Saturday, 31 December 2011

Chocolate and Orange Meringue Roulade

I was extremely lucky to receive a copy of Mary Berry's 100 Cakes and Bakes this Christmas, and can't wait to join in the Weekly Bake Off! While perusing, I came across a recipe which has already been covered by the Weekly Bakers, and with some leftover egg whites and double cream in mind, I decided to whip up something based on the Raspberry Meringue Roulade (pg 175, and see the Weekly Bakers' fantastic looking versions here).

For my version I halved the mix, added some cocoa to make a chocolate meringue, and used homemade marmalade mixed with cream for the filling.

Considering this was thrown together in 5 minutes and the only things I measured accurately were the caster sugar and the baking tray (to ensure I was using an appropriate size to get the thickness right), I'm amazed by just how well it worked...

Here is the meringue just after it came out of the oven - it puffed up nicely :

And here is the freshly rolled roulade :

According to Mr Soup, it looks rather like a sand worm from Dune :

This is being served as dessert this evening with our traditional (3rd year running!) New Year antisocial celebration where we stay in, drink bubbly, eat snacks and watch trashy action movies! Happy New Year to you all - I hope you're doing something equally enjoyable (to you) to see in 2012! We'll be back in the new year with all sorts of excitement - pasta machine (responsible for the leftover egg whites), tagine dish, jam thermometer and various cookbooks were discovered under the tree this year, so there will definitely be more than soup on the menu!

Monday, 12 December 2011

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap (and Blog Hijack) - Chocolate and Ginger Biscotti

Well, here it is - the recipe inspired by the event which prompted a blog-takeover! I spotted this event when it was mentioned by one of the many food blogs that I read (my apologies that I can't actually remember which one). I immediately checked out the main page, and was rather disappointed when I saw that it was open for US residents only - but then read a little further and found that enough UK people had signed up for me to participate - the only problem was that I didn't officially have my own blog - though I had already contributed the technical (cooking!) side of a number of recipes for Mr Soup.

A quick chat with Mr Soup, and with a promise that I would write more than just the cookie recipe (and that he could partake of the cookies arriving in our postbox!), and we were A for Away.

The excitement started when I received my matches - 3 new blogs to read, and suddenly the realisation that 36 cookies needed to be baked - luckily all the same recipe.

My matches were Bob at Foodie Bob's Blog (@FoodieBob), Sarah at Zenzeroni (@zenzeroni) and Julie at Angler's Rest (@JulieGoucher).

In the interim I'd seen a competition by Nelly over at Nelly's Cupcakes using Hotel Chocolat chocolate coated almonds (competition now closed) to make biscotti and I was intrigued both by how easy the recipe seemed, and the endless possible ingredients!

A few experiments later, and I decided on chocolate biscotti, with crystallised ginger and chocolate chips (chocolate and ginger is one of my favourite combinations - only slightly behind chocolate and coffee, chocolate and nuts ... see a pattern emerging?), and for a final touch, white chocolate drizzles. So here is the recipe :

Triple Chocolate and Ginger Biscotti

200g flour
75g cocoa
150g caster sugar
1.5 tsp baking powder
sparse 1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs (if you don't have large eggs, it's worth using 4 - beat them together and use slightly less than the full four - one of my trial runs didn't rise enough when I used too little egg)
1 1/2 tsp ginger syrup (I used stem ginger preserved in syrup and used the syrup - if you use crystallised ginger instead, just use some vanilla extract instead)
85g chopped preserved ginger
50g chocolate chips

Sieve and mix the dry ingredients, ginger and chocolate chips together. Beat the eggs with the ginger syrup/vanilla essence and mix into the dry ingredients. The mix should be slightly stiff and not wet.

Form the batter into 2 logs on a greased, lined backing tray, and bake at 180ºC for 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack :

Once the logs have cooled enough to handle, cut them into slices a bit less than 1 cm wide, and lay these out on a lined baking tray.

Pop them back into the oven for another 10-15 minutes (you'll need to judge this - too short and the biscuits will be a bit chewy, too long and they'll be a bit too hard - depends on how thick you've cut them too).
Again, let them cool on a rack, and once they are cooled , melt some white chocolate in a double boiler (I use a mixing bowl that fits into a pot with the bottom suspended about halfway down the pot). Then use a spoon to generously drizzle the white chocolate over the biscuits. Let it set, melt the chocolate again if necessary, flip the biscuits over, and drizzle the other side.

This was a wonderful experience, not least because of the yummy biscuits I received. The sense of connection with six other people, knowing the care that went into choosing a recipe, baking, packing and sending the biscuits off was really special - I honestly can't decide if I enjoyed receiving or sending them more. Luckily I don't have to choose because I think it was the combination - receiving my biscuits in the post made sending the one's I'd made out that much more meaningful and fun!

My first batch of biscuits - Lebkuchen from Michelle at 'A Mum who loves to bake' were waiting for me when I got home from a particularly stressful and busy day at work. Mr Soup was away for work, but when I opened the parcel and saw the beautiful biscuits that had been made for me and sent with such care it turned my day around! They were lovely, beautifully decorated and I particularly enjoyed the slight touch of lemon which set of the spiciness beautifully - I can understand why she had to make a second batch for her children!

The second batch arrived on a Saturday, and were just perfect for an afternoon cup of tea after a big shop. I love peanut butter biscuits - and these from Amy at the Weekly Bake Off were fantastic - I don't know why I've never thought of adding chocolate chips to peanut butter biscuits, but I will be from now on!

My final batch of biscuits arrived when I was at work, and I got an email from Mr Soup telling me that there was a Christmas-y parcel waiting for me - I couldn't wait to get home and see what was inside. These were perhaps the most well packaged parcel I've ever received! It was a bit like playing pass-the-parcel with layers and layers of bubble wrap - but the 'present' a the end was definitely worth it - 2 lovely parcels of 'Nutella cookies' - hazelnut biscuits dipped in chocolate and chopped nuts from Helen at Bakery Cottage. Mr Soup took one parcel off to work where they were very happily received. (The bubble wrap has already been used for wrapping Christmas presents!). Helen was also responsible for our first Christmas card of the year - a lovely start to the festive season.

