30.30 #15: new recipe onion soup

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Task #15 of 30in30 is to try a new recipe.

Mum felt like onion soup so she bought a ton of onions. I don’t like onions so I usually relegate it to a flavouring as a component in mirepoix. Although IIRC I never made onion soup, I don’t think it’s something that requires a recipe. I mean, cook the onions, add liquid and simmer, right?

Ha!

There’s a good discussion about the various methods for making onion soup. The type of onions to use, how long to caramelise the onions (from Michel Roux Jr’s 30-40mins to Thomas Keller’s 5 hours), the type of stock, additional seasoning (balsamic) and even what alcohol to add (cider, brandy).

Here’s what I did. I chopped 6 large onions and cooked them in butter for about 1.5hrs. I stirred like crazy towards the end, and left the lid off to reduce the liquid and break down the onion further. Most recipes call for beef stock which I didn’t have, I compromised by adding about 100g total of cubed beef with the onions.

After 1.5hrs the onions were soft and mushy and turned a nice medium brown. I then added vegetable stock I had in the freezer. Brought the whole lot to a boil and kept at a rolling boil for 20mins. Seasoned with s&p, thyme, worcestershire sauce, a dash of balsamic and soy sauce. Recipes tend not to include worcestershire or soy sauce, but they are my secret ingredients for adding umami to soups.

The cheese toast was made from baguette and shredded cheese. Proper cheeses like gruyere or comteé are simply too expensive and difficult to find so I used processed, sigh. I toasted the croutons on both sides before melting the cheese on top. Sprinkled more cheese onto the soup.

I was fairly pleased with the results. A tad too watery, I could have done with another 10-15mins reduction at the end, or taken half the soup and blitzed it. Still not a fan of onions.

30in30 #16: new savoury recipe

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Task #16 in 30 in 30 is to try a new savoury recipe. I made skordalia, a greek styled potato and garlic dip that is halfway between regular mashed potato and hummus.

The first time I heard of skordalia was when Torode cooked it on masterchef. It seemed to be an interesting alternative to mashed potato, a good source of starch for a dish. Based on the recipe I found at the guardian.

Roughly chopped 4 potatoes and boil until soft. I don’t have a potato ricer so I passed the cooked potato pieces through a sieve, which proved harder to do than I expected. Made a paste of 2 cloves garlic, salt and pepper and mixed into the potato. Added olive oil, juice of 1/2 a lemon and further seasoning. Topped with crushed peanut for decoration.

It sort of looked like a cross between mashed potato and hummus, erring to the side of potatoes. At first I didn’t add enough olive oil and the bitter-sourness of the lemon juice was too overwhelming. It was better when I added more oil and more seasoning. Although it’s described as a dip, I served it with braised lamb shanks, which technically we shouldn’t be having since it’s Good Friday. Ah well.

oxtail soup

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Oxtail soup to chase away the blahs, it being so cold and gets dark so early. Been on a soup kick lately, but there is something about homemade soup. The oxtails were very lean, from the market only £5 for the whole tail. Browned it with garlic and red onion, added carrot, potato, celery, tomato, tomato paste and fresh thyme. Just water, no need even for stock. 3 hrs at a gentle simmer, then stand overnight to skim off the fat. It’s thick, it’s warm and it’s filling. Perfect.

pea, broad bean and mint bruschetta

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I wanted to try to make pea and broad bean bruschetta that I tried at Jamie’s Italian last week. Don’t really need a recipe, but this is one from bbc good food is a good reference.

Cooked the shelled fresh peas and double-podded broad beans in water until just done. Roughly crushed with a fork with freshly chopped mint (I bought a mint plant especially for this), s&p, a little olive oil and a tiny bit of parmesan. Toasted a whole mini-baguette and spread a generous portion of the pea mixture on top. Heh, this is one of those dishes that I can only eat on a running day without guilt. And yes, I did 20k before lunch.

#58(7) new dish: warm quinoa salad with 5 vegetables

warm quinoa salad with 5 vegetables

Quinoa is new to me, I’ve read many good things about it. I ended up picking at it while cooking and it’s kinda addictive. As usual Elise has the perfect description,

It has this wonderful nutty flavor, that actually doesn’t need much added to it; I used to make a quick batch, pour on some flax seed oil, sprinkle with a little salt, and gobble it up.

This dish is based loosely from a recipe from 100 cookbooks. Well actually, the only things I have in common with Heidi’s recipe are the quinoa and tomatoes. But that’s the point of this recipe, its flexibility and how it’s a great use of whatever vegetables and ingredients are sitting around in the fridge.

