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Soup

A bowl of Asian goodness

This is divine on a hot day when you don’t feel like cooking too much. It’s also a great starter for a dinner party

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Serves 4 as a starter

1/2 oz instant dashi granules
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 tbsp mirin
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp wasabi paste
1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
10 1/2 oz soba noodles
1 nori sheet
3 1/4 inch piece of daikon radish, peeled and finely grated
3 scallions, finely sliced

Put the dashi granules in a bowl and pour 1 1/2 cups boiling water over them.
Stir until the granules have dissolved, then add the soy sauce, mirin, sugar, wasabi paste and ginger. Stir to make a dressing.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add the noodles. Allow the water to return to the boil then add 1/2 cup cold water to drop the temperature a little.
Repeat this process three times, then drain the noodles.
Rinse the noodles with cold water to remove the starch, then divide between 4 bowls.

Toast the nori sheet over a high flame or in a hot oven, then slice into this strips. Pour the dressing over the noodles, toss lightly, then scatter with the daikon, scallions and nori strips.

Fish soup

This is a vibrant and fairly easy fish soup from the wonderful “Delicious” website. The recipe makes a fair amount so feel free to freeze what you don’t eat.

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3 tbsp oil
1 medium chopped onion
2 medium leeks, chopped
2 red peppers, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
A large pinch of saffron
1 dried hot red chilli (optional)
1 fresh bay leaf
½ tsp dried thyme
400g can chopped plum tomatoes
9 fl oz dry white wine
8 oz potato, cut into 2cm cubes
16 fl oz fish stock
1 1/2 mixed skinless fish fillets (such as halibut, bass or cod), cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
1/2 cup double/heavy cream
Large bunch of fresh flatleaf parsley, finely chopped

For the croutons

6 oz ciabatta (preferably 1 day old), torn into large chunks
3 tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp thyme

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over a medium-heat. Add the onion and sweat for 10-12 minutes until translucent.
Add the leek, red pepper, garlic and saffron. Cook for 1 minute, then add the chili (if using), bay leaf and thyme. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Preheat the oven to 400 F/200°C/gas 6.
Stir in the tomatoes, cook for 1 minute, then add the wine and potato and cook for 10 minutes. Add the stock and fish and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cream, bring to a boil, then take it immediately off the heat. Stir through most of the parsley, then season to taste.
Meanwhile, make the croutons. Toss the bread in the olive oil and thyme, then season well. Spread out on a baking tray and bake for 10 minutes or until crisp and golden.
Ladle the soup into bowls (discard the chili, if using) and serve topped with the croutons and the remaining parsley.

Weekend soup (using whatever you have left in the fridge)

When the weeks are cooler, I tend to open the fridge doors and haul out any vegetables that could go into a soup. You will be surprised what wonderful concoctions you can come up with and how much soup you can make from very little.
Don’t overthink it and definitely don’t measure anything as soups are one of the most forgiving and inventive things you can make.

This week my ingredients are;

4 large onions, peeled and chopped
1 large turnip, peeled and chopped
6 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 head of celery, including leaves, peeled of stringy stuff
1 butternut squash, peeled, cubed, tossed in olive oil and seasoning and roasted at 350 degrees for 45 mins
1 whole cauliflower, broken into florets
about 12 asparagus spears, snapping off the tough ends and chopping into 1 inch lengths
5 zucchini, halved then quartered lengthways and chopped across into 3/4″ pieces
3 heads of broccoli including stems chopped
1 whole bunch fresh parsley stalks and all
french green beans, trimmed and chopped into 1″ lengths

4 to 6 (32 oz) containers chicken broth. (You can use vegetable broth if you’re vegetarian, but I think chicken broth adds far more flavor.

