Friday, October 29, 2010

Creamy Vegetable and Barley Soup

I've been wanting to make this soup for a few years now. A combination of a snowy weekend (in Spring!) and my low GI leanings finally spurred me on. I'd wondered about it before- lots of vegies, and using skim milk powder for the Creamy part is unusual and something I hadn't used before. My version is  based on a recipe from diabetes 2 by Jody Vassallo, part of the Health for Life series.

For some reason I seem to forget to take photos of meals that I mainly make for lunch. So this is the very last time I ate it, when I added some left over creamed corn to it to pad it out. Not exactly representative of the soup, but you get the idea.

Barley has one of the lowest GI values of any carbohydrate food (25), and it actually lowers the GI of any meal. It's not a food that I have eaten all that frequently, but I can sense that it may be in my future. I have used it in soups a few times, but not regularly, and have never tried it as a side dish. There is a recipe for Pesto Barley in the same book that might be tasty.

Creamy Vegetable and Barley Soup

1 cup (195g/6 1/2 oz) pearl barley
2 tsp canola oil
4 eschallots
2 large carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium parsnip, chopped
2 medium zucchini (courgette), thickly sliced
300 g (10oz) pumpkin, chopped
Sea salt, freshly ground pepper
2 large sprigs thyme
6 cups (1.5L/48 fl oz) hot reduced salt vegetable stock
1 cup (150g/5 oz) fresh or frozen peas
1 cup (200g/6 1/2 oz) fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 cup (100g/ 3 1/3 oz) skim milk powder
2 tblsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 Put the barley into a large pan, cover with water and cook over medium heat for 40 minutes or until the barley is soft. Add extra water during cooking if the barley is drying out. Drain well.

2 Heat the canola oil in a large pan, add the eschallots, carrot and celery. Cover and sweat over low heat for 10 minutes until soft.

3 Add the parsnip, pumpkin, thyme and stock and bring to the boil. Season to taste. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add zucchini. Cook for a further 15 minutes until vegetables are soft.

4 Add the peas, corn, and barley and simmer for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked. Add skim milk powder and parsley.

Serves 6

per serve fat 4.5 g, protein 17.5 g, carbohydrate 48.5g, fibre 10.5g, cholesterol 5.5mg, energy 1280 kJ (305 cal), gi 38 low

I made quite a few modifications to the recipe, with ingredients and technique.
The recipe called for leek but as there were no leeks available when I made this,  I substituted 4 eschallots. For some reason onion terminology is very confusing in different countries, this is what an Australian means by eschallot or french shallot.

Even though the zucchini were thickly sliced, I didn't want to cook them for half an hour so I added them 15 minutes in.
I'm always suspicious of recipes with no seasoning, and don't think they taste all that good, so I added salt, pepper and a couple of large sprigs of thyme (just because I'd bought some for something else so had it on hand)
The original recipe added the peas, corn and milk powder at the same time. The milk powder bubbled up and looked lumpy. I would add it at the end, after the peas and corn had cooked.
It was quite nice, I'd be happy to make it again.

Update 2016 I have indeed made this soup many times over the years. It's a little bit different each time depending on the veggies I have available to me, or  in the fridge, but it's perfectly adaptable.

Crossposted from adventuresinalowgiworld

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lemon and Broccolini Chicken Soup

I made this soup the week before I renewed my efforts to eat a low GI diet. Happily this soup is something I would eat anyway, but just happens to be low GI. I used the batch for my work lunches that week and felt very virtuous.

This is a Donna Hay recipe from the Sunday Telegraph Magazine 22/8/2010

Broccolini is perhaps an under-utilised vegetable. At least in our house. Not sure why, I guess I'm just not in the habit of buying it. Somehow I don't think of it. Even though it is nice. It's a relatively new vegetable, a cross between broccoli and kai-lan (Chinese broccoli), not simply young broccoli- despite the fact that my local supermarket had it labelled as baby broccoli. Although I note wiki  tells us that it's "generic name" is baby broccoli, whatever that means.

Green vegetables usually have such small amounts of carbohydrate that their GI can't be measured. Pasta generally has a low GI (30-60), portion size is important, and the pasta needs to be al dente.

Lemon and Broccolini Chicken Soup

1 1/2 litres chicken stock
2 x 200g chicken breast fillets, trimmed
2 tblsp olive oil
150g fennel, thinly sliced
1 brown onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tblsp finely grated lemon rind
150g risoni
2 bunches broccolini, trimmed and chopped
1/2 cup basil leaves

Place the stock in a large saucepan over high heat and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low. Add the chicken and cook for 15 minutes or until cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pan and shred the meat. Remove the stock from the heat and set aside. Heat the oil in a saucepan over high heat. Add the fennel, onion and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes or until the onion is softened.

