Posts tagged fiona kirk
It Has Got To Be Smoked!
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Pretty much every country in the world where there is a ‘seafaring culture’ is pretty big on smoking! Over the course of thousands of years of drying, salting and smoking fish the technique has developed to a point where once-common food staples seem to have become a bit of a delicacy (with prices to match on many occasions!) What can I say?

However, its pretty hard to pay more than £4 for 200g of boneless smoked haddock fillets in even to most ‘trendy’ fishmongers in Scotland (way, way less if you happen to be near to where the fish landed!)

On another note: I feel sure that you could possibly be thinking that maybe I am going through my small cupboard of cookery books courtesy of the last few blog posts - and you would be right! The cupboard may be relatively small but boy can I cram them into every available space! I really did have a clear out recently but there were rather many I simply couldn’t part with (John Tovey, Keith Floyd, Margaret Costa, Frances Bissell, Sonia Stevenson, Fay Maschler, Antonio Carluccio, Ruth Rodgers & Rose Grey, Deborah Madison, Katie Stewart, Catherine Brown and of course Nigella, Jamie, Gordon, Delia, Rick, Mary, Raymond and absolutely everything that Nigel has ever written (sorry Nigel but you’re the man!)

I didn’t mention Simon Hopkinson. Well, this is actually a bit of a special mention because of his Curried Smoked Haddock Soup in this post. I think I have every one of his books but this recipe is in Roast Chicken & Other Stories - love this one particularly - and - have you ever tried his onion tart? Quite sublime! His byline to the soup said: “There is Scottish smoked haddock soup called Cullen skink and there is kedgeree and there is mulligatawny. This is a combination of all three.” Well, that was enough for me and I had to try it - and have been making it ever since, particularly when the weather is ‘dreich’ and we all need a bit of a fishy, smokey pick-me-up!

NB: this is in no way a light, delicate and waistline-reducing recipe…. BUT…. it’s something else!

Trip Down Memory Lane!

I recently came across a recipe for my Mum’s seriously-delicious and oh-so-morish venison broth. This was her great grandmother’s recipe - so that makes it my great, great grandmother’s - bit of history or what!

Here’s what was written!

Ingredients: Shank of venison, Cloves, Peppercorns, Cinnamon, Salt, Carrots, Turnips, Onions, Port or Sherry, Water to cover. Method: Fill stockpot with the above except port or sherry. Simmer for about 8 hours. Sieve. Thicken with flour browned under grill. Add port or sherry to taste.

No amounts, scant instructions - brilliant! However… my Mum had watched her great grandmother making the soup on very many occasions so, of course it all made enormous sense to her.

When it came to including this recipe in my Soup Cookbook, I remembered some of the details, having watched her cobbling it together, but I have a suspicion that those who bought my book may not have been overly-impressed with Mum’s devil-may-care methods - don’t suppose great, great, grandmother had a Highly Accurate LCD Precision Scale then!

So I worked and worked at this soup to come up with something that resembled the same glorious taste (with all the required amounts plus a detailed method) but I am still rather leaning towards the off-the-wall approach! Oh, and the ‘flour browned under the grill’ in the original recipe is inspired - adds cracking nutty taste! See how you go…

How Much Soup Can You Eat At One Sitting?
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Brian Wansink, a Cornell University professor who spends much of his career doing brilliantly-mischievous experiments based around the psychology of eating, wrote Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think which I highly recommend. Over the years, he has dreamed up endless experiments involving everything from different-sized plates and glasses to why we often lose track of how much we are eating when we are with friends and family but one which is particularly pertinent here is his Bottomless Soup Bowl Study.

Participants were seated at a table, four at a time to eat soup, but what they didn’t know was that two of the four bowls were attached to a tube underneath the table which very slowly and imperceptibly refilled the bowls! Those eating from the ‘bottomless’ bowls consumed an incredible 73 percent more soup than those eating from the other bowls AND estimated that they had consumed 140.5kcals fewer than they actually did! Wansink believes, and many of his experiments clearly indicate that we often eat with our eyes and not necessarily with our stomachs and he offers a wealth of clever tips and tricks on how we can redress the balance. It’s fascinating stuff!

But… however you play it … a really great soup is a bit of magic in a bowl and nutritionally rich in antioxidants and many disease-fighting protectors - BUT - perhaps the trick here is - don’t go ‘bottomless’ - particularly if you are trying to lose a few pounds!

Perhaps you might like to try my Black Bean Soup with Smoked Ham Hock? This one is so tasty and filling, more than one generous bowl is unlikely!

