Asparagus and Crab meat Soup

When I was a kid I loved Chinese food as I had good access to it with all the Chinese takeaways. Over time, that love has broadened to include many more cuisines from South East Asia as I’ve had more exposure. Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean and Thai food I also now love though I await the day when vegetarian versions of Char Sui Buns are readily available (yes I should make some!). All these cuisines have a few things in common for me – they have a few central ingredients which are used to create many different dishes, they’re fresh, flavourful, healthy, quick to make and the meat recipes are generally quite easy to substitute. This recipe from ‘The Vietnamese Market Cookbook’ is a great example of this.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • Chicken flavoured stock
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 onion
  • 200g crabmeat
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • rice noodles (I didn’t measure these – enough for 4 – I really like the wide strip ones)
  • 1 punnet of shitake mushrooms
  • pepper
  • coriander leaves

Method

1.) Peel and chop up the onion

2.) Heat the oil in a large casserole dish and fry the onion until soft

3.) Boil some water and make up 1.5 litres stock

4.) Add the crabmeat to the pan and fry for a couple of minutes then add the fish sauce and fry for one more minute

5.) Pour in the stock and turn up the heat

6.) Slice up the mushrooms and asparagus and add to the pan with the rice noodles. Reserve the tips of the asparagus as they cook quicker.

7.) Cook on a high heat for 5 minutes until the noodles are soft, after 3 minutes, add the asparagus tips. While this is cooking, chop up the coriander leaves.

8.) When the soup is done, sprinkle in some pepper. Serve up with a garnish of coriander.

Mexican Lentil Soup

After enjoying the banana flavour in my Mole sauce the other week, I decided to give this lentil and plantain soup from Thomasina Myer’s ‘Wahaca’ cookbook. Thomasina Myers was the winner of Masterchef a few years ago and she has a chain of Mexican restaurants in the UK called Wahaca. As the original recipe calls for very ripe plantains, I thought I could get away with using bananas. The ones I used were fairly ripe and I think that helps the flavour to come through more. This soup also really benefits from a nice kick of chilli.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 500g green lentils
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 3 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 2 onions
  • 2 very ripe plantains/bananas
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 litre stock
  • coriander leaves
  • sour cream to serve
  • 1.5 tsp chilli oil
  • 1 carrot

Method

1.) Peel one of the onions and chop in half. Peel the carrot and chop in half. Peel a garlic clove and bash it a bit.

2.) Boil some water, pour over the lentils in a saucepan, add the bay leaves, the garlic, the carrot and the onion.

3.) Cook for about 30 minutes, until soft.

4.) While this is cooking, heat a frying pan and dry roast the tomatoes. I struggled a bit with this as the tomatoes kept rolling around in the pan. I don’t think you can go too wrong with this as they’ll just break up when you cook them later. Set them aside.

5.) Peel the other garlic and chop it up finely. Also peel and finely chop the garlic. Peel and slice one of the bananas.

6.) Heat some oil in the frying pan and add the onion and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the garlic, fry for one more minute then add the banana and the oregano. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle in half of the sugar. Turn the heat up and caramelise the banana.

7.) Add the tomatoes into the frying pan and let them break down. Chop up the coriander leaves.

8.) Drain the lentils and stir through the contents of the frying pan, lime juice and stock and the coriander stalks.

9.) Simmer for 15 minutes.

10.) To prepare for eating, peel and slice up the other banana and caramelise with the rest of the sugar.

11.) When the lentils are done, blitz with an immersion blender enough to thicken the soup a little but that there are still plenty of whole lentils.

12.) Season with more salt and the chilli oil.

13.) Serve in bowls with the coriander leaves and a dollop of sour cream.

Broccoli and blue cheese soup

Being on holiday this week, I bought tickets for a National Trust site, Lyme Park – the stately home used as Pemberley in the adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (the BBC one, not the rubbish film with Keira Knightley). However, being in England, shortly after we arrived it started to hail and it was too cold to stay more than an hour despite it being April and I didn’t even manage to stay long enough to find the Mr Darcy statue in the lake. When I got home, I just wanted to warm up with this winter soup that I adapted almost to non-recognition from ‘Jamie’s Great Britain’. This recipe works best with the strongest blue cheese you can get i.e. the British Stilton.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 4 small heads of broccoli
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 onion
  • small bunch of thyme
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • seasoning
  • 1.5 litres flavour chicken stock (or vegetable)
  • 100g Stilton cheese

Method

1.) Chop up the stalks of the broccoli into pieces and heat the oil in a large pan/crockpot

2.) Add the stalks on a low heat and peel and chop up the onion

3.) Add the onion to the pan with 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

4.) Strip the rosemary leaves from the sprigs and finely chop. Strip the thyme leaves and chuck all the herbs into the pan

5.) Add 200ml water to the pan and put on the lid. Cook on a low heat for 40 minutes

6.) When the 40 minutes is nearly up, make up the stock and chop up the florets of the broccoli

7.) Add both to the pan and put the lid back on, cook for another 15 minutes

8.) When done, take off the heat and blitz with an immersion blender until smooth.

9.) Add the cheese and stir until melted, season and serve.

