If you'd asked me last weekend which soup I'd be making next, I wouldn't have have said crab bisque. The choice was made because last Friday (6th August) the spouse fortuitously spotted and bought a pair of frozen crabs from his new favourite fish shop on Upper Rathmines Road. As soon as I saw them, I thought "Soup!" and looked up crab recipes in The Soup Book. There are two options - the bisque and gazpacho.The latter requires clams or mussels, so we chose the former and began thawing the crabs ready for cooking yesterday afternoon.
There is quite a lot of preparation involved in this recipe - crab meat to remove from shells, onions, carrots, celery, leeks, fennel, ginger and garlic to chop, as well as cooking, blending and sieving - so I called upon the younger offspring's pair of hands. I bashed the crab shells with my rolling pin and cracked open the legs with the kitchen scissors so that the child labourer could prise out the meat.Then instead of finely chopping the vegetables by hand, as usual, I decided to use the food processor. Good decision.
Another time consuming activity was the decision-making process in relation to the use of the crab shells. The recipe tells you to chop the shell into small pieces, add them to the soup as it cooks, and to blend them with the other ingredients. The spouse pointed out that the recipe specifies spider crab or velvet crab, neither of which we had heard of, so thank goodness yet again for the internet. We were able to determine that the crabs to hand were neither spider or velvet, but we couldn't narrow the species down any further! He checked other bisque recipes and discovered that shells are indeed used in the soup. I used all the shell pieces when cooking, but removed the leg pieces so that only the carapaces would be blended at the end.
The crab meat is set aside until you're nearly ready to serve. You cook the vegetables, the garlic and ginger together, then add the shell, tomato puree, chopped tomatoes, Cognac or brandy, white wine and fish stock. You then blend this mixture and sieve it twice, taking out any remaining larger pieces of shell. The soup mixture is returned to the pan and brought to the boil before adding the crab meat and cream, seasoning, cayenne pepper and lemon juice. The four of us had it for dinner last night - a luxury and luxurious soup. Definitely one of my favourites so far. There was enough left over for two people today. The older offspring and a guest finished it off, the latter adding her words of approval.
Aside: Thank you, DGR, for your latest contribution to my soup recipe collection. Thoughtful as ever.
I have booked my place on the course Getting the bees ready for winter at Irish Seed Savers in Scariff. It takes place on Sunday 19th September. There are 11 places altogether and I'm the first to book. I hope it goes ahead - I have to try on a bee suit. The spouse, the younger offspring and I are all going down to that part of the country for a family event taking place the night before, and we're staying in a nearby B&B which has the kitsch-iest, paddywhackery-est website I have ever seen! A bright green background, a scattering of little rainbows and as you move the cursor around it leaves a trail of shamrocks behind! At least there are no leprechauns.
Here's a link to a report on the Federation of Irish Beekeepers' Associations annual course which took place at Gormanston, Co Meath - Getting busy with it, Irish Times, 5th August. I received a notice about the event from the County Dublin Beekeepers' Association during the week, my second notice since I first signed up to receive e-mail alerts a few months ago. Well done to Simon who is sending the alerts.
What's happening with the bee boxes? Well, I've printed out the various instructions sheets (see links in the blog of 24th July) and discussed the matter further with the older offspring. He's still saying he'll make them for me and he'll help me to have a go, but the sound of sawing and hammering has yet to replace the sound of his favourite comedy shows and Wii games!
Here are links to a couple of worthwhile causes:
Hives Save Lives and
Honey makes Money in the Cameroon.
Bee is for Bush
Last Friday the spouse sent me a link to this story - It's me, Kate Bush, I've come home: The woman behind the story. The Kick Inside is one of my favourite albums of all time. I shared the story with my colleague "Scarlett" (of Samuel L Jackson and Dionne Warwick fame - see blog of 14th June), who was also a fan of that album, so then we reminisced and started screeching our favourite tracks - Saxophone Song, Man with the Child in his Eyes, Wuthering Heights, Feel It, and Them Heavy People. We pondered Kate's popularity with men and decided it had to be the "leppin' about" in her leotard. We might do a Kate revival, singing some of her oul' songs and wearing Aran leotards. The bee connection? The two discs comprising the double album Aerial are entitled A Sea of Honey and A Sky of Honey. Bertie is my favourite track.