Add the lemon rind and stock and bring to the boil. Add the pasta and cook for 8 minutes. Add the broccolini and cook for a further 3 minutes or until the pasta is al dente and the broccolini is tender.

Stir through the shredded chicken and basil to serve. Serves 4.

Nice and quick to make, tasty and nutritious.
There was not nearly enough liquid in my soup. I added more water and it still wasn't enough.
The overwhelming flavours were from the fennel and broccolini, and occasionally the basil.
The basil immediately went black and looked unappealing.
Also posted on my adventures in a low GI world blog

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Carrot, Honey and Ginger Soup- Soup Hall of Fame

This is a fantastic recipe that I've made once a year or so for many years. Carrots aren't my favourite vegetable it must be said, but I do like this soup.

 It's from one of Nick Nairn's earliest books Wild Harvest. I don't think I've ever managed to make another recipe from this book, I just keep making this one, over and over again. 

Nick Nairn has six Basic Soup Rules

1) Use a ratio of approximately 25% onion to the main vegetable ingredient

2) Cut the vegetables into the smallest pieces practicable- a 5mm (1/4 in) dice. This reduces cooking time. 

3) Always add boiling water to the vegetables as this reduces the time that the soup is off the boil where it can "stew" and lose its freshness.

4) Once cooked, liquidise the soup and cool it as quickly as possible- this keeps its quality and flavour.

5) It's much easier to make a big batch of soup. That way you can freeze it in handy-size portions and then reliquidise it one defrosted and re-heated. 

6) The soup is cooked once the vegetables are soft and tender. Timing varies for different vegetables. 

The rule that I've really taken to heart is #3. I always had hot water or stock now to every soup. It does really make it taste fresher and less "stewed". Brilliant. So simple.

Carrot, Honey and Ginger Soup

Fabby colour. Easy to make. Tastes great. Cheap. What more do you want?

80g (3 oz) unsalted butter
150g (5oz) onion, thinly sliced
20g (3/4 oz) root ginger, peeled
750g (1 1/2 lb) carrots, peeled and grated
1 tblsp (15mL) clear honey
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsps Maldon salt
5 turns fresh ground white pepper
900mL (1 1/2 pints) boiling water

Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onions and stir to coat- don't let the onions go brown. Using the flat edge of a heavy knife, crush the ginger (this releases the oil). Add this to the onions and let them sweat for ten minutes.

Now add the grated carrot, honey, lemon juice and seasoning. Stir well. Pour in the boiling water and bring it back to the boil. Simmer for 45 minutes. (You may have to add a little more water during this time to allow for evaporation).

Remove the pan from the heat and liquidise the contents (with a hand-held blender or in the liquidiser) until smooth and creamy.

I have always grated the ginger for the recipe as I like the texture better, and don't trust my hand blender to be able to cope with bigger chunks of ginger.

I had run out of Maldon this time, and substituted an Australian sea salt, and found it to be much too salty. I did think about cutting down on the salt, but then added the two teaspoons whilst on autopilot. Oops.

I used the blender this time, and it gave a lighter, fluffier consistency. I really must either work out how to sharpen my hand blender blades, or it's time for a new one I suspect.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Roasted Beetroot, Parsnip and Apple Soup

I love the magnificent, glorious colour of a beetroot soup. Instantly distinctive. And a rather unusual choice it seems. Beware if you make a beetroot soup and eat it in a public space at work for a few days in a row. There will be speculation that you've taken complete leave of your senses, whacked out and gone on some kind of crazy beetroot diet, when all you really did was make a batch of soup to take to work for lunch, and you're trying to vary things a bit, get some nutrition and antioxidants.

This recipe is from the August-September 2010 (#31) issue of dish, an interesting New Zealand food magazine. Their version involves roasting buttercup pumpkins to use as a serving vessel and making beetroot chips as a garnish. I rarely go the extra yards to make a garnish. Not sure why. I'm happy to slave away at the soup itself, but don't usually make the garnish.

