Cream of celeriac soup

IMG_1529

I made this soup after I returned home from spending a weekend with my friends Annie and Andrew at their home in Wiltshire.  On the Saturday Annie and Andrew took me to Salisbury where there is a very good market in the main square – a proper market with vegetable stalls, fruit sellers, butchers, a cheesemonger (maybe two) and all manner of stalls with delicious foods to buy.  One of my purchases was the celeriac – the other was a brace of pheasant which were locally sourced (and shot) and are now residing in my freezer – the subject of a future post.  I must say that the Salisbury saturday market is reason enough to move there.

What you’ll need for four people as a soup/first course:

  • One celeriac approximately 1kg in weight
  • One medium-sized onion peeled and cut in half
  • One small to medium-sized potato peeled and cut in half or quarters*
  • 1.5 litres vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cream**

What you’ll need to do:

  • Prepare the celeriac by trimming off the thick knobbly roots.  Then, either using a potato peeler or a sharp knife, ‘skin’ the celeriac.  If you are using a knife be careful not to take off chunks of the vegetable with the skin.  The skin is easy to trim away so not much force is needed.
  • Cut celeriac into chunks
  • Make up the vegetable stock in a large saucepan and bring to the boil.
  • Add the celeriac, onion and potato to the stock and reduce to a simmer.  Cover with saucepan lid and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Check that the celeriac and potato are cooked and if so turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool.
  • Once the broth and vegetables are cooled sufficiently transfer to a liquidiser and whizz until smooth.
  • Return soup to a clean saucepan and season with salt and a little pepper if you wish.  Remember,  the stock will have salt in it so you may not need to add more.
  • As you are warming the soup prior to serving pour in the cream a little at a time to your liking.  Once you have added the cream don’t let the soup boil as the cream may separate.

* I include a potato because it acts as a natural thickening agent.  If you prefer a thinner soup then you may either omit the potato altogether or add more stock after you have blended the soup.  I think the potato adds a little silkiness to the overall texture.

** If you wish to keep the calories down then you can ditch the cream – the soup will be just as delicious without it.  Oh yes, I use double cream myself.

As a post-script I would like to thank my friend June Lim of Singapore who suggested  I should put the picture of the finished dish at the top of the recipe and not at the bottom.

Advertisements

Bulldogs

When my sisters and I were children we would  visit our two aunts in Chester, Olwen and Morfydd.  Aunty Morfydd was a very good cook and she would often prepare bulldogs for us.  I don’t know why this sandwich got given the name of bulldog (perhaps my sisters know – I never thought to ask them) but it was Morfydd’s creation.

As we would visit in the afternoon it formed part of a high tea (not to be confused with afternoon tea) and our mother would make them for us for breakfast at home too.

It is, simply put, a toasted tomato sandwich however instead of buttering the inside the top piece of toast is buttered.  Though this recipe is ever so easy to make my sisters, particularly Caroline, often ask me to make bulldogs for them – so too my niece Natalie.

What you’ll need for two to three people is:

  • Olive oil
  • One 400g tin of tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6-8 slices of white bread (white is best in my opinion)
  • Butter

What you’ll need to do:

  • Heat a good slug of olive oil in a saucepan.
  • When the oil has warmed up a bit put in the tomatoes.  If you are using whole plum tomatoes break them up a bit with a wooden spoon.
  • Cook the tomatoes over a medium to high heat for about 15 to 20 minutes.  The idea is to cook the tomatoes to a nice pulp.   But be warned – do not walk away and leave the tomatoes to their own devices because they will catch and burn.  Keep an eye on them and stir regularly.  You have arrived at the right consistency once the juice has evaporated and the resulting tomato sauce is glossy.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Once the tomatoes are cooked you can set them aside and keep the pan warm (on a hot plate if you have one) with lid on the saucepan whilst you make the toast.

