Thursday, 23 October 2014

Indian Lambs Liver Soup

I love offal.  Two of my favourite meals of all time are Steak and Kidney Pie and Liver & Onions (Is this the diet of an old man?).  If I'm in a restaurant and there's a dish containing any form of offal at all, I'm all over it.  Of course, I'm aware that I'm in a minority in this love, but there it is.

For me, the question isn't 'why would you eat that?' but rather 'Why WOULDN"T you eat that'?  Offal - and all those other overlooked bits like tongue and cheek - are tasty, unusual and cheap.  In a world where people are going crazy over such boring fare as pulled pork and gourmet burgers, I'd rather have a bit of Lamb's Liver or Ox Heart Ragu any day.  In fact, could there be a market for an offal-based fast food outlet on every high street? I'd eat there, for sure.  Although I may be one of the only ones.

What am I, chopped liver?
Despite this love of all things offal, I haven't done too many soup recipes that show this off - there was Menudo, a tripe soup, that I blogged a while ago, and while I've had quite a few in my to-soup list for a while, I haven't gotten round to making them.  Until I found this little gem of an Indian soup recipe.  Like the Beetroot Rasam that I blogged recently, it should be cooked in a pressure cooker, but as I still haven't extended the kitchen, I made this in a pan.  Many of the recipes I found for this soup used just water, not stock, but I found that just a little bland, and if there's one thing I can't abide it's a bland soup...

If anyone has any other suggestions for soup recipes containing offal of any kind, I'd love to hear them, and maybe put them on the blog for the rest of the world to enjoy.  Also, if you think you don't like offal, dig out a cool sounding recipe and give it another go, you might be surprised!

350g Lambs Liver
2 Onions
4 Tomatoes

1.2l Stock
2tsp Ground Cumin
2tsp Ground Coriander
1tsp Ground Black Pepper
1tsp Turmeric Powder
1tsp Red Chilli Flakes
2tsp Garlic Purée
1tsp Ginger Purée
1/2tsp Garam Masala
Coriander Leaves

1. Place the tomatoes in boiling water for 5 minutes, then remove the skins, de-seed and finely chop them

2.  Heat some oil in your soup pan.  Peel and finely chop the onions.  Gently fry them for 5 minutes, until they start to colour.

3.  Wash and thinly slice the lamb's liver.

4.  Add the chopped tomatoes, liver, garlic and ginger puree and fry for another 5 minutes

5.  Add the stock, bring the soup to a boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, until the liver is soft

6. Taste and adjust seasoning.  Serve garnished with some chopped coriander leaves.  Enjoy

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Beetroot Rasam

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with beetroot.  On one hand, beetroot risotto is one of the greatest things ever, on the other is that lingering taste that can only be described as earthy.  Or to be less charitable, I made a beetroot and chocolate cake, and despite using half a tonne of chocolate and cream, it still tasted of soil.

It is the kind of vegetable that, to my mind, is healthy but dull - the twin of kale in being a joyless thing that healthy eating advocates bang on about, but I really can't stand,  Or at least it takes a fair bit of effort to make it palatable. Of course, it's entirely possible that beetroot has the same effect on me that sprouts have on others - a chemical that renders if awful tasting to me whilst others don't suffer. (Scientists are telling me that this theory could be what they describe as 'utter tripe')

And yet, and yet, here I am, attempting the fourth soup recipe involving beetroot (and reading the old entries, I see I have rather belaboured the point about beetroot's eccentricities, so I won't malign the poor purple vegetable any more) but suffice to say that this Indian soup recipe, through some subtle alchemy of spices tastes amazing, and not a hint of the evil 'soil taste'*

So here at Soup HQ we have a rather small kitchen, mostly consisting of jars of spices of one kind or another, and it's a huge decision every time we think about investing in another kitchen gadget.  "There's no room!" goes the cry.  Which is why I still don't have a deep fat fryer despite recently discovering the joys of making my own chips.  Another gadget that I still crave is a pressure cooker.  If you have one, it would be prefect for this recipe, as it would cook the lentils and beetroot amazingly, but alas, until I open the West Wing of my kitchen and have room for more gadgets, I'll have to do this the old fashioned way - just boiling the heck out of the beetroot.

Also, be careful when blending the soup.  It went everywhere when I deployed my stick blender and made the kitchen look like Halloween had arrived early...

Also, beware the side effects of eating too many beets...

*Some of you may be wondering, if I have such strong feelings about beetroot, why am I eating it?  Well the simple answer is that we got some as part of our veg box delivery and I'll be damned if I'm going to let any vegetables go to waste.  Apart from Kale...