Roasted Beetroot, Parsnip and Apple Soup

500gm parsnips
500gm beetroot
1 red onion
1 apple
3 tblsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tblsp finely chopped rosemary
2 tsp caraway seeds
4 cups vegetable stock
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve

Roasted buttercup pumpkins
Beetroot chips, optional
Sour Cream
1 tblsp chopped chives

Preheat the oven to 200C

Peel all the vegetables and the apple and cut into 1cm thick slices

Place in a large bowl with the olive oil, garlic, rosemary and caraway seeds.

Toss well to combine and season generously. Tip onto a large lined baking tray and cover tightly with aluminium foil. Roast for 40-60 minutes, stirring occasionally until all the vegetables are very tender.

Working in batches, put the vegetables in a food processor with a cup of the stock and process until smooth. Tip into a clean saucepan and repeat with the remaining vegetables and stock. Add any remaining stock to the soup. Season and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes.

To serve: Ladle into bowls, or if using the roasted pumpkins, place these in shallow bowls and ladle in the soup. Top with a dollop of sour cream and garnish with beetroot chips and a sprinkling of chives.

(As I only ate this soup at work and not at home, I forgot to photograph it at home, so only have a dodgy iphone image to show)

Makes about 8 cups. Serves 6-8.


I didn't use the roasted pumpkins even though it made a lovely looking presentation. It was their cover recipe (should be on the website til the new issue comes out I guess, it's there now)

I didn't use the caraway seeds. I don't like them. And I didn't want a repeat of the recent Fennel Seed Incident.

I used some delicious ras el hanout instead. Since I don't have a lot of experience cooking with it, I probably didn't use quite as much as I should.

I didn't see any point in putting the cut vegies in a bowl to toss them, I just did it in the baking tray. Why get beetroot over more things than absolutely necessary? And I just noticed when typing this, that the tray was supposed to be lined. Oops! I'm sure it didn't matter.

The first day I didn't have any sour cream either (bad trip to the supermarket it seems), it needs it. Well, the sour cream helps it, the number of items not helped by sour cream are relatively few it must be said.

I forgot to buy chives the day I made it, and couldn't be bothered going back to the shops- I really need to get the herb garden going again, and now that we are officially out of drought it seems like a possibility.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Fennel and Almond Soup

I came across this soup by chance in a tea room at work. A tea room in a department that I don't usually inhabit. And one of the people there was eating a home made soup. Of course I had to know what it was. It turned out to be this soup, and my interest was naturally piqued. It seemed like fate. I had never had almond soup, but seen quite a few recipes over the years. Ajo Blanco is a famous Spanish chilled almond soup that I've really been wanting to make for some time. Seems I forget about it each summer though. I will have to make at some stage as part of my Delia quest, maybe this summer I'll get to it? Delia's Ajo Blanco (even the name sounds exotic) is made from whole almonds, and I presumed that this one would be too, but it doesn't, it uses almond meal instead. So I still haven't tried a proper almond soup....

Fennel and Almond Soup with Green Olive Smash
Serves 4-6
delicious August 2010

Gently warming, but not cooking, the olive smash really enhances the flavour

2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tbs olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 fennel bulbs, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
3/4 cup (90gm)

Olive Smash

1 cup (130gm) large green olives, pitted
1/4 cup (50gm) salted capers, rinsed, drained
1 garlic clove
1/3 cup (80ml) extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
2 tbs lemon juice
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Heat a large frypan over medium heat.
Toast fennel seeds for 2 minutes, stirring, until fragrant.

Add the olive oil and heat for 1 minute, then add the onion, garlic, fennel and celery. Increase the heat to high and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until just tender, then add almond meal and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.

Pour over hot stock, reduce heat to medium, then simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste. Cool slightly, then puree with a hand blender, or in batches in a blender, until smooth.

Meanwhile, for the olive smash, pound the olives, capers and garlic in a mortar and pestle to a coarse paste. Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in small saucepan over medium-low heat, then add the olive mixture and stir for 1-2 minutes until just heated through. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice, parsley and remaining oil.

Pass the soup through a fine sieve into a clean saucepan, then stir over medium heat for 1-2 minutes to warm through.

Serve the soup in warmed bowls, topped with the olive smash and a drizzle of oil.

I remembered to my horror with my first taste of the soup that I REALLY don't like fennel seeds. I had of course known this previously, but clearly had some selective cognitive deficit whilst reading the recipe, preparing to make this soup, and then whilst making the soup. So given that this has 2 tsps of toasted fennel seeds, it was a bit like fennel seed soup. I usually quite like a fennel soup, but this one wasn't one of my favourites, and I don't think I'll be making it again. But there was the whole fate thing, AND I'd gone out to find the magazine especially so I could make this. I'd invested too much to give up.

