More soup today (you can find the recipe over at the Daily Quirk).
This is my go to soup recipe as it is so easy and we always have the ingredients in the cupboards.
It’s particularly good when you’re feeling a little low, and are indulging in sulking, which is what we were doing in our flat yesterday. As our lease is up soon, and our lovely little city apartment is feeling, well, little, we’ve been looking to upsize. After almost a month of religiously checking rental websites and coming up with nothing we found somewhere that on paper was perfect, and went to view it yesterday.
When the agent wrote ‘in good condition’ they had evidently overlooked the water damage in both the kitchen and the bathroom where a pipe had burst (which they couldn’t guarantee the owner would rectify). It was also far from being more spacious, it looked about the same size as our current place, but with an extra wall to make a second room.
So 2013 might not be the year we move, but if it’s not, it will be the year we add the final touches to our current home (trying to look on the upside). It also gives my obsessive pinning purpose. Here are a few of my favourite bits of inspiration:
photo wall/bedroom colour scheme/mini bar/different coloured pouffes
All I want to do at the moment is to crawl under a duvet with a constant supply of chocolate, tea and Homeland (we’ve watched 8 episodes in the last 3 days!). That is actually a fairly accurate description of my last few days.
Trips outside have been brief, bundled up under layers of jumpers and coats, and where in previous years my lovely boyfriend and I have run outside to enjoy the first flakes of snow, this year we enjoyed them from the other side of the window.
I snapped these photos on my walk to work, during the brief few hours that Monday’s snow had settled.
From September to mid April weekend lunches are always the same. Large bowls of steaming vegetable soup served with thick slices of fresh bread, toasted and slathered in pate. It’s the ultimate comfort food, it warms you from within.
When I was younger asparagus was seen as a treat, dipped in butter, covered in pepper and enjoyed before our main meal. I still get the same rush of excitement when I pack neatly tied bundles into my shopping bag, that I did when my parents would put a plate of those green spears in front of me.
Overcooking and pureeing asparagus felt wrong in some ways, watching them wilt in the hot water. I love asparagus soup, but this was the first time I’d eaten it without it coming from a carton. I couldn’t believe how strong the flavour was, as any taste that leached into the water was blended back into the soup.
After a year and a half of photographing food for this blog, I can say with absolute confidence that this was the hardest thing to capture. All I could think the entire time was ‘swamp goo’, it smells and tastes delicious (trust me) but let’s face it, it’s not the prettiest thing in the world!
Three Onion and Asparagus Soup
from the Vegetarian Times
2 Tbs. butter
1 large leek, white part only, well washed and chopped
4 spring onions, trimmed and chopped
½ lb. potatoes (1 large), peeled and cubed
1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and chopped
4 cups vegetable stock
Salt to taste
About 1 Tbs. lemon juice
⅓ cup crème fraîche, sour cream or plain yogurt
12 to 16 chives, sliced
4 radishes, thinly sliced
Melt butter in large pot over medium heat.
Stir in leeks and spring onions , and cook until very soft, about 8 minutes, stirring often.
Add potatoes, asparagus and stock, and increase heat to high.
When soup reaches a simmer, reduce heat to low, and cook for 20 minutes.
Remove from heat, and let cool for about 5 minutes.
Purée soup in batches in food processor or blender until very smooth.
Return soup to clean soup pot.
To serve, reheat soup to a simmer just before ladling, and season to taste with salt and lemon juice.
Ladle soup into bowls, and top with dollop of crème fraîche and sprinkle of chives and radishes.
I love to plan ahead, always have, probably always will. Last year I made a couple of lists (here and here) of the things I hoped to achieve over the coming months, so following in that fashion here are 13 fun dates for 2013:
1. Go on the London Eye – 13 years later I’ve not gone on it yet!
2. Bike along the coast from Margate to Reculver.
3. Visit the Biddendens Vineyard.
4. Visit the Chelsea Physics Gardens.
5. Take my boyfriend to Meatliquor’s (photos here and here) sister restaurant Meatmarket (photos here)
6. Go to the Hobbs House Bakery and Bistro
Day trip to Bath
8. Historical tour of Canterbury (see the cathedral, museums and tower)
9. Visit Ambrette
10. Explore the attractions that make Margate one of the Rough Guides top 10 places to visit in 2013
11. Trip to Whitstable to go on our long overdue date to eat fish and chips and spend the day at the bar on the beach.
12. Harry Potter Tour – we’re nerds, I am aware!
13. See 6 films at the cinema.
I was considering adding more ‘adventurous’ ideas to the list (skydiving anyone? how about running a marathon?) but I am getting the overwhelming feeling that 2013 is going to be the year that I tackle all those ‘one day’ intentions that I promise myself.