500g Beetroot
100g Yellow Lentils
50g Tamarind Paste
4 Cloves Garlic
1tsp Dried Red Chili Flakes
1tsp Coriander Seeds
1tsp Cumin Seeds
1tsp Fenugreek Seeds
1tsp Mustard Seeds
Pinch of Asafoetida

1. Soak the lentils in water for 30 minutes.  Roughly chop the Tamarind and put ina small bowl, cover with boiling water and leave to soak for 30 minutes too

2. Heat some oil in your soup pan.  Add the Coriander Fenugreek and Cumin Seeds and Chili flakes, and fry gently for a minute or so, until they flavour the oil.

3.  Wash and strain the soaked lentils and add these to the pan, along with the peeled and chopped beetroot and the peeled garlic cloves.

4.  Remove the pulp from the tamarind and add the flavoured water to the pan

5. Add 1.2 litres of water, bring the soup to the boil and simmer on a high heat, covered, for 30 minutes, until the beetroot is cooked and softened.  Remove the pan from the heat

6.  Blend the soup until smooth.  Return to the pan, reheat gently and adjust seasoning to taste

7.  In another pan, heat 3tbsp of oil.  Add the Asafoetida and mustard seeds and heat until the seeds start to pop.  Stir the flaovoured oil into the soup and serve.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Parsnip and Sweet Potato Soup

It's October!  Where did the summer go? Still, now it's time to pack up your shorts and pull out those woolly jumpers, that can only mean one thing - it's soup season again (aka The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year)

I was in two minds  about starting up the soup blog again; after all, there must be a finite number of soups a man can cook, right? So yesterday, I was opening a carton of soup for my lunch and two things struck me - firstly that I feel guilty every time I buy soup rather than making it, especially as cooking soup is as easy as falling off a log, but less painful, and secondly, that most shop bought soups are usually hugely disappointing. As if to prove my point, the Goan Spicy Lentil and Chicken soup that I eat was slightly bitter tasting, had woody vegetables and left me feeling sad rather than being a hug in a bowl, like all good soups should be

To ease myself back into blogging (and soup making) I set myself the challenge of opening up the vegetable drawer of the fridge, grabbing the first few things that I could lay my hands on and tuning them into a tasty soup.  Just to get myself back into the swing of things.

The first things I pulled out were a can of beer, a bottle of vodka and a lime.  Which would make an awesomely demented cocktail, but not really good for soup.  The next dive into the fridge yielded sweet potatoes and parsnips.  This, I thought to myself, I can work with...

So some quick thinking, a look in the spice cupboard and viola,  a simple, rich and tasty soup that took about 5 minutes to make, 30 minutes to simmer and then was ready for lunch.

Can't say easier than that, can you?  So shut up and make some soup...

2 Onions
2 Parsnips
2 Sweet Potatoes
2 Cloves of Garlic
2tsp Finely chopped Ginger
1tbsp Lemon Juice
1tsp Turmeric
1tsp Cumin
1tsp Dried Chili Flakes
1tsp Salt
1.2l Stock
Fresh Coriander

1. Chop the onions and fry fry gently until golden

2.  Peel and chop the sweet potato and parsnip.  Add these to the onions and sweat gently for a few minutes until the start to soften

3.  Add the stock, ginger, garlic and spices.  Bring the soup to the boil then cover and simmer for 30 minute, or until all the vegetables have softened

4.  Using a stick blender, purée the soup until smooth.  Adjust seasoning to taste.

5.  Garnish each bowl of soup with yoghurt and fresh coriander.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Papas Rellenas Colombianas - WCFC2014 : Colombia

This is my last entry for the World Cup Food Challenge of 2014, and at least one of my teams got through to the quarter finals - Colombia.  Over the (admittedly brief) course of this challenge, during my research and cooking the dishes, I've fallen a little bit in love with South American food.  There are some amazing recipes out there and I feel like it is the undiscovered continent of food.

Of course, probably come this time next week we'll all be eating Arepas Colombianas from street food vendors like the hipsters we are and the secret will be out, but until then, I highly recommend tracking down some South American recipes and giving them a go yourself, there's a (fifth of a) world of taste excitement out there waiting for you...

On to the recipe though.  When I was a kid, I remember going to my Nana's house and there, on the stove top was a huuuuuge black pan that she used to fry chips in (my Nana had two methods of cooking - boiling for hours or deep frying) and I used to love her chips.  As a student, one of my favourite meals was Crispy Pancakes and potato waffles, all chucked in the deep fat fryer and served with mushy peas and drowned in so much vinegar it made my eyes water (Yes, I've come a  long way since then...)

