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!

More Pesto Please!
MINESTRONE SOUP

MINESTRONE SOUP

A really good spoonful added to Minestrone, fantastic on sour dough toast with ripe tomatoes, alongside steamed vegetables or perhaps sneaked into a baked potatoes, stirred through pasta at the very last minute or maybe just spooned straight from the jar - it’s has got to be said - pesto is kind of addictive!

But have you made pesto with oil that is rich in essential fatty acids? An oil that enriches our food while delivering the superb qualities of the much-needed EFA’s for our health and wellbeing and has had no damaging heat treatment at all?

I like Udo’s Oil, 3*6*9 Blend but there are others on the shelves - try avoid the ones in plastic bottles (they tend to be cheaper but they are not so pure).

I am struggling to remember where this pesto recipe came from but I think it had something to do with Udo Erasmus (what a great name!) whilst I was studying nutrition and his ground-breaking research into Omega 3’s BUT I do know it is really good, particularly when it is straight out the blender and slung in a devil-may-care fashion on top of my minestrone soup!

I Can't Believe I Forgot This Soup!
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Sophie Conran’s Root Soup with Cheese Scones! Loads of seasonal root vegetables - both roasted and sautéed - plus the most meltingly-delicious cheese scones on the side! I am rather partial to serving the soup in a teacup with the roughly broken-up scones alongside whilst everyone is opening parcels and enjoying the Christmas get together - while I do the last minute somewhat panicky procedure of the ‘main event’!

Sophie Conran’s blog is an absolute delight for anyone who likes to cook or find out more about seasonal ingredients and/or looking for inspiration for decorating your house at christmas - have a look! This lady has been in the frame well before blogs were invented but she still keeps coming up with brilliantly-fresh ideas!

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…

Soup Testing and Tasting!
Silverbeet, Fennel and Almond Soup (Donna Hay)

Oops! Just one month to go before Christmas Eve! And… instead of concentrating on trees, presents, cards and the rest, I am (as ever) focusing on THE soup I might serve on Christmas Day! To my mind, this is a mighty important issue and has to be given much thought and much tasting and testing!

Generally speaking, there tends to be a mixed bag of people around a Christmas table (some young, some old, some vegetarian and/or vegan, some with intolerances to wheat, dairy, shellfish and the rest so the soup has to encompass just about everything - BUT - it has to be downright delicious - that’s not up for debate!

I am not sure how many people have come across Donna Hay’s books and her website but I am definitely a fan. She is from ‘down under’ and the weather at this time of the year is scarily-hot but she is unlikely to let that get in the way of creating beautiful soups so I am right there with her! Think warm, sunny, light, delicious and oh so pretty and this one could well be in the running!

I have still got a few more of Donna’s soups, a few others from my favourite soup bloggers and of course, my own concoctions to try and to compete with this one so I will keep you posted as the month progresses but the recipe testing and tasting will certainly be the name of the game!

Oh, and by the way ‘silverbeet’ is swiss chard!

Fiona Kirk
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!

Soup, Sparklers and Bonfires!

Oh I know that I have mentioned this soup on more than one occasion - but it’s mega-fast, mega-easy, mega-tasty and even if you have never made soup in your puff, you will be somewhat surprised by your efforts!

As I see it, there are 3 things that make bonfire night kind of special (well, apart from the fireworks!)

  1. Mulled wine with a lot more than a just a dash of brandy to keep the chill out (make your own or buy one of those syrups from the supermarket and add more cinnamon, other spices, some oranges and some fiery, warming alcohol of choice.

  2. Burgers and buns (beef, chicken, lamb, pork, venison, veggie, buffalo, bison) - the choice is endless - ask your local butcher rather than buying from the supermarket shelves - he’s is usually a real star on the ‘burger front’ and you know it has been freshly made on the day.

  3. AND THIS SOUP… it can be made in 30 minutes then blitzed so it is a little easier for pouring from a flask.