Thursday, January 24, 2013

Random Recipes #24 Erbsensuppe or Pea Soup

The January Random Recipe challenge from Dominic at Belleau's Kitchen has us cooking from another person's recipe collection and so I called on a colleague at work to pick a recipe for me from one of her books. This is the book she chose:

And the recipe was Erbsensuppe or Pea Soup, perfect for the January weather we are currently getting in Devon, where even when it is not very cold it has been very wet and very dreary.

Now I do not know more than a couple of words of German so she very kindly wrote out a translation of the recipe for me and I should have read this through more carefully before going shopping. I would have realised that the sausages and bacon I was picking up from the supermarket were not at all what the recipe called for.
I should have had a slab of smoked bacon and cured sausage, so my soup was not so German, but still very tasty.

Inspired by how good it was with the wrong sausage and bacon I paid a little more attention my colleagues comments and went online to the German Deli to source some proper German sausage. For the smoked bacon I paid a trip to my local butcher and bought a piece off a smoked gammon joint. Then I was able to make the soup again with a little more authenticity. Visually it may not seem so different but the flavour and texture of the German sausage was quite different and much better.

Pea Soup Recipe

300g dried green peas (soaked overnight in 1.5 litres water)
200g smoked bacon in the piece (soaked with the peas overnight)
1 'Bund Suppengemüse' (soup vegetables:1 leek, 1-2 carrots, quarter of a celeriac root &  parsley)
1 onion
400g waxy potatoes
half tsp dried marjoram
vegetable stock (.25 litre approx)
250g cured pork sausages
1 bunch parsley
salt & pepper

  1. Put the soaked peas and bacon into a pan and bring to the boil.
  2. Simmer, covered, for 1.5 hours or until the peas are soft.
  3. Wash, peel and chop the soup vegetables.
  4. Peel the onion and chop finely. 
  5. Peel and chop the potatoes into 1 cm dice.
  6. Add all the soup vegetables, onion and potatoes to the pan with the marjoram.
  7. Simmer for a further 30 minutes.
  8. Add additional stock if there is not enough liquid in the pan.
  9. Peel the cooked sausage and cut into small cubes and add to the soup.
  10. Simmer for a further 10 minutes.
  11. Remove the piece of bacon and cut the meat into small cubes and add back to the soup.
  12. Chop the parsley finely.
  13. Season to taste with salt and pepper and sprinkle on the chopped parsley.
  14. Serve hot.
  15. The soup can be garnished with a little sauerkraut or creme fraiche.
The sauerkraut garnish was surprisingly good.

Random Recipes #23 - December

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cooking Through My Years - Intro

The passing away of revered food writer, Katie Stewart, last week, had me thinking back to some of the food writers that were my inspiration and guide as I learnt to cook. In the coming weeks and months I am going to revisit recipes from many of them as I look back through my culinary past and recreate some of the dishes that were either of their moment or particularly notable to me for the success or failure I had with them.

I was born in 1959 and both my parents had been brought up on very traditional plain food.  My mother's family were farmers in Norfolk and my father came from Tyneside; all 'very meat and two veg'. As far as I can remember, at the time I I started learning to cook there were just three cookbooks in my mother's collection. The one I remember using most was a Good Housekeeping Compendium. The pictures inside this book show ladies sensibly dressed in housecoats and working in quite spartan kitchens.  I was perhaps lucky to have a mother to whom cooking was very much a household chore, as it meant there was little competition for the kitchen and no strong traditions that dictated how anything was cooked.  I was always encouraged and given rather free reign; and only quietly cursed for the amount of mess I made in the process.

No surprise to anyone at home that the main things I wanted to make were sweets and cakes.

Chicken was still rather expensive and had not yet been bred into the fat beasts we see today.

But by the time I found myself at senior school and attending domestic science classes things had rather changed in the kitchen.

I too was a proud owner of one of those huge puff sleeved blouses and I cannot think of anything less practical to cook in, it was hard enough not getting those drooping sleeves in your gravy as you ate.

After school I went on a catering course and then worked as a cook for three years before realising I had neither the stamina nor the artistry to be a 'proper' chef. I decided to go back to college, but food has remained my life's preoccupation.

I now have over 800 cookery books along with a few boxes of magazines and paper clippings.  That is what happens when you have a lifelong collecting habit and have been around over 50 years.

For each post in this series I am going to choose a different book from my collection based on its year of publication and start with 1959. As far as possible I will try to work with the year the book was first published.

The Housekeeping Compendium was published before I was born but as a mark of the respect for the book that sent me on my culinary journey it will be the one I kick off with and the recipe I am doing is Chelsea Buns, a lifelong favourite sticky bun.

The dough is a basic lightly enriched bread dough. Once proved it is rolled into a rectangle and then the filling is scattered over before rolling up 'swiss roll style'. You cut slices through the roll as thick as you want, prove and bake. I added a half teaspoon of mixed spice to the sultana and sugar filling, although it wasn't in my recipe and I also daubed a bit of icing on the cooked buns.

A very similar recipe for Chelsea Buns can be found here on the bbc food website. If you have a bread machine you can prepare the dough with very little work at all.

The next post in this series will be a recipe from 'Sweets That Have Tempted Me' by Esme Gray Booker, 1959.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Using up the Pantry: Date and Orange Scones

I have made a pledge to myself this year to not stash more food into my pantry than I take out and use. For a compulsive food shopper who loves buying in bulk this can be a little hard.  I hope if I can get some storage credit going at the start of the year then I can still indulge when I spot ingredients I just have to buy. First confession is that I have just this weekend placed an order with the German Deli which will arrive later this week and I do not have much storage credit in the bank, so I need to get busy, and have chosen to make scones.

