Thursday, 21 November 2013

Split Pea Soup

This soup is a very special one for me - many happy childhood memories surround it. It was what my Mum would make on the coldest, snowy days, as my sister and I ran into the house post-snowman-building, stamping our feet to regain feeling and tentatively holding our hands over the scalding radiator. 

Though childhood is long gone, winter is returning once more. This recipe continues to be a sure favourite - and a definite winter warmer. It’s also really easy (and really cheap!), so you have no excuse.

Ingredients (serves 6):
- 450g yellow split peas
- 1750ml water
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 bay leaf
-  ½tsp thyme
- 2tsp salt
- black pepper, to taste

1. Throw everything into a large pan. Literally – no oil, no cooking the vegetables first, just throw them all in together. Told you it was easy.

2. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat, put on a lid (or cover with tin foil) and simmer for 2½ hours. You should check on it every half hour or so, but otherwise you can leave it to its own devices.
3. Remove the bay leaf, then blitz with a stick blender (if you don’t have one you could attempt to sieve it, but they’re well worth investing in and you can get them for under £10 online).

Aaaaand serve! With a fresh loaf of bread or rolls if you have the time, but it's great all by itself. If you want to be fancy you can garnish it with some fresh thyme and a twist of black pepper. This soup also freezes spectacularly, so it's definitely worth keeping any you don't eat.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

What a Tart

So I thought it was about time I blogged something savoury because all I seem to be doing at the moment is cakebread and pudding, though that's a pretty accurate representation of my current diet...

I made this in the summer holidays for my sister, who likes neither leeks nor anything that even vaguely resembles a quiche, BUT when I gave her this she ate it all and went back for seconds. And when Rebecca ate it yesterday she exclaimed 'I don't even like leeks!' as she also went back for seconds. It's an excellent crowd pleaser, very easy to make, and it looks awesome.

Also Dad's lent me his fancy camera, so I can now take food photographs again without having to beg Zosia to leave the library and trek all the way over just so I can take a picture of my soup/cake/etc, which is just great for everyone (except maybe my Dad's nerves).

- 175g plain flour (I use 100g of white and 75g of wholemeal)
- 110g butter, cubed
- ½tsp salt
- sprinkle of black pepper
- ½tsp thyme leaves
- 2-3tbsp cold water

- 25g butter
- 2 onions, chopped
- 1 large leek, washed and chopped
- 1tsp caster sugar
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 200ml double cream
- 1 egg, beaten
- 125g soft goat's cheese, crumbled
- 1tsp French mustard
- salt and pepper
- 1tsp thyme leaves, plus a few extra sprigs for decoration

1. First, make your pastry. Using the tips of your fingers, rub together the flour and butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the salt, pepper and thyme, then add the water a little at a time. You only need enough to bring everything together into a dough, so be careful not to over-do it.
2. Wrap the dough in clingfilm, and put it in the fridge while you get started on your filling.
3. Put the butter, onions, leek and garlic into a pan, then turn the heat up and add the sugar. Make sure you stir fairly often so it doesn't stick and burn, but there's not much else to it! Cook for about 15-20 minutes, until everything's lovely and caramelised, then take off the heat and put to one side. At this point you should also turn on your oven, and set it to 180°C.
4. Take your pastry out of the fridge, lightly flour your worktop and roll the pastry out to about 5mm thick. Then use your rolling pin/bottle to drape it into your quiche dish (if you don't have a quiche dish, you can use the lid of a casserole dish or anything similar - just make sure it can go in the oven).
5. Gently ease the pastry to fit properly in the dish, then grab a fork and prick lots of holes in the bottom of the pastry (which is a great alternative to baking beans) before blind baking in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes.
6. While your pastry case is baking, you can get the filling sorted out. Grab a large measuring jug and measure out the cream, then add the egg, mustard and goat's cheese and mix it all together (alternatively, you could put a third of the goat's cheese to one side and sprinkle it over the top before baking). Tip in the leek mixture, the salt and pepper and half the thyme leaves and stir together.
7. Once the pastry is out of the oven, trim the edges and tip in the filling. Sprinkle the goats cheese (if using this method) and the rest of the thyme leaves on top, then put back in the oven for 30 minutes.

8. Voila! Decorate with the thyme sprigs, and eat with something yummy like potato wedges (or a salad if you've been living off cake like I have). Jamie and I intend to take the leftovers to eat on our Windsor Great Park picnic tomorrow, along with some very exciting blackberry and elderflower cakes which I shall also blog soon. NOM.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

I Accidentally Bought Four and a Half Kilos of Carrots.

Yesterday my Tesco shop arrived and it contained three 1.5 kg bags of everyday value carrots. 

Moral of the story:
 If you're doing an online Tesco shop and you're buying vegetables and you choose "3" and add them to the basket, make sure you're buying individual vegetables and not multipack bags...

Also the lighting in my new kitchen is awful, so please excuse the photos...
Anyway, I had to find something to do with all of these carrots, so I made Carrot and Cider soup. This was an experimental recipe - I added things I thought would work as I was going along, and it turned out pretty well. I was impressed by the cider - usually for soups I use wine but this added an extra layer of flavour. Also this recipe makes a massive quantity because I have so many carrots to use up. This would probably feed about four people. If you have leftovers, just freeze them...

One note about the method - you need a hand blender. I recently bought one of these for myself and they're definitely worth having on hand for soups and smoothies. Soups are so cheap and simple that they make perfect student food. You chop the stuff up, you boil the stuff in stock, you add some flavouring and then you zap it with a hand blender. What could be simpler? And you can buy a hand blender for less than a fiver from Argos. Definitely worth the investment.

SO here's what you need for the soup:

1 onion
A knob of butter and a dash of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed/chopped finely
1.5kg of carrots (unprepared weight)
1 litre of stock (I used a vegetable oxo cube)
150ml cider
1tsp dried sage
1tsp paprika
The seeds from 3 Cardamom pods, finely crushed
Four or five basil leaves, shredded
Cream or yoghurt, and pumpkin seeds to serve

1. Peel and chop the onion into slices. Heat the oil and melt the butter in a large pan. Add the onion and garlic and soften for about five minutes. Add your cider to the pan, and let it reduce by about half.
2. Meanwhile, Top, tail and peel your carrots. Chop into slices and add these to the pan.
3. Cover with stock, and add the sage, cardamom and paprika. Let the soup simmer until the carrots have softened. Add a little more cider as it's cooking if you like.
4. When the carrots are soft, turn off the heat. Using a hand blender, whizz the soup until it's smooth. Add the shredded basil leaves, stir through thoroughly and serve with bread and a dollop of cream or yoghurt.

Monday, 4 November 2013

A Great Big THANKS and a Celebration!

So you remember the week before last when I got really excited because my vegetable chilli was featured in Sainsbury's Reader Recipe competition? Well, I WON.

Thank you so, so much to everyone who voted! I'm absolutely over the moon. You can now find me published on the Sainsbury's Blog!

See that? A record number of votes!!
 I really can't express my gratitude enough so I'll say again, thank you to all! 

I'm now going to celebrate with some fancy focaccia and a bottle of wine, so I shall bid you all a fond goodnight for now.