There really is nothing like a bowl of soup to make you feel human again after a hard day, to warm you coming in from the cold, to comfort you when you are tired or down, to make a great satisfying lunch in the middle of a busy day.
And what could be simpler? Of course my all time favourite is What’s Left in the Vegetable Basket Soup. So although, to my mind, a good vegetable soup has to have a basis of onions, carrots and celery, the variations on this mean that no two soups are alike. Some have the hit of the last wrinkled chilli and quite often something from the store of vegetables frozen from the glut in the summer but then there are the odd ingredients like the the last few tomatoes and half of a left-over courgette. Sometimes made chunky and sometimes whizzed to a creamy liquid. Every one a winner!
The spring soup I always look forward to is Asparagus and Sorrel Soup
Asparagus and Sorrel Soup
This recipe comes from Eat Your Greens by Sophie Grigson, published in 1993. While the asparagus and the sorrel are still in season, this is a delight. You can use asparagus trimmings for this recipe. This lovely light fresh soup and can be served hot or cold.
Ingredients Serves 2 – 3
175 g (6oz) chopped asparagus or asparagus trimmings, 40g (1 1/2oz) butter, 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped clove of garlic, 1 large handful of shredded sorrel, 1 tablespoon plain flour, 600ml (1 pint) water from cooking the asparagus or stock, salt and pepper, 50ml (2 fl oz) double cream, 1 tablespoon fresh chopped chervil or chives.
Melt the butter in a saucepan and cook the onions and garlic without browning. Add the sorrel and stir until it collapses to a mush. Sprinkle over the flour and stir for a few seconds then a little ata time add the asparagus water or stock. Add the asparagus and season. Simmer for 20 mins.
Process or puree until smooth and if you want, sieve to remove any stringy fibres. Just before serving stir in the cream and chervil or chives.
And a brilliant and tasty soup for the summer – or anytime!
Soup au Pistou
Pistou, the Provençal cousin of pesto, is stirred into this summer vegetable soup just before serving. Pistou, made from cloves of garlic, fresh basil, and olive oil. The basics are the potato, courgettes and beans but this is one of those soups that can vary as much as you like in terms of the vegetables used. Broken spaghetti, rice or bread is sometimes added as well. Try it out and then make it your own.
This version was from an anonymous hand-written recipe and translated in Recipes From an Unknown Kitchen
1.5 litre water, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 150g potatoes, 150g onions, 150g courgettes, 150g aubergines, 200g white haricot beans (a tin would be fine), 100g green beans, Salt & pepper
4 crushed cloves garlic, 4 cups packed basil, 1 cup grated parmesan, ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 plum tomato, cored
Make the pistou: Process basil, parmesan, olive oil, salt, garlic, and tomato in a food processor until finely ground or in a pestle if you are feeling energetic. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.
Prepare the vegetables – chop the potatoes, courgettes, aubergine into cubes, roughly chop the onions and chop the green beans into 1 cm pieces. Fry the onions in the oil then add the rest of the vegetables and cook for 5 minutes. Add the water, all the fresh vegetables then season well. Cook for around 15 – 20 minutes. Add the white haricot beans and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Add the pistou sauce and stir gently then taste and season again.
Guess what I’ve got for lunch?
Let’s celebrate afternoon tea week, who can resist those little finger sandwiches, scones and fancy cakes, it’s like reliving a dolls tea party. That quintessential British meal that sadly is disappearing from our daily lives. With the advent of full time work for women the ritual that is afternoon tea became lost, hardly surprising, who of us has time to work and cook for a tea break?
As lifestyles and hours of working changed over time so have mealtimes , following working patterns and changes in social status. The following is from “A Short History of [British] Mealtimes”
Breakfast 10AM; Dinner 3-5PM, Tea 7PM, Supper 10-11PM
Breakfast 10AM (leisurely), 9AM (less leisurely), 8AM (working people); Luncheon Midday; Dinner 3-5PM; Supper 10-11PM
Breakfast, before 9AM; Luncheon (ladies only) Midday; Dinner 6-8PM; Supper depending upon the timing and substantiality of dinner
Breakfast 8AM (town), 9-10AM (country); Lunchoen 1-2PM; Dinner 6-8PM (depending upon formality and place)
Early morning 8AM (tea, bread and butter); Breakfast 8-8:30AM; Luncheon Midday; Afternoon tea 5PM, Dinner 7:30-8PM
Breakfast 8AM; Lunch/upper classes or Dinner/rest Midday-1PM; Afternoon tea 4PM; High tea 5-6PM; Dinner 7-8PM; Supper 9-10PM.