I put about 1/4 cup of olive oil and about 3 tbsp butter into the bottom of a very large soup stock pot, then in goes the onions, turnip, carrots, celery, cauliflower, broccoli and everything else, stirring as I go so everything mixes together.
After about 15 minutes of this, add the broth, stirring and it should cover the vegetables with an extra level of about 1 to 2 inches, so the soup isn’t too thick.

Let the soup bubble away, stirring it every 20 mins, for about 45 mins at least, until all the vegetables are soft. Taste the juice and season with salt and pepper, but not too much as this is something you can do after you have pureed it.
When it’s cooked, take it off the heat and leave aside for about 1 hour until it’s not so hot. Puree the soup in a blender and at this stage you can add a little cream for a more velvety texture, some soft goat cheese for a really lovely flavor and even some grated mature cheddar or Parmesan cheese, returning it back to a large saucepan after it’s pureed.
Put back on the heat, taste and season until it tastes perfect.

Just remember, play with it, even adding some chopped pancetta or bacon when you fry the vegetables and know that this huge pot of flavorful goodness will feed you for quite a long time and cost nothing more!

The "haul" for the rest of the week

The “haul” for the rest of the week

* Some other great vegetables to use are;
spinach
potatoes
sweet potatoes
tomatoes
Jerusalem artichokes (the knobbly ones)
celeriac (celery root)
fennel
kale
frozen peas, thawed
Swiss chard

Remember, whatever vegetables you put in the soup, there are certain ones that will naturally thicken the soup, like
asparagus
butternut squash
potatoes
sweet potatoes
parsnips
carrots
Cannellini or other tinned beans
cauliflower

Dreamy sweet onion bisque

I had this soup at the Capital Grill at the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville recently and thought it was the best soup I had ever tasted. (If you read the ingredients you can see why!)They gave me the recipe and I was blown away by how easy it was to make. You MUST allow the 5 hours for the onions to sweat as that is the secret of the velvety sweetness the soup has. The toasted brie sandwich segment dropped it, plus the bacon and chives take it to even headier heights!

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4 to 8 servings.

10 large sweet Vidalia onions
1lb Plugra butter
1 qt heavy cream
Salt and white pepper, to taste
Smoked bacon, crumbled. Get really good quality bacon for this, chop it and saute until crispy
Freshly snipped chives
Brie grilled cheese sandwich

Peel and chop the onions into 1 inch chunks. In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the butter until it becomes foamy and add the onions. Add about 1 tbsp of salt at this point and stir to combine all of the ingredients in the pot and continue to cook for 5 hours until they have completely softened and exuded the majority of their moisture.
Keep in mind that you really don’t want to get any color on the onions during this process so if you see it happening, lower the heat more.
After the 5 hours, add the cream and just heat it through gently.
When everything is hot and combined, you need to puree the soup in a good quality blender. If you want that really velvety texture, pass it through a fine mesh strainer or a mouli after blending it but this is an optional step.

Season with salt and pepper, pour into the bowls and garnish with some smoked bacon, chives and a triangle of Brie grilled cheese sandwich.

15 minute Coconut curry noodle soup

Want a bowl of heaven in 15 minutes?  This recipe is from a great blog called Woks of Life and has all my favorite ingredients rolled into one bowl of deliciousness.

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Makes 2 generous portions

You’ll need:

2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 heaped tbsp fresh ginger, grated
2 tbsp Thai red curry paste (or 3 tbsp if you like it really spicy)
8 oz. boneless chicken breast or thighs, sliced
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
2 tbsp fish sauce
2/3 cup coconut milk
6 oz. dried rice vermicelli noodles (or the fine rice noodles)
A bag of beansprouts (about 10 oz)
1 lime, juiced
Sliced red onion, red chilies, cilantro, scallions to garnish

In a large pot over medium heat, add the oil, garlic, ginger, and Thai red curry paste. Fry for 5 minutes, until fragrant.
Add the chicken and cook for a couple minutes, just until the chicken turns opaque.
Add the chicken broth, water, fish sauce, and coconut milk. Bring to a boil. At this point, taste the broth for salt and adjust seasoning accordingly (add salt if needed, or if it’s too salty, add a bit of water).