Once you have your toast nice and golden remove from the toaster or grill and on one piece of toast spread a thin layer of tomato.  Then place the second piece of toast on top and butter the top piece.

fullsizeoutput_ddd

Slice in half and enjoy you bulldogs!

fullsizeoutput_dce

Postscript:

Cooking the tomatoes as described above also forms a basic tomato sauce for pasta.  In fact if you look back at my Arrabbiata and Amatriciana recipes this the basic sauce.

Oh yes, if you have more people to feed, simply add more tins of tomatoes and have more slice of bread to hand.  If you have left-over tomato sauce simply keep it in the fridge and use in the next days to make a pasta sauce of you choice.

 

Arrabbiata/Amatriciana sauce

Today you are getting a two-for-the-price-of-one deal with a recipe for Arrabbiata sauce and Amatriciana sauce and the reason being is that they are both very similar to each other.  The only difference between the two is that one (Amatriciana) has an additional ingredient, pancetta or bacon.  One sauce is vegetarian, and the other not.

Both sauces are a little fiery.   Arrabbiata, for example, means angry and is traditionally made with garlic, chilli, tomatoes and olive oil and as such is simplicity itself.  Amatriciana is very similar in composition except that pancetta or bacon is used. Amatriciana originated in the town of Amatrice in Lazio and traditionally used guanciale which is cured pork cheek.  As that is hard to come by outside of Italy (I imagine) pancetta or bacon is used as a substitute.

The pasta that is usually employed with Arrabiata is Penne or Penne Rigati but I have also used the larger tubular Rigatoni which works equally well and I have also paired this sauce with spaghetti which is the dish I have illustrated.  The pasta that works well with Amatriciana is bucatini, favoured in Rome so I am told but spaghetti works well too.

What you’ll need for two people for Arrabbiata is:

  • Olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic peeled and finely chopped
  • 2-3 dried chillies sliced, seeds included
  • 1 x 400g/14.10oz tin tomatoes

What you’ll need to do:

  • Heat a good slug of olive oil in a saucepan and add the chopped garlic and chillies.  Cook a little to release the aroma but do not let the garlic brown.
  • Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer then let the sauce cook for around 20-30 minutes until the liquid has evaporated and the sauces becomes pulpy.

To make the Amatriciana sauce:

  • The ingredients listed above
  • Bacon cut into strips or pancetta cut into cubes.  Use as much or as little bacon/pancetta as suits your taste.   For two people I would suggest 2 rashers of bacon per person, more if you prefer.  Cut the bacon into thin strips but not too thin.   Add the bacon to the saucepan before adding the garlic and chillies.

The bacon I use is smoked back bacon which may be difficult to find in the US so Canadian bacon will work just as well.

If you are using streaky bacon (which is the standard bacon found in the US)  fry the bacon first (before adding the garlic and chillies) which will allow the bacon fat to render then add the garlic and chillies.  If necessary add a little olive oil – then add the tomatoes and follow the steps set out for Arrabbiata above.

img_0819
Sugo Amatriciana with spaghetti

 

 

Pea and ham soup

I had some ham hock which had to be used up and I wasn’t really sure what to do with it other than turn it into a pasta dish.  Then I had an idea – why not make a pea and ham soup which would be different from the traditional pea and ham soup?

The traditional pea and ham soup that most of us will remember is made using split peas, a ham hock bone and long, long cooking.  This one is simplicity itself AND it can be adapted for those who prefer a vegetarian version by using vegetable stock and omitting the ham hock.  And it is quick!  Well quicker than the two hours it takes to make the traditional version!

I had mentioned this recipe to my sister Maria and niece, Natalie, some time ago and they both have been pressing me to post it ever since.   So here it is, at last!

