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.

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!


Seville Orange Marmalade

Seville oranges: Now in season – January/February.

Bringing a blast of colour to the bleakness of winter are Seville oranges. Aromatic, with a bumpy thick skin, Seville oranges are notable for their intense bitter taste – perfect for cooking, especially marmalade. Happiness in a jar.The process of making marmalade with Seville oranges is incredibly pleasurable. It’s also slightly magical because the oranges contain high levels of pectin, a natural gelling agent which, when combined with sugar and cooled, sets to form a firm amber-coloured jelly.

If you Google how to make marmalade you will find loads of different recipes, and so it’s just a case of picking whichever one takes your fancy and having a go. And whether you like your marmalade with thick or thin-cut peel, with no peel at all, or with a glug of booze, the beauty of making your own is that you’re free to adapt it to your own exact preference.

A word of warning: you’ll need to make marmalade in two stages, so I’d advise making it when you’ve got a free weekend.

After a bit of trial and error, I found Nigel Slater’s recipe to be the best, especially as his method of scoring the oranges meant I didn’t lose any juice, the peel was easy to remove, and could easily be cut up into neat little strips. I’ve used his recipe in part with my own adaptations.

You will need
12 Seville oranges
1 lemon
1.25kg unrefined golden caster sugar 
1 or 2 muslin cooking bags.
Large cooking or preserving pan

1.) Using a small sharp kitchen knife, score four lines down each fruit from top to bottom, as if you were cutting the fruit into quarters. Let the knife cut through the peel but without piercing the fruit.
Cut each quarter of peel into fine shreds. On my first attempt I thought I’d managed to cut the shreds pretty fine but on reflection they were still a bit too chunky. It’s personal preference, of course, but I’d advise aiming to get your slices thinner than a matchstick if you can.

2.) Squeeze each of the peeled oranges and lemons into a jug, removing and reserving all the pulp and pips.

3.) Make the juice up to 4 litres with cold water, pouring it into the bowl with the shredded peel. Use more than one bowl if you need to. Tie the reserved pith, squeezed-out orange and lemon pulp and the pips in muslin bag and push into the peel and juice. Set aside in a cold place and leave overnight.

4.) The next day, tip the juice and shredded peel into a large stainless steel or enamelled pan and push the muslin bag down under the juice. Bring to the boil then lower the heat so that the liquid continues to simmer. It is ready when the peel is totally soft and translucent. One my first attempt, with really chunky peel, this took about an hour and 10.

5.) Place a small plate or saucer into the fridge to cool. Sounds strange but you’ll need it later.

5.) Once the fruit is ready, lift out the muslin bag and leave it in a bowl until it is cool enough to handle. Add the sugar to the peel and juice and turn up the heat, bringing the marmalade to a rolling boil. Squeeze as much juice as you can from the reserved muslin bag into the pan. As you squeeze you should feel that the juice coming out of the muslin is thicker than when you started. Leave at a fast boil for 15 minutes.

6.) Remove the chilled plate from the fridge,  add tablespoon of the preserve and then put it back in the fridge for a few mins. Your marmalade has reached setting point if a crinkly skin has formed on the top. Test it by dragging your finger across the surface. Test every 10 – 15 mins (some mixtures can take up to 50 mins so be patient!)

7.) Skim off any scum from the surface and then switch the pan off and leave it to settle for 15/20 mins (if you don’t then you the peel will rise to the top of your marmalade).

8.) Ladle into the sterilised pots, seal immediately and leave alone until the jars have cooled completely.

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.

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