Saturday, May 22, 2010

Lentil and Brown Rice Soup- Soup Hall of Fame

I realised recently that I'd only really blogged about new soups that I was trying, and hadn't used the blog to showcase any of my all time favourite soups, so here it comes, the first Hall of Famer! I've been making this soup for 15 plus years I expect. I initially found this recipe in the January 1991 issue of Gourmet. That issue was the 50th anniversary issue and it was a corker. I'd only chanced on Gourmet a month or two before. I remember stopping by at the Forest Lodge newsagency to pick up my monthly fix on my way to or from uni. I think Gourmet was one of the first magazines to really touch my foodie nerve, and I was a regular and avid buyer for many years. Sadly Gourmet is no more. I still have a massive collection of their magazines, and I did make quite a number of interesting recipes that I found within its pages over the years. None more often than this soup. I have long loved soup. My mother used to make a beef and vegetable soup every Saturday morning of my childhood. She still makes that soup. I do wonder if that soup is why some of my favourite soups are chunky soups with a grain, real stand your spoon up in it soup. I do like making different soups each week, but there are some soups of course that I make over and over again, and this is certainly one of them. Everyone who has tasted this soup loves it too.

This recipe was initially published way back in 1984! Was anything great back in 84? Wiki tells me that it was the year of Born in the USA, Bananarama, Purple Rain and Stop Making Sense. 1984 saw Stevie Wonders worst song ever as the biggest seller of the year, and Bandaid and Frankie Goes to Hollywood were huge. And this

Now how is it that back in 1984 noone realised George Michael was gay? Admittedly I was having too much fun in Edmonton to notice. But happily somewhere, someone was creating a soup masterpiece.

The introduction to the recipe was what drew me into trying it that first time. "Some soups genuinely do inspire a devotion akine to love, and this is one of them". Because really Lentil and Brown Rice, well it doesn't sound all that fantastic, I can certainly see that. But with all those years that I spent as an impoverished student in the 90s, this was the perfect recipe for me to find. Delicious. Nutritious. And makes about 8 gallons. Bonus. I've always added the smoked sausage (I use a chorizo) as that's how I did it the first time, and I've never wanted to tinker with the recipe, which is really quite unusual for me. I usually add extra vegies that I may lying about the fridge or substitute something or other. I was only extolling the virtues of this soup to someone at work the other day, so then of course I had to make it this weekend.

Thankfully, even though Gourmet is gone, Epicurious still has the recipe online. I noticed with some of the comments that various people have substituted balsamic vinegar for the apple cider vinegar. That does have me a bit intrigued I must say, but I had to stick with the original this time around. If I make it again this winter I may just try using the balsamic instead. What if it can be improved? Sadly they don't have a food stylist photo version of the soup, so you'll only get to see mine.

The building blocks:

Layers of flavour:

A great thing about this soup, is you just throw everything into the pot then onto the stove- so hardly any washing up beyond the knife, chopping board and pot.

The fabulous end result, a wonderful, warming bowl of chunky nourishment

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Slow-Cooked Celery and Celeriac Soup

A few years ago I decided to cook my way through a soup book. That decision came after I bought the amazing The Delia Collection -Soup. Such a gorgeous book. I read it multiple times, then realised that I wanted to try nearly every soup in the book. Split into the seasons there is always a soup that looks tempting, so I decided to push my usual choices and do the whole book. I haven't attacked my challenge with the same fervour of a Julie/Julia challenge, but it's still been an interesting "journey", I've tried new things and quite surprised myself. My favourite so far (I'm only about a quarter of the way through I guess) is the very surprising Celery Soup with Nutmeg! I've made it several times now over the last few years. It's really quite sublime. Which is really astounding, because I loathe celery and have always said that if I'm ever found choked to death on a piece of celery then I want the coroner called because I didn't put it there myself.

So bolstered by this success I decided to try the slow-cooked celery and celeriac soup. Delia seems to be rather keen on the slow cooking soup process. It's not a method that I've used before this book, but she has a number of recipes using it, I think this is the second that I've tried. The first was ok, but not an appealing colour, sort of dirty-dishwatery. I was suspecting similar things for today, and it came to pass. It is a tremendously simple method, chop stuff, throw it into a pot, bring it all to the boil on the stove (hob according to Delia) and then whack it in the oven and remember it 3 hours later. A 3 hours that can be put to other use like waging war on the blackberries threatening to over run the back yard.

Delia has thoughtfully provided this recipe online, complete with photograph. I didn't have time, or the inclination today, to make the Celeriac and Lancashire Cheese Bread that Delia has suggested to go along with it, although it does look intriguing.

Chopped stuff

After 3 hours in the oven

The finished result

And how was it? Pretty good. Much better than I was expecting. The two non-soup fans in the house actually quite liked it. I called the creme fraiche "sour cream" when giving it to my son, and told him the celery salt was "vegetable salt, kind of like chicken salt", which prompted a request for more-even before he tasted it. I don't know that it will win a place in my regular repertoire of soups, but it was nice, and felt very good for you.