  1. cook quinoa according to instructions — simmer in double volume of water until completely absorbed, very similar to cooking rice
  2. in a frying pan, heat 1 clove of garlic with olive oil, then add the quinoa
  3. add vegetables — i had leftover carrots, mushroom and i supplemented them with frozen corn and spinach. Frying them all up it’s a bit like making fried rice
  4. add diced baked bread cheese just before turning off the heat
  5. season, and dress with red pesto
  6. top with dried cranberries and roasted cherry tomato

Basically, any dried robust vegetable can be used. Use tofu, halloumi or feta in place of the baked cheese. This is a completely vegetarian dish, but it didn’t taste like it’s just vegetarian.

roasted butternut and apple soup

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I bought one of those large butternut squash — this one is about 4.5lbs. One half I’ll use to make butternut and chickpea salad with tahini, the other half I used to make butternut squash soup. It’s a pretty standard recipe, the addition of a tart green apple tempers the sweetness of the squash.

I pre-roasted the butternut to give it additional flavour, and par-boiled a carrot.

In a pan heat a little olive oil, add a couple sticks chopped celery, the carrot, half a green apple and the butternut. Add chicken stock and simmer till everything is soft. Season and blitz till smooth.

I threw in a dollop of yogurt cheese (my sour cream substitute) for appearance.

carrot and avocado salad

I made a simple (and naturally less visually appealing) version of Clotilde’s Carottes Rapées à l’Avocat. What I like about this recipe is that it can change according to taste and what’s available. All I did was grated a few carrots, chopped up a couple of tomato and one each of yellow and red pepper. Then I scooped out the flesh of a ripe avocado and that’s it. A little olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper. I made double so there’s extra for lunch tomorrow.

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seven parts salad

I go round saying I need white plates. Strangely, I don’t have white plates at home but I do have them at work. I have a mini-kitchen at work actually.

Most days I make salad for lunch. I bring all the ingredients in and assemble the salad just before eating. Today’s selection was especially good — rocket, tomato, red pepper, olives, avocado, warmed mushroom (button and dried) topped with 2 steamed prawns. It’s the rocket that made it so nice of course.

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pumpkin soup facets

I made pumpkin soup tonight, so when she comes over to my place after her lessons, it’ll all be ready for her enjoyment.

I’m supposed to sweat some onions then add the pumpkin and stock. But I didn’t want to trek all the way to the supermarket on the way from work and brave the Friday night crowds at the taxi stand, so I decided to forego the onion. I did put in 2 cloves of garlic though.

Then while the soup was bubbling away I idly surfed around for other recipes and came across one that added a chopped potato. Of course! It’ll give it texture. So I retrieve the one lonely potato sitting at the bottom of the fridge drawer, chopped it up real small and added it.

It makes a difference, gives thickness without being too stodgy. Just right.

Made garlic bread to go with the soup. Hmmmm.

In other, slightly related, matters, been thinking about how to structure the recipes, having converted most of d&f to MT yesterday. The only remaining large section not converted (either to php or to MT) is the food section, which I’ll take out of d&f altogether.

According to elise, who has a recipe site built using MT, the trick is to use faceted categorisation. There’s a lot of write-ups about it, including the infamous pixelcharmer method, Tim Appnel’s plugin, and others. But the real trick isn’t the technical part, it’s coming up with the facets themselves.

So I was standing in front of the whiteboard in my office this lunchtime trying to figure how to categorise recipes. This is a first pass, helpfully inspired by an article that tells how epicurious does it.

  • Personality: Type of dish – appetiser, soup, meat dish, side dish, pasta, salad, dessert, drink
  • Matter: Main ingredient – beef, lamb, pork, chicken, fish, shell fish, seafood, green vegetables, root vegetables, citrus fruit, berries, everyday fruit
  • Energy: Preparation method – roasted, grilled, boiled, cooked, stewed, no-cook
  • Space: Where – international, french, italian, chinese, asian, indian, vegetarian
  • Time: When – breakfast, main meal, dessert, teatime, party, snack

May be I don’t need all these facets, but it’s a start.

Looks like the recipe section still has a way to go …

egg white omelette

I can’t believe I’ve never made this before.

My colleague asked me to make chocolate mousse for her kids. She bought the ingredients herself and passed them to me together with 2 small containers. With sincerity like this how could I resist?

So I had some egg whites left over, and I added a little salt, a little pepper and made scrambled egg whites. The stick to the pan like crazy though, which is why the omelette turned into scrambled. I think I’m supposed to whisk it a little bit before adding it to the pan. Hmmm.

Verdict? Very nice. Normal recipes put a small amount of egg yolks (1/2 per 5 egg whites), but it doesn’t matter. It’s different from making fried eggs and cutting the yolks out. It just is.