Over the years, deep fat frying has gotten a bit of a reputation as being unhealthy but as I've learned during this food challenge, it still seems to be big in Colombia, and this dish is a fine example - deep fried mashed potato stuffed with beef and eggs - whats not to like? Its like a Shepard's Pie drowned in hot fat, and then served with a spicy fresh salsa called an Aji.

So until the next world cup, Olympic games or other excuse for a blogging food challenge, its back to soup for me...
1kg Potatoes
250g Minced Beef
2 Hard Boiled Eggs
2 Tomatoes
1 Onion
4 Spring Onions
2 Cloves Garlic
1tsp Cumin
1tsp Garlic Salt
1/2tsp Paprika

1 Egg
30g Plain Flour
60ml Milk
1/2tsp Paprika

2 Tomatoes
4 Spring Onions
1 Red Chili
1 Lime (Juice Only)
50ml White Wine Vinegar
50ml Olive Oil
25ml Water
 Handful Fresh Coriander
1tsp Caster Sugar

1. Peel and cube the potatoes.  In a pan, cover with water, add a some salt and boil until they are cooked (10-15mins) and the drain, set aside to cool

2. In a frying pan, heat some oil and then add finely chopped onion and spring onion, plus the garlic.  Fry for 5 minutes, until the onion starts to soften.  Then add the minced beef and continue to cook until the beef is broken up and browned.

3. Add the peeled and chopped tomatoes, along with the cumin, garlic salt, paprika, salt and black pepper.  Cook for 2 or 3 minutes then remove from the heat and set aside to cool.  Roughly chop the hard boiled eggs and add these to the mixture

4.  Put the ingredients for the Aji in a food processor and blend roughly.  Pour into a bowl and put in the fridge until it's time to serve.

5. In a large bowl, mix the batter ingredients, whisking until smooth.

6.  Mash the cooled potatoes and then split into roughly 8 balls.  Roll them out until they are about 8mm thick and spoon some of the filling into each one, carefully shaping into a ball.

7.  In a heavy pan, heat your oil to 180ºc and then carefully put the batter covered balls in, frying them for 4 minutes then remove with a slotted spoon and place on some kitchen towel to remove any excess oil.

8. Serve with the Aji.  Enjoy!

Friday, 27 June 2014

Avgolemono -WCFC2014 : Greece

The second country that made it through to round 2 from Group C is Greece (Not The Ivory Coast, which is both a shame - as I'd bought the ingredients for an Ivorian soup as it looked like they would get through and I'd done my research, and a blessing as it was a gaspacho soup style made with avocados, and as we all know from yesterday, I really don't like avocados) and as this is the Soup Round, we're having a Greek soup.

A while ago, I made a Turkish dish - it's name escapes me right now - but it was basically lamb meatballs in lemony custard.  This soup is very similar and I would say it's kind of an acquired taste. It's a standard chicken soup but it's thickened with an egg and lemon mixture that resembles a custard as it's cooked.  It was, ummm, interesting, but worth a try as it was also quite a summery taste

Also, if you can't get orzo (rice pasta) you could just use ordinary white rice, and cook it for a little longer than you would pasta

4 Chicken Breasts
2 Carrots
2 Celery Stalks
1 Onion
60g Orzo Pasta
3 Eggs
Zest of 1 Lemon
Juice of 2 Lemons
Bay Leaf
Salt and Black Pepper

1. Put 1.5 litres of water into a large pan, then add the chicken, finely chopped carrot, onion and celery.  Bring the water to the boil and cook for 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked.  Remove any foam that forms on top of the pan.

2.  Remove the meat and vegetables, shred the chicken and set aside.

3.  Add the orzo pasta to the stock and simmer for 10 minute, until the pasta is cooked.

4.  While this is cooking, in a separate bowl, whisk the eggs until they are fluffy, and then add the juice and zest of the lemon, mixing thoroughly.

5. Take about 2 cups of the stock and slowly add them to the egg and lemon mixture, whisking constantly to stop the eggs from curdling or separating

6.  Return the egg mixture to the pan, along with the vegetables and chicken, taste and adjust seasoning as you like, then simmer over a low heat, stirring constantly for 5 minutes

7.  Garnish with some fresh parsley and then serve.  Enjoy!

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Ajiaco - WCFC2014 : Colombia

And so Team Soup head into the second round with our heads held high, unlike *some* teams I could mention, where the two qualifying teams get a second crack of the whip.  And because we are Team Soup, this 2nd round will henceforth be known as The Soup Round, where, you guessed it, I'll be making soups from the Group C qualifying countries.

