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Crustaceans at Christmas

Lobster Bisque

If you've read my previous blog entry, when you see the words "lobster", "brandy", "white wine" and "cream" you may immediately think "fire" and "burnt hair". Surely I can't have made another lobster soup so soon? Well, I have. Don't forget that I mentioned having bought two lobsters from the nearby German discount store. (By the way, the spouse and I have called in a couple of times and managed not to be tempted by telescopes and tambourines.) My one hundred and sixty-eighth soup from The Soup Book was lobster bisque and the listed ingredients include lobster, onion, carrot, celery, leek, fennel, bay leaf, tarragon, garlic, tomato puree, tomatoes, brandy, dry white wine, and cream. What's not to like? I had to make a couple of substitutions: fennel seeds for fennel bulb, dried tarragon for fresh, a mix of tomato puree and sundried tomato paste, and a mix of cream and creme fraiche.

The book giv…

Lovely Lobster Lights Up My Culinary World ... And My Hair!

I've made two soups from The Soup Book so far this month: creamy kidney bean by Roopa Gulati (7th December) and brandied lobster chowder by Carolyn Humphries (yesterday - 21st December).

Creamy kidney bean soup

The kidney bean soup was the 166th from The Soup Book and the first soup from the Pulses and Nuts section in six months. With ingredients such as fresh root ginger, green chillies and lime juice to counteract the kidney beans and tomatoes, I expected my tastebuds to be tingling with delight. Unfortunately, they weren't. As Eamon Dunphy might have said, it was a good soup but not a great soup. The older son was the food critic on that occasion and I think he was a little disappointed. I brought the remainder into work for my lunch the following Monday and thought it had improved slightly. It's not on my "make again" list.

Brandied lobster chowder

Now this is my sort of soup! Lobster, white wine, shallots, brandy, tomato, anchovy essence, new potatoes, cream,…

Liver But Not To Tell Another Day!

Chicken Liver and Noodle Soup

It was 1982 and the spouse and I were setting up home together. One of first cookery I bought for our first shared home was The Chicken Cookbook by Anne Mason. I don't remember using it often but I picked it out from our crammed kitchen bookshelves two days ago, just in case there were any promising soup recipes. We had made a terrine recently which meant that we had some chicken livers going spare. In the run up to Christmas the spouse wants to use up all the packets of chicken legs, wings and breasts that are clogging up our freezer, hence the choice of recipe book.

Yes, there was a recipe for soup and yes, it required chicken livers. Finally, yes, there was some home-made chicken stock in the freezer. A perfect storm. We didn't have fine noodles, but we were planning on going into town where we would pick some up in an Asian market.

The ingredients for this soup include stock, fine noodles, cooked peas, chicken livers (sliced) and butter. The t…

Chicken and Yogurt Soup with Chili and Lemon

Salma's Chicken and Yogurt Soup with Chili and Lemon

Yes, it's been a while since I last wrote a blog entry but I have been making soup. We had a lovely October bank holiday weekend here in Dublin. The two offspring were away at different events, so the spouse and I relaxed and had plenty of time to cook. I made this soup using Salma Hage's recipe from The Lebanese Kitchen. Ingredients: leek (sliced), garlic (crushed), a bay leaf (picked from the garden), chicken stock (home-made and thawed out), chicken breasts (cut into strips), cornflour, yogurt, canned chickpeas (drained and rinsed), chili flakes, lemon juice, chopped coriander, and a pinch of paprika.

I sweated the leek in butter and olive oil, before adding the garlic and bay leaf. In went the chicken stock and then the chicken strips, which were then left to simmer. I took out the chicken strips (difficult to separate out the leek slices) and then tried to thicken the soup with a little cornflour paste. This proved …

Doubling Up

Corn and Crab Soup with Coriander

Last weekend I dipped into one of those books that sits on my kitchen bookshelves waiting to be pulled out, dusted off and put to use: The Essential Seafood Cookbook  edited by Wendy Stephen.  I'm not sure why I chose this recipe - perhaps I liked the idea of the tang of lemon grass and ginger together with crab (tinned) and coconut milk. Other ingredients included garlic, Asian shallots (I stuck with western shallots), chicken stock, frozen sweetcorn kernels, fish sauce, lime juice and brown sugar. Unfortunately, the spouse wasn't able to find fresh coriander.

I did my prep work. I added chopped garlic, shallots and lemon grass and grated ginger to heated oil in a pan. Next in were the stock and coconut milk. Then in went the sweetcorn. The last additions were the crab meat, fish sauce, lime juice and sugar.

