, and cook for a minute or so.

Add the boiling water to just cover the vegetables, bring back to the boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender. The amount of time this will take depends on the variety of potato used, and how big your dice are. For me, it usually takes about 10 minutes, because I chop the veg fairly small. Test with a knife, until you are happy. I don’t really mind if the carrots retain some crunch, so I only ever test the potato.

Once the vegetables are cooked, drain the tin of sweetcorn, and add the kernels to the soup, along with the cooked bacon. Season with pepper. You will not need to add salt, as the soup will get plenty of salt from the bacon, and the cheese. Allow to heat through for a few minutes. Add a little milk, and warm through.

You can make it with varying amounts of the ingredients, just make sure that the amount of carrots balances well with the white vegetables, so that it still has some colour.

Serve with crusty bread, and sprinkled with some grated, sharp cheese, such  as Mature Cheddar or Piquant Boerenkaas

The soup keeps well in the fridge for up to 5 days. It will freeze, but if you want to freeze it, then don’t add the milk before you do so, rather, warm the soup through, then add the milk before serving.

I will add a photo of this soon, as we have it frequently, I just have not got one at the time of writing this post!

Leave a comment

Filed under Feast

Minestrone Soup

Minestrone Soup

Minestrone with Pumpkin Gnocchi

Despite the changeable weather, it is most definitely autumn. There are no more leaves on the trees, and the clocks will go back this weekend. To me, this means using up beans. We have been eating our borlotti beans for a little while, and I had a few other veg that I had in the ground or in the fridge.

Soup is always a great way to use up veg, and minestrone soup has beans as  the key ingredient for this hearty vegetable soup. As long as you have good base flavours from onion, carrot and celery, there are a million other veggies that you can add.

I used an onion and a half (the half was leftover from something else, and it needed using up), 3 carrots, 2 sticks of celery and a leek, which I chopped finely and sweated off with a few sprigs of thyme, a bay leaf and a sprig of rosemary. I added a  couple of cloves of chopped garlic, and cooked them off a little before adding the stock.

I am a bit of stock obsessive, and always have portions of roughly 500 ml of various stocks in the freezer. At the moment, I have pheasant, and beef. I usually always have vegetable and chicken stock too, but not today. So, I used 500 ml of beef stock and added water to cover the veg.

As this came up to the boil, I shelled the beans – this time a mixture of borlotti and the last of the french beans, whose pods are getting leathery, but the beans inside are large enough to eat on their own. I chucked them in with a few chopped pomodori tomatoes (you can also use tinned). I left the soup to simmer until all the beans were cooked through. You can also use dried (and soaked), or tinned beans if you haven’t any from the garden.

About half way through cooking,  I had a taste, and added a little tomato puree, and seasoning.

I also had half a fennel to use up, which I chopped finely. I love fennel, but wanted to retain some crunch and the fennel flavour as separate from the overall soup, so I didn’t add it until about 5  minutes before the soup was cooked.

I would have added a bit of shredded cabbage, kale or cavolo nero at this point, but we managed to lose the sweetheart cabbage we had bought at the market, so we had to do without that tonight.

Another traditional ingredient in minestrone is pasta. I had some fresh tagliatelle, because the Big Guy often buys it on impulse. I also wanted to try something a little different, so I divided the soup at this point, and chucked in some chopped tagliatelle into one pot, cooked it for a couple of minutes and ate the first night. It is also possible to use smaller pasta shapes, like acini, or ditalini. However, I was using what I had. I think smaller pasta is better in soups, so if I only had dried, I would have cooked it and chopped it before adding at the last minute.You can use rice if that is what you have too – either cook it in the soup or chuck in some cooked rice about 5 mins before serving.

I was recently inspired by a recipe from Niamh Shields, of Eat Like  A Girl, fame to try Pumpkin Gnocchi. I have been following her blog for a few years now, and this really seems to be her year, with new columns, a book, and a truck-load of awards. I have to say I am really pleased for her, I have tried a lot of her recipes and they always turn out well, and she is a real enthusiast on the subject of all things food.

Anyway, back to the gnocchi. As I have pumpkins, and pasta is added to minestrone, I thought that I would combine the two, so I made up a batch of the gnocchi, using Niamh’s recipe. I brought the soup back up to a simmer, and then cooked the gnocchi in the soup. I served it with a good helping of chopped parsley.

I haven’t  given a formal recipe for this, as with most soups, the amount I make largely depends on the ingredients that I have to hand.  As this is an Italian recipe, I am sure that there are many different versions, and this will not be what any Italian mothers would have added, but that is the beauty of such a  versatile soup, where pretty much anything goes.

Leave a comment

Filed under Farmed

Asparagus Soup

As a child, I didn’t eat many vegetables. As an adult, I eat many more, and I love to eat seasonally. This is why you will probably often hear me saying that such-and-such a vegetable is my favourite. It would probably be more accurate to say that such-and-such a vegetable is my favourite right now.

At the moment we are into the asparagus season, and it is cheap and plentiful. And right now, asparagus is my favourite vegetable.I eat it with eggs, in salads, on its own with butter, in risottos – you name it.

In general, the bottom end of the stalk becomes tough and woody, so it is best to cut, or snap it off. I really hate throwing food away, especially something as tasty as asparagus. So,  I decided to try to use these woody stalky bits up.

Soup is the obvious answer. First, I tried to blend it in a food processor, but this just resulted in smaller woody bits in the soup. I also have a food mill, and one day I tried it through that, and it turned out that the low tech version was the best, since the woody bits are not passed through the mill. I really recommend these – I picked mine up for a tenner back in the UK, and I use it weekly.

This year I planted my own asparagus, and freshly cut asparagus should not have the woody stalky bits. I wonder if this soup will continue to feature in my spring repertoire? I hope so, it really is good!

The following recipe varies in amounts, depending on how many stalks you have been saving in the fridge. The stalks will keep for up to 10 days (depending on age when you bought them, and the width of the stalks), so you can save them up from a couple of bunches to get a good amount, if you like.

Recipe: Asparagus Soup

Ingredients

1 chopped onion

1 tbsp olive oil

Asparagus stalk ends

Chicken or vegetable stock

Thyme

Crème fraiche (cream or milk would also work)

Method

Sweat the onion and thyme in the olive oil, until the onion is fairly soft, but not coloured.

Add the asparagus to the pan, and cook until it has turned a vibrant green

Add the stock. You need to allow enough stock to cover the vegetables in the pot by a couple of cm.

Bring to the boil, then simmer until the stalks are tender to the point of a knife. The time for this can be anything from 5 minutes for the really thin stalks, up to 20 minutes for the later season asparagus.

Take off the heat and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Then, pass through the food mill into a clean pan.

Add a little crème fraiche. Again, the amount you add will depend on the amount of soup that you have. Season with salt and pepper.

This soup can be served hot or cold, especially if you are having a really warm spring/ summer, like the one that we are having now.

If you are serving it cold, add a little water to thin it, allow to cool completely, then refrigerate for an hour or two. Garnish it with croutons, cooked asparagus tips, small dice of cucumber (seeded and peeled), or some of all three. A little chervil can be chopped and stirred through, or used as a garnish as well. Check for seasoning before serving, as cold soup can often need more seasoning that its hot counterpart.

If you want to serve it hot, warm the soup gently, without boiling. The soup can be made ahead of time, and warmed through at a convenient time. Garnish with cooked asparagus tips, chervil, or a dollop or swirl of the crème fraiche. Serve with buttered brown, rye or sourdough bread. I prefer bread, as opposed to toast with the hot version of this soup.

Leave a comment

Filed under Feast