What you’ll need for two people is:

  • A knob of butter
  • 1 small onion peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium potato peeled and cubed
  • 500ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • 250gr frozen garden peas or petits pois
  • Salt and pepper (if required)
  • 100/150gr shredded ham hock (I used Waitrose shredded ham hock)
  • Double or single cream

What you’ll need to do:

  • Heat the butter in a saucepan then add the chopped onion and gently fry until opaque.
  • Add the stock and the potato cubes and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Let the broth simmer until the potato cubes are cooked.
  • Check to see if seasoning is required and adjust to taste if necessary. (Remember there may already be salt in the stock)
  • Add the peas and bring the broth back to the boil and cook the peas for a few minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and allow the soup to cool sufficiently then either transfer to a liquidiser to blend or if you prefer, use a hand-held blender directly into the soup.*
  • Pour the soup into a clean saucepan, return to the stove and warm through prior to serving.
  • To serve pour an equal amount of soup into two soup plates or bowls then pour a little cream in the middle of the soup.  Place a portion of the ham hock onto the cream and serve.

*If you are in a bit of a hurry you can liquidise the soup whilst hot but please be careful when transferring to your liquidiser and especially careful  if you use a hand-held blender in case some of the soup splurges upward and flies out of the pan!

fullsizeoutput_cf8
A delicious emerald-green pea soup

Bacon, haggis and egg breakfast.

Last Sunday I decided to put together a naughty fried breakfast from ingredients that I had in my freezer (a slice of haggis) and fridge (bacon and eggs).  Not an every-day breakfast but delicious!

If you like haggis (which I do, naturally, otherwise it wouldn’t appear here) the only way you would most likely get it south of the Scottish border was in preparation for Burns Night (25th January) and in the traditional style of a rather large haggis – one to feed three or four people.   That has all changed now because the canny haggis makers of Edinburgh, MacSween, have, for a while now, produced MacSween haggis-in-a-hurry which are two slices of haggis cleverly vacuum packed to be microwaved.  And here is a handy tip.  If you only want one portion, carefully cut the package in two with kitchen scissors – ensuring that both pockets remain sealed – then pop the one slice, not required, into the freezer for another time.

Vegetarian readers don’t despair!  You can enjoy this dish too because MacSween make a vegetarian haggis as well as the traditional haggis.  All you need do is swap the traditional for the vegetarian haggis and dump the bacon – simples!

Here in the UK you can buy MacSweens haggis in Sainsbury, Morrisons, Asda and Waitrose

What you’ll need for two is:

  • 2 slices of white bread (brown is healthier, white is naughtiest and therefore more delicious!)
  • Sunflower/vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 pack of MacSween haggis in-a-hurry
  • 4 rashers of bacon (I like smoked bacon)
  • 2 eggs (if you have duck eggs even better!)
  • Chopped chives – optional

What you’ll need to do:

  • Heat a large frying pan, or if you have one, a large griddle pan and pour some oil into it.  Fry the slices of bread until golden brown on both sides and keep warm.
  • In another frying pan fry the bacon – or grill if you prefer.
  • Transfer the bacon to a warm dish or plate, add more oil and fry your eggs.  This way you’ll save on frying pans but if you have a devil-may-care attitude and own a brigade of frying pans, well, use a third!
  • Remove the cardboard sleeve of the haggis and place package in the microwave and cook according to the timings on the packet
  • Assemble breakfast with, first,  the slice of fried bread, then the rashers of bacon, then a slice of haggis and top it with a fried egg.
  • Sprinkle with chopped chives if you wish.img_0820

Amuse-bouche: Seared goose liver with fig jam.

 

I invited my friend, Joy, round to supper on Friday and I had decided that I would make steak and kidney pie and as I rummaged around my freezer (for I knew I had kidneys therein as well as the beef) I pulled out what I thought was a very small pack of kidney.  To my surprise (for I had not labelled the pack) I discovered, once it had defrosted, that is was a goose liver I had vacuum packed and put into the freezer  when I had bought a goose  two Christmases ago. The goose, however, is long gone!

Here is the recipe for the seared liver.  Well, I don’t think it can really be called a recipe more a suggestion as to what to do with that goose liver you may find lurking in your freezer!