The four of us sat down to sup. I was a little disappointed by the blandness of the soup, despite the appetite-whetting spice and herb m…

Seventeen Meatballs

Lamb Meatball Soup

Yesterday I decided to go off piste from The Soup Book. I leafed through The Lebanese Kitchen by Salma Hage and found a fairly simple recipe for lamb meatball soup. Meatballs, tomatoes, sweetcorn, spices: what's not to like? Whenever I think of minced meat I think of minced beef rather than minced lamb, but minced lamb is becoming increasingly available. The recipe calls for seven spices seasoning (also known as Lebanese mixed spices), which I haven't heard of before. The spouse searched on the internet for me and found several different combinations of spices. Eventually I opted for a mix of black pepper, cumin, paprika, coriander, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamon.

Decision made, I set to making the meatballs. These consisted of minced lamb, grated onion, flour and the spice mixture. Rings off and hands washed, I began mashing and pounding the ingredients together. I then shaped seventeen meatballs, all the while thinking of an old song my father used …

Roast Squash Soup

Roast Squash Soup

Soup number 164 from The Soup Book was made from butternut squash roasted with tomatoes, garlic, rosemary, thyme and red onion. They smelt deliciously rich as they roasted away until ready to be whizzed in the blender with some hot stock. Sophie Grigson suggests that winter squash such as onion squash, red kuri, crown prince or pumpkin can be used for this recipe. I knew that I would be lucky to find any of those so I plumped for butternut. Nothing wrong with that.

Having blended the soup, I made the rouille to be spread on croutes. This rouille was made from saffron soaked in warm water, garlic, a red chilli, egg yolk, red wine vinegar, and olive and sunflower oils beaten together. Not all together at the one time, just a little at a time.

I prepared the croutes, re-heated the soup and set the table. Then I called whichever male persons were still in the house, ie, the spouse and the younger offspring. I ladled the soup into warmed bowls and left everyone to prepare t…

More Mulligatawny

The first time I made mulligatawny was back in May 2011. On that occasion I used The Soup Book, of course. Yesterday I used another book that has been idling away, not earning its right to be on my kitchen bookshelves: The Essential Asian Cookbook (edited by Jane Bowring and Jane Price).  The ingredients include chicken pieces, flour, Madras curry powder, ground turmeric, ground ginger (I used fresh ginger on the last occasion), cloves, peppercorns, an apple(!), chicken stock, lemon juice and cream: not dissimilar to, but less extensive than the ingredients listed in The Soup Book recipe.

The spouse had bought a whole chicken, which I cut into pieces. These pieces were then rubbed with the mix of flour, turmeric, ginger and curry powder. I fried them in butter, threw the cloves and peppercorns into the pot (not wrapped in muslin. Where do I buy muslin, anyway?), poured in the stock, added the diced apple and left the lot simmering for an hour or so. Then I took the cooked chicken out…

Interlude With Some Samphire

Samphire Soup with Poached Eggs

My one hundred and sixty-third recipe from The Soup Book is by Carolyn Humphries. I'd been looking to making this soup once I realised it was possible to buy samphire. Of course, when I wasn't looking for samphire, I could see it on sale in various shops; but when I wanted to use it, it couldn't be found. Anyway, the spouse found it and bought it for me yesterday: "€8 for 300g is not cheap," said he.  I trotted down to Young Stephen's for a potato and a leek. I asked him if he ever stocked samphire, to which he replied in the negative.

Another reason I wanted to make this soup was because of the addition of poached eggs (or "pouched eggs", as they were called on the menu in the Italian hotel I stayed in recently). I love poached eggs and the spouse is becoming quite an expert at making them for me. Carolyn Humphries specifies that white wine vinegar should be added to the water in which you poach your eggs. We had it …

Miso Soup with Tuna

Miso Soup with Tuna

This weekend I made a soup from the soup and shellfish section of The Soup Book, mainly because I'm aware this is the section through which I have made least progress. Leafing through the fish soup recipes, miso soup with tuna was the first one I came across that I hadn't made (the last fish soup was the creamy scallop bisque in December 2012). I read through the ingredients listed by Carolyn Humphries: what is wakame? where do I get it and dried shitake mushrooms and miso paste? Apart from those three items, it was easy enough to obtain a carrot, spring onions, ginger, fresh tuna and chives. The spouse made a detour from the usual shopping route to his favourite fishmonger's shop then went into town for dried wakame.

So, at about 5.30pm yesterday evening, I set about making the soup. I made up chicken stock from a cube and left the shitake mushrooms and wakame soaking in cold water while I prepared the vegetables and diced the tuna. Next, I put everyth…

Beetroot and Bees

Beetroot and Gin Soup

Soup No. 161 from The Soup Book was made in accordance with Sophie Grigson's instructions. In her introduction to the recipe she describes the beetroot and gin soup as being "for adults only, with a finishing kick of gin, ... dramatic-looking dark pink [carrying] distinct eastern European flavours." Still only being rehabilitated to beetroot, I have hesitated to make this soup but was intrigued by that description.

