Sunday, 30 December 2012

In the Soup - how not to follow a recipe...

It seemed a good idea to start with ... rather than search my cookery books for inspiration, I'd just do the soup Mrs Redboots had posted on her blog the previous day

It would make a change after two days of cold meat and undisguised* leftover veg followed on the third evening by a mild curry-ish sort of thing using some of the spicy mix that the Udder Farm Shop sells - displaying it in fragrant bowls, with sturdy brown-paper bags and little metal scoops to play at being old-fashioned grocers with, as you serve yourself Magic Majhala** or Regal Red Sea mixes.

Anyway, soup was called for, and at first glance I had everything on the list. So yesterday afternoon, for last night's meal, I extracted some chicken carcase stock from the freezer, and began to assemble the other ingredients.

I only had 2 carrots, but then I was only making soup for the 2 of us, so that didn't worry me. I had escallions [banana shallots] and used 3 of them rather than 2 onions; I added a couple of small turnips that were looking reproachfully from the veg shelf, and after much searching - we've not long had our kitchen completely redone, so some things are in logical but not easily found places - found the tag end of a packet of red lentils - probably about 100-150g worth.

I used a little bit of dripping to soften the chopped shallots, as we'd had rib of beef for our Christmas main meat, and it had produced a small basinful. Then I added the diced carrot and turnip to the pot for a few more minutes, and rinsed the lentils under the tap. Some old habits die hard, and I'm old enough to remember when one had to rinse, and pick over, lentils for grit; these days they are meant to be OK straight from the packet. Once everything was stirred together, I added the block of frozen stock, about half a pint, and filled the plastic box it had been frozen in with water from the tap, and poured that in - twice - making about a pint and a half of added liquid.

I kept stirring until the frozen stock had melted, and brought it all to the boil, then left it simmering for a couple of hours.

I ventured into the dank garden and returned with very small trophies - a couple of sprigs of thyme and a few marjoram leaves. Once these were washed, I bruised the thyme and added it to the pot. 

Mrs Redboots had said she used asafoetida as she didn't have any garlic to hand. Not having any asafoetida, nor ever having knowingly tasted it, I was confident I had plenty of garlic. Well once upon a time it was plenty ... but it was growing out, and the cloves themselves had got soft and rubbery. So I chopped the growing shoots together with some Greek basil that I have on the kitchen windowsill, ready to stir in at the last minute. 

A quick taste about half an hour before serving showed the need for a bit more seasoning. As 'Magic Majhala' has a few lentils amongst its many ingredients, I added about a teaspoonful of that and stirred it well in; mild curry flavours go well with lentils and carrots. 

Our G had been sitting on a slice of lime for a good hour by now, so we added ice-cubes, and the T, and relaxed for a while with this and a few of the beautiful olives [from Olives Direct] that we get from our local market. 

Just before serving, I used a potato masher to break down the cubes of vegetable without losing texture. I'd thought about using the stick blender, but decided I didn't really want this to be a 'cream soup' - a decision approved by TMH when I put the bowl in front of him - and stirred in the chopped herb/garlic shoots mixture.***  

So I'm afraid, Annabel, that it wasn't really your soup at all - but it was jolly nice!

* Chopped up and fried in dripping, but still obviously sprouts, chestnuts,  roast potatoes, carrots and parsnips. 

** I'm not sure of the spelling of this, as the last lot we bought didn't have the proper printed label, just a hand-written 'Magic'.

*** For once something I had pre-chopped did not lurk on the chopping-board to confront me when I came back to the kitchen after the course for which it was intended ...


  1. And that is EXACTLY how to follow a recipe! At least, it's how I follow recipes....

    1. I'd say it's pretty much how I usually do it, when I come to think about it - especially for things that aren't crucial for proportions or needing the exact chemistry of a sponge cake or something of that ilk. Most of my daily cooking is 'out of my head' :-)

  2. And this time, I am using chicken stock as it's going to have leftover sausages chopped into it, and added two parsnips and some tomatoes that wanted used..... and it's more curried than the previous version! And so it goes on....

    1. Soup is like that - so many things are made 'out of one's head' as well as out of the current store-cupboard/leftovers.