Put the dried rice vermicelli noodles in each of your large soup bowls, add a large handful of beansprouts, a good amount of roughly chopped cilantro and about 1/4 cup chopped scallions per bowl.
Pour the boiling soup over all this and add a good squeeze of lime juice to each bowl.Let sit for about 4 minutes until the noodles are cooked. Serve

(Alternatively, you can add the noodles to the boiling broth to cook them, and then divide among serving bowls).

Asian slow cooker bone broth

As one gets older one needs to retain as much calcium as possible, and I have been reading that in most Asian countries they have a version of this broth that they eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner and add noodles, vegetables or anything else to it, depending on what takes their fancy. It is loaded with calcium from the bones for your bones and is incredibly tasty and light.

 

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The slow cooker can be bubbling away slowly for several days with this and you just have to remember to top up the water level and add ginger, garlic, scallion and lemon grass if you have it.

 

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It is tremendously simple to make and the whole house will fill with the smell of the broth as the slow cooker gives forth it’s wonderful goodness. I have a 6 qt slow cooker, so I can fit in 4 to 5 lbs of bones.
If you use pork or chicken bones, you don’t have to roast them, but if you use beef bones, you may want to roast them at 350 F for 30 to 45 mins so the broth will be richer. Remove any marrow from the beef bones before you put them into the slow cooker or the broth will be cloudy and somewhat mushy!

Recipe

4 to 5 lbs organic chicken or pork on the bone. (For pork I use the spare ribs. For chicken, use wings and feet.)
Two good sized 2 inch chunks of fresh ginger, cut in half and peeled
2 stalks lemongrass (optional) peeled, halved and bruised
6 scallions,white and green parts, halved then tied with kitchen twine
1 head of garlic halved horizontally.

Put the meat in the slow cooker, add the garlic, ginger, lemongrass and scallions then fill the slow cooker up to within 1 inch of the rim with cold water. Put the lid on.
Turn the slow cooker on high for about 1 1/2 hours so it bubbles and gives off scum. Open the lid and skin off the scum at this point.
Put the lid back on and turn it to low and cook for about 8 hours. You may want to skim again during the cooking process.
After 8 hours, ladle out the liquid, put into containers and let cool until the liquid is cool enough to put into the fridge. Top up the slow cooker with more water and turn on for another 8 hours, repeating the process.

You can scrape off any fat from the refrigerated liquid and add fresh chopped scallions, chopped cilantro, some red chilli, some noodles or anything else you fancy and you have the most wonderful meal that is very low calorie and incredibly good for you.

Shrimp bisque

I adore shrimp bisque and this recipe is from Ina Garten. It’s creamy, with a great shrimp flavor, as you use the shells as added flavor. Serve with warm crusty bread.

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Serves 4 to 6Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 4.07.13 PM

1lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined, but keep all the shells
4 cups seafood stock  (for US cooks, this brand is available in markets)

3 tbsp good olive oil
2 cups chopped leeks, white and green parts (3 leeks)
1 tbsp chopped garlic (3 cloves)
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 cup Cognac or brandy
1/4 cup dry sherry
4 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups half and half
1/3 cup tomato paste (puree)
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Place the shrimp shells and seafood stock in a saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and reserve the stock. add enough water to make 3 & 3/4 cups.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the leeks and cook them for 10 minutes over medium-low heat, or until the leeks are tender but not browned. Add the garlic and cook 1 more minute.
Add the cayenne pepper and shrimp and cook over medium-low heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the Cognac/brandy and cook for 1 minute more, then the sherry and cook for 3 minutes longer.
Transfer the shrimp and leeks to a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until coarsely pureed.
In the same pot, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook over medium-low heat for 1 minute stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the half and half and cook, stirring with a whisk, until thickened, about 3 minutes.
Stir in the pureed shrimp, the stock, tomato paste, salt and pepper and heat gently until hot but not boiling.
Season, to taste, and serve hot