“Mealtimes…These vary somewhat depending on the region of the country you are visiting, but in general breakfast is served between 7:30 and 9, and lunch between 12 and 2. Tea–an essential and respected part of British tradition, and often a meal in itself–is generally served between 4:30 and 5:30. Dinner or supper is served between 7:30 and 9:30, sometimes earlier.”—Fodor’s Great Britain  (p. 34)
As you can see, tea the kind of fancy-schmancy affair emerged as a social event sometime around the 1830s or 1840s, Bruce Richardson writes in A Social History of Tea. And Anna Maria Russell, Duchess of Bedford, led the pack. When there is nothing else to do but enjoy a little ‘something’ with friends, why not?
Nowadays we only celebrate high tea on high days and holidays usually eaten out rather than at home despite the popularity of TV programmes such as The Great British Bake Off which celebrate baking in all its forms.
But it is a lovely way to indulge yourself, so this week find somewhere locally that does provide ‘high tea’ and give yourself a treat. Or make something you usually don’t make time for – a few scones or how about a little Victoria sponge? or at least a biscuit and a cup of tea.
These great biscuits are easy to make and are just right for children to decorate.
Tunbridge Water Cakes (William Sayer)*
I have seen references to these biscuits called Tunbridge Wafers or Romary biscuits after the baker Alfred Romary who had a bakery in Tunbridge, opened in 1862. Romary later received Royal warrants for his wafers. Recipes seem to vary of course, some of them more savoury, and this writer has added orange flower water.
250g icing sugar
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon orange flower water
Preheat the oven to 180oc/350of/gas 4
Rub the butter in with the flour; add the sugar and make the whole into a paste. Don’t work too much as this will make the biscuits hard. Roll it out very thin on a floured table and cut it out with a plain round or scalloped cutter about 3in across. Place them on a greased baking tray and bake them to a pale delicate colour.
They take about 15 – 20 minutes depending on your oven.
These make lovely biscuits for children to decorate and makes about 50 biscuits.
* From Recipes From an Unknown Kitchen click here
Ciao amici miei!
I have recently started learning Italian. It’s a beautiful language and I am really enjoying it. Sadly as I get older my memory gets worse so it is hard work. I am trying all sorts of ways to get it into my head for more than a few hours (or minutes in some cases). I am learning on line both the grammar and vocabulary, I am taking conversation classes, I am writing my shopping list and a daily diary in Italian and reading Italian children’s books.
But being a bit of a food obsessive and as you know an enthusiastic amateur cook I decided that using an Italian language cookbook might be the way to go.
The first dish was Acquacotta, which literally means Cooked Water – who knew? This tasty dish of onions, yellow peppers celery and tomatoes was easy peasy and I ‘ve learnt LOTS of new words. Marvellous! or meraviglioso! as we say in Italian – see it’s working already.
A great all-rounder, this pie comes from Vegetarian Cooking & Vegetable Classics by Roz Denny and Christine Ingram. I love it and it comes with it’s own inbuilt creamy sauce.
450g/ puff pastry, 450g Brussel sprouts, 16 whole chestnuts, 1 large red pepper, 1 large onion, 45ml sunflower oi,l 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon of water,
For the sauce
40g plain flour, 40g butter, 300ml milk, 30ml dry sherry, 75g cheddar cheese, good pinch of dried sage, 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, salt & freshly ground black pepper
Roll out the pastry to make 2 large rectangles (1 slightly larger than the other) roughly the size of your dish and about 6mm thick.
Blanch the brussels sprouts in 300ml of boiling water for 4 mins then drain, retaining the water and refresh them under cold running water.
Cut each chestnut in half. Lightly fry the red pepper and onion in the sunflower oil until transparent for about 5 mins. Set aside until later.
Make up the sauce by beating the flour, butter and milk together. Beat the sauce continuously and bring to the boil until it is thickened and smooth. Then add the reserved sprout water cheese, sherry, sage and season to taste. Simmer for around 3 mins then add the parsley.
Fit the larger piece of pastry into your pie dish and layer the sprouts, chestnuts, peppers and onions on top. Pour over the sauce making sure it seeps through the vegetables. Brush the pastry edges with the egg mix and fit the second sheet of pastry on the top sealing the edges well. Crimp the edges. Glaze well with the egg mix.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees f/200 degrees C/ Gas mark 6. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.
