Saturday, July 31, 2010

Velvet Soup

I was reminded of this soup as I was flicking back through my very own blog. So when I was wondering what soup to make last weekend I naturally thought of this one. Such a great name. It sounds so wonderful. Velvet soup. Can any soup possibly live up to that name? The recipe is from the CWA Soups and Stews cookbook, and the CWA must know soup as well as they know lamingtons and fruit cake. Right?

The soup did present some challenges early on. I rarely eat turnips or swedes and was a bit confused about which one was which. As were some of the shops I went to. The first grocer I went to had swedes labelled as both swedes and turnips. The supermarkets only had swedes. I was eventually lucky to find some turnips on an excursion to Bathurst. Seems like turnips are hard to find. Maybe everyone finds them confusing, maybe noone, except for me last weekend, buys them. The turnips are on the left, swede on the right.

The turnip flesh is much whiter than the creamy colour of the swede. It felt really nice too. I don't think I've ever cut up a turnip before.

It was all going quite well until I was busy mixing the soup, and I had a flashback to 9 years ago when I used to make food for my infant son. I realised that I had made the biggest ever pot of babyfood. It was then that I started to really worry.

And so how was it? Mr Soup thought it was bland. I did wonder at the lack of herbs or flavourings. But I found it had a rather distinct odour and taste of smelly socks. Not so pleasant. I presume it was the turnips, the rest of it shouldn't do that I think. I'll be wary of trying them in future, but feel I should give them one more go, sometime. Perhaps I should have been more wary of a recipe that warns us off cream? I don't think I've ever cooked a soup that I didn't like before. It's quite an unsettling sensation. I had to put extra Danish butter on my toast to make amends.

This is a very old recipe. Maybe all that cream is not good for one's heart.
Carolin Joswig, Tennant Creek Branch, NT

4 turnips
4 swedes
2 carrots
1 parsnip
2 onions
4 potatoes
several sticks celery
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups cream

Peel the vegetables and cut into fairly big chunks. Place in a large saucepan and just cover with water. Season with salt and pepper, and boil slowly until the vegetables are tender.

Drain the vegetables (reserve the cooking water for stock), mash or blend them and then return to the pan. Add the stock and boil slowly again for a few minutes. Just before serving, stir in the cream (o not let soup boil again).

This made a lot of babyfoo, I mean soup.
So much that the pot of vegetables took forever to cook.
It took so long to cook that by the time I was supposed to be draining the water out only to put it back in after I'd mashed the vegies, I couldn't be bothered, so I didn't.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Soups of the World -Dublin

Dublin. A city that I'd heard of of course, but didn't really know anything much about. Until a wonderful opportunity came up to spend a week there. Visiting a friend, sightseeing, and eating some soup. Dublin was a lovely city to visit, although we did have the best week of weather that it has ever had apparently- didn't rain once! I'm looking forward to going back sometime (soonish hopefully).

My first Dublin soup was a lovely cream of white onion with basil pesto. An unusual combination I thought, not one that I'd had before, but it was a perfect choice for a light lunch. One that left plenty of room to try the delicious Guinness icecream afterwards.

My second Dublin soup was even more intriguing, and I knew that I was going to try it as soon as I saw it written up on the board at Kilkenny's Cafe. Cream of lettuce soup with marjoram and sunflower seeds. I'd long been intrigued by lettuce soup. Delia does a number of them, and I know that they're quite an English thing, but I guess they're an Irish thing too. I'd long wondered about how they'd taste, and what the texture would be like, since lettuce isn't something you think about cooking all that often.

This one was ok, more than acceptable, and I think a good introduction, although I do have a few reservations. The flavour was fine. The texture was more chunky than I would have liked. I knew it was going to have chunks anyway with the sunflower seeds, but there were also some chunks of the thicker parts of the lettuce. I think these probably should have been blended away. Still, it wasn't awful, and now I will approach the soups using lettuce in Delia's Soup book that I'm cooking through with a bit more confidence and an edge of anticipation that I didn't have before. Astute readers will notice that I hedged my bets with a smoked salmon bagel, just in case the soup was inedible.

Ooooh, now this one was part of a magnificent meal at Marco Pierre White's Steakhouse and Grill. This was easily the best meal we had in Dublin. It was very exciting to eat at a MPW restaurant, even if it was a relatively simple one. We had an amazing lunch there. I couldn't go past Cauliflower and Smoked Salmon Soup when I saw it on the menu. The cauliflower soup itself was delicious, but the lovely chunks of hot smoked salmon that lay lurking just underneath the surface raised it to brilliance.

