Vegetable Soup

This is my vegetable soup, which I admit is pretty good. I always make a great load of it and freeze what I don’t eat. It’s very good for you, easy to make and pretty substantial for a soup containing no big meaty bits! The Grigson also does one that contains lots of meat! I must admit I make mine with chicken stock, but I also make it with vegetable stock and it’s almost as good. It difficult to stick to an exact recipe, because it throw in whatever I have, plus the time of year has a great effect. I think that there are certain ingredients that are a must, however, such as potato, onion, garlic, carrot, i.e. basic stock vegetables. That said if you miss a couple out it’s also fine. I would say try and use as many of them as possible. All should be clear in the recipe. The rest of the vegetables can then be added at the appropriate time – roots straight after the stock has come to a simmer, and greens towards the end. The choice of herbs is your own, but I like the classics – thyme, parsley, pepper and mint. Any stalks and leaves you don’t use, freeze. I freeze all my fresh herbs and spices – chillies, herbs, ginger, etc etc…

I think that some protein is required so I always add some red lentils, which thicken the soup slightly, and a can of beans – any will do, use your favourite.

For some tips on what to put in your bouquet garni, have a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bouquet_garni. I find that those little bags you get with washing tablets work quite well!

You will need:
2 tbs olive oil, or butter
bouquet garni – made from a very generous sprig of thyme, parsley stalks, mint stalks
2 litres of chicken or vegetable stock
2 tbs of red lentils
salt and pepper

As many of the following basic vegetables as possible:
1 onion, chopped
1 medium-sized potato, diced
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1-2 carrots, diced
1-2 sticks celery, diced
1 leek, sliced – use as much of the green parts as possible. Slice it finely though as it can be tough

2 or 3 root veg, diced appropriately, as some take longer to cook than others e.g. turnips, a small swede, parsnip
1 or 2 greens, thinly sliced e.g. 1/4 white cabbage, kale, peas (don’t slice those, obv.!)
1 can of cooked beans
2 tbs each parsley and mint
more salt and pepper, if required

What to do:

  1. Fry the stock vegetables in the oil gently for a few minutes, when they start to soften, season and add the bouquet garni. (Tie the herbs with a piece of string, or put in a muslin bag). Continue to fry for about 10 minutes – don’t let the vegetables colour, though.
  2. Add the stock and bring to the boil, add the lentils, then allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the root vegetables and simmer until tender – around 15 minutes.
  4. Add the greens, beans and herbs and allow to simmers for 5 more minutes.
  5. Removed the bouquet garni and check the seasoning.

Christmas Dinner, numbers 21, 22

I planned to do alot more than I actually did for the Christmas dinner. It did all go down a treat though. However, only two Grigsons were done. Most of the recipes for the meal were taken from the brilliant Leiths Vegetarian Bible that I bought Greg a couple of years back; I would recommend everyone to buy it whether a vegetarian or not. This was the menu:

Starter: Mushroom pate

Main: Nut roast, (#21) Buttered Parsnips, Brussels Sprouts, Roast Potatoes, Minty Peas, Mustard Gravy

Pud: (#22) Little Pots of Chocolate with Rosemary

Parsnips need butter’ says the Grigson. And so right she is. Buttered parsnips is a way to make roast parsnips without roasting them it seems. Boil your parsnips until nearly cooked, drain, and then saute them slowly in butter. They go all nice and golden and chewy. Yumbo! Add some parsley and salt and pepper and you’re done.

The Pots of Chocolate with Rosemary were a strange affair; dissolve 8 ounces of sugar in 8 fluid ounces of dry white wine and lemon juice, add a pint of cream and simmer until it thickens. Now add either a stem of fresh or a teaspoon of dried rosemary (I used dried as they’d run out of fresh at the shop) and 5 1/2 ounces of grated dark chocolate. Simmer for 20 minutes until nice and thick. Pass through a sieve and pour into ramekins to set. All pretty easy. sprinkle with some slivered almonds. The Grigson did warn that it was a very rich dessert, and she was not wrong! Greg and I managed to eat half of one each!
#21: Buttered Parsnips.7.5/10 – A great way to eat parsnips, but are they better the roast!? I don’t think so!

#22: Little Pots of Chocolate with Rosemary Cream. 4.5/10. The combination of rosemary-infused chocolate works very well indeed. But the vast amounts of wine and sugar made far too rich even for me!

#14 Leek and Onion Pudding

It was a weird one, but Greg and I are running out of veggie recipes.

Start by making a suet pastry as for a steak and kidney pudding (I used veggie suet, natch). Line a 2 ½ pint basin with the dough. Chop a large onion and a couple of leeks. Layer up within with onion, leek, plenty of seasoning, butter and dried sage. Make a lid from pastry and steam for 3 hours. That’s it!

