Tuesday, 22 April 2014

A Soup Maker recipe - spicy parsnip soup

Back at Christmas my gift from my mother was a soup maker.  She knows me and my love for kitchen gadgets well!

They were everywhere at the festive season and seem to be the next ‘thing’.  (Move over bread makers, cool your heels ice-cream machines, talk to the hand, cake-pop makers.)  Although I wasn't sure whether they were just a gimmick – after all – I had a blender didn't I? – I was now the proud; if slightly dubious, owner of one.  
A few days later once I was back home I cracked it out for a test run and thought I'd try an adaptation of my spiced roasted parsnip soup recipe.  (May have had something to do with the 4 bags of parsnips I picked up for 25p a go from the CFC too...)
I skipped the roasting this time as I wasn't putting the oven on for anything else and it seemed a bit unnecessary just for a few 'snips.
For some reason the post got lost in the ether but in case anyone is considering the merits of owning one of these, or have recently acquired one, I thought I‘d finally post the recipe.

Spice Parsnip Soup, for Soup Maker machines
600ml veg stock. 
0.5tsp ground turmeric
0.5tsp ground cayenne
1tsp garam masala
1tsp ground cumin 
1 small Onion
3 sticks Celery
4 small Spud
250g (4sml + 1 larger)Parsnip
100ml water to top up + rinse spices from jug
100ml milk- to taste
100-150ml plain greek yoghurt - taste


Stir spices into stock and leave to cool.  [My soup maker insists on cold stock.]
Chop veg into 2-3cm cubes.
Pop everything bar the milk and yoghurt in measuring jug of your soup maker and check you’re within the volume limits of the machine.  (This will vary from model to model.)
Pour the contents of the jug into the soup maker and press the ‘on’ button.  I used the puree option; my soup maker also comes with a ‘chunky’ option.
Once the cycle has finished taste it.  A little thick and / or on the spicy side – add the milk and yoghurt as desired.

So 20 minutes later and ta daaa – I for one was very impressed.  Super tasty soup in a minimal time frame, especially if you’ve thought ahead and have cold stock to hand.  A short cut for that which I’ll try next time would be to make the stock cube up with a minimal amount of water; just enough to dissolve it, then top up to the required amount with cold water.*
This is invaluable for making fresh soup to take to work for your lunch – you can chuck everything in the jug the night before and just press on when you rise in the morning.  Pop it in a flask and in the colder months it was a lifesaver for this office worker in a building with no microwave!
Having not been totally sure about the benefits of a soup maker, this is a gift that has very quickly convinced me of its value amongst my kitchen gadgets.  It’s fast and it’s proving to be economical as it’s great for those ‘bottom of the veg drawer’ soups –chuck it in and hit ‘puree’.  It’s not the quietest thing in the world when it hits the blend part of the cycle but then, neither is a regular blender or FP.  I’m a firm fan!   Now, just to find somewhere for it to live...
*I've tried this since and it works a treat.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

#100HAPPYDAYS Set 2: 18-31

Time for the next batch of images I've taken for my 100 Happy Days challenge.  Starting with a rare appearance of myself - not something I make a habit of on here that's for sure!

Day 18: Loving the amazing voice of Angelina on a drizzly Sunday afternoon. Being captured looking like a muppet enjoying it.
Day 19: Yorkshire pudding w' wild garlic experiment WIN!!  [As seen here.]
Day 20: Walking home in the sun and realising - IT'S SPRING!!! Finally.
Day 21: Catching up with a good friend I haven't seen since January, sat by the river looking at the beautiful evening sky.
Day 22: Spring flowers of Blue (my fave) from the garden. Gorgeous smell from the bluebells. 
Day 23: Nearly got mown down on the bridge on my way home from work, by 7 or 8 little girls, all on matching purple go-karts. Pretty random. Bringing up the rear was one small boy on a big yellow tonka truck style thing, with his dad. Their pure delight made me laugh in the sun.
Day 24: (Before scalding myself with boiling water!) The kids on Easter hols round here have discovered a love for pavement art. These dinosaurs (?!) are a fave on the way back from the shops. 
Day 25: A cider in the sun from my good friend and her somewhat over exuberant pup.
Day 26: Getting home rather later than anticipated to the cat, sofa, warming soup and my current guilty viewing pleasure. Mmm; cosy.
Day 27: It's getting nice enough to sit out on my lunch with a good book and soak up the vitamin D. Aaaahhhh.  
Day 28: Discovering a secret pond on campus on my way home that instantaneously brought back happy memories of a childhood holiday and my dad rowing us across a similarly weed choked lake. I know this pondweed is an invasive git but it's such a GREEN colour in spring!  
Day 29 - Beautiful sunny morning on the way to work today. Blue sky, cherry blossoms bobbing in the breeze, lush fresh spring green grass and burbling river. Last day in work for 11 days. Nice.
Day 30. A man in a bow tie made me smile. Sadly I don't have an actual photo so this will have to do.*
Day 31: Having a cheeky bubble bath in the middle of the day just because you want to, and you have 10 days off so can sacrifice one to the Radox gods.