It’s a while ago now since I published my book Recipes from an Unknown Kitchen so I don’t run through the pages that often. And strangely I find I use it just like any other recipe book on my shelf. I find myself looking for a good recipe when friends are coming round and look for inspiration from the shelf only to find one from my book that I had loved enough to write about but had forgotten. I think that’s the problem of having a) a LOT of cookery books and b) not being able to make a decision.
This came from a hand-written recipe book from the 1990s I don’t know the name of the author sadly, but she did often add the names of the people who gave her the recipes, there are quite a few recipes from Dick, Mary and Hilary. The book came with an envelope stuffed with newspaper cuttings and lots of notes on pieces of paper where he/she had jotted down recipes on the first piece of paper which came to hand.
Anyway with Norma and Mike coming round I needed a nice fish dish and found the perfect answer in my book. I’m not sure why I don’t eat this every week because I love it so much and it is so easy to make.
Mary’s Greek Fish
1 large tin of peeled tomatoes
Bream, haddock or cod for 4
Large handful of fresh parsley and oregano
2 large onions
1 clove of chopped garlic
½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 180oc/35of/gas 4
Place filleted fish in a flat oven dish with a lid. Fry the chopped onions in olive oil very gently until transparent add the garlic and continue cooking for a few more minutes. Add the tomatoes, then when mushy add the chopped herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture over the fish and bake in the oven for around 3/4 hour.
This doesn’t need anything with it apart from some crusty bread to soak up the last juices.
Over Christmas I find myself addicted to clementines. I always feel a little guilty about throwing the peel away – too many in the wormery upsets the worms – then I found this recipe for candied orange sticks in The River Cottage Preserves Handbook. So I just replace the orange peel with clementines, although I have used grapefruit peel as well. There are always little bits of peel that are too small to turn into sticks and these I cut up and use in other recipes as candied peel . I must say that the about 25% of these don’t make it as the presents I intend, well I have to check the quality!
4-5 large oranges (If using clementine peel it takes around 10 skins), 500g granulated sugar, 1 tbsp glucose syrup, 200g good plain chocolate.
Method (it looks complicated but actually isn’t)
Scrub the oranges and using a sharp knife, remove the peel and attached pith. Weigh out 250g or peel and cut into slices about 6mm x 5cm. Place the peel in a large pan and cover with 2 litres of cold water.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes, drain and return to the pan with 1 litre of cold water. Bring to the boil again and simmer, covered, this time for 45 minutes (30 minutes for clementine peel). Then add the sugar and stir until it’s dissolved, simmer for a further 30 minutes, still covered. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for 24 hours.
Bring the pan to the boil again – if using glucose syrup, add it now – and boil for 30 minutes, until all the liquid has evaporated and the sticks are coated with bubbling syrup. Allow to cool then carefully remove sticks to a wire rack. Leave in a warm place (an airing cupboard is ideal) for 24 hours.
Break the chocolate in to pieces and melt in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Remove from heat and dip half of each orange stick in the melted chocolate, placing on greaseproof paper to set. Before dipping the sticks will last 3-4 months, once dipped in chocolate they are best eaten within 3 weeks. (As if they are going to last that long!)
The origins of the word ‘kitchen’ are somewhat involved. Derived from the Latin ‘coquina’, in French it is ‘cuisine’ and is very similar in sound to ‘cycene’ the saxon word, ‘kuche’ in German, ‘kiokken’ in Danish, ‘cegin’ in Welsh, ‘kyshen’ in Scottish and ‘cucina’ in Italian. Through history the kitchen has evolved to reflect our way of life. As Anne Reagan says in A Brief History of the Kitchen – Historically, kitchens weren’t luxurious and unlike today’s kitchen, they were not rooms where people wanted to spend time in. They definitely weren’t rooms meant for hosting guests or entertaining. They were dark and prone to catching fire; they were filled with noises, messes and smells. They were extremely busy spaces and could be hot and uncomfortable. For these reasons, kitchens tended to be situated as far away as possible from the social or private rooms in a home.