I'd had the house to myself for a few days, what with the spouse and older offspring rendez-vous-ing in Nottingham with the latter's godfather for some sort of cricket tournament, I believe, and the younger offspring spending time under canvas in Spain. Peace and quiet - lovely! No offence to the males in my life.

Having completed the bulk of the "big shop" yesterday morning, I strolled down to Young Stephen's to buy beetroot and dill. His assistant Marek was on duty. I needed 650g of beetroot but they were being sol…

Not Rocket Science

Rocket and Parmesan Soup

Soup 160 from The Soup Book. The recipe by Celia Brooks Brown looked simple, the preparation was simple. No processing: just the hand blender. Simple. What did I need? Olive oil, onions (chopped), potatoes (skins left on and cubed), garlic (crushed), vegetable stock, Parmesan rind (yes, that's right - rind; "tiny diced"), and rocket (roughly chopped). What made it even simpler was that I had everything except for the rocket. I had to go into town anyway so I decided to go to Temple Bar for fresh organic rocket.

My first stop while in town was at Merrion Square to see what was happening at Dublin Pride 2013. Then I sauntered along Nassau Street, through the Trinity College campus, across College Green, down Anglesea Street, an errand in Cope Street and then to Curved Street. Having bought rocket from the stall-holder, he told me about pesto he'd made using rocket, mantega and walnuts (mmmm!).

Home. The spouse was back from Belfast. We're ho…

Chillin' with 'Cho

White Gazpacho

We've had a few lovely sunny warm days here in Dublin so yesterday I thought I'd pick a recipe for a chilled soup  from The Soup Book. On a hot day you don't want to spend too much time peeling and chopping and standing over a hot saucepan.  Similarly, while the recipe requires you to grind blanched almonds, I had a rebellious moment and used pre-ground almonds. Naughty me.

I cut up white bread and left it soaking in iced water while I whizzed the ground almonds with a little iced water in the processor. I probably shouldn't have used ice cubes. Then I put the bread and garlic into the processor and whizzed the mixture together. This was followed by the addition of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. A little seasoning and I was ready to go. I placed seedless green grapes in the bottom of the bowls and ladled in the soup.

Verdict: The poor younger offspring wasn't able for much, mainly because of the garlic. The spouse and I both liked it but he wouldn…

Cheerful Chervil

Vegetable and Chervil Soup

This recipe from The Soup Book is by Raymond Blanc and in order to make it I had to plant chervil specially! You'll see how it's grown in the last three weeks (see my blog of 11th May). The vegetables needed were onion, carrots, celery, leeks, courgette and tomatoes (yes, I know: technically a fruit). I peeled and chopped as necessary then went off for a rest. I also needed "a scant ounce" of chervil. By the time I'd obtained this, there was very little left of my plant! The photo to the right shows it before I'd stripped it nearly bare.

When it was time to start cooking, I set to, pleased with myself at having everything ready. The first step involved sweating the onion, garlic, carrots, celery and leeks in melted butter. After this in went boiling water, the carrots and tomatoes for a five-minute fast boil. Finally, I added a little more butter and the finely chopped chervil. I ladled the soup out and left the spouse and younger of…

Sweet Saturday Afternoon

Mango and Curry Leaf Soup


Yesterday was a sunny Saturday afternoon - our second hint of summer in six days. I had spent the previous evening baking Ottolenghi's marzipan muffins (adapted - I didn't make the plum compote) and making fudge and Nigella's rocky road for a parish fête. My teeth were on edge from checking that everything was up to standard and I had spent yesterday afternoon manning (personning?) a stall. But, I still wanted to make soup. I hadn't made anything from the fruit section of The Soup Book for a long time - since the 15th March 2012, in fact. 


The recipe for mango and curry leaf soup is by Roopa Gulati, of whom I usually expect great things. I gathered together the ingredients: Alfonso mangoes (I'm not sure that mine were Alfonso), black mustard seeds, curry leaves, red chilli, dark muscovado sugar, turmeric, coconut milk, lime juice and coriander. Roopa gave the preparation time as fifteen minutes: a huge underestimate as it took me at least t…

Chard Work

Swiss Chard and Coconut Soup 

Today's recipe from The Soup Book is by Sarah Raven, who was involved in a BBC documentary called Bees, Butterflies and Blooms. So there you have it! This entry has already mentioned bees! Back to the business in hand. The ingredients for this soup include Swiss chard (or spinach), Red Giant mustard (or kale or more chard), onions, garlic, vegetable stock and coconut milk. I bought the chard and spinach yesterday at Meeting House Square, having decided to substitute the latter for Red Giant mustard.