Now the more observant of you may have noted that I mentioned scalding myself with boiling water in amongst that lot.  Yes - I did.  And it bloody hurt.  All I can say is stick your hand in a pot of cold water for several hours and be glad to have an aloe vera plant at home.  Eeek!
Day 2 after doing it
Today, mostly peeled!










Happy Easter everyone!

*If anyone is a Dr Who fan you can find that T-shirt here.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Yorkshire puddings with wild garlic

Just a quick idea, as it's Sunday and you might be making your yorkies later for the roast.
Mix your normal yorkshire pudding batter mix.*
Rinse a handful of wild garlic (ramson) leaves under the tap and squeeze the water out.  Finely chop and add them to the batter.
 Cook as normal.  Yum!
This was an experiment as I wasn't at all sure whether the garlic would burn during the cooking process or whether the flavour would work but it was a success.  As I love garlic and don't have meat for my roasts I'd put these with anything but I'd imagine them working well with a chicken roast, and maybe lamb.
*My regular go to batter mix is 4oz plain flour, 0.5 pint milk and one egg.  There's been a lot in the media over the last year suggesting that actually these quantities should all be the same. IE by volume - crack the egg into a measuring jug and add the same amount of milk and flour (not sure how you do the flour?).  Yorkshire chef Brian Turner advocates the addition of a little vinegar for a good rise; and in fact explains the 'measure the same method' by using a cup.  (Video here.)  Pretty much all the recipes (including my own) recommend a resting period for the batter mix before cooking. Although not Queen Delia!  In fact there's a whole lot of discussion and arguing on the 'perfect' Yorkshire pudding.  See here for a little more info.
Anyway, I like to mix mine up a little by adding herbs to the batter, or try a little hard full-flavoured cheese, or wholegrain mustard.  I guess horseradish could work for accompanying a beef roast - try it and let me know!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Food swap - pasta with salmon and capers paste from Pantelleria

Manu from the beautiful Cooking Manu blog had the great idea of hosting a food swap for bloggers and non-bloggers alike.
I was partnered with Silvia (co-incidentally Manu's sister in law) who is based in Milan, Italy.  I sent her some local Devon wholegrain honey mustard.  I'm intrigued to see what she comes up with for that!
She sent me something new to me - capers paste.  It's from Pantelleria which she explained is an island in Sicily.  (There's a very interesting post about why capers from that region are so special here.)
Now, I was supposed to have posted a recipe using her ingredient by the 31st March but with typical 'Ruth-time' I'm just a little bit late - oops!
I played with various ideas in my head before deciding to use it in a fairly simple pasta dish.  As I'd never used it before I wanted to get a feel for the strength and depth of flavour first time round.

This made a large meal (with leftovers) for 2.

1 bag fresh pasta
2 salmon fillets (mine happened to be hot smoked ones with peppercorns)
1 onion
2 cloves garlic*
1 tsp+ dried basil
1tsp+ dried oregano
1tbsp+ capers paste (pasta di capperi)
Handful calabrese florets
Handful wild garlic (ramsons) leaves*
Little grated strong cheese, if liked
EVOO
Black pepper
Salt
*Use less garlic if you're not a fan.  I am so it tends to go in everything!

Heat a splosh of EVOO over a low heat in a decent size frying pan.
Finely mince the garlic and add to the pan once the oil is warming up.
Finely chop the onion and add it to the pan.  Sweat down for several minutes.
Get a large pan of water boiling for the pasta.  Once it comes to the boil add a generous pinch of salt and the pasta.  Fresh pasta generally only takes 3-4 minutes so keep an eye on the time.
Add the herbs to the onion pan and stir well.  If you feel the mix is drying out now or at any point you may want to add a little water - nab some from the pasta pan if so.
Add the capers paste a little at a time, stirring in well each time and giving it a minute to cook in then tasting.  Bear in mind that the plain pasta will soak up a lot of flavour.
Drain off the pasta once it's done, reserving a little of the cooking water.
Cook the salmon fillets in the pan with the onions and garlic, flake them up as they cook through.
Throw in a handful of calabrese cut into small florets and 4 or 5 minced ramson leaves.  Add a little of the pasta water now to steam the veg.
Grind in black pepper to taste and stir into the pasta.  Add a little grated cheese if liked, I felt the dish needed that extra flavour to balance the salty umami notes from the capers and the strength of the garlic.
Serve and enjoy.
 This was delish and gave me a good idea of how the capers paste works in a dish.  It certainly has a big flavour but also seems invaluable for the umami notes.  I can see this having an incredible affinity with good tomatoes and black olive tapenade on some fantastic bread...Mmmmm...

Sunday, 6 April 2014

#100HAPPYDAYS - the first 2 weeks.