We have been promised (!) that the Cookie Swap will happen again next year - I will definitely be participating again, and looking forward to connecting with another 6 wonderful people. If you're keen to join us, you can sign up here, and maybe you'll be getting some biscuits from me next year! A big thank you to the organisers, Julie and Lindsay - it was a blast, and if you need help organising the UK side of things next year, I'm happy to help!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Christmas Pudding

Here is my super-easy Christmas pudding recipe. For some reason people assume that Christmas pudding is difficult to make and takes ages - the prep time on this is only about 10 minutes (with 6 hours cooking time) - once you've seen how easy it is I doubt you'll go back to store-bought!

This is an old family recipe - as long as I can remember this was presented at Christmas time, with flaming brandy (it's the only way!) and cold brandy butter to accompany. When I was much younger, there was always a silver coin in my slice - I suspect, with hindsight, that the silver coin was slipped in after dishing, but as a child it all added to the magic of Christmas!

(If you do decide to put coins into your pudding, pop them in a pot of boiling water and boil them for about 10 minutes first - also use largish coins - 50p pieces would be best - and warn everyone that they are in there! I would probably use a knife to make insertions into the cooked pudding and insert them after cooking to get an even distribution.)

I made this pudding as my contribution to my first Christmas meal with Mr Soup's family - I don't know who was most nervous about it (me, him or his mother!), and we're fairly sure there was a store-bought backup - but it was a resounding success, and even had people coming back for seconds (after the spread on offer that was quite a feat!) There will be a repeat performance this year by popular request.

I normally make this a month or two in advance, and do a lot of feeding with the remaining brandy, but it's quite possible to serve immediately after steaming it.

The recipe is from a Victorian Cookery and Housekeeping book, and the resulting pudding is considerably lighter than we are used to nowadays - don't be worried - it still tastes amazing. There is also no added sugar - all the sweetness is from the fruit. This recipe is scaled down from the original - which made 3 large puddings, and used every mixing bowl I had!) These quantities are just right for one large pudding.

Ingredients :
150g raisins (make sure you get deseeded!)
150g currants
35g sultanas
120g mixed peel
(This year I bought a fruit mix with raisins, sultanas, mixed peel, cherries etc and used 450g of that instead of measuring out the individual ingredients)
150g suet
115g bread crumbs
half tsp ground nutmeg (I've also used mixed spice in the past)
100g plain flour
165ml milk
3 large eggs
85ml brandy

Mix together the dried fruit, suet, bread crumbs, flour and spice. In a separate bowl beat the eggs, milk and brandy together. Pour the wet ingredients into the fruit mix, mix well and put the mix into your pudding bowl. Tie a cloth, or greaseproof paper over the top, and boil/simmer with the lid on for about 6 hours - I do this overnight on the low setting of my slow cooker. The pudding can be turned out and served immediately, or stored, with a bit of brandy poured over it every week or two till Christmas! If you store the pudding, all that's needed on the day is to boil it again (to heat it through) for half an hour to an hour.

Monday, 28 November 2011


Some of you may have noticed that there has been precious little activity on the Soup front of late - as the last post (by the radiant Mrs Soup no less) pointed out, I've been busy with work and life and several secret projects which I could tell you about, but then I would have to... well, perhaps I've said too much already...

This was the view out of my window exactly a year ago!
 Anyway, I will be trying to get back to business as usual from this week, but also, the month of December will be CHRISTMAAAAAS month on Soup Tuesday (You have to read that in the style of Noddy Holder to get the full effect) and I will be putting up several Christmas related posts - not least a Christmas pudding, a sweet Christmas soup with gingerbread croutons and some great ideas for presents.

So thinks for sticking with us during the fallow period, but I hope to communicate a little bit of the joy of the Xmas Atmos that I always feel, being a big kid and all.

Me, with Christmas tree.  Look how happy I am!
 And if anyone has any good ideas for christams foods, especially but not restricted to soups, then let me know in the comments box below because I'm always fascinated by other people's little traditions and customs at this most food-filled time of year!

Tomorrow - back to Soup!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Blog Hijack!

Hello All

Since Mr Soup has been rather busy with work (he works in a different city and so spends half the week away from home), activity on the Soup front has been rather quiet of late.

And this has led me (Mrs SoupTuesday) to stage a coup and hijack the blog. (This has mostly been driven by wanting to participate in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!)

You have probably all gathered by now that Mr Soup is a man of imprecise measures and mostly savoury tastes. I on the other hand am rather more suited to baking - after years working in a lab nothing makes me happier than having a precise recipe to follow, weighing things out to the nearest gram (far better than micrograms!) and assembling complicated structures. Team Soup is nothing if not efficient in our use of talents, so the baking, tricky deserts and preserves fall to me. (Yes, I was the responsible party in all that boiling sugar activity earlier in the year...)

This isn't a complete coup of course - Mr Soup will still be posting most of the recipes as he does the lion's share of the cooking (I'm a very lucky girl!) - but I'll be popping onto the scene every so often with something a little different - most likely sweet - to tempt you with.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Warm Beetroot and Black Pudding Salad

Sometimes, the food that you throw together at the last minute can be the best food.  All it takes is a little imagination and a vaguely well stocked cupboard and you can find yourself in taste heaven.

Take for example this little number, which we decided to call a salad in defiance of the encroaching Autumn (and I know that its a warm salad, but to me, salad is always something eaten when the calender points closer to Wimbledon than winter.  Either that or the stuff you push to the side of your plate when you have pub-meals).

It has so many delicious flavours, from the earthy beetroot to the savoury black pudding, it's brilliant as a starter, or do what we did and just make huge portions because it's so nice, especially when served with garlic bread!

4 Beetroot
1 Butternut Squash
2 Cloves of Garlic
Handful of Fresh Thyme
300 g Black Pudding
250g Goats Cheese
Salad Leaves or Spinach

Heat the oven to 200ºc.  Wash and scrub the beetroot and then cut into chunks about 2cm in size.  Put the beetroot in an ovenproof dish with some oil and roast for 30 minutes, along with the garlic and thyme.