I think olives are disgusting and inedible so I didn't make the green olive smash. I think that if you did like olives then it would lift the soup. Which it could probably use.

My hand blender always seems to struggle with fennel. I don't know if it's my somewhat antique hand blender now, or if it's just a typical result of fennel vs hand blender. Still it didn't make a particularly pleasing smooth texture. It was sort of course. I can never bother to dirty the proper blender once I've already dirtied the hand blender so didn't bother, and just ate it all week for work lunches as it was.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Spicy Cream of Pumpkin Soup- Soup Hall of Fame

I don't know how many years I've been making this soup. At least 10 I suspect. I've been very devoted to it, and it has repaid me well. It's luscious, and unctuous, and tastes fabulous. For some reason I've always used Queensland Blue as the pumpkin in this soup, while my favourite pumpkin variety is actually Jap. I must try this one day with Jap, or even butternut I suspect.

As with any soup that you've made over and over things are often a little different each time. This time I used a different brand of coconut milk. I spied some organic light coconut milk at the supermarket that I hadn't tried (in anything) before. It was actually quite a bit creamier than the brand of light coconut milk that I normally buy, and to my horror I found this weeks version of the soup almost too creamy in the end! That brand would be fantastic in the coconut rice pudding I've been making this winter though. Oh, now there's a thought.

I'm not an organic devotee, but will buy organic when I can. It's got to be good for us, and the planet, not to be using dreadful chemicals and insecticides to grow our food. I also bought some local saffron when I saw that in the local produce shop. Again, I do like to support local people, and try to avoid food miles whenever I can. I won't buy asparagus flown in from Peru for instance, or cherries from America in the middle of our winter. It's so much nicer when it's our local asparagus, in season. It tastes better. It's not always cheaper, but often is. But local produce does have a much better flavour, from being fresher, and not having flown half way around the world at great cost, and great use of resources. Australian law requires that our fruit and veg shops label all their wares with the country of origin. I think that's a great step forward for helping us to buy seasonal food, that nutritious, fresh and cheap, and also low on air miles. And even though thinking about this is a quagmire, the BBC advises that local is greener than organic.

So I was quite pleased to find locally grown saffron in the shops. Most of the saffron available in Australia is from the Kashmir or Iran. Not totally around the world, but far enough. I guess saffron is as light as fairy dust so the fuel usage wouldn't be all that much to transport it here? I was vaguely unhappy about paying $9 for a very small packet, but indeed it did seem the only source of saffron available in my small town last weekend. I was even more unhappy when I got home and realised that my packet weighed 100mg. So my $9, whilst not completely over the top, meant that I was in effect paying $90,000/kg! I nearly choked when I worked that out. So how much is the Kashmiri stuff that I normally buy from Herbie's? (And if you don't buy your spices from Herbie's you should, they have wonderful stuff). I was again rather shocked to work out that it was $23,000/kg. But that does pale into insignificance against $90,000/kg. Indeed, it almost seems cheap....Is Australian saffron the most expensive substance on earth? I see that gold is a mere $43,568.73/kg today. So this saffron was twice as expensive as gold. I wonder how much a kilo of uranium goes for? OMG. It's about $100 USD per kilo! How can that be? Why isn't uranium $90,000/kg, and saffron for soup makers a paltry $100/kg? Given the extraordinary price tag of this saffron I decided to soak it in water to release the flavour and colour (I don't usually do this step, though it does plump it up and make it look nice).

This soup is from Dorinda Hafner's Dorinda's Taste of the Caribbean. It is the only recipe that I have made from this book. There is a rather tempting Blaff (Caribbean Fish Soup) on the facing page, but I've somehow never got around to making it. The pumpkin soup is in the Guadeloupe section, and Dorinda introduces it thus:

Pumpkin is one of the vegetables I saw used most often in the Caribbean. The thick-skinned vegetables with vivid yellow insides are everywhere in the Caribbean. They are so fresh and sweet, it is little wonder they are so popular in many local dishes. This one is a simple soup with a spicy touch.

Spicy Cream of Pumpkin Soup

1/4 cup (57g/59ml) butter or vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tsp seeded chopped Scotch bonnet chilli
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp powdered saffron
1/4 tsp allspice
4 cups coconut milk
2 cups vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 carrots, cleaned and chopped into bite-sized chunks
4 pounds (1.8 kg) pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into bite-sized chunks
4-6 sprigs parsley, for garnish
2 tbls light (single) cream, for garnish

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter or heat the oil over a medium heat and saute the garlic, onion, and chilli until the onion looks transparent, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Stir in the spices and coconut milk (or stock, if using). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to the boil and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the carrots and pumpkin, partially cover the pan, and bring the mixture to the boil. Cook over a low heat until the vegetables are soft and cooked, about 40 to 50 minutes.

