Sunday, February 28

Sweet potato and cumin soup.

Soup: it's a weekend thing. I saw a recipe for a soup of this name on MyDish, and then changed it. I'm difficult like that.

Oil (I used olive oil)
One large onion
One tsp cumin seeds
One medium leek
A couple of sticks of celery
A large sweet potato
A palmful of ground almonds
Chicken (or vegetable) stock
Lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Chop up all the veg. Actually I do this as I go along but you may like to chop them all up and put them into little bowls so that you can pretend to be Keith Floyd. You'll need a glass of wine for that..

Heat a small sploosh of oil in a large pan or pressure cooker. I try not to use much oil as I eat too much cheese and cake. Add the onions and fry gently until they are beginning to turn translucent.

Add the cumin seeds (you could use ground if you have no seeds) and wait until they begin to sizzle and release their smell. Put in the leeks and unless you are in a tearing hurry (as I usually am), wait for them to wilt a bit before throwing in the chopped celery and sweet potato.

Next add a palmful of ground almonds. These are a thickening agent (taste nice too, plus almonds are right good for you: high in calcium and magnesium don'tcha know), so if you have none you could use flour, (I'd rather have thinner soup.) Stir the whole lot around a bit then add enough stock to just cover the vegetables.

At this point I bring it all to the boil, stick the lid on the pressure cooker and cook on high pressure for 10 minutes, but if you have no pressure cooker and like waiting longer for your lunch then you can cover and simmer for 20 mins (or until the sweet potato is soft).

Liquidise, then stir in a squeeze of lemon juice (I used half a lemon but your lemony threshold may be lower than mine) before serving. This cuts the sweetness of the sweet potato and almonds and just lifts the whole thing a bit.

Happy Souping.

I see no-one's ironed the tablecloth....

Tuesday, February 16

Cheesy Valentine Hearts

So you have spare egg yolks because of a minor indiscretion with a chocolate roulade, what are you to do with them?

Duh, you make cheese straws. Or in this case Cheesy Valentine Hearts. Because of Valentine's day: geddit?

My Cheesy Valentine Hearts were made with wholemeal flour and half fat cheese, because I am a masochist. They still have butter in, because I'm not yet completely insane. I strongly suggest that you use proper white flour and proper cheese for the full saturated fat experience. Alternatively, you can have them hippy chewy like I did and pretend that they are a bit healthy (they aren't).

Here is P's mum's recipe, for a modest quantity. Naturally, I made double. We will never be thin.

2oz flour
2oz butter or marge (butter tastes so much better)
3oz mature cheddar
1 egg yolk (I added an extra egg yolk to compensate for the wholemeal flour)
pinch salt
pinch cayenne
teaspoon chilli flakes (optional, for chilli addicts)

Combine all the dry ingredients, then add the egg yolk. It's that hard. It's even harder if you use a food processor. Roll out to 1/4 in thick on a floured surface, and either cut into strips about half an inch thick or have fun cutting out pretty shapes. I used stars at Christmas, and am now looking for an excuse to use my flower-shaped cutter. lay on a baking sheet* and cook at Gas mark 8 (450) for 5-9 minutes. You do need to keep an eye on them because the window between 'nicely browned' and 'burnt and horrid' is quite a narrow one.

*they have so much fat in them that there's no need to grease, but they will stick a bit because of the cheese meltage. A fish slice is handy for scraping them off, and if they break you are allowed to 'test' them. Them's the rules!

Monday, February 15

Chocolate Roulade

We're supposed to be on a healthy diet here, so naturally any excuse to step off the low fat low carb high fibre regime is eagerly embraced. Naturally Valentine's day is such an excuse. We decided to cook a meal on Saturday night, and when P said he'd do the main course I volunteered to do pudding. Then out of my mouth, as if from nowhere came the words 'Chocolate Roulade'.

Chocolate Roulade has been a stalwart of family celebrations since roughly the mid 1980's. It's something I have eaten hundreds of times, but never made. I had to ring my Mum for the recipe.

6oz plain chocolate (yeah baby)
5 eggs, separated
6oz caster sugar
3tbsp hot water
1/2 pint double cream
something nice to go in the cream (optional)
icing sugar
13 1/2 x 9 1/2 inch shallow tin*

1.Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of slightly simmering water.

2.Separate the eggs. Put the whites into a glass before you pour them into a bowl, that way you might avoid having to use three extra eggs because you accidentally got yolk into the whites so had to throw it away, like I did. Actually later Mum told me it probably would have been OK with a bit of yolk in the white, but still.

3. Whisk the sugar into the egg yolks. It seems like a lot of sugar into not much egg yolk, but it's OK. Whip until the yolk/sugar mixture goes paler. (That's the air going into it which will help it rise, innit.)

4. Remove the melted chocolate from the healt and allow to cool a little. In this instance I decided 'a little' meant 'until you can dip your finger in and lick it without fear of burning'. Stir in the three tbsp of hot water, and marvel as the chocolate changes colour and thickens. Coo!