 Peel and chop the butternut squash, cube that too, and then add this to the beetroot and roast for a further 20 minutes. Check to make sure that the vegetables have been cooked through.  They will be the most glorious bright red colour by now.

In a frying pan, fry the black pudding for about 5 minutes, until it's cooked and starting to brown around the edges, then remove from the heat.

Put a layer of salad leaves (or spinach on the plate, then a layer of the roasted vegetables, then crumble the cooked black pudding and the goats cheese on top.  Then it's ready to serve.  Enjoy!

Beef and Black Bean Soup

Sometimes, when I'm looking for inspiration, a trip to the supermarket helps.  This soup is a case in point. Mrs Soup wanted something for lunch at work and so headed to the chiller isle at our local supermarket, where we were confronted by a bewildering array of ready to eat soups.

One of them caught my eye as being a bit more interesting than the rest, so I decided that rather than buy a tub to bung in the microwave, I'd have a go at coming up with my own variation on the soup in question.  And here it  is - Beef and Black Bean Soup

Despite seeing it in the fridge at the supermarket, however, I forgot exactly which beans were needed, and for some reason I got Black Beans mixed up with Black-Eyes Beans (you can see how my poor addled brain could make such a mistake, can't you?) but I'm not sure it really would have mattered either way.  But you may think otherwise...

Also, now having made this soup, I'm intrigued to purchase the stuff I first saw and see how it stands up, but I'm betting it in now way comes close to this fresh and spicy little number.  If you have tried it yourself, maybe you could let me know how this recipe stands up?

250g Mince Beef
400g Tinned Tomatoes
400g Black Beans(Drained)
2 Onions
1 Carrot (Diced)
2 Celery Stalks (Finely chopped)
2 Garlic Cloves
1tsp Parpika
1tsp Chilli Powder
1tsp Cumin
1tsp Oregano
1.5l Beef Stock
1 Lime (Juice)
Handful of Fresh Corriander


In a large pan, fry off the minced beef in a bit of oil until it browns and breaks down into small chunks.  Then remove the meat and in the same pan, fry off the onions until they start to colour - add some more oil if the pan gets dry.

Once the onions are browning slightly, add the mean back to the pan and then the tomatoes and stock.  Bring the pan to the boil and then add the rest of the ingredients.

Cover the pan and simmer the soup for 2 hours, then season to taste and serve.  Enjoy!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Hard Tack (Ships Biscuits)

Apparently, the inability to bake runs in my family, but even I can get this one right.  Today is the anniversary of The Battle of Trafalgar, and it's also National Baking Week, so I thought why not kill two birds with one stone and make some hard tack or Ship's Biscuits to take to a party being thrown in Lord Nelson's honour tonight.

Ships biscuits are just about indestructible, and this recipe is a lot more palatable than the stuff that would have been eaten in Nelson's time, where the biscuits were made with ground up bone meal, or pea flour.  They also became infested with weevils on long voyages, and it was customary to tap them on the table before eating them to give said parasites a sporting chance to escape. Although the weevils probably gave more nutrition than these biscuits.

When I said I was making them, someone pointed out that they are the first thing you get taught how to make in infant school cookery classes, so maybe I will move up to jam tarts next.  These biscuits can be served with bone soup (I might make this one day - vegetables, stock, bones and lots of vinegar to dissolve said bones - tasty eh?)

250g Plain Flour
180ml Water
1tsp Salt

Make a dough with the ingredients - add the water carefully because you don't want it to become too wet, then roll it out into a sheet of less than 1cm, and cut the dough into squares or about 6 x 6cm.  Decorate as you want - I pricked mine on both sides with a fork.

Heat the oven to 200ºc.  Put the biscuits on a baking tray and cook for 30 minutes, then flip them over and cook for another 30 minutes.  The biscuits should just be starting to go a golden colour.  Leave them to cool on a wire rack and then you can try to eat them.  As they cool they will take on the consistency of a freshly fired brick, so watch you don't crack your teeth on them.  Best served with grog!  Now you can feel like a proper pirate!

As for me, I will be celebrating the defeat of Villneuve and the hated French (and Spanish) with roast Beef, Port and fireworks!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Beef Stew

It's Autumn. I know this because it is 6p.m. and it's dark.  It's also raining.  And Strictly is back on the telly. All signs point to the Vernal Equinox being in full effect.  This can only be described as A Good Thing as far as I'm concerned.  And why is this?  Why should the time of year when the nights close in and the mercury and leaves start to drop be a time for celebration?

One word -


I am a dumpling addict.  There, I said it.  I would eat dumplings until my stomach exploded and would consider it a fine and proper demise, and the best way to eat dumplings is to drop them into a fine beef stew.  And this recipe is the finest beef stew that I have ever made.  Better than my Nana's stew, which was cooked for around 3 days in a huge vat and the consistency of wallpaper paste.  Better than the Irish stew that the pub across from my old office used to make, and I ate for lunch every day, loving how the flavor increased the closer to the weekend we got - obviously another huge vat that was kept on the stove all week.

After making stew for pretty much all of my adult life, I have come to a few conclusions -
1. Shin Beef is better than Stewing Beef
2. Turnips beat Swede every day of the week
3. Dumplings should NEVER have a crust on them
4. Red wine makes better gravy than Stout

Please note, these are just my opinions, and you should feel free to disregard them if you wish to have inferior stew.

700g Shin Beef
3 Onions
2 Stalks Celery
3 Carrots
2 Turnips
500ml Beef stock
500ml Red Wine
2 Bay Leaves
4 Sprigs Thyme
Beef Dripping
2tsp Worcestershire Sause

For the dumplings
100g PlainFlour
50g Beef Suet
1tsp Baking Powder
Pinch of Salt


Cut the beef into about inch cubes, removing any tendons and extra fatty bits, then coat them in seasoned flour.

In a large frying pan, brown the meat in hot dripping (or oil if you want), but only do it a few chunks at a time or they will boil rather than brown.  Remove the beef and set aside for now

Next cut up the onions and fry them in the same pan as the beef, but dont let them colour too much.  Remove them from the pan and set them aside.  Now use some of the stock to de-glaze the pan, then pour the stock into your large stew pan, add the meat and onions, red wine, worcestershire sauce, thyme and bay leaves and bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 2 hours.