Sweetcorn and butter bean chowder

I did not have the healthiest week this week. After the PM’s ‘roadmap to freedom’ announcement which starts with basically another two months in lockdown and the work week from hell, I binged on far too many Cadbury’s Freddos. My husband keeps a stash of chocolate to bribe the kids to work (he’s a teacher) and questionably gave me access to them. However, this week there was a headline in a German newspaper about how they’re jealous of the UKs vaccine rollout and how quickly we’ll be able to return to normal so it goes to show it’s completely a perception thing. I was so happy with how delicious this soup turned out, it was a great return to actually looking after myself and a convincing argument for nourishing food. Again, this recipe is from the good housekeeping vegetarian collection.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • Spray oil
  • one onion
  • 1 courgette
  • 250g potatoes
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • around 600g sweetcorn (I used frozen)
  • 2 400g tins butter beans
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 700ml chicken flavoured stock
  • juice 1/2 lemon

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C

2.) Chop up the onion and start to soften in a crock pot

3.) Chop up the courgette and add to the pan

4.) Peel the potatoes and chop and add to the pan when the onions are soft. Fry for about 9 minutes.

5.) Peel and finely chop the 2 cloves of garlic

6.) Strip the leaves from the sprigs of rosemary and finely chop

7.) Add the garlic to the pan and fry for 1 minute

8.) Add the rosemary and 1/4 of the sweetcorn and cook for a couple of minutes until the sweetcorn is defrosted

9.) Transfer the crock pot to the oven and cook for about 10 minutes

10.) In the meantime, drain and rinse the tins of butter beans and make up the stock

11.) Put the crock pot back on the hob, add the rest of the sweetcorn and the butterbeans and cook until all the sweetcorn is defrosted.

12.) Add the stock, simmer for 5 minutes.

13.) Squeeze in the juice of the half a lemon

14.) Blitz with an immersion blender until everything is broken down. I left a bit of texture in the soup but it’s up to you. Also, you could add some more water though I like a thick soup.

HOT and SOUR SOUP

Growing up my mum was always on a diet so I don’t think the takeaway delivery man ever visited our house. However, my Grandma did like the odd Chinese takeaway so maybe that is where my love of Chinese food developed. Hot and sour soup was my absolute favourite and it’s great to recreate it now in a vegetarian form just as Chinese New Year is due. This recipe is from Ching He Huang’s ‘Chinese Food In Minutes’. Due to the never-ending lockdown, there’s restrictions on shopping together in most supermarkets therefore we’re shopping at our local which doesn’t have a great range of ingredients. However, I still got everything on this list from that supermarket except for the dried mushrooms so I think it’s fair to say it’s not too specialist.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • 1 tbsp ginger
  • 2 chillis (mine were quite mild – buy according to your heat tolerance)
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tin stir fry vegetables
  • 10g dried mushrooms
  • 1 box tempeh (or tofu or other meat substitute)
  • 1 tin kimchi (about 200g)
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp chilli oil (I used Chiu Chow Chilli Oil – it comes in a jar and has chilli flakes aswell as oil – I recommend as it’s not just purely heat flavour)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 2 spring onions
  • 5 g fresh coriander

Method

1.) Boil a kettle. Measure out the mushrooms into a bowl. Pour over the boiling water and leave to soak up for 20 minutes

2.) Measure out 1 litre of water and add the stock cube

3.) Peel and chop the ginger

4.) In a small container, crack in the egg and beat

5.) In another small container, measure out the cornflour, add 2 tbsp cold water and stir until there’s no lumps

6.) Chop up the chillis, spring onions, tempeh and coriander

7.) When the mushrooms are done, squeeze out the water and chop them up

8.) Put the stock into a large pan and bring to the boil.

9.) Add the mushrooms, ginger, chilli, tsp rice wine vinegar, 2 tbsp soy sauce, tin of stir fry veg and the kimchi

10.) Turn the heat down to simmer and add the tempeh, 2 tbsp light soy sauce, 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar and 1 tbsp chilli oil (I tried to get a bit of both the oil and the chilli flakes). Simmer for 10 minutes.

11.) Stir in the egg, stir in the cornflour mix and mix to thicken the soup.

12.) Garnish with the coriander and spring onion.

Onion Soup

As I write this my football team who have been mediocre for some years now have somehow climbed the way up to sit at the top of the league. There is some worrying speculation that they may cancel the league soon because of COVID (as everything is) which could just drain the rest of my limited dry-January willpower. However, if they really must do it, I say they do it now whilst we’re in pole position!

Onion soup is a meal I really enjoy. It’s great with the cheese on toast as in Jamie Oliver’s ‘Veg’ but I enjoyed it with the cheese-dotted soda bread I made a few days ago. I didn’t really make many adjustments to his recipe and truly recommend the book.

Serves 6

Ingredients

5 onions

30g butter

4 cloves garlic

1/2 bunch fresh thyme (15g)

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

30g flour

500ml cider (Jamie recommends scrumpy which is cider from the south-west of England but I just used a good quality cider)

1 litre Massel beef stock (this is a vegetarian beef-flavoured stock)

1 heaped teaspoon miso paste (I used brown as I couldn’t find a red miso paste)

Method

1.) Peel and chop the onions

2.) Melt the butter in the pan, add the onions on a low heat

3.) Peel and chop up the garlic and add to the pan

4.) Strip off the thyme leaves – I find a good method is to start from the top of the branch and pull back. Add these to the pan. Generally a few sticks end up in the soup but they can be picked out.

5.) Add the flour and balsamic vinegar and cook down until the onions are golden. This is where the flavour comes from and is crucial.

6.) Pour in the cider and let it cook away for a few minutes.

7.) Add the miso and the stock and simmer for 25 minutes further.

8.) Season with salt and pepper and serve.