Za’atar Scones & Spring Onion Soup

As a British person, scones are very close to my heart but basically being just a mixture of butter and flour, I don’t eat them as often as I would like. I tend to eat scones as a sweet treat with jam and clotted cream (always jam first! – everyone has an opinion on this in the U.K – it’s a great conversation point.). If you’re a tourist to England and you’d like to try the best scones, you need to go to the teahouse at the Jane Austen museum in the beautiful city of Bath. I saw these savoury scones in the book ‘Palestine on a Plate’ and decided to serve them with Ottolenghi’s spring onion soup. I managed to slice my thumb open in the process of chopping up the immense quantity of 900g spring onions but fortunately it was just as I’d pretty much finished so I’m happy that this soup turned out well considering that I can no longer practice the guitar.

Serves 4 (with 8 scones)

Ingredients

Scones

  • 340g plain flour (plus one handful) and extra for dusting
  • salt
  • 3/8 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 3/4 tbsp baking powder
  • 125g butter
  • 240ml milk
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp za’atar
  • 1 egg

Soup

  • 900g spring onions (or salad onions if possible)
  • 40g butter
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 300g peas (I used frozen)
  • 1 courgette
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 80g parsley
  • 40g crème fraiche
  • 20g parmesan
  • 20g mint leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lemon

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C

2.) Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda into a bowl. (I found that the flour in the recipe was not enough so ended up adding one more handful at the end)

3.) Chop up the butter into cubes

4.) Rub the butter into the flour but like breadcrumbs as if you were doing a crumble, so you can still see bits of butter

5.) Measure out the milk and add the vinegar (this is my sub for buttermilk), Stir very briefly to combine.

6.) Flour a work surface, tip out the mixture, flour your hands and push it together. Try to work the dough as little as possible.

7.) Sprinkle the za’atar over the dough.

8.) Line a baking tray, cut up the dough into 8 pieces and place on top. You could make these a bit prettier by using a cutter but you’ll just be left with the edges that you’ll need to mix together again at the end and I would rather have light, fluffy scones that look a mess.

9.) Crack the egg into a bowl and beat. Brush the scones with the egg.

10.) Bake for 18 minutes until golden.

11.) For the soup, peel and chop up the garlic. Chop up the white parts of the spring onion.

12.) Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the whites of the spring onions and the garlic. Add some pepper and cook for about 15 minutes.

13.) In the meantime, slice up the green parts of the onion and chop up the courgette. Make up the litre of stock.

14.) Add the bay leaves and the green parts of the onion to the pan and cook for 10 more minutes.

15.) Add the peas and courgette and cook for another 5 minutes.

16.) Take out half the veggies from the saucepan and put to one side. Adding them back later will give the soup a nice texture.

17.) Chop up the mint and set to one side.

19.) Cover the vegetables with stock and simmer for 5 minutes.

20.) Grate the parmesan and measure out the crème fraiche. Zest the lemon.

21.) When the soup is done, remove the bay leaf, add the parsley and blitz with an immersion blender.

21.) Add back the set aside vegetables, warm up, then stir in the crème fraiche and parmesan

22.) Serve and garnish with lemon zest and mint leaves.

Avgolemono soup

I first came across this avgolemono soup on the beautiful food blog ‘Adventures in Cooking’. It’s often seen as a Greek recipe (though may have Jewish roots) and the author of this blog has Greek heritage. I first tried that recipe a number of years ago when I still ate meat. It had shredded roasted chicken and chicken stock so it was a bit of an ask to convert it into a vegetarian recipe but I had to try as I really love it and fortunately the result was a success. Whisking the egg white up then slowly incorporating it back into the hot soup is a genius idea which really makes a lovely creamy textured soup. The recipe works pretty well with orzo or rice noodles that I have used. With the kick of lemon, it’s a perfect dinner for when you have a cold.

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients

  • Plant pioneers chicken style pieces (300g)
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 courgette
  • 3 lemons
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 rice noodle nests
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • Oil for frying
  • 2 tbsp Massel ‘chicken flavoured’ stock

Method

1.) Strip the thyme leaves from the thyme sprigs

2.) Pan fry the chicken pieces until cooked with the oregano.

3.) Slice thinly and set to one side

4.) Peel and dice the onion, chop up the courgette

5.) Pan fry the onion and courgette until soft then set to one side

6.) Make up the stock with 8 cups of boiling water

7.) Add the stock to a large pan and add the rice noodles

8.) Let this simmer for 5 minutes and take off the heat.

9.) Separate the eggs into two separate bowls

10.) Juice the lemons into another bowl

11.) Whisk up the egg whites until beginning to froth. Add in the egg yolks and lemons and whisk together.

12.) Add ladlefuls of the stock to the egg, whisking between each spoon.

13.) Carry on until half the stock is whisked into the egg.

14.) Then, add ladlefuls of the egg mixture back into the soup and whisk between each until it’s all incorporated.

15.) Put back onto the heat and simmer until the noodles are cooked

16.) Add the chicken pieces, courgette and onion back into the soup, season, stir and serve.

laksa

Summer may not be the usual season for laksa but Manchester has been living up to its reputation with constant rain. This really is a beautiful dish in taste if not looks. The origin of laksa is not known but it’s somewhere within South-East Asia. I’m avoiding European food until the Euros are over now – I don’t want to be posting an Italian recipe if England have just been beaten by them in the Euros – fingers crossed for tomorrow. (I still can’t get over the fact that one of the Italian players is called Immobile). I subbed some of the noodles with konjac noodles – a few too many pub trips watching the football has not been great for my waistline but konjac noodles work really well within the right recipe and the broth here is so packed with flavour you don’t notice. The recipe was from ‘Nigel Slater – ‘Tender’ ‘, my favourite British celebrity chef (not counting the actual hilarity of Gordan Ramsey’s USA Kitchen Nightmares’).

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 350g squash (I used a mixture of squash and sweet potato – ready chopped)
  • coriander and mint leaves as a garnish
  • 2 birds eye chillis (or others with a 3/5 spice rating)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • thumb sized piece ginger
  • 2 stalks lemongrass (1 tsp paste)
  • 15g coriander leaves (mix of leaves and stalks)
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 600ml stock (I used Massel chicken flavoured stock)
  • 1 tin light coconut milk
  • 1 head broccoli
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 lime
  • 100g noodles

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C

2.) Spread the cubed squash on a baking tray, season and roast for 25 minutes.

3.) In the meantime, make the paste by peeling the ginger and garlic, chopping the chilli stalks off. Add these to a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder and add the lemongrass (chopped stalks or paste) and 15g coriander. Blitz or pound to a paste – it should be vibrant green. Then add the sesame oil.

4.) Heat a crockpot, add the paste and fry on a low heat for a couple of minutes. In the meantime, make up the stock then add this and the coconut milk to the pan.

5.) Bring to the boil then turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

6.) Chop up the broccoli.

7.) Add the noodles and broccoli continue to simmer until cooked. Slice the lime in half. Chop up the coriander and mint leaves.

8.) Add the fish sauce, the soy sauce, squeeze in the juice of the lime. Tip in the cubes of squash. Give it a stir then serve in bowls. Garnish with mint and coriander.

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.

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.