After 2 hours, add the carrots, celery and turnips and simmer for another hour.

To make the dumplings, mix the flour and suet, baking powder and salt, then add just enough water to bind it all together in a dough, then separate into 6 balls and add to the stew, cover and simmer for another 15 minutes until the dumplings are cooked.  Then the stew is ready to serve.  Enjoy!

Also, you could try putting other things in the dumplings to make them more interesting - these could include horseradish, rosemary, thyme or creme fraiche.  Feel free to experiment, but a word of warning - don't eat too many, they are addictive!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Celeriac and Stilton Soup

Just recently, someone  suggested that I should watch the Harry Potter films.  I said that I had seen the first one and hated it - reminded me too much of those twee children's shows that the BBC used to show on a Sunday evening - adaptations of Narnia books and the like with posh drama school kids over-pronouncing everything and slightly shoddy special effects.

However, because the person who told me I should give the rest of the films a go has great taste in films, and also because she agreed to watch Game of Thrones if I watched the Potter films (If you aren't watching Game of Thrones, then go buy DVDs right now.  Sean Bean is the best thing since sliced bread in it, and for so many other reasons) then I relented and watched the rest of the Harry Potter films.

And as readers of this blog will know, I am prone to wild and strange digressions, but a discussion of a series of fantasy films?  This links to cookery how?  The answer, my lovely readers, is Mandrake Root.

Today's soup has celeriac in it, which is possibly my favourite vegetable, aesthetically speaking, and it looks just like Mandrake Root from the Harry Potter films. Don't believe me?

How can something so weird, so strange and un-earthly looking have such a delicate taste?  Without further ado, I give you Mandrake...Celeriac and Stilton Soup, perfecr for winter evenings when Potions is cancelled due to heavy Dragon showers or something.

1 Celeriac
2 Onions
1 Leek
1tsp Thyme
2l Vegetable Stock
2 Apples
150g Blue Stilton
70g Butter
2 Cloves of Garlic

First off, you need to prepare the Celeriac, by cutting away all the tough roots and them the skin.  Treat it like you would a turnip, you will need to cut away about half a centimeter of the outer skin, and then cut the celeriac into centimeter cubes.
In a thick bottomed pan, heat the butter and then add the celeriac, chopped onions and leek, then sweat the vegetables until they go soft.  Once this is done (about 5 minutes), add the garlic, thyme, stock and apples - peeled, cored and cubed and then cook the soup for 30-40 minutes, before letting it cool.

I really hate thick blended soups that have the consistency of wallpaper paste, so when you blend the soup - I use a stick blender - you can always pass the soup through a sieve afterwards to give it a smoother consistency, and maybe add a bit more liquid.

Then return the soup to the heat, and crumble the Stilton into it, season to taste and then serve.  Enjoy!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Minestrone Soup

There hasn't been a blog post in a while, but there has been illness abroad at Chez Soup.  And when there is illness, I always turn to the restorative powers of the soup - and this time it was the turn of Minestrone.  Everybody probably knows this soup. and it would seem that everybody has their own way of making it.  And that's the joy of soup - they can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish them to be.

However, my version of Minestrone is about as simple as you can get - and yet again it's an old family recipe - I remember my mum making huge dishes of this soup, served from a rather gaudy enamaled tureen that must have fallen through a timewarp from the 1970's (or probably actually was from the 1970's, come to think of it...) and it' probably the first meal that I ever cooked by myself - back in 19-something or other I was a fresh-faced schoolboy, studying home-economics and to impress the teacher, during one lesson, I brought in the ingredients and made a pan-full of Minestrone.  However, if memory serves, I mis-judged the quantity of stock needed and so what I ended up producing something much closer to a thick stew than a soup! Mu cooking has improved much since then...

Other Minestrone experiences I can remember are - my first ever Cup-a-soup (which started my life-long love affair with heavily processed foods, such as the humble cheese slice) and it's amazing chemically taste, and then tinned Minestrone, eaten out of a Muppets flask for lunch at school, and dipping cheese spread sandwiches into it...

Ah, the folly of youth!

Anyway, here is the recipe, a rich and hearty soup perfect for autumn evenings, and possibly for curing the common cold too...
 When making this soup, you can use any pasta you want, but I really like using Orzo or Pasta Rice - mainly because it doesn't swell up too much when it absorbs the liquid from the soup.

2 Small Onions
2 Carrots
3 Sticks Celery
1 Leek
200g Dark Cabbage
150g Smoked Back Bacon
1 Tin Chopped Tomatoes
100g Pasta
50g Butter
2 Cloves of Garlic
1 Cup Red Wine
1tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1.5l Chicken Stock
2tsp Fresh Thyme
2tsp Fresh Basil
2tsp Fresh Parsley

To Garnish
Parmesan Shavings

Heat the butter in a large pan.  To this, add the bacon, chopped finely, and fry until the bacon starts to brown.

Remove the pan from the heat and remove the bacon, placing it on some kitchen towel to soak up the excess butter.  Now return the pan to the heat and add the carrots, onion, celery, leek cabbage and garlic, all shredded, grated or finely chopped, depending on how chunky you like your soup, and sweat in the butter for 3-5 minutes, adding more butter or olive oil if the pan gets too dry and the vegetables start to stick.

Once the vegetables are nice and soft, add the tomatoes, red wine and balsamic vinegar, and bring to the boil, cooking over a high heat for a few minutes before adding the stock and herbs.  Also at this point, put the bacon back into the pan as well. 

Cover the soup and cook for 30-40 minutes, then add the pasta and cook for another 10 minutes.  Check to make sure the pasta is cooked through, season to taste and serve.  Garnish with parmesan and eat with crusty bread.  Enjoy!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Home Made Baked Beans

Before we go any further, a confession - I can't stand tinned Baked Beans.  I know that marks me out as a food heretic in many people's eyes, but it's true.  Luckily it's about my only weakness when it comes to food - I will eat anything else (oh apart from Salad Creme - tastes like mayo that's gone off... Maybe I just have a thing against Heinz products, apart from Oxtail Soup, which is wonderful!)