Thai red-curry squash soup

I adore any food from South-East Asia and as I eat less and less meat, this recipe is a definite one for the repertoire.
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Serves 8

4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh ginger, plus 1 cup slivered fresh ginger for garnish
2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
3 lbs kabocha or butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch pieces
5 cups water of chicken stock
Two 13.5 oz cans unsweetened coconut milk
2 keffir lime leaves or 1 tsp lime zest
1 large stalk of fresh lemongrass, smashed and cut into 2-inch lengths
2 tbsp light brown sugar
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large scallions, thinly sliced
a few cilantro stalks for garnish (coriander)

In a large, heavy pot, melt the butter. Add the onion and sliced ginger and cook over a moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, 7 minutes.
Add the curry paste and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 2 minutes. Add the squash and water/stock and bring to the boil.Cover partially and simmer over low heat until soft, 25 minutes. Add the coconut milk, broken up lime leaves and lemongrass, cover partially and simmer for 30 minutes longer. Discard the lime leaves and lemongrass.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender; add it to a clean pot. Stir in the sugar and lime juice and season with salt.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the 1 cup of slivered ginger and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden brown and crisp, 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the ginger to paper towels to drain.

Reheat the soup; ladle it into the bowls. Garnish with the fried ginger, scallions and a few cilantro leaves (coriander) and serve

Quick and easy spicy prawn soup

We love our soups and even eat them through the summer months, sometimes replacing main courses with them, if they are substantial enough.
This is a recipe from the wonderful BBC Good Food website, and I altered it a little to suit our taste buds. It is very light and full of flavor.

 

Spicy prawn soup
Serves 4
 
1 tbsp sunflower oil
10 oz bag crunchy stir-fry vegetables
6 scallions, chopped on the diagonal, green and white parts
6 oz shitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
2 tbsp Thai green (or yellow) curry paste . You may want to start with 1 tbsp if you’re not too much into spicy food.
15 oz can reduced fat coconut milk
7 fl oz vegetable or fish stock
11 oz medium straight-to-wok noodles
8 oz bag large raw prawns, shelled and de-veined
A handful of roughly chopped cilantro

Heat a wok, add the oil then stir-fry the vegetables, scallions and mushrooms for 3 – 4 minutes.
Take them all out and set them aside, then tip the curry paste into the pan and fry gently for 1 minutes.
Pour in the coconut milk and stock. Bring to the boil, drop in the noodles and prawns, then reduce the heat and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes until the prawns are cooked through.
Stir in the vegetables, add the chopped cilantro and serve. Easy isn’t it?

Chilled spicy cucumber, avocado and coconut milk soup

Give me anything curried and I’ll walk miles for it!  I love this because there is no cooking and it tastes as if you’ve been slaving for hours in the kitchen. You can vary the garnishes.

 

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Two 12-ounce cucumbers—peeled, seeded and chopped
2 Hass avocados, coarsely chopped ( try just one to start with as it may be too thick with 2)
2 teaspoons Thai green or yellow curry paste (Try less to start with and taste it)
2 teaspoons sugar, optional
2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest
One 13-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
3 ½ cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (use lemon if you cannot find limes)
Salt
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, for garnish
10 cilantro sprigs, for garnish

In a food processor, puree the cucumbers until smooth. Add the avocados, curry paste, sugar, lime zest and chili.
Process until blended. Add 3 1/2 cups of chicken broth, the coconut milk and lime juice and process until smooth. Transfer the soup to a large bowl and season with salt. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a skillet, toast the coconut over low heat, stirring a few times, until lightly browned and crisp, 3 minutes. Let cool.
Ladle the soup into small bowls or cups, garnish with the toasted coconut flakes and cilantro sprigs and serve.