The younger offspring gave me a hand to prepare the chard and spinach by shredding the leaves once I'd pulled them off the stalks. The rest of the prep work and cooking was straightforward: peeling and chopping the onion and garlic, sweating them, adding the leaves, stock and coconut milk, and pureeing the lot before serving. The spouse wasn't too keen on the soup but preferred the thin texture to that of yesterday's nettle soup: "I like th…

A Sting in the Tale

Nettle Soup

I have hesitated to make nettle soup from The Soup Book but last weekend I decided to overcome my doubts. The spouse and I were having a leisurely, offspring-free day in town and I spotted bagged nettles on a vegetable stall in Meeting House Square. I checked with the stall-holders that they would have nettles again this weekend and determined to go back. The next day I was at a friend's and her husband was about to make nettle soup. My fate was sealed.

I had to bring the younger offspring into town this morning and once I had completed various other errands I made my way to Meeting House Square. I bought the nettles and some chard and spinach for my next soup-making stint.  Yesterday the younger offspring and I could have picked all the free nettles I could ever have wanted down by the local river, but I wondered if they'd been sprayed with anything or by any beast.

On arriving home from town this afternoon I put on my rubber gloves and washed the nettles, leeks, …

Carrot Soup with Coconut and Lemongrass

Carrot Soup with Coconut and Lemongrass


"It's a soup day!" I thought to myself yesterday as the spouse got ready to go out shopping. "I'll run downstairs, choose a soup and give Dinks a list of ingredients."
Too late! He'd already left the house. I cast an eye over our cookery books, considered Keith Floyd's Floyd on Fish briefly but then chose The Soup Book. "A summer vegetable soup, I think," I said to myself. The book practically opened itself at this carrot soup recipe. We had onions, garlic, garlic, ginger, coconut milk and other ingredients. I rang the spouse and ordered carrots, lemongrass, red Thai curry paste and kaffir lime leaves. The latter wasn't available at our usual shop so I strolled down to Young Stephen's, not really expecting him to have them in stock. There he was, too absorbed in singing along to Return to Senderto pay me any attention so I checked myself what was available on the herb and spice rack. Aha! Kaf…

Turkey Broth

Turkey Broth

Turkey? No, I'm not mixing up my religious festivals. Yesterday (31st March) was Easter Sunday and the spouse marked the occasion by cooking turkey and ham. There was lots left over. I used some of it by making sandwiches for unexpected visitors. Today I made the turkey broth from a recipe by Roopa Gulati. This soup was my 153rd from The Soup Book. It's been about three months since I made a soup from the book that kick-started this blog. I missed it! I missed the clear lay-out and the listing of the ingredients.

The ingredients are simple enough: leek, celery, carrots, parsnip and turnip. Of course, turnip is never as simple as it should be. I couldn't find any so I used an additional parsnip (even though I don't like them) and threw in a few mushrooms. All the vegetables had to be finely diced, as did the cooked turkey meat. I defrosted some home-made chicken stock and brought it to the boil with a good dollop of dry white wine (the cheapest I could lay …

Another Tale of the Ox

Oxtail Soup

The first time I made oxtail soup in the interests of this blog was November 2010. On this occasion I used a recipe from Floyd on Britain and Ireland, which was first published in 1988. Our copy is signed by Keith Floyd himself. I met him that year at the book launch on Dawson Street. In my innocence I recommended a restaurant in Kinsale to him, ignorant of the fact that he was a partner in the business! Looking at the photo of Keith and his red braces on the cover of the book, you'll be transported back to the 1980s!

His recipe for oxtail soup lists butter, carrots, onion, turnips, brown stock, a shin bone, fine sago, dry mustard and sherry among the ingredients. Turnips seem to go into hiding when I'm looking for them so I substituted swede turnip. I have concluded the main reason for using white turnips is that they have a weaker taste than swedes. As for sago, where would I find sago? The only time I ever ate sago was at school in England: tapioca and sago milk…

Lebanese Lentil and Lamb Soup

Lebanese Lentil and Lamb Soup

My soup effort came about by chance. I was going to slob around after last weekend's hosting activity (the sister J'Zo and husband G'Cro were staying with us) but when the spouse said he was going to make soup I thought I'd better take up my wooden spoon and stir. The spouse has acquired a few new cookbooks lately, one of which is Salma Hage's The Lebanese Kitchen. I'm not familiar with typical Lebanese foodstuffs, let alone recipes, but for me cooking can be like travelling without leaving the confines of my kitchen.

The ingredients for this recipe include onion, garlic, lamb, a bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, dried green lentils, sun-dried tomatoes, baby spinach and mint. The preparation involves the usual peeling, chopping and cooking. I gently fried the onion and garlic, then added the lamb and browned it evenly. Then I made a mistake. The recipe says, "Pour in the hot stock and add all the herbs." I did, but then read tha…