So why am I finding myself writing a recipe for what is essentially glorified baked beans?  Well...  I think I may have mentioned that it's been my birthday recently - and if you feel the need, contact me for a present list, I don't mind if they are belated (Hallmark make cards for every occasion...) and as a special birthday present, Team Soup de-camped to Cambridge for the weekend to, umm, camp.  On the way we stopped off at Melton Mowbray to sample some rather amazing pies, ate delicious Wild Boar sausages in a pub near our campsite and I also had cooked for me a brilliant Steak and Kidney pie a la Delia (my special birthday meal)

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Bapao - Dutch Steamed Buns

So it's been a while - a whole week in fact, since my last post.  I do hope you weren't worried, all that happened was that I became a year older (more on that in my next post).  Anyway, I do apologize, and here is the third installment in Dutch Week, although it's been more like Dutch Fortnight...

It seems to me that Dutch cuisine is a lot like English food, a mish-mash of foods from all over the world.  After all, it's been said before that what could be more English than a kebab after a night out, or going out with a group of friends for a curry?  Umm, well... (Also, remind me some time to tell you about the best curry house I ever visited, regularly at 2a.m when I was a student in Bradford - not sure it exists any more, but it was wonderful in 1992!)

But here is Bapao - which some of you may have heard of as Ba Pao, a Chinese or Indonesian recipe for steamed meat filled buns, and they reminded me of Dim-sum and my valiant efforts to make chop-sticks work (they are witchcraft, aren't they?) and were apparently imported into Holland via it's ports, much like the mix of cuisines we count as adopted native in the UK.  You can also play with the fillings, to include chicken, pork or even tofu (if you are a vegetarian, or as my Mum would say Funny Eater...)

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Erwtensoep - Dutch Pea Soup

So this soup is the second of three Dutch dishes, as I mentioned last time, inspired by someone sending me a recipe.  Also, I think, this exploration of my vague heritage is spurred on by my rapidly approaching birthday which always makes one take an extra hard look at things (shortly before reaching for the red wine, usually in my case) and it's funny that the only two things I can think of that even connect me to the old country (and I use this term in the loosest sense possible) are two phrases my Grandfather used, passed on to my Dad and were often heard in my house when I was a kid.

The first of these phrases describes pretty much all our family, was Käsekopf (and rather amazingly, as I was googling a spelling for this, I was informed that it is German, not Dutch - is there something my Grandfather didn't tell us? Hmmm).  Käsekopf translates as Cheesehead, accurately describing my love for cheese (speaking of which, did you know the Dutch cheese Edam is made backwards?)

The second phrase, which I have no idea how to spell was muisjes kerkletjes which translated means mouse droppings, and refers to the chocolate sprinkles also known as Hagelslag, beloved of the Dutch.  Please note - I can't find a proper translation of that phrase anywhere on the interwebs, so unless any dutch readers tell me otherwise, assume it to be correct (or a complete fabrication made up by my grandfather to pick up English girls...)

Which brings me to the soup in a very round about way (Well, it's a Dutch recipe, and we are talking about food...)  It's a wonderful, thick and meaty version of the classic pea and ham soup (I imagine it is similar to what would happen if you put pie and peas in a blender) and is perfect for these Autumn nights - and would be perfect for Bonfire night parties in a month or two.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Bitterballen - Dutch Deep Fried Gravy

I have a rather unusual surname, there's no avoiding it.  Whether it's people asking me how to spell it, random strangers asking me about my family tree or trying to avoid confusion in the doctor's surgery, I can go nowhere without taking my name along with me.  Oh, yes, I'm not sure whether you spotted it, but my surname is dutch.

However, I have never even set foot in Holland.  My name came to this country along with my Grandfather shortly after the second world war.  A glassblower by trade, he eventually settled in England, working at a light bulb factory where he met my Grandmother and the rest is, as they often say, history.

On a strange and un-bidden whim, mainly due to the fact that someone sent me a link to this recipe, I decided to cook a few dutch dishes.  I apologize if any Netherlanders should come across these recipes and find them wholly inaccurate.  I'm doing the best I can.

Anyway, the first dish I decided to cook (the one I was emailed) is Bitterballen, which is often translated to Deep Fried Gravy - apparently a bar snack in Holland, but how could I resist a dish like this - gravy is my one true love, easily as important as the meat it is accompanying in my estimation, and when preparing a Sunday roast, I will devote as much care and attention on the gravy as the roast itself.  So here we go with deep fried gravy, or Bitterballen.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Tomato and Chilli Chutney

A random childhood memory.  When I was about 8, playing hide and seek in our back garden, being told off for using the best hiding place I had ever worked out. This hiding place, I feel safe in revealing 30 years later, safe in the knowledge that a) most people have stopped looking for me, and b) the location in question is long gone, was in our greenhouse.

Not being all that well off when I was growing up, our greenhouse was a rather unconventional structure, fashioned from off-cuts of wood and heavy-duty plastic sheeting in place of glass; a wonky door secured by a latch being all there was in terms of security, and the plants inside made the best hiding place for the aforementioned game of hide and seek, if one could wriggle round behind them without crushing too many of them.

I still remember the smell inside this greenhouse, the smell of plastic and tomato plants, the stifling heat on a July afternoon, trying to remain motionless as Paul Mitchell or Ian Nelson stalked me as mercilessly as a big game hunter stalks a vicious predator.

But what has all this got to do with recipes I hear you ask as you stare at your watch and tap your feet impatiently. Well... 30 years later I find myself in the position of being the one growing the tomatoes, rather than hiding behind them, and although our plants didn't fair too well this season, being by turns baked in unforgiving heat and then drowned by unseasonal weather, the rather straggly looking plants still yielded a rather respectable crop before finally giving up the ghost.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Lamb Tagine

As I write this, it's a stormy morning, wind is blowing fallen leaves through the window and everything has that 'encroaching autumn' feeling.  And whilst the turning of the season is not the best of starts to a Monday (waving goodbye to the summer, realizing you didn't have half as many lazy days and drunken nights as you planned in march) there are some reasons to be cheerful.