What you’ll need for two people as a mini first course – the amuse-bouche is:

  • Large frying pan (I used my large, round flat griddle pan)
  • 1 goose or duck liver cut in two*
  • 1 large slice of bread, crusts removed and cut in half
  • Butter**
  • Fig jam
  • Chopped chives – optional

What you’ll need to do:

  • Place a teaspoon of fig jam on your serving plates and keep plates to one side
  • Melt the butter in the pan and place the two pieces of bread to fry. When light golden turn over and fry the other side of the bread
  • Once you have turned the bread over to fry the second side place the liver pieces on the griddle to sear quickly, turn over and sear the other side.  The liver should be pink inside and not over-cooked.
  • Place a piece of fried bread on each plate and top with a piece of liver and sprinkle with chopped chives if liked.

*Depending how large your goose may be (goose liver usually only comes with a goose, I don’t think I have seen it sold separately here in the UK) you may have enough for 3 to 4 people)

**I use clarified butter as it can be cooked to a higher temperature without burning – very good for searing.

img_0816

Spicy broth with prawns or chicken or without.

I created this soup as part of my repertoire for my 5:2 diet regime – a dish that is so straight-forward  it really doesn’t require much thinking about and provides me with a dinner of around 600 calories, maybe fewer.   Though you might not think it by the sound of it a full portion of this soup is a pretty substantial meal.

And the beauty of this soup is that it can be vegetarian by excluding the prawns or chicken and using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.

What you’ll need for 2 people as a first course or for a main meal for 1 person is:

  • 500ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • A little vegetable oil for cooking
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 red or green chilli chopped – I use Thai chillis
  • 6 to 12 large raw or cooked prawns (12 if the soup is to be shared) or 100gr – 150 gr shredded cooked chicken breast. (Thigh meat can be used too of course)
  • Soy sauce (about a dessert spoonful  or more to taste)
  • Half a carrot peeled and diced*
  • 1 -2 teaspoonfuls of Sriracha Hot Chilli Sauce (optional)**
  • 2-3 Cavolo Nero leaves sliced or any other green leaves you may have to hand such as kale or Swiss Chard
  • Half a pack of mixed exotic mushrooms (Eryngii, Shiitake & Oyster were in the pack I had and which can be bought from Waitrose) or any assortment of mushrooms you fancy.  Slice the mushrooms.
  • 1 nest of Rice Vermicelli noodles (I use the Thai Taste brand)
  • Handful of coriander or chives chopped for garnish if liked.

*You may like to substitute the carrot with fennel or celery

**When I made this a few days ago I decided to add a bit more zip to the broth by adding a teaspoon or two of the Sriracha Chilli Sauce and it was even more delicious but do take care, the Thai chilli is heat enough.

What you’ll need to do:

  • Make up your 500ml of stock and have it to hand.
  • In a saucepan (large enough to take 500ml of liquid plus the ingredients) heat a little of the vegetable oil and gently fry the garlic and chilli to release the fragrance.  Try not to let the garlic brown because  it will taste bitter.
  • Add the chicken/vegetable stock and bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer.
  • Add the soy sauce to taste.  (Be careful in the amount you use due to its saltiness)
  • Add the diced carrots and sliced mushrooms.  Continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes to allow the vegetables to cook.
  • Add the prawns or chicken if using.  (If using raw prawns they will turn pink when cooked.  If using cooked chicken ensure that it is heated through thoroughly)
  • Add the chopped Cavolo Nero leaves
  • Whilst the broth is simmering bring a small saucepan of water to boil.  Once boiled turn off the heat and drop the nest of vermicelli into the hot water, place a lid of top and leave for 10 minutes or follow the recommended time on the packet. when the time is up drain the vermicelli and keep warm.
  • Once the broth is ready divide the vermicelli noodles between two soup plates or bowls (or just one large bowl if it is a main mean) and ladle the soup over the noodles.
  • Sprinkle the chopped coriander leaves or chives over each portion and serve.

 

img_0787