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Archive for February, 2010

My enormously clever sister Jassy, in her first novel, Random Violence (buy it here, thriller fans*), describes the heroine, Jade, making soup. Jade is a determinedly healthy eater, but her attempts to make salad and steam spinach and the like are often thwarted by the arrival of sexy bad-guy Robbie or her sidekick and love interest David, whose choice of nourishment is “cop food”, ie steaks and pizza. Anyway, Jass describes Jade making soup: roast garlic, various vegetables and lots and lots of chilli. I read the relevant bit, and thought: “I have got to try this!” Only the nail-biting plot prevented me from heading straight to the kitchen and getting out the chopping board.

Since then, Potage a la Jade has become a bit of a staple in the OE house. This recipe has everything going for it – it’s healthy, delicious, cheap and versatile. It’s not super-speedy, because especially if you make a lot, the chopping does take time, but it’s a soothing way to spend half an hour or so in the kitchen with Radio 4, and it’s second to none for using up all those pesky veg box odds and ends.

The essential ingredients are a whole head of garlic, with its root end chopped off, wrapped in foil and roasted in the oven, and of course obscene amounts of chilli. Jade uses Tabasco sauce; I favour dried red chillies crumbled into the soup at the beginning. You can use whatever you fancy in the way of veg, protein and carbs. Today I went for the following:

Chorizo, chopped
Onion, chopped
Celery, chopped
Carrot, grated
Orange and green pepper, chopped
Butternut squash, chopped
Two tins of tomatoes
Marigold bouillon powder, chilli, roast garlic, S&P
Soup mix (red lentils, yellow and green split peas, barley and so on)
Small wholemeal pasta shapes
Spring greens, chopped

Add the ingredients in order of appearance, first sauteeing the chorizo in a little oil to render the fat, then adding the onion, celery and carrot, then the other veg, then the tomatoes and stock, then the soup mix, then the pasta and finally the spring greens. This makes loads – I have filled several recycled Innocent Veg Pot pots for lunch during the week.

Jade isn’t a baker, but I have a weakness for savoury scones with soup. Delia’s recipe is incredibly flexible; I tend to use all wholemeal flour, either self-raising or plain with 2tsp of baking powder. Today I added capers, olives, onion, sundried tomatoes, Food Doctor seed mix for crunch, and cheddar cheese, but I’ve made it with anchovies, feta and all sorts in the past. I shape it into a part-sliced disc, to be broken apart when serving – it has more of a supper and less of a tea-time feel than Delia’s neatly cut circles, and saves you getting out the rolling pin.

I also ignore Delia’s conservative guidelines on seasoning, throwing in generous teaspoons of chilli powder and mustard and plenty of salt and pepper. I have to, otherwise Jade might shoot me.

* Look! It’s the international edition! How totally beyond exciting is that?

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The boyfriend and I are training for the Brighton Marathon on 18 April. It’s our second full marathon and I am hugely looking forward to it, but the training is one long, hard slog, and this is the time at which it begins to become somewhat all-consuming.

This means that not only is my time available for cooking and blogging a bit limited (yeah, right, because I am not crap the rest of the time, oh no), but most of what we eat is of the “carbs and protein and veg and enough of it to sink a ship, and ready five minutes ago, plskthx” variety. However, our appetite for chocolate has become inexhaustible, so I decided that rather than hoovering endless sacks of Revels and enough Reese’s Cups to induce anaphylactic shock in an elephant, I’d use this sugar craving as an excuse to do some baking.

Last week I made Nigel Slater’s Carrot Cake. I’ve raved before about how much I admire NS’s writing and his recipes, and this is no exception. I took endless liberties with the recipe, substituting things and stuffing things up (most notably when my light muscovado had solidified, and my attempt to whisk it with the oil resulted in little sugar bullets ricocheting around the kitchen), and it was still delicious. Try it, you’ll love it.

Today, in a vaguely twee spirit inspired by Valentine’s Day, I made some cupcakes, using Nigella Lawson’s recipe.

Here they are, the little darlings.

Suggestions for next week’s sugar fix will be welcome.

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On the pull

A rather belated follow-up to last week’s teaser post.

There is only one word, and the word is Nom.

Hmmm, it looks like porn food may become a more-than-occasional series on here. I may have mentioned that the darling is partial to a bit of filth. Offer him a burger, a hotdog or a grilled cheese sandwich and he’s yours for life. Which is my grand plan, obviously.

So I decided to attempt pulled pork.

I’d never eaten it before (we saw it on a restaurant menu recently. The boyfriend was tempted, but it was out-trumped by a piggy starter), but it’s one of those things that you just kind of know how it needs to be. Rich, sticky, umami, with a chilli hit. Seriously trashy.

As per my previous post, I had some difficulty locating liquid smoke, which the recipe on which I was basing my endeavours said was a must-have. Eventually I found it at Wholefoods, of all places – but more about that later.

I used a lovely pork belly roasting joint, smeared with English mustard and then rubbed with a mixture of smoked paprika, dried chillies, brown sugar, garlic, salt, pepper, coriander and – for good measure – some creole spice I found at the John Lewis Food Hall, and bought because I couldn’t resist its very fetching tin.

The pork spent the night in its rub, in the fridge, and the next day into the Le Creuset it went, on a rack improvised from carrots, celery and onions, with a little apple juice in the bottom. Long, slow cooking with the lid on (5 hours at 150°C) was followed by a quick blast of heat to brown the edges (the crackling wasn’t usable, sadly – leathery rather than crisp). Then I tenderly dismantled it with two forks, placed the meat and the scant amount of liquid remaining in the dish (the stock veg also went binwards) in a pan and cooked it down until it was dry-ish, adding a little liquid smoke. The recipe said a tablespoon, but I used much less – a few drops only. Not only can it dominate a dish terribly, but it’s also mildly carcinogenic. So leave it out if you’re worried. Voila – ready to serve.

To accompany the pork, we had Tesco cheese rolls, toasted on one side, coleslaw, pumpkin wedges dusted liberally with chilli and paprika and baked in the oven, and luridly coloured, mild-flavoured squeezy mustard.

And for pudding, totally incongruously, my friend Sian’s mum’s Bakewell Tart.

I was too lazy to blind-bake the pastry case, but you won’t be, m’kay? Here’s the recipe.

Line a flan tin with short crust pastry (assuming you don’t need a recipe for that) and good quality raspberry jam.
Beat 6oz caster sugar and 6oz unsalted butter together until light and fluffy
Add 3 beaten eggs, slowly
Stir in 6oz ground almonds and a little almond essence
Bake at 200 until firm and golden.
Leave to cool slightly and serve with lashings of hot custard.

Trust me, gentle readers, this was a meal to die for. And you’re worth it.

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