Remove from the heat, leave to cool down a little (about 10 minutes), then puree in a blender until smooth. Return the soup to the pot to gently heat through. Do not allow the soup to boil.

When the soup is heated through, remove the pan from the heat and ladle equal quantities into warmed soup bowls. Place a small, decorative sprig of parsley in the centre of each bowl and swirl a little cream in a small circle around the parsley. Serve hot with bread.


I make quite a number of changes to this soup, in method mainly, not ingredients.

I always saute the onion first, then add the garlic later. Why is it home cooks have trouble with garlic burning, but chefs don't?

I alwas add the spices and stir until fragrant before adding the coconut milk. And why wouldn't you, this smells amazing:

Mr Soup doesn't like spicy food, and neither does Soup Jr, so I've never added the chilli.

I do use the stock as well as the coconut milk.

I've never bothered garnishing it with anything. It's good enough by itself. So good that I forgot to take a photo of the finished soup!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Lentilles Corail au Lait de Coco et Citron Vert

Last weekends soup was a special one. My new French soup cookbook was nagging away at me, so I had to use it, and soon. Anne-Catherine Bley's soupes du jour. Bley runs a wonderful soup cafe in Paris- Le Bar à soupes- know I find out! Grrr. Still at least I have the book. And much as I love soups it wasn't peak soup weather when we were in Paris recently, it was far too hot to want anything except icecream. I have been to Paris in the spring and the summer now, perhaps next time will be in cooler weather?

Bley's book is filled with wonderful sounding French soups. I was interested to see that she does indeed have a recipe for pumpkin soup (veloute de potiron), which has 5 variations. Interesting because the French rather famously don't like pumpkin all that much, and are said to see it as only fit for feeding to pigs. Perhaps I'm miss informed. Perhaps it's changing, I don't know. Actually she even has a separate recipe for veloute de potimarron au bacon. From what I can google up potimarron is a specific variety of pumpkin, or perhaps a squash. She also includes an intriguing recipe for courgettes a la Vache quit rit (which soupsong charmingly describes as the housewife's favourite soup cheese!). I know I'll need to try that soon.

But for my first excursion into the book I picked the Lentilles Corail au Lait de Coco et Citron Vert (Red Lentil Soup with Coconut Milk and Lime). It was a perfect choice. Quick to cook up. Tasty. Nutritious. It made a delicious work lunch, that staved away the hunger all afternoon, and it gave me an excuse to buy some coconut milk. I had rather a brainwave, bought a bigger tin than I needed and used the rest of it to make coconut rice pudding, which was so good I had to make it this weekend as well.

The book is in French, so I'll present the recipe here that way too. If anyone is keen to make it, and your French isn't quite up to it, then let me know and I'll translate it as best I can for you.

Lentilles Corail au Lait de Coco et Citron Vert

200g de lentilles corail
1 petite boie de tomate pelees (300g)
1 gros oignon
1 belle gousse d'ail
1 c. a c. de cumin en poudre
1/2 c. a c. de canelle en poudre
1 L d'eau
le jus de 1 citron vert
10cl de lait de coco
1 c. a s. d'huile d'olive
sel, poivre

1. Eplucher et emincer l'oignon et l'ail. Les faire revenir 5 minutes avec les epices, a feu doux, dans l'huile d'olive.

2. Ajouter les lentilles et les tomates. Bien remuer et ajouter l'eau. Saler et poivrer.

3. Porter a ebullition puis diminuer a feu doux et laisser cuire 30 minutes environ en remant de temps en temps, jusqu'a ce que les lentilles soient parfaitement cuites.

4.Hors de feu, ajouter le lait de coco et le jus de citron vert. Mixer finement. Rectifier l'assaisonnement avant de servir.

It is impossible to buy a 300gm tin of tomatoes in Australia. So I used our standard tin (420gm I think)

I love that the French use the term "belle gousse d'ail", literally a beautiful clove of garlic, although apparently the usage signifies a good size rather than strict beauty.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Soups of the World - Paris

Paris. Home of cuisine, and perhaps even the ancestral home of soup. The French have many names for soup of course-potage, veloute, bisque, bouillon, consomme.

