Tuesday 15 January 2013

Bean counting - Lentil and Chorizo soup

Chorizo sausage, lentils, soup, Italian New Year

Lentils are traditionally eaten on New Year's Eve in Italy - an aid to prosperity and a symbol of good luck with each lentil signifying money. In these times of the fluctuating fortunes of the Euro the metaphor has taken another paradoxical turn - for what is the real value of money - a hill of beans?!

Lentil and Chorizo Soup

Chorizo sausages
1 cup of lentils brown/green
I onion finely sliced
4 sticks of celery finely sliced
4 cloves of garlic
4 carrots diced
I red romano pepper sliced
Fresh parsley chopped

Slice the chorizo and brown gently in a frying pan with a little olive oil for a few minutes - set to one side 
Rinse the lentils - put in a pan cover with cold water and simmer until al dente - top up water if needed
In a large saucepan fry the onions and celery on a low heat until soft
Add garlic, carrots, pepper, lentils and chorizo
Add a good glug of wine (whatever your drinking) and then just cover with water
Simmer until all ingredients cooked - check for seasoning - the spicy chorizo will probably provide all the seasoning you need add parsley and serve.

Friday 11 January 2013

Field mushroom risotto

Field mushroom risotto

Field mushroom risotto

Variations on a theme - isn't that what most cooking is about. I am not claiming to be the inventor of new dishes or a food innovator - the only science involved in my culinary habits is pretty much limited to applying heat to food. The mystique that surrounds food, like a lot of creative practice is perpetuated by those who are supposedly there to aid and assist us in our endeavours in the kitchen. We are literally dazzled by the fantastic array of ingredients, the encyclopaedic knowledge of food writers, TV chefs and even food critics - knowledge becomes a weapon with which to bludgeon the less knowing with. We are left feeling a little abashed and unwilling to reveal our limited knowledge we forget to ask - HOW? WHY? WHAT?

French food is surrounded in mystery. One must be classically trained - like a stage actor or a classical musician to understand the exotic terms for the simplest of techniques. This is a system well know to all professionals seeking to differentiate themselves from the masses, as well as receive added remuneration for their brilliance. Think of the law and medicine as two prime examples where comprehension is paramount but somehow language and communication has been lost in favour of gobbledegook. I was proud that my professor at the RCA described my writing as being more from the New Journalism school than the Academe - praise indeed.

So here is a plate of rice or as Italians like to call it Risotto!

Clean and slice 6 field mushrooms
Clean and chop 4 spring onions
Season with salt and pepper - fry together until cooked
Put a handful of dried porcini mushrooms in a cup of boiled water to soak
Bring a large pan of water with Bouillon stock powder to the boil
Heat some olive oil in a saucepan
Measure a cup of rice (enough for 2) and stir into the heated oil
Add a ladle of stock and keep stirring continue until the stock has evaporated
Drain the dried mushrooms once softened and add the liquor to the rice
Chop the dried mushrooms and add to the field mushrooms
Continue with the stock until the rice is cooked how you like it - a little bite but soft and creamy
Add the mushrooms
Check for seasoning remembering that you'll be enshrouding your rice with grated Parmesan - so not too much salt!
Chop a handful of fresh parsley, stir through and serve. 

Thursday 10 January 2013

Winter salad - fennel, beetroot, orange, radish & rocket

Fennel, radish, beetroot, orange and rocket salad

I have always eaten fresh fennel - in our family we'd be close to blows to secure a second helping of a fennel salad. Braising it - as people are often advised to do, seems to diminish this crisp vegetable and reduce it to a watery ersatz version of its wonderfully aniseedy, crunchy self.

Winter salad may sound like an oxymoron but even in the darkest, coldest, gloomiest months of the year we still need fresh food. Tomatoes are a no-no, so cooked beetroot is a good stand in for a soft and sweet dimension. Texture comes in layers from the fresh fennel, to the radish and rocket. Orange gives an acidic contrast to the sweet beet and a sprinkling of toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds is yet another healthy tasty addition. Dress with a little olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Tuesday 1 January 2013

Fast food - Pea Soup

Pea soup

Frozen peas always there to add a little colour or sweetness, quick and versatile - what's not to like?

Chop spring onion, fry in a little olive oil until soft.
Chuck in a bag of frozen peas, a little gem lettuce that you've shredded and washed and half a glass of white wine.
Add as much vegetable stock as you need to cover the peas. 
Cook until peas are done.
Put in a food blender or blitz.
Check seasoning - serve warm rather than piping hot.
Chop a little fresh mint and a dollop of creme fraiche to serve.