First on the list is Colombia.  Much like the huge Colombian fry-up that I made for round 1, this soup is an 'everything and the kitchen sink' type of soup, which skirts closely to being a stew (but remember, it's not a stew unless it has dumplings in it, and even then that distinction is blurred) Many versions of this recipe call for not two, but three types of potato, but that seems like it might be over-egging the pudding (over potato-ing the soup doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?)

Also, it's been ironic that pretty much every Colombian dish I've looked at involves avocado in some way, either as a main ingredient or as a garnish, when it's just about the only fruit that I don't really like.  I find its texture unpleasant, and the taste vaguely awful too, yet here I am, manfully preparing dishes and then eating them, piled high with avocado.  The life of a food blogger isn't as easy as you think it is, I suffer for my 'art' sometimes too...

3 Chicken Breasts
2 Ears of Corn
400g Red Potatoes
400g White Potatoes
1 Large Carrot
1 Onion
3 Cloves Garlic
Chicken Stock Cube

3 Spring Onions
1 Tomato
2 Red Chillies
3Tbsp White Wine Vinegar

Sour Cream

1. Cut the corn in half, peel and cube the potatoes, slice the carrot and onion and chop the garlic

2. Put 1.2l of water in a pan and add the chicken, veg and stock cube, then bring to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes, until the potatoes are just starting to break up.

3.  Put the spring onions, tomato, chilies and vinegar in an blender and puree until smooth

4.  Once the soup is cooked, shred the meat and then put into a bowl, put some of the purée over the top and garnish with sour cream, avocados, capers and freshly chopped coriander.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Kedjenou - WCFC2014 : Cote D'Ivoire

Today's dish in the World Cup Food Challenge is from the Ivory Coast, and is the last of the first round dishes I'll be cooking.  Whichever teams go through to the next round will get another dish, those who go home, well... I'm never eating anything from their country again.

Before we get to the food, let's hit up some Cote D'Ivoire facts, for your edification and mine...
1. The Ivory Coast is the world's largest producer of cocoa beans
2. You've heard of the Nobel Peace Prize, but have you heard of the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize? Named after the first President of the Ivory Coast, amongst its recipients was Nelson Mandela
3. The national motto of The Ivory Coast is Unity, Discipline, Labour. Which, whilst being inspirational, is also a bit dull

One of the fun things about the World Cup Food Challenge, as well as compiling my fun facts, is researching the recipes, finding out what fun and unusual ingredients I might need for a dish and where to find them.  Some of these things are relatively easy to find - Plantains are found in most supermarkets, if you're lucky, Cassava in good markets, duck tongues in any Chinese food suppliers, but then some things are almost impossible to find.

When I googled Ivory Coast cuisine, I found that giant land snails were an ingredient that is eaten in that country, which peaked my culinary curiosity, but alas, no giant land snails were to be found anywhere (and I didn't want your common or garden small snails.  Where's the fun in that?)

I finally found a dish that sounded fun - a stew called Kedjenou, traditionally cooked in the embers of a fire, but seeing as there are court orders preventing me from setting fire to things (not really) I decided to do mine in the oven - of which more later.  Kedjenou can be made with a variety of meats - beef and chicken seem to be most common, but then I can across Kedjenou avec Agouti.  Ooooh, what can that be, I thought and promptly searched for it, only to be greeted with... this

A Cane rat.  I giggled.  Where the heck could I get a cane rat from? I checked, I asked twitter, I considered stealing the next door neighbour's Guinea Pigs (But their grandkids would be heartbroken) but sadly, my search was frustratingly drawing a blank.  So in the end, I had to settle for chicken.  Bah! I feel defeated.  Still, the kedjenou was delicious, but it just goes to illustrate that even in the days of being able to get most things from Amazon, it's still a struggle to make some dishes authentically

4 Chicken Thighs (or 1 Cane Rat, quartered)
1 Large Onion
1 Aubergine
1 Red Pepper
1 Green Pepper
3 Tomatoes
4 Cloves of Garlic
2tbsp Chopped Ginger
1tsp Dried Thyme
Salt and Pepper

1. In a large heavy pan, add a little oil, heat and brown the chicken pieces.

2. Add the vegetables, chopped and seasonings then cover the pan with silver foil before putting the lid on, to create as near to an airtight seal as possible.

3. Put the pan in the oven at 150ºc for 90 minutes, shaking the pan regularly to ensure that the ingredients don't stick.  You don't need to add any more liquid, the vegetables should provide enough to cook everything properly and make a sauce.

4.  Serve with cous cous or white rice.  Enjoy