It's Nearly Time to make Pumpkin Soup - Again!
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When I was a kid, in Scotland, we employed a big knobbly turnip/swede/neep/tumshie (how many names can a vegetable possibly have, you ask?) to make our scary halloween lanterns that we carried from door-to-door, rehearsing our little song, dance or poem along the way - you certainly didn’t get away with telling a lame joke back then! And, if you didn’t totally ‘freeze’ under the stare of a few overly-stern neighbours (who didn’t really get into the whole thing and only under peer pressure, opened their doors), there was a chance that you might get some sweets, a tangerine, a few monkey nuts and maybe even a sixpenny bit for your efforts!

DISCLOSURE: A few real ‘Scrooges’ were known to put all the lights out and went to bed around 6 rather than part with a few monkey nuts - yes, Mr and Mrs P at number 9 and Mrs F at number 18 - I mean you!

Anyways… it was a total relief to us Scots that we have generally accepted the American habit of using a pumpkin rather than a turnip as they were notoriously hard to scoop out and even worse to carve any kind of creative design, but we knew no better - all we knew was that Cinderella’s carriage turned into a pumpkin at midnight, not that it was some kind of massive and carvable vegetable!

And best of all, the pumpkin flesh and seeds we laboriously scoop out can be turned into loads of delicious food!

Here are 2 recipes you might want to make with all the pumpkin flesh that is cluttering your kitchen counters! I have to warn you that the squash/pumpkin and sage soup is a thing of complete and utter beauty and one bowl is never enough plus it’s very hard to say no to a generous helping of the pumpkin/squash and sage pasta which is a favourite at any time of the year.

UPDATE: me and the other kids on our road haven’t necessarily forgiven Mr and Mrs P from number 9 and Mrs F from number 18 but after around 15 years or so, we decided to let the whole ‘halloween thing’ go - grown-up or what?

Pumpkin/Squash & Sage Soup (click on the image for the recipe)

Pumpkin/Squash & Sage Soup (click on the image for the recipe)

Pumpkin/Squash & Sage Pasta (click on the image for recipe)

Pumpkin/Squash & Sage Pasta (click on the image for recipe)

Potage Bonne Femme

I am unclear exactly when I came across the writings of Elizabeth David and her Book of Mediterranean Food! Must have been around 40 years ago and I simply could not get enough of her recipes using ingredients such as aubergines, basil, figs, garlic, olive oil and saffron, which at the time of her writing were scarcely available in Britain but were beginning to appear (if you knew where to look!)

As an art student who was spending rather more of my allowance on booze, 'pop' concerts and generally enjoying myself, there wasn't much left for food! But, I was a soup fanatic even then and at least once a week I made Elizabeth's Potage Bonne Femme - one of the least expensive soups to make, but also one of the most satisfying ... and ... it usually lasted me 3 days! I didn't have a mouli or a liquidiser but I just used a potato masher - perhaps not as smooth as hers but it did the trick!

A while later, having saved and saved and saved my wages as a very junior graphic artist, I took a job as a seriously-underpaid waitress in a hotel in the Swiss Alps (my father was none-too-pleased but hey, I got to see the incredible sunrise over the mountain every morning as we were serving breakfast at some ungodly hour and I got to ski the same beautiful mountain every afternoon!)

The hotel residents dined on the most fabulous Swiss food (oh the aromas coming out of the kitchen!) but the fare was god-awful for the staff - so the Potage Bonne Femme was again my saviour, cooked on the Swiss equivalent to a Prima stove! Sadly, there were no smart phones to take an image of my soup at the time but the stock photo above is not too far away from the reality!    

Some Like It Chilled!
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Some like their soups hot and shy away from the 'chilled variety'. But when the weather is warm and sunny chilled soups come into their own! Many Mediterranean countries have their own delicious recipes - think Ajoblanco, Gazpacho, Solmorejo, Tarator, Vichyssoise, Avgolemono etc.

There is something rather pleasing about a crisp, clean and refreshing soup starter when the temperature soars and/or they can be served in little shot glasses pre-drinks. Have a go with some of my own soups!

Click here to download the recipes

Starring Your Very Own Soup Recipe!
image: New Covent Gardens Soup Co.

image: New Covent Gardens Soup Co.

I think this is a great idea! Most soup fans have a favourite 'go to' and we believe our own recipe is 'the best of the best' and do you know what? New Covent Garden Soups ain't daft! We give them our favourite recipe, they take the recipe and tailor it to the 'carton soup' market, they give us the kudos and maybe-even a small payment (probably not!) and everyone's happy - or are they?

I simply can't imagine that those recipes that I have slaved over and over and over until they totally hit the spot will taste the same - BUT no-one would ever accuse me of being a 'soup snob' SO I sort of like the idea that New Covent Garden are going out of their way to get us involved even if they will most likely be the ones to profit!

Have you 'gifted' a recipe? What was it and how did the whole process go?