I'd come to think of this particular combination of cauliflower and salmon as some inspired high-brow cooking on the part of Mr White. I was rather amused whilst flicking through my CWA Soups and Stews book last night to see a recipe for cauliflower soup with smoked salmon croutons. Turns out their is nothing new under the sun.

I had a very girlie lunch that day much to Mr Soup's disgust. Soup and salad. And what a salad it was too. I love a beetroot and goats cheese salads, and have actually had quite a few over time. This particular version was the most subtle and finessed version of this salad that I've ever had. Pure Luxury. It's hard to see the beetroot as it was very finely sliced on the bottom of the plate. The apprentice had snipping the chives very finely. This dish was a reminder that a great dish is often great food that has been prepared simply.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The London Particular

This weeks soup was made as part of my ongoing quest to cook through all of the recipes in Delia Smith's The Delia Collection Soups. I'm not the biggest fan of pea and ham soups, I will happily eat one if served, but don't usually make them, or search them out. I'd never cooked with yellow split peas, though of course in my head I know that cooking with yellow peas will be just the same as cooking with green split peas, but still..... they do look different.

Delia has once again thoughtfully provided the recipe (and her styled photograph) of the soup online. The book doesn't include a photo of the soup, the full page photo opposite the recipe is a glass canister of yellow split peas with some artfully spilt split peas lying about. This always worries me about the colour of the resulting soup. It's a common strategum for the less attractive looking soups. It is nice for a soup to look pretty although I think many excellent soups aren't really pretty to look at, and if the professional food stylists and photographers give up then watch chance do we poor home cooks have of making a visually appealing soup?

I do enjoy making a stock, although it's not something that I get to do all the time. It always seems so virtuous to make stock, but nothing could be simpler. Put some meaty bones and barely chopped vegies into a large pot with some water, then virtually ignore it for a few hours. I made stock for this soup, as you can't really buy ham stock- why is that? Anyway I got to feel virtuous once more.

The colour of the final result wasn't as bad as I was expecting after all. I rarely make croutons, as I always serve bread on the side with soup, but I did for this one as it was part of Delia's recipe. I'm sure the type of bread used matters. I used the only bread we had in the house which was sadly supermarket white hi fibre kids bread, and not surprisingly it didn't really make a pleasing texture in the final crouton. And they sank a bit too easily.

The non-soup fans in the house liked this soup, but didn't rave over it. I thought it a perfectly adequate pea and ham soup- again not one of my favourite types of soup.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Soups of the World -Singapore

What is a holiday without trying some new and exotic soups? On a recent excursion I got to sample souply delights in Singapore, Dublin and Paris.

Singapore was a new experience for me, both for weather and food, sights and sounds. And Man, it is HOT there. ALL the time. Luckily I was there in the dry season, and it was still stifling humidity as you walked out the door. They have two great compensations for it though- they know how to aircondition (and sometimes go overboard, I was actually quite cold after some 2 hour conference sessions) and ice deserts- and they were absolutely fantastic.

This first soup I had was part of a sumptuous 3 course meal from a Hawker stall that cost me under SGD$10! Japanese Crispy fish with ramen and edamame. It was adequate, but not fantastic.

This next one was a revelation. I was very lucky and got to do a cooking demonstration class at Coriander Leaf, a Singaporean restaurant. It was an interesting day, and we got to do some great eating. One of the biggest surprises for me was the Hot and Sour Soup. I've always thought that I didn't like these, and have avoided them for a few decades. But this one was fantastic. I slurped the entire bowl enthusiastically. And would be quite keen to have it again. I don't know that my family would be so keen though.

This next soup was consumed on one of my more adventurous expeditions. For some reason I was intrigued by the "Healthy Vegetarian Eating" place on the block next to my hotel. I'd walked past many times, and for some reason became increasingly keen to go. Sadly, it provided the worst food experience of my time in Singapore- which was generally interesting, and positive.

I became confused staring up at the pictures that were all labelled with meats. I thought maybe the sign on the window was outdated or something. So I picked the char siu ramen. Expecting pork. I'm not exactly sure what it was but I suspect that it was actually putty coloured to look like roast chinese pork. The texture was distinctly alarming, and not terrestrial. I managed to eat most of it- well it had set me back SGD$4.50, and so much putty had been harmed in the making of this dish that I had to. I didn't go back.

This last one wasn't really a soup, well I wasn't expecting one, but I think it's what I got. I was having trouble deciding between desserts at the hotel at my restaurant, which had branded itself as a tapas try everything kind of place. So I asked to try two desserts. I don't think they were used to such indecision because I got nanogram quantities of both. Both were very good, but the soupier one- cheng tng- was absolutely delectable. Spicy, sweet, unctuous. A sweet soup of dried fruits, nuts and barley. It's definitely something I'd like to check out in the future, and explore the options.