One of these is the return of stews and casseroles to the dinner table.  If there is one thing that I could eat endlessly, until I burst (and sometimes it really feels like I will burst)  it's got to be dumplings - accompanied if at all possible by a nice rich beef stew.  My Nana, who's only cooking technique was to boil things for 3 hours, then another hour, just to be sure, made the best stew (unfortunately, the whole boiling things until they are dead technique did not lend itself to very pleasant dumplings - they resembled doughy pebbles)

Today's recipe, however, is not beef stew, nor does it contain dumplings (although you could throw some in if you really wanted to.  Come to think of it, where did I put the suet..?)  What it is, however, is a lamb tagine.  Now, I have to confess that I don't own a massive range of kitchen implements, accessories or geegaws (but I do like using the word geegaw) so my tagine is just made in a casserole pot, rather than the proper way.  If you do have access to a swanky earthenware pot, go for it!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Plum Chutney

Another plum recipe, because we were given quite a few plums, and rather than just make a huge batch of one thing, it seemed like a good idea to experiment.  So here is a plum chutney.  As well as having the plums given for this one, we were also given the onions (thanks Mum!)
 I think that for Christmas, I will be giving everyone I know either seeds or baby trees (Saplings?  Treelings?) so that next year I will be on the receiving end of even more fruit and vegetables.

Also, if you know someone who has a fruit tree in their garden but doesn't do anything with the produce (you will be able to pinpoint the houses of these people as the pavement in front of their houses will be slick with rotting windfall)  why not just knock on their door and offer to relieve them of the fruit that they don't want.  After all, it would be such a shame to let it all go to waste!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Spiced Plum Jam

One of the great things about making your own jam (and this also holds true if you make your own wine too) is that once you tell people about your hobby, you will never be short of the raw materials.  Anyone who has a fruit tree in their garden will soon be presenting you with carrier bags and boxes full of apples, pears, plums and anything else you can comfortably grow in your back yard.

This free food is amazing, and the generosity of friends is very much appreciated, but it does beg the question of why the purveyors of fruit aren't turning them into jams, wines, pies, crumbles and assorted other goodies instead of passing them on to me.  I for one am not complaining (and never having owned a fruit tree, perhaps the quantities produced are enough to satisfy anyone's fruit-lust and still have some to spare)

So here we go with another jam recipe, this time a spiced plum jam.  I love plums, can't get enough of them - they are perhaps my favourite fruit.  I have a habit of liking them very un-ripe and sour, and as a consequence, I get told off for eating them before anyone else has a chance to.  The plums we were given were a lot more ripe than that, which is better for making jam with (and also stopped me from eating too many when they were being pitted, which is probably for the best).

 This jam is a wonderfully spicy, fruity taste that made the whole kitchen smell like Christmas, even though it's only September.  Blimey, less than 100 days, need to start planning some Christmas posts...

This recipe only makes 3 jars - I only had a limited amount of plums and wanted to do a few different things with them.  Feel free to increase the amounts should you have bushels of plums (can you measure plums in bushels?)

650g Plums (pitted)
650g Sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 Cup Water
1 Cinnamon Stick
5 Cloves
8 Cardamom Pods
1/2 tsp Ground Allspice
1/4 tsp Nutmeg

Pit and chop the plums, then wash them.  Place them in a large pan with just enough water to cover them.  Add the sugar, lemon juice and spices, heat the mixture to dissolve the sugar and then simmer for 10 minutes.  The plums will start to break up as they cook. At this point, you can fish out the plum skins if you don't like them in the jam - it's easier than trying to peel the fruit beforehand.

Also, remember to put your jam jars in the oven to sterilize (120ºc for about 20 minutes should do it)

(A good tip is to remember how many cardamom pods and cloves you put in, so you can check they all come out again at the end!)

After 10 minutes, bring the mixture to the boil. Boil hard for another 10 minutes and then test to see if the jam has reached setting point.

As usual, you can check this by putting a saucer in the fridge to chill.  Drop a teaspoonful of jam onto the saucer.  Let it cool.  If you can push a jellied trail through it with you fingernail, it’s ready.

Remember to fish out the cinnamon, cardamom and cloves, then transfer the jam to the sterilized jars and store in a cool dry place.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Elderberry Scramble

So Team Tuesday (Team Soup doesn't sound quite as catchy, does it?) were out in the wilds of our local canal path, looking for berries and getting dirty looks from cyclists, and knowing looks form old ladies out for a Sunday Afternoon stroll (they know exactly what is edible, and also how to make the best pies and jams - ask one and see) and we found many, many Elderberry trees, with branches drooping under the weight of huge bunches of berries, all ripe and full of flavour.

In a flash, we had filled a plastic bag with bunches and headed home to prepare them.  As the main purpose of collecting Elderberries was to produce wine, the majority weren't too well cleaned and prepared - simply running a fork through the bunches to liberate the berries (and a few creepy-crawlies too) was enough for them, before they were put in a bucket with all manner of other things that start the alchemical processes involved in turning fruit into wine (a process I don't even begin to understand - I'll leave that to those members of Team Tuesday who have a PhD)

Having some berries left, I thought that I would whip up some sort of pudding, but I wanted to try something a bit different from the usual crumbles and pies, and then I found this interesting recipe which is a sort of a cross between a bread and butter pudding and a summer pudding.  It's a nice way to use up any left over fruit that you have lying around, and a nice way to celebrate the few remaining days of summer we have left before the nights draw in and I just want to hibernate (But at least I will have bottles of Elderberry wine to keep me company)

450g Elderberries
250g Pears
250g Plums
200g Bread (Crust Removed)
500ml Milk
50g Butter
3tbsp Plain Flour
2tsp Lemon Juice

Make sure that the elderberries are clean and free of stalks, peel and slice the pears and pit the plums, quartering them.

In a large pan, heat the butter and then cook the fruit over a low heat for 5 minutes.  In a cup., mix the flour with some of the milk to make a paste, then add this to the fruit.

Next add the rest of the milk to the pan.  Cut the bread into small pieces and then add this to the pan as well, cooking until the plums are soft.

Season to taste with sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice, then serve and enjoy!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Parsnip and Apple Soup with Black Pudding

When it comes to love 'em or loath em foods, there are only a few that I can think of that divide opinion as much as Black Pudding (Marmite and various permutations of offal being the others - all of which I love, by the way.  Hmmm, I wonder what that says about me?)

