Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken Noodle soupChicken noodle soup from a takeaway can be a gloopy, tasteless affair full of MSG but don’t let that put you off making it yourself.  The key to packing flavour into this soup lies in the quality of the stock.  Making your own is best, if you buy it you may need to boost it a little with a spoonful of vegetable bouillon powder.

I made this soup for a crowd (the recipe has been scaled down) so I started the day before with a whole chicken which I poached.  I then removed the meat from the carcass, roasted the bones for half an hour and returned them to the pot with a couple of bay leaves, a carrot, two celery sticks and a leek.  I left this concoction to simmer gently on the Rayburn for about 4 hours before straining and leaving to cool.  This gave me a great flavour base to start with and is worth doing if you have the time.  If you are only cooking for small numbers freeze any leftover stock and use the rest of the chicken in a salad or a pie next day.

The recipe below uses just a chicken breast (you don’t need much meat) and is a short cut to similar results.

Ingredients

(Serves 4 as a starter)

1 large Boneless Chicken Breast (skin removed)

900ml / 1 ½ pints Chicken Stock

100g / 4 oz Rice or Soba Noodles

Small piece of fresh Root Ginger

1 Clove of Garlic

100g / 4 oz Mushrooms (I used Shitake and Enoki)

2 Spring Onions

2 tsp Soy Sauce, (plus extra for serving)

1 Red Chilli

A handful of Coriander

Method

Pour the stock into a pan. Finely chop the ginger and garlic and add to the stock along with the chicken breast. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes until the chicken is just cooked. Remove the chicken from the pan and shred it using 2 forks.

Chop the spring onions, slice the shitake, separate the enoki mushrooms and add to the stock along with the shredded chicken. Season with the soy sauce. Add the noodles and simmer until they are cooked (just two or three minutes) .

Ladle into bowls and scatter over the remaining spring onions, herbs and chilli shreds if using. Serve with extra soy sauce for sprinkling.

 

 

 

Make More Soup and Save the World

Celery Soup

I was saddened this week to read that, throughout Europe, we waste around 50% of the food we produce. Apparently in Britain we throw away around 25% of the food we buy but, before we even buy it, all the mis-shapen or ugly fruit and veg have been discarded before they even reach the shops. The impact of this waste has a profound effect on our finances, the environment and personal guilt when half the world is starving.

The newspapers have been full of stories and statistics not to mention stern lectures about avoiding BOGOFs and ready meals (if not avoiding supermarkets altogether).

I have no intention of adding to the lectures, life isn’t always simple. Most of the time I shop locally and buy just what I want for that evening’s meal but sometimes, after a long day at work, I run into a supermarket feeling tired and hungry and buy random ingredients that don’t quite add up to a meal. Like most people I usually have a lone carrot deteriorating in the bottom of the salad drawer or some herbs wilting sadly on the window sill.

I tend to treat sell buy dates with some scepticism and use my eyes and nose to decide if something is still edible – food usually lasts much longer than indicated on the packet. But I confess to being a bit fussy about milk and can detect the slightest change in flavour even when the label says it is still in date so there’s no way that’s going in my tea.

That does not mean that they have to be thrown away – milk which is just on the turn can happily be used in soda bread or scones and less than perfect vegetables can always be used up in a soup.

Soup for me is a thing of wonder. It is usually low fat, full of fibre, contributes to your five a day, tastes great and is quick to make. Now you can add “helps to save the world” to that list as well as (and this is important to a good catholic girl) “alleviates guilt”.

There are of course some really elegant soup recipes around and you might want to buy ingredients especially for them but that’s not what I am talking about here. I am talking about everyday soup, soup you can take to work for lunch or just pour into a mug for a warming mid-morning snack.

Vegetable soup is brilliant because you can just throw in whatever random veg you have lurking in the fridge. Perk it up with some judiciously chosen herbs and spices and you have a simple tasty lunch.

I was prompted to write this piece by some slightly wilted celery. I love celery soup and so does Martin – which is odd because he doesn’t like celery.

Celery Soup Recipe

I fried a chopped onion, some garlic and a lonely leek in a little olive oil until softened. Then I added the celery (leaves and root and all) and some stock. Chicken stock works well but if you don’t have any just use some bouillon powder and hot water. Bring to the boil and simmer until soft then blitz with a stick blender until smooth.

Serve with a little drizzle of left over natural yoghurt or cream, a good grinding of black pepper and some chopped herbs – I used thyme. Alternatively it tastes great topped with a few scraps of stilton or goats cheese if you have bits left at the back of the fridge.

If you want more ideas on how to reduce waste in your house take a look at the tips on Love Food Hate Waste but in the meantime – make more soup!

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Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

One of the joys of cooking on a Rayburn is that you can have big pans of soup bubbling away gently all the way through Autumn and Winter.  One of my favourite Autumn soups is a spicy squash soup.  This one uses butternut squash but you could substitute any other squash to ring the changes.

I sometimes use curry spices (cumin, coriander, garam masala) but this time I have given it a moroccan slant and used Ras el Hanout.  Squash tends to be very sweet so spices add an extra dimension and lift.

It is not essential that you roast the squash first but it does add a lovely caramelised flavour.

Ingredients

1 Butternut Squash

1 Red Onion (chopped)

3 Cloves of Garlic (chopped)

2 tbsp Olive Oil

1 tbsp Ras el Hanout

1 PInt Water

1 tsp Bouillon Powder

Natural Yoghurt or Soured cream (optional)

Method

Peel and de-seed the squash and cut into chunks.  Toss the chunks in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and place in a medium oven to roast for 30-40 minutes until soft and caramelised around the edges.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat.  Add the onion and cook gently until softened, add the garlic and cook for a minute or tw o more.  Add the Ras el Hanout and stir, cook gently for a further minute or two.