5. Stir the chocolate mixture into the yolks and sugar. At this point I had a major panic that the yolks were cooking, but later I realised that it went instantly much stiffer because the yolks were cooling the chocolate. Phew!

6. Whip the egg whites until stiff. I now have a food processor. It's bloody marvellous, it would have taken an age by hand.

7. Fold the egg whites gently into the chocolate mixture with a metal spoon, then pour into a tin which has been oiled, lined with greasproof paper and oiled again. The oiling is key. Do not skimp on the oiling.

8. Put in the centre of the oven at gas mark 4 (350 degrees) and cook for 20 mins.

9. After 20 mins remove from the oven and allow to cool for a bit. In Emma patience terms this means 10 mins. Place a sheet of greaseproof paper over the top of the tins, and then cover with a damp tea towel. You are then supposed to leave this overnight. I left it for about four hours. It was fine. It basically needs to have got soggy enough that you can roll it up.

10. Whip the cream until it is stiff. At this point I added the zest of two oranges. I remember my Mum adding raspberries. My Dad said that sometimes they add Grand Marnier, or Creme de Menthe. You could add anything that goes with chocolate. You could even add more chocolate.

11. Turn out the chocolate sponge onto a sheet of greaseproof paper which has been dusted liberally with icing sugar. Do not panic if it breaks (mine did). Spread the cream over the sponge, mending any breaks.

12. Roll up the sponge and cream from the narrower end. I found the I could lift up the geasproof paper and get my hands under to help it roll and squish together.

13. Eat. It's very rich, so you will probably need a friend to help you. If you do not have a friend, this will almost certainly buy you one.

Thanks Mum! :)

*I do not have a tin of these dimensions. I used two smaller ones, so now I have a spare Chocolate Roulade in the freezer (yes, it freezes well too). It is available for parties, christenings and bar mitzvahs.

Sunday, February 14

Anything to swap?

I went to Plummy Mummy's house on Friday for an Indian cooking lesson. The original intention was to swap skills; I was supposed to show her how to crochet in return for her okra curry making lesson. Unfortunately (or possibly luckily for her) she worked out how to crochet a square all on her own using only the power of the internet. So in the end I definitely got the better deal, and very very good deal it was too. My goodness the curry was delicious. So was the other one, with the vegetable I have forgotten the name of. I hope she will also post that recipe (hint, hint). I wish I'd taken a picture to jolly up this entry, but I was too busy scoffing. No change there, then.

Despite the one-sided swap, I did think: this could be a Good Thing. So many people do things that they could teach other people. What if more of us got together and exchanged our skill? I reckon it'd be brilliant.

Here is a list of stuff I reckon I could show other people how to do.

1) How to crochet a square, and then crochet another one and join it on as you go.
2) How to play the ukulele.
3) How to knit a seamless hat with magic loop.
4) How to cook various cakes.
5) How to make chicken stock.
6) How to make gravy.

I'm sure there is other stuff, too. I have a slew of printmaking skills but those slightly require a studio and specialist equipment. I am really thinking of more ordinary, every day stuff.

Do you have anything you could skill-swap? I bet you do.

Monday, February 1

Yellow Soup

For reasons too tedious to go into, I am attempting to cut down on carbohydrates in my diet. This has had a knock on effect on my soup cooking, which frequently involves potato. I like a bit of potato in my soup as it improves the texture and makes it a bit more filling.

This weekend I devised a soup which has no potato, but still has a smooth texture and is plenty filling. Here 'tis:

olive oil
1 small onion
1 medium leek
2 sticks of celery
a large carrot
1 clove garlic
1tsp tumeric
4 good handfuls of red lentils
about 2 litres of stock. I used chicken stock from the freezer and supplemented that with a tbsp of vegetable stock powder.
salt and pepper

Slosh some oil into a large pan (I used my pressure cooker) and heat. Chop the veg and garlic into whichever size you fancy (I was having a small day yesterday), and sautee gently in the oil for about five minutes. Add a tsp of tumeric and stir. Chuck in the lentils and stir them around to coat with the oil, then add the stock, a good pinch of salt and some pepper.

At this point I brought the soup to a simmer and pressure cooked it on high for ten minutes. This meant that the lentils almost completely disintegrated, leaving a smooth sauce for the rest of the vegetables to sit in. If you don't have a pressure cooker* then could probably need to simmer the soup for at least 50 minutes to really cook down the lentils, which means you'll have to add extra water to prevent the pan from boiling dry.

The resultant soup is a cross between a thin dahl and a thick soup. The tumeric, which I seem to remember is supposed to be good for colds (I just like the taste) gives the whole soup a lovely golden yellow colour.

You could probably do something fancy with browned onions as a garnish, but I had a bit of toast. I can't give up carbs altogether, can I?!

*get one, they are bloody brilliant.