In recent years, the humble black pudding ('Uurgh, you do know it's made from blood', I hear some of you say, and 'yes we know, but it's so very tasty' the rest chant) has been given something of a new lease of life due to various chefs and restaurants picking up on it and using it as an accompaniment to pork dishes, amongst other things.  Me, I never stopped loving it, ever since nattering my mum for some when I was young I have been a black pudding lover.  The wonderful savoury flavour goes well with a lot of things, and a fried breakfast isn't complete without a few slices of deep rich black pudding next to the bacon.

So I thought I would give you this soup recipe to show off black pudding, along with a couple of other textures / flavours that go well with it - apple and cream, and also dill, all of which combine to make a rather tasty and a bit unusual soup.

Incidentally, if anyone else has a massive craving for love / hate food, I'd love to hear about it - tell us all about it in the comments section.  Me, I'm planning a tripe soup recipe for some time soon, which I'm sure will be, ummm, interesting


For the Soup
400g Parsnips
200g Apples (Any kind will do, but the sharper the flavour the better)
1l Stock
1 Onion
20g Butter
2 Clove Garlic
1tsp Ground Corriander
75ml Single Cream

For the Meatballs
250g Black Pudding
1tbsp Dill
2 Shallots
40g Butter

Finely chop the onion and garlic, then add to a large pan with the butter and sweat for about 5 minutes, until the onion starts to soften.  Roughly chop the parsnips, peel and core then chop the apples and add them to the pan, cooking over a low heat for a few more minutes, until they start to soften too, then add the corriander, letting it coat the other ingredients.

Next add the stock, then bring the soup to a simmer and cover, let cook for 30 minutes or so and then transfer to a food mixer and blend until smooth, and return to the pan

Next make the meatballs. Finely chop the shallots and fry them in a little butter for a few minute to soften them.  Remove the skin from the black pudding. In a bowl, use a fork to break the black pudding down, then mix with the dill and cooked shallots (It is easier to do this if the black pudding is at room temperature) 

Then form the mixture into balls - make them as big or small as you want, depending on how many people you are feeding, then fry them in the butter until cooked then keep warm.  The smaller the meatballs the better, as then there are more to go round, and they make a savoury counterpoint to the sweet soup (when I made it, everyone wanted more, so feel free to increase the amount you make!)

Add the cream to the soup and reheat gently, but don't let the soup boil. Season to taste

Warm some dishes and then place the meatballs in them, then pour the soup over the top and serve, garnished with dill fronds and enjoy!

Don't forget to let us know about the foods you love but everybody else hates!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Perfect Roast Chicken

Sunday dinner has long been the highlight of my week.  From being something to enjoy whilst hung over after a hard night out (thanks Mum!) to something I really enjoy cooking myself, in all its permutations, a good roast has always been one of my favourite meals.

Roasting a chicken seems to have gotten a lot easier, what with supermarket chickens having pretty good instructions printed on the packaging, but there are ways of making it even better. First off, I would always go for a larger chicken than you think you will needs.  This is for two reasons - larger chickens are less likely to dry out during cooking, and left-over chicken is so versatile - using it in curries, pies, soups or even just a humble sandwich, and bigger birds mean more left-overs!

In fact, it can be easier and cheaper to buy a whole chicken for any recipe that needs chicken meat, and strip the carcass, then freeze what you don't need before cooking it.  It's not that hard to get the meat off the bone with a sharp knife and it will save quite a bit of money too - often a whole chicken costs as much as 2 fillets!

So, cooking the chicken.  It's so easy, but I'm always surprised by how many people get it wrong or just think it's too much hassle.  Pre-heat to oven to around 190ºc.  Get an oven dish big enough to fit your bird in comfortably, the peel and chop a few carrots, onions, sticks of celery or fennel and spread them over the dish.  Get a lemon and prick it a few times to get the juices flowing and put it, along with a few sprigs of fresh rosemary and oregano, into the chicken cavity, then cover the whole thing in foil and put in the oven.

Cook the chicken for 1 hour per kilogram and 30 minutes extra, and take the foil off for the last half hour, but baste the chicken a couple of times in that last half hour just to keep it moist, and also to give the chicken a lovely golden skin.  It's all about not letting the bird dry out, and the kitchen will be filled with a wonderful smell of roasting meat.

Check the meat is cooked through, by pricking it and making sure the juices that run out are clear of blood, then put the chicken on a plate, wrap with the foil again and leave to stand for 10 - 15 minutes before carving.  And when it comes to carving, you can put as much effort in as you want.  Personally I more or less tear the meat off and put it on to the plates.

But of course, cooking the chicken is only half the battle in preparing a Sunday Roast.  The rest is the vegetables, and when it comes to them, timing is key, so keep an eye on the clock and try to make sure everything is ready at the same time

I love roast potatoes with my roast dinners, but there are as many vegetables that go with a roast as there are cooks who prepare them.  If anyone has any interesting suggestions, I'd love to hear them, so feel free to pass them on in the comments section below, and in the meantime, enjoy your chicken!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Mushroom Soup

I was telling someone I that I was thinking about putting up a mushroom soup recipe on the blog, and they said that you couldn't beat a tin of Mushroom soup with white sliced bread.  That got me thinking about comfort food - the best kind of food in my opinion - and I have to admit that tinned soup is always something that I fall back on when its raining outside and I want something to cheer me up.

I think that this goes back to when I was a kid and I always had soup for lunch - either mushroom, chicken or cream of celery.  My mother, not being one to tolerate fussy eating always told my brother - a budding fussy eater - that the mushroom and celery soup that he refused to eat was chocolate or seaweed respectively, and for some reason, he found these flavours much more acceptable, and he ate the soup.  And now every time I think of tinned mushroom soup I can't help but think of it as chocolate soup.

The reason I mention this is that as much as tinned soup is a comfort food, once I tasted this recipe I don't think I can ever go back.  I'd love to know what other people's comfort foods are and wether you prefer to make them from scratch or use the tinned / shop bought versions (I love making home-made baked beans, but can't stand the tinned ones...)