Add the water and bring to the boil, stir in the bouillon and add the squash to the pan.  Remove from the heat and blend.  I prefer to use a stick blender but you could also use a liquidiser.  This makes quite a thick soup – if you prefer it to be thinner just add more water and adjust the seasoning accordingly.

Serve with a swirl of natural yoghurt or soured cream and a sprinkling of ras el hanout spice mix.

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Chilled Pea Soup with Parmesan Ice Cream

I have to confess to a guilty secret – I am a huge fan of Come Dine With Me.  Generally speaking I am not a fan of reality TV shows but there is something about this one that I love – maybe it’s the frequent ineptitude, lack of food knowledge or hapless social skills but I just can’t help it.

One common theme on the programme is that of soup – every time someone makes soup as a starter it is condemned as lazy, uninspired and overly simple – and that’s before it has been tasted.  This always surprises me, not just because I love soup but because it is so easy to elevate it into an elegant dinner party dish.

This chilled pea soup is light and flavoursome and I would happily eat it just as it is, as a simple mid-week lunch.  It is a great way to use up a glut of peas from the allotment but works just as well with frozen peas.

The recipe I used came from Jason Atherton’s Maze cookery book where nothing is uninspired!  He garnishes the soup with spring onions, peas, edible flowers and confit shallots and then serves it with parmesan ice cream – delicious.  Jason serves the ice cream on polenta tuiles but I used parmesan crisps which worked beautifully.

This really is not a “lazy” soup but it is worth all the effort if you have friends over for lunch a more formal meal.

Chilled Pea Soup Recipe

Ingredients

1 Onion (finely sliced)

3 oz / 75g Butter

9 fl oz / 250 ml Chicken Stock

9 fl oz / 250 ml Whole Milk

1 lb / 500g Peas (fresh or frozen)

Salt & Pepper

Method

Melt the butter in a large pan and add the onions.  Sautee over a low heat until soft and translucent.  Pour in the stock and milk and bring to the boil, tip in the peas and bring back to the boil then remove from the heat.

Strain the peas and onions over a jug then put into a liquidizer with half the liquid and blend (you may need to do this in two batches).  Push the soup through a sieve to make sure it is really smooth then add more of the stock/milk liquid until you have the consistency you want.  Season to taste.

Cover the soup and chill before serving in cold bowls garnished with chopped spring onions, peas, edible flowers and shallot confit (recipe below).  Serve with a scoop of parmesan ice cream on a parmesan crisp (recipes below) on the side.

Shallot Confit Recipe

Ingredients

9 long shallots – finely chopped

7 fl oz / 200 ml Olive Oil

1 Sprig of Thyme

A large pinch of Sea Salt

Method

Put all the ingredients in a heavy based pan.  Cook over a very low heat for 30 minutes until the shallots are soft and translucent.  Allow to cool, discard the thyme and put into an airtight container and store in a cool place (use within a week).  Drain off the excess oil before using.

Parmesan Ice Cream Recipe

Ingredients

500 ml Double Cream

140g finely grated Parmesan

Method

Heat the cream until almost boiling.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the grated parmesan.  Keep whisking until the cheese is melted.  Sieve into a bowl to remove any lumps.  Place the bowl of cream over a bowl of iced water.  Use a stick blender or electric hand mixer to mix on low until the cream cools then increase the speed and keep blending until it is completely cold and has thickened to a custard like consistency.

Pour into a shallow container and freeze.

This forms quite a dense ice cream so remove from the freezer 10 mins before you need it and use a cutter to remove disks of the firm, savoury yumminess.

Parmesan Crisps

Ingredients

Parmesan Cheese

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180 C /  350 F / Gas Mark 4

Finely grate the parmesan.

Put a sheet of greaseproof paper on the back of a baking sheet (this makes it easier to remove the crisps).  Place a 2″ cookie cutter or cooking ring onto the baking sheet, put a heaped teaspoon of cheese into the ring and spread it around – make sure the edges are particularly well coated.  Don’t press the cheese down – it will melt into itself and create a lacy effect.

Move the ring along to create the next disc and repeat until you have used all the cheese (or filled the sheet!).  You only need a couple of mm in between discs as they don’t spread much.

Place the tray in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes until golden and bubbling.  Careful – they burn quickly after this stage.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Store in an airtight tin.

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Gazpacho

Gazpacho needs to be made from fully ripe, flavour packed tomatoes if you want to get real depth the soup.  When you get the ingredients right this chilled starter really is a taste of summer condensed into a bowl.  Served with the garnish on the side it is elevated into a great dinner party dish.

Ingredients

Serves 8 as a tapa or 4 as a starter.

1 kg ripe Tomatoes

4 Spring Onions (trimmed)

3 Cloves of Garlic (peeled)

1/2 Cucumber

75 ml Virgin Olive Oil

2 tbsp Sherry Vinegar

Salt & Pepper

For the Garnish

2 Spring Onions (trimmed)

1/2 Red Pepper (cored and de-seeded)

1/2 Green Pepper (cored and de-seeded)

1/2 Cucumber

1 Hard Boiled Egg

Method

Put the tomatoes, spring onions, garlic and cucumber into a blender and whiz to a puree.  Pass through a fine sieve 2 or 3 times to make sure it is really smooth.  Return the soup to the blender and, with the motot running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream.

Add the sherry vinegar and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Pour into a jug and chill for at least 2 hours.

Whilst the soup is chilling make the garnish by finely dicing all the ingredients.  Mix well, cover and chill until needed.  You may also choose to make some croutons to add a little crunch.

To serve give the soup a quick whisk to ensure it is still well mixed and pour into serving bowls or cups.  Drizzle with a little olive oil and add a grinding of black pepper.  Serve with the garnish on the side to your guests can add it themselves.