Cosy winter vegetable soup

All images © Heather Wilkinson 2012

The temperature has really plummeted here this week. It’s the kind of cold weather that means you have to hop from foot to foot just to generate enough heat to stop your toes going numb. I basically live off soup when the weather’s like this, and I luckily had enough root veg to whip up a batch today. Soups of this nature can be a tad bland, so I add just a pinch of dried ginger to give it a subtle lift.

You will need

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 stick of celery, sliced
1 leek, sliced
150g potato, peeled and diced
150g swede, peeled and diced
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
½ tsp dried ground ginger
1 litre milk
Single cream

1.) Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion and fry until soft.
2.) Add your garlic, carrot, leek and celery, stir it all together and continue to fry for about 5 minutes.
3.) Next, add your swede, potato, nutmeg and ginger, salt and pepper. Add the milk, bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer for 25 minutes, or until all the vegetables have softened.
4.) Add your soup mixture to a liquidiser and blend together until it is smooth. You can run it through a sieve if you want it extra smooth.
5.) Return the soup to a clean pan, add a little cream, mix and heat thoroughly. Serve with fresh crusty bread.

Forced rhubarb, mascarpone and ginger semifreddo

Forced Rhubarb:  available January – Feb/March

I really like rhubarb but hadn’t ever tried the ‘forced’ variety before, so I eagerly bought a big bagful when I spotted it in my local fruit and veg shop.

Forced rhubarb, as the name suggests, it is literally forced to grow. The plants are grown in long sheds where they are subjected to heat and darkness so that the young shoots grow quickly in a desperate search for light. Apparently, it was originally cultivated to fill a gap in the vegetable calendar when there wasn’t much else available.

I wanted to try something a bit different from the usual rhubarb crumble (yawn), so decided to have a go at making a semifreddo. I was really pleased with how it turned out.

The ginger is the first of the flavours to come through, followed by the rhubarb – it’s almost like they politely take it in turns to tickle your taste buds.

The rhubarb flavour is a lot stronger in the sauce and balances the richness of the mascarpone cheese well.

PS: fellow Brightonians, I got my rhubarb from Taj in Western Road.

You will need
For stewing the rhubarb
200g forced rhubarb
Juice and zest of 1 large orange 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g caster sugar
2 pieces of stem ginger (about the size and thickness of a 2p piece), finely chopped

For the semifreddo:
4 eggs, separated
500g mascarpone cheese
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch salt

1.) Roughly chop your rhubarb and place in a saucepan with the orange juice, orange zest, 100g caster sugar and chopped ginger. Then add enough water to the pan to just about cover your rhubarb.
2.) Bring to the boil and simmer for about 7 minutes until the rhubarb is soft.
3.) Sieve the rhubarb over a clean bowl.  Set the juice aside and pop it in the fridge when it’s cooled.
4.) Next, whip the egg whites into soft peaks with a pinch of salt.
5.) In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla for a few minutes and then add the mascarpone cheese.
6.) Whisk the cheese and egg yolk mixture for a couple of minutes until smooth, then stir in your stewed rhubarb (not the juice).  Add one tablespoon of the egg whites and stir in with a metal spoon.
7.) Carefully add the cheese and rhubarb mixture to the egg whites and stir gently. Take care not to knock the air from the beaten egg whites.
8.) Line a freezer-proof container with cling film and pour in the mixture. Freeze for around 4 hours (or overnight).
9.) Remove the semifreddo from the freezer and leave to stand for around 5 mins while you make the sauce.
10.) For the sauce, pour the chilled rhubarb juice into a small saucepan, bring to the boil and cook down until it thickens.
11.) Carefully lift out the semifreddo using the cling film, place it upside down on a serving plate and remove the cling film.
12.) To serve, cut even portions of the semifreddo and drizzle each the sauce. To finish, sprinkle with crushed amaretto biscuits (optional).

All images © Heather Wilkinson 2014

Chicken noodle soup

In my last post, I promised recipe ideas for leftover roast chicken. So, here goes with the first, ideal for this time of year when you want something warm, satisfying and healthy. This recipe serves two people.

You will need:
2 pints of chicken stock (read my last post for a how-to)
1 tsp caster sugar
half a red chilli
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2 tbps of dry sherry
2 portions of dried egg noodles (thick, thin, or whatever you prefer)
½ small leek, shredded
Leftover roast chicken, cut into small slices or bite-sized pieces
2 tsp sesame oil
A handful of fresh coriander

Add the stock, a mug of cold water, soy sauce, chilli, sugar, star anise, cinnamon and sherry to a large saucepan. Bring to the boil and then turn the heat right down and allow to simmer very gently. In a separate pan, cook your noodles, drain and then toss in the sesame oil. Remove your soup mixture from the heat and sieve it over a bowl or pan.

Divide your noodles between two big bowls, ladle the soup over the noodles and then add chicken. To finish, add shredded leeks and coriander and, if you’re feeling adventurous, some thin slices of red chilli too.

Keep your eyes peeled over the next few days for the final roast chicken recipe.

I almost forgot to mention that I was really chuffed to be featured on Fiona Beckett’s (Guardian food and wine columnist) lovely blog recently. Thanks Fiona!


Beef bourguignon pie

This a great pie to make when you’ve got some spare time available, as the meat will need to slow cook so that it melts in the mouth.  Perfect for rainy winter days when you just want to stay tucked up at home, even better if accompanied by a glass of red wine or beer.

Serves 6
Prep time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: approx 3 hours

You will need

2 tablespoons olive oil
600g braising steak, cut up into medium chunks
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped into small pieces
25g plain flour
500ml red wine
400ml beef stock (2 small stock cubes)
1 few sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 250g pack of cubed pancetta
250g of chestnut mushrooms cut into wedges
350g short crust pastry
1 egg beaten

1.)Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan. Fry the beef until browned all over, then remove from the pan and set aside.

2.)In the same pan, add the remaining tablespoon of oil and cook the onion and garlic for 5 minutes until soft.

3.)Roll the browned meat in flour and then add it to the pan with the onion and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring regularly so that the mixture doesn’t stick to the pan.

4.)Next, add the red wine, beef stock, sprigs of rosemary and the bayleaf to the pan. Keep stirring the mixture until it is boiling, turn down the heat and, cover and leave to simmer for 1 hour.

5.)In a separate pan, fry the pancetta, red onions and mushrooms together for 2-3 minutes and then add them to the beef pan. Stir, cover and then simmer for another hour.

6.)Next, remove the lid and cook down for 30 minutes (this should cook off some of the liquid so you’re left with a thickened gravy) and then add to your pie dish. At this stage you can remove the sprigs of rosemary and the bay leaf.

7.)Preheat the oven to 200oC, fan 180oC, gas 6. Roll out the pastry to about ¾ cm thick. You want your pastry lid to hang generously over the side of your pie tin to allow for shrinkage in the oven.

8.)Carefully place your pastry over the top of the pie mixture and dish. Trim the pastry edges and then brush with beaten egg (this will give the pie a lovely golden sheen).

9.)Bake your pie for around 30 minutes, or until bubbling and golden. Serve with mashed potatoes (or even parsley mash)

Click here for printable version of the recipe.

Autumn in Sussex

There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it could not be, as if it had not been! 

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Greek yogurt and warm berries

The weather was beautiful here in Brighton today, the sun was shining and the sky was a clear pale blue. Being in the warm sun made me pine for summer fruit, and then I remembered that I’d stashed away a bag of mixed berries in the freezer back in August. To impatient to wait until they had thawed out, I decided to warm them on the stove and then pour them over a bowl of creamy greek yogurt. An absolutely divine breakfast!

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