You can use any mushrooms you want, but chestnut, oyster or anything like that are much better than just plain white mushrooms.  I managed to get hold of some king oyster and black trompette varieties to go with my chestnut and oyster mushrooms.

It goes without saying that be very careful if you use freshly picked wild mushrooms, and always check anything you aren't 100% sure about!

600g Mushrooms
25g Dried Mixed Mushrooms
10g Butter
1tbsp Olive Oil
1 Leek
1 Onion
3 Garlic Cloves
2tsp Fresh Rosemary
2tbsp Tomato Ketchup
1.5l Stock
75ml Sherry
100g Pearl Barley

First open the dried mushrooms and soak them in 250ml of hot water for 20-25 minutes.

Finely chop the leek, onion, rosemary and garlic.  In a large pan, heat the butter and olive oil, then add the vegetables, and sweat for 5 minutes, until the onion and leek start to soften.

Remove the soaked dried mushrooms from the liquid and chop finely, remembering to save the rich brown mushroom liquid for later.  Also chop all the other mushrooms and add them to the pan, letting them sweat down for 10-15 minutes, until they are soft and the juices start to flow from the mushrooms.

Now add the stock, sherry, barley tomato ketchup and the liquid that came from the dried mushroom,  season to taste and cook over a low heat for 30 minutes.  When it's cooked through, if you want a smoother soup, transfer half of it into a blender and blend until smooth, then return to the pan.

Serve with home made bread
The soup is now ready to serve. The smell of this soup is wonderful, but not half as wonderful as the rich mushroomy taste - a perfect soup now the winter nights are drawing in, and much better than cream of mushroom soup of of a can, I think you will agree!

You can garnish with parmesan, chopped fresh parsley or a swirl of double cream.  Enjoy


Sunday, 4 September 2011

Crab Apple and Chilli Jelly

This recipe is one of my girlfriend's favourites.  I never really 'got' blue cheeses until just recently - I blame it on a saturday job when I was a teenager working at the deli counter of a super market and selling many varieties of blue cheese, all of which seemed to smell horrible and upset my delicate constitution.  On reflection, my constitution was probably delicate due to the copious amounts of beer I used to drink on a Friday evening before starting work first thing on a Saturday morning.

Anyway, once I discovered my love of blue cheese (current favorites - Yorkshire Blue and Smelly Apeth) I couldn't get enough of them.  I used them in cooking, but the best and most simple way of eating them is with crackers and Crab Apple and Chilli Jelly.  Oh, and some decent red wine and possibly a bowl of olives.

It just so happened that when we moved into our new flat, there was a Crab Apple tree growing in the car park, which was quickly stripped of its fruit, and then found their way into the jam pan to be made into this sweet golden jelly, with just a hint of chili heat.

Crab Apples can be found growing wild all over the place - they look like little apples and have a bitter taste.  As always, check before you eat!

2kg Crab Apples
1.5l Water
Sugar (Depends on the amount of juice, but about 1.5kg)
6 Chillies

Wash the Crab Apples and then chop roughly, then put in a large pan with the water and bring to the boil and simmer until the apples are cooked to a pulp.

Once this is done, transfer the pulp to a muslin bag and strain.  This is best done by suspending the bag from a cupboard handle or chair, with a bowl underneath.

Don't squeeze the bag! This makes the jelly cloudy because it lets starch from apples squeeze out, and you don't want it to spoil the clear finshed jelly.

When most of the liquid should has collected in the bowl (ours was left hanging overnight), you will be left with a rather nice rose pink liquid.  Put this into a measuring jug to check the quantity and then return it to your pan.  Now add the same amount of sugar as you have liquid - our apples produced 1.4l of liquid, so we added 1.4kg of sugar - and put the pan back on the heat.

At this point, add the chillies - finely chopped - to the pan and bring the mixture to a rolling boil, stirring constantly, until it starts to set. You will also want to skim the foam off the top of the jelly when it's cooking, or it will set into an unpleasant skin once the jelly is in the jars.  You might need to do this a few times during the cooking.

As usual, you can check this by putting a saucer in the fridge to chill.  Drop a teaspoonful of jelly onto the saucer.  Let it cool.  If you can push a jellied trail through it with you fingernail, it’s ready.  Transfer the jelly to sterilized jars and store in a cool dry place.

The jelly goes great with cooked meats or cheese and crackers!

Monday, 29 August 2011


It's the end of the month and as usual, things are a bit tight, so it's time to make cupboard food!  That is, try to make something nice with whatever is left in the fridge, cupboard or freezer - a bit like when I was a student, but hopefully I'm a bit better at throwing things together these days.

There are quite a few recipes from all over the world that seem to fit into this category of food - and this is not to say that these meals aren't tasty, wonderful, nourishing, or classy when made with the right, and often expensive ingredients, but they can also be put together with whatever is at hand.

For instance, Minestrone can be made with so many variations of ingredients, you can pretty much always cobble something together that is at least approaching a decent soup with that last carrot, the onion at the back of the drawer, a tin of tomatoes and some stand-by pasta - hey presto Minestrone!

This soup is another version of that idea - a Tuscan version, but I'd love to hear what your idea of an 'end of the month' meal is, before pay day rolls around and you can eat extravagantly again!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Shepherd's Pie

Last night I cooked a meal for my parents, which even at my age is a fairly terrifying prospect.  There was a lot of stressing over what to cook, how to cook it and when to serve it, and hopefully all without being on the receiving end of any withering put-downs about the quality or quantity of the menu.

In the end, it all worked out fine - I decided to cook various curry dishes from scratch, all of which met with hearty approval (although the availability of large quantities of wine helped somewhat!) but it got me thinking about the relationship between parents, cooking and memory.  Whenever I cook certain dishes, I'm only happy if they resemble the versions cooked by my mother (in particular, Steak and Kidney Pie, one of my all time favourite dishes) and when I'm thinking about planning meals, there are certain dishes that I always fall back on, and these are always dishes that I ate when I was a kid.

Does everyone do this?  And what were your favourite meals as a child that you still cook reguarly - I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments (and also what you have cooked for your parents, and if you found it as intimidating as I did!)