A lunch at the famous Angelina's, on Rue de Rivoli right across from the beautiful Tuileries garden. I wouldn't normally order a tomato gazpacho, but it really was very hot most of the time we were in Paris, and it really suited the day. I liked the hidden avocado layer at the bottom too, that was a bonus. Plus I wasn't that hungry, was looking for a light lunch, that would allow the de-rigeur verre de rose that ladies who lunch must have, and still allow room for dessert. Parfait.

Another wonderful lunch, indeed this was the best lunch of the trip- my birthday lunch at Le Jules Verne on the second level of Le Tour Eiffel. And what a magnificent occasion it was too. Unsurpassed views during lunch, our window edge table was perfectly situated overlooking the Seine, looking toward the Trocadero. I could also see eastwards to where the Statue of Liberty holds her flame aloft in the Parisian sky. Our amuse bouche was a little serving of a tomato soup. Again two tone, with a green layer on the bottom, which seemed more zucchini (although probably strictly speaking courgette here, rather than zucchini), and there were crunchy chunks of raw vegies drifting in the tomato layer. Is this soup particularly common in France, or was it totally coincidence to have two versions within a few days of each other, was one copying the other?

Veloute de crustaces au fumet de champignons et cerfeuil (Shellfish velvety soup with mushrooms and chervil). I'm glad that I hadn't had any experience with the CWA Velvet Soup at this point, and that I was able to languish in this extraordinary soup for my entree (in the Australian sense, ie first course, not main meal) at Le Jules Verne. It was glorious, so much so that I could completely overcome my disdain of foam. The sort of soup that it takes a restaurant staffed with apprentices to turn out. Full, robust shellfish flavour. Home cooks rarely make shellfish stocks which is a pity as they are magnificent. I know I have never made a shellfish stock at home. Indeed I've only ever made a fish stock at home once, and it was at least 10 years ago, but I still remember the extraordinary dish that results from my (rather minimal it must be said) efforts.

A dinner this time at the world renown Atelier de Joel Robuchon. Sadly the experience as a whole was a bit disappointing, more so for Mr Soup than for me as it turns out. He had been anticipating it more than I had, being a Robuchon fan from way back, and the weight of expectation can be heavy indeed. The execution of every course was perfect, unfortunately a number of them didn't have the flavour impact that should come from a restaurant with such a reputation and background. Our amuse bouche was a carrot soup. I don't think I've ever had a soup with a finer texture, I'd love to know how they did it. But that little bit of soup frippery on the side was Extraordinary. It not only looked beautiful, but also tasted amazing. If you look very hard you can see the strategically placed grains of salt on the far right of the wafer. It really was delicate, nuanced, subtle and like nothing else I'd ever had before.

I don't really buy all that many cookbooks any more. I can even (gasp) admit that I possibly have too many. Still I did buy (just) one in France. And of course it was a soup book. I'd been searching in a disorganised way for a while and had nearly given up on finding one that I liked, until I found this one buried on the third floor of Au Printemps near the bizzarely placed icecream counter that they had there. It has some wonderful and intriguingly French sounding soups that I shall make at some time in the future. Soupe Archedoise au chou, chataignes et lardons (Soup from the Archedoise with cabbage, chestnuts and bacon). Lentilles corail au lait de coco et citron vert (Red Lentil Soup with coconut milk and Lime) Soupe froide de courgettes, gingembre et citron confit (Cold Zucchini Soup with Ginger and Preseved Lemon). Strange how they all sound better in the French isn't it? I wonder if I need to try and attack the whole book much like my Delia project? I suspect I might want to try.

My final Parisian soup was a surprising one, on our very last night in Paris. We had a wonderful meal by the banks of the Seine. The World Cup was in full swing and there was a big game on that night, probably a semi-final, I may know if I had paid any attention- I think it was Germany and Spain, so there was a wonderful atmosphere in the bar behind us. It was certainly Spain and someone. Anyway, after a wonderful entree of smoked salmon blinis (still warm, oooh) washed down with Bolli and then honey duck main with a wonderful red, I spied a strawberry soup on the menu- there was no other choice. It's reasonably rare to come across a fruit soup, at least in Australia, I've had one or two before, and they'd been delicious, so I really couldn't go past this one, and I wasn't disappointed. It was light and refreshing but with a real strawberry taste. It was really quite a big bowl of soup, and I didn't finish it- we did have to fit in a final taste of Berthillon after all.

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.

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