In the Victorian period, it was universally understood that the kitchen was used only for cooking. Washing-up, scrubbing vegetables and all the messy, low-status activities that involved water were done in the scullery. Even the smallest Victorian houses had a separate scullery, and it was rare for sinks to be installed in kitchens before the twentieth century. Gas-fired ranges were exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851, and in 1868 Shrewsbury’s Portable Gas Oven came onto the market. However, prejudice, fear of explosions and health scares about eating food impregnated with harmful fumes delayed the widespread introduction of gas ovens, and they did not begin to replace solid fuel ranges in any numbers until the 1890s. Back to the perfect kitchen. In Modern Cooking Illustrated from 1947 Lydia Chatterton sets out the ideal kitchen for the new bride after the war. ‘At a minimum the homemaker should aim at a gas or electric cooker, a hot water boiler and double sink’ however ‘kitchen cabinets, washing machines and vacuum cleaners are welcome additions’s. The chapter on setting up and decorating a kitchen is fascinating and reflects not just the technology of the times’nowadays it is possible to “go electric” in the most out of the way parts of the country, but also reflecting the types of food that were prepared there. ‘If you do a lot of pastry making perhaps someone will give you one of the new tables, half marble-topped and half wood’. To day’s perfect kitchen varies as much as the style of all the rooms in our homes to reflect who we are. And we have the choice (depending on our bank balance) to decide whether we want ultramodern shiny white or steel with all mod cons, practical useful working places with tools we know work, or a room with a link to the past with copper pans and herbs drying. Like most of you I’m sure, my kitchen is a bit of a mish mash, a bit like me, a place I love to be that isn’t perfect but feels familiar and mostly smells of cooking. Not smart and sassy and sadly I can’t fit the family in there to eat but it’s my place. My ideal kitchen was one owned by the late great Anita Roddick, a room of three parts the cooking area with a big table, piles of cooking books and hanging utensils at one end, in the middle a dining area with a lovely big table that would seat a large family and a dresser of china and a cozy sitting room at the other end with comfy sofa by the fire all surrounded by family photos. I loved that room. So what would your ideal kitchen be? Are you ever likely to get it? and would it be so bad if you didn’t?
I have been missing from the shop for much of the summer, partly due to a natural need to get out in the sunshine in the garden or on the allotment but also working on the last part of the Taste of the Home Front project that I have been working on with Arundel Museum.
With a team of eight volunteers we researched the availability of food locally during the wartime and how that impacted on the townspeople, farmers and shopkeepers of Arundel, how the town and castle answered the call for food and coped during shortages. We searched through local records, including the archives of Arundel Castle and local newspaper archives, and the stories we found showed how the town came together to win the war on the Home Front, from gardeners and allotment holders to the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk, farmers, fishermen, shopkeepers and housewives.
I had a whale of a time and found some fascinating stories which have drawn a picture of how the people of Arundel fed themselves during the conflict. With the help of Sam Bilton who runs the Repast Supper Club we reproduced some of the recipes from the time. Sam ran a day of cooking demonstrations and produced some great recipes translated for modern day use.
We are now putting these and the stories into a booklet, so here is a taster.
Potato Pastry Mrs C. S. Peel The Daily Mail Cookery Book (1918) Ingredients
Cook’s Comments: This pastry is as useful for sweet pies as savoury, especially a nice apple pie – Sam
While we are planning our Christmas food the basics sometimes get forgotten. Don’t get me wrong I am planning my midwinter feast now, but while I was making the bread yesterday I realised that I hadn’t put bread on the Christmas food list.
Somewhere between Delia’s Mulled Wine Sorbet and Nigella’s Clementine cake I hadn’t given a thought to what I was going to make in the way of loaves and rolls.
This was mainly prompted by a review of a great video of Andrew Whitley’s DO Lecture on Bread – Why Bread needs Time. It was this lecture that started me down the bread-making road and I am so grateful, I love making bread and eating your own home made bread beats shop bought by a mile, unless you are lucky enough to have a good local real bakery.
I don’t want to sound holier than thou, I am definitely not a domestic goddess. Making my own bread doesn’t make me a better person but it does make me happy when I eat it. I like to make it by hand, the kneeding time with a bit of music in the background gives me time to think and gaze vacantly out of the window. My brother in-law on the other hand has been converted to make his own bread by a bread machine, he made a lovely nutty, seedy loaf last time we stayed, great stuff.
Bread really is the staff of life and by making it yourself you know what the ingredients are and where they come from, you can give the bread time to rise, you can be sure it has taste (something sadly missing from supermarket bread) and you can be sure that it will be digestable. Take back this staple and make it yours! Let’s be nation of home bread makers rather than soft pappy bread eaters.
and don’t forget to watch the video http://www.breadmatters.com/andrew-whitleys-do-lecture
Oh and we will be having cinnamon rolls for breakfast and sourdough spelt loaf for sandwiches on Christmas day.
want some good baking books? click here