Sounds awful, bland and stodgy doesn’t it? Well, it was great. Surprisingly tasty. We had it with butter beans and onion gravy. Sorry for the rubbish picture – we only realised we hadn’t taken one til we were on second helpings. The video is true excitement, don’t you agree? Deffo a nominee for Best Short at the BAFTAs methinks!


Greg says:
#14 Leek and Onion Pudding – Witness how stupidly excited we are on the video. I didn’t quite accept that you could make pastry out of steam, apparently you can. The pudding is yum, the pastry is really flowery, as opposed to floury, because of the herbs, and the long slow cook just brings out the ordinary flavours of everything in abundance. I would never have the patience to make it myself though, obv. 7/10

#14 Leek and Onion Pudding: 8/10. Lovely crispy herby crust, surprisingly yummy within.

Recipes 2-4 – Glamorgan Sausages, Olde Worlde Mushrooms and Peas

I’ve been away from a computer for a few days – I still don’t have the internet at home and I had to go back to Leeds at the weekend because my brother Ady and his good lady wife Nads had a little boy called Harry. He’s the cutest and I’m NOT biased! Now I’ve got some catching up to do. The hat trick meal went quite well although I did get a little flustered and rushed through the making of the Glamorgan sausages – they were far too big and didn’t cook through properly. They were also a bit well done – au creole I should say – because I lost concentration when dishing up. However, they can be done well in advance, so next time I’ll be better prepared. They’re a definite veggie alternative. Doing them in the food processor makes light work of it too – although be careful, I’ve sustained my first injury on one of the blades! The fricassey of mushrooms was brilliant; the taste and aroma of the mace and nutmeg were warming and so very Medieval! The Grigson talks about the English way to cook (#4) green peas – i.e. with mint and sugar in with the water – as the only way to do them yet I had never actually eaten them this way. Well, I certainly agree and it will now be the only way I shall cook peas in the future!
For the Glamorgan sausages:

Start by mixing together 5 ounces of grated Caerphilly or Cheddar cheese, 4ounces of fresh white breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons of finely –chopped leek or spring onion and a generous tablespoon of chopped parsley. You can quicken the whole process by simply reducing those ingredients into breadcrumbs in food processor. Now mix in 3 egg yolks, half a teaspoon of thyme, a level teaspoon each of salt and mustard powder and some pepper. Bring the mixture together and form into around 12 small sausages. Dip each one in egg white and then coat in some dried breadcrumbs. Fry gently in oil or lard until golden.

The recipe for ‘A White Fricassey of Mushrooms’ comes from Hannah Glasse and I shall simply quote it as Griggers has done:

“Take a Quart of Fresh Mushrooms, make them clean, put them into a Sauce-pan, with three spoonfuls [tablespoons] of Water and three of Milk, and a very little Salt, set them on a quick Fire and let them boil up three Times; then take them off, grate in a little Nutmeg, put in a little beaten Mace, half a Pint of thick Cream, a Piece of butter rolled well in Flour, put it all together into the Sauce-pan, and Mushrooms all together, shake the Sauce-pan well all the Time. When it is fine and thick, dish them up; be careful they don’t curdle [ don’t let them boil]. You may stir the Sauce-pan carefully with a Spoon all the time.”

The peas were simply a cop out: make sure you boil them with plenty of salt, sugar and mint!

Here’s what Greg reckons:
“13th Sept: Glamorgan sausages, mushroom fricasee, minty peas, new potatoes. As a combo it works really well. The mushrooms are creamy, reminded me of the really nice chicken supreme we used to get at school, the peas are sweet n fresh, the sausages are comforting stodge, sits together a treat. The mace was most exciting , looks like pork scratchings, smells like sarsaparilla, gives the mushrooms an exotic little edge. I’d put more in than she says, it could take it. The peas were lovely, could eat a huge bowl by themselves, it’s not quite the same as just having peas with mint sauce either, you get all the sweetness first and a rush of mintiness last, totally moreish. Sausages were grand but recipe said make 12, which the monkey reduced to 4, bit of an error as they were not quite done through so still a bit leeky. The cheese will never fully melt anyway as it’s not fatty. Potatoes perfect complement. Sausages: 3. Mushrooms: 4 (my fave). Peas: 4. (I’m saving 5 for something amazing!)”

My personal ratings are:
#2 Glamorgan sausages: 3/5 – next time I’ll do them better and hopefully they’ll graduate up to 4/5!
#3 A Fricassey of Mushrooms: 4.5/5 – a brilliant way to serve mushrooms as a veg with a Sunday roast.
#4 Green Peas: 4.5/5 – quintessential English delight

On Concessions….

I did say in the premise that I had to cook everything to the letter with no concessions (unless impossible!). I may have to go back on this for one tiny aspect – those damn vegetarians! I need veggie alternatives to meat dishes if people are coming round for a dinner party or Sunday lunch. However even veggie staples such as Glamorgan sausages are fried in lard or dripping. So in order to keep people happy and so that more people came come over and eat and drink and have fun, I simply have to make this ONE concession!