Well I did only say I'd post the pics on here weekly-ish, right?  I'm keeping up with the challenge of finding a happy moment to post each day so far.  Mostly these are small things but I think that's part of the ethos behind the challenge; recognising the happiness to be found in everyday moments as well a 'big' events.  More info on the 100 happy days site.
So without further ado, here're my moments so far...
Day 1: Can’t remember the last time I used this when it wasn't absolutely necessary.  My trousers are falling off me. 
Day 2 - Happy Friday! Good night with good friends and fine ales.  
Day 3: I fit back in my fave jeans - whoop!!!! This has made me a happy bunny indeed. 

Day 4: Very early! Bar dancing with my new bar 'family'.
Day 5: This beautiful magnolia stellata is on my route to and from work. I love seeing it each spring. Cheered up my walk home in the cold and rain tonight.
Day 6: Lovely bag full of Ramsons for wild garlic pesto later. Nomalicious!!!
Day 7: Happy guinness at a friend's birthday.
Day 8, which also happens to be my lucky number. Getting home to my furry faced love after what feels like a veeerrrrryyyy loooooonnnnggg couple of days. (PS - like most cats he takes a shit pic though.  )
Day 9: That patch of blue which prisoners call the sky... The sun coming out on a Friday afternoon at work when it seems like the rest of the week it's rained every afternoon / evening.
Day 10: Spending all day in bed because you can and not feeling even a tiny bit guilty about it.
Day 11 - Watching the rather spiffing Aunt Fanny's Handbag laying down some chillaxed Sunday arvo vibes. Oh, and the greatest old couple ever, dancing their hearts out to it - she was being chucked up in the air and everything! 
Day 12 - Playing all the top old tunes you'd forgotten about on an unplanned jukebox marathon. They even had a couple of Ned's tracks!!!! Then I had to educate as to who Ned's were of course...
Day 13: I won free chocolate! Nuff said, right?  Small pleasures.
Day 14
Day 15 - Finding I can fit back in some trousers I haven't worn for 2 years, that are a size smaller than all my current clothes, and evidently I can fit into them without bothering to undo the zip. I believe 'Woot' is the appropriate word at this juncture. 

Day 16 - Leaving the office on a Friday in the SUN to be greeted by this display of beauty by nature. *breathe*
Day 17: You lot. Yes YOU. Realising I have some truly wonderful friends both new and old who care and seem to know just the right things to say when I need it. I thank you, you wonderful people you.

So that's as far as I am, tune in next week(ish) for the next thrilling installment...

Friday, 21 March 2014

Spring and happiness

Well it's been some time since my last post.  Much stuff has been happening, not the least of which is that the Chap and I have gone our separate ways.  Whilst this saddened me, such is the way of life.  Onwards!  As it was a good 6 weeks back now I'm getting on with moving on.  More of that later.  Maybe.  ;-)
Yesterday was International Day of Happiness and also (apparently) the first day of spring.  (I thought that was today the 21st myself, but there you go.)  I've been mulling over taking up the 100 Happy Days challenge for some time and decided to start it yesterday.  The idea behind this is that for 100 days you make the time in the day to focus on something that has made you happy, no matter how large or small.  You take a pic and post it with the tag #100HAPPYDAYS.  Hopefully the outcome is that you can nurture a more positive outlook in yourself, get in the habit of noticing the happy stuff and generally feel happier in yourself.  I'm posting my pics daily on facebook but once a week-ish I'll post the pics on here too.  Just to keep it in the forefront of my mind, and in case anyone out there is interested too.  So far 71% of the people attempting the challenge haven't made it to the 100 days; citing lack of time as the most common reason, so I'm interested to see how I do.
As it's the start of spring it seems an appropriate time to make some changes and to this end I've decided to focus my efforts on a proper de-clutter at home.  Frankly there's a whole small bedroom that's unusable as it's piled up with boxes and crates so it's time it all went.  I've long had a plan for that room to be my library (I own a lot of books) and computer room so I really need to be able to actually see the walls!  I also have a bunch of the Chaps stuff hanging about the place that I keep being told is being collected 'soon'.  That needs to go as I'm getting an exercise bike and it won't fit in the spare room until he takes his stuff out of it.
The spring flowers are a welcome sight after the long months of storms and rain.  The joyous presence of crocuses, daffodils and primroses do a lot to lift my spirits on the daily walk to and from work as they burst forth from the hedgerows and gardens.  All helped by the sudden (finally) arrival of the wild garlic.
This has gone mad in the last week or so and I'm lucky enough to have great swathes of it growing on campus just behind the building I work in as well as along the local river banks a few minutes from  my home.  I'm planning on making my first batch of 2014's wild garlic pesto this weekend.  I can almost smell it now...  :-)

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Food adventures - a new shop!

I recently came across a new world food shop at the opposite end of Exeter to the one I usually frequent.  I think it's nominally Turkish / Persian but I didn't get a chance to have a proper look inside.  However I did snatch these quick photos on my phone - not sure what all these things are but I'm excited to have a proper look around inside!