Date and Orange Scones, butter & marmalade
The ingredients that were staring at me demanding to be used were: 

  • strong white flour, at least 12 months old
  • remnants of crystallised honey in a jar, open for months
  • candied orange zest, a pre-christmas experiment, never used
  • too rich 'seriously creamy' waitrose custard, no good for the purpose it was bought
  • dates, over 12 months old

Scone Ingredients
When using up ingredients you have to get a little bit creative with your recipes so the more forgiving a recipe the better, and whilst baking can be pretty unforgiving, scones are very obliging when it comes to substitutions.

The ingredient I most wanted to use up was the custard which was too rich to my taste. Whatever I made with the custard I wanted to be suitable for freezing so that I did not end up converting one 'needs to be eaten now' product into yet another, even larger one. So thoughts of bread and butter pudding and trifle were out.

Scones are quick to make, freeze pretty well, and are relatively healthy, as sweet snacks go; so I make them quite a lot.

My basic scone recipe is:

Pre-heat oven to 200C

  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 25g of baking powder (best not to use old out of date stuff, it often does not work)
  • 50g sugar
  • 50g butter
  • pinch salt
  • 1 large or 2 small eggs
  • 230ml milk

  1. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl.
  2. Rub in the butter
  3. Stir in the sugar
  4. Crack the egg(s) into a well in the bowl, add about half the milk and give a quick whisk to break up the egg(s).
  5. Gently bring the ingredients together, hands or large fork work here, adding enough of the remaining milk to form a soft but not too sticky dough.
  6. Tip the dough onto a floured work surface and work it gently together patting out to a rectangular slab about 4-5cm thick.
  7. Cut into whatever size scones you want. A straight sided dough scraper is pretty useful here.
  8. Place the scones on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  9. Bake at 200C, Gas Mark 6 for 15-20 minutes, depending on how large you cut the scones.

Check the scones after 10 minutes as you may want to turn the tray in the oven to keep the baking even across the whole tray. In my oven the back is the hottest spot and I always need to turn the tray.

So the substitutions I made were:
replace the sugar with honey
replace the butter and milk with the creamy custard

And the flavourings added were:
100g chopped dates
1 tsp finely chopped candied orange zest (fresh orange zest just as good)

The recipe will work with plain flour but you will need less liquid and the crumb texture may be a little more cake like.

Eat fresh, freeze as soon as cool, perfect food to eat at your desk or just about anywhere really.

Date and Orange Scones Waiting to be Eaten 

Credit Crunch MunchI would like to submit this post to the organisers of the blog challenge Credit Crunch Munch  which is being run by Fuss Free Flavours and Camilla at fab food 4 all 

 Credit Crunch Munch-January

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Adventures with Chocolate, Paul Young

I have had this book in my collection for over a year now and although I have used it to make a couple of the more traditional recipes I have been steering clear of the more adventurous ones. Well the first week of a new year seems a very good time to get adventurous so I turned to this page and set forth:

You are looking at a toasted sandwich of crispy bacon, stilton cheese and yes, chocolate. The lower slice of bread has a generous gilding of melted, very high cocoa chocolate.

Paul's book is full of recipes I have yet to find the courage to try and stilton truffles and marmite truffles are in there waiting for me to shake off my 'play it safe' instincts. So this combination from Paul Young was no surprise and as I have seen a lot written about the joys of bacon and chocolate. Knowing I like bacon and blue cheese and feeling a little reckless and hungry on a Friday afternoon I went for it. [Edited to add the recipe is now available online at ]

I really think you need the bacon to be cooked well to get that contrast of crisp texture against the creamy consistency of the cheese and chocolate. Get the bacon cooking so it is nicely crisp by the time you have everything else ready. You toast a couple of pieces of bread (please find a proper baker, no supermarket pap) and spread a light layer of butter over the base piece. Now grate over a layer of dark (~70% cocoa) chocolate and pop under a grill briefly to melt. Do be watchful here, and don't walk away from the grill as even lightly 'burnt' chocolate is truly nasty; you just need to melt it. Lay your nice crispy pieces of bacon on top of the melted chocolate, scatter some crumbled stilton cheese on top of that and top with the other piece of toasted bread, buttered if you wish. Eat straight away.

Now whilst I would normally drink tea with a bacon sandwich I think this fellow needs a good cup of coffee or even a glass of red wine. Comparing mine with Paul's I didn't quite get the artisan look but no shame, it tasted good.

Would I make this again?

Maybe; the recipe called for Venezuelan 72% chocolate and I didn't match that exactly as I was using a higher cocoa African based chocolate. It also asked for honey roast bacon where I just had a good dry cured unsmoked bacon. Those nuances may have detracted from the recipe. 

It was good, I ate it all, and I had fun making it but I would love to have one cooked by the author to see how my version compared.

Other recipes I have tried include the christmas pudding truffles that worked really well, stem ginger and fennel seed truffles, chili and lime truffles, and the bing cherry brownies but without the coconut, all very good.

Paul Young has made a number of tv appearances in the last year or two and is always fun to watch, so much enthusiasm, so do look out for him.

I am submitting my Chocolate, Stilton and Bacon sandwich to the January 2013 we should cocoa blog challenge which called for recipes that use chocolate but no 'sugar' (sucrose) sweetener. The We Should Cocoa hosts are Chocolate Teapot, and Choclette of  Chocolate Log Blog. Choclette has set the January challenge.