Which is a good segway into this recipe, as I have been curious about it for over a decade. I remember the first time I heard about cornbread, it was given as a gift between characters in the Green Mile. I was intrigued (much as I am with American biscuits) but I was soon distracted, probably by boys and other teenage things.
Of all the things in Heston Blumenthal’s cookbook this is probably the most tame, after flicking through pages of delicious looking creations involved dry ice and and pressurised gas cannisters it seemed impossible not to make this recipe as I already had all the ingredients (and tools) in the house.
I can honestly say this recipe will be whipped out at every opportunity, it is so simple, quick and the results are incredible. They are the perfect mix of sweet and savoury as well and being light and fluffy. I can’t wait to experiment with different additions to them – chunks of pancetta perhaps?
Heston Blumenthal’s Cornbread Muffins
from Heston Blumenthal at Home
makes 12 muffins
120g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
20g baking powder
1 tsp salt
40g unrefined caster sugar
100g whole milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
50g unsalted butter, melted and cooled, please extra for greasing
3 preserved jalapeno chillies diced
Preheat the oven to 180C then grease and flour a 12 hole muffin tin.
In one bowl sift the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and sugar and make a well in the centre.
In a separate bowl mix the buttermilk, milk, eggs and melted butter.
Pour into the well of the dried ingredients and stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until it comes together. Stir in the chillies.
Fill each hole in the tin until it’s about ¾ full and bake for 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven, and allow the muffins to cool on a wire rack.
How’s everyone’s New Year’s Intentions going?
I don’t know about everyone else but at a little over a week in and I’m beginning to flag and resent them. My new-year-new-you enthusiasm waned over the weekend and everything has begun to feel like a chore.
I miss allowing myself to eat whatever and however much I want whenever I want (is it just me or have pizzas started to appear EVERYWHERE????). Unfortunately I seem to lack the ability to stop myself from completely over indulging every time I am in the vicinity of something I like, and have a near constant craving for foods that should be ‘enjoyed occasionally as part of a balanced diet’.
I wish I could say that I have been more graceful through this (barely started) period between starting to take better care of my body and the satisfaction of the beginning to see the results, but in lieu of the Dominos I want so badly I am indulging in my bad mood.
In a preemptive attempt to keep me faithful to my healthy eating plan I spent the weekend preparing enough soup to see me through packed lunches for the rest of the month (working within 2 minutes of paninis and chips involves this sort of foreplanning). The recipes for which I will be sharing here over the next month.
Until I left home soup was not something I would consider making myself, soup was pretty much limited to dried packets and hidden tins at the back of the cupboard. It wasn’t until I got a glut of vegetables that were at the end of their lives that I considered homemade soup as an option.
Soup requires no special skills, your preparation doesn’t need to be neat, if you overcook the vegetables no one will know. Though fresh stock and herbs will improve your soup, using dried varieties will still help you create a result better than any can.
Cheating with soups is also allowed. It’s become a running joke in my house that I am always trying to substitute ingredients with healthier and cheaper alternatives. This soup called for a kg of cooking pumpkin, which wasn’t available at my local city supermarket so I used butternut squash instead.
The result is a rich thick soup filled punctuated with beans, squash soups can often be criticised as being bland but the mixture of spices makes this soup exciting and brought back memories of the food market in Marrakech.
I have noticed that the word ‘intentions’ has been bandied about the internet a lot over the last few days. Resolutions are outdated and far too stone clad; intentions conjure a rosier picture for this fledgling year.
I am far too susceptible to buzz words, since The Big Fat Quiz Of The Year everything has been an ‘omnishamble’, but my new love affair is with the idea of ‘intentions’.
I start each year with a long list of every flaw I perceive of myself and a convolute set of bullet points of how I am going to rectify each one. This year I’m going to go a little easier on myself; does it matter if my nails aren’t painted in the latest in vogue shade if I have kept up with a nutritionally balanced diet?
My base intentions have fallen into three main categories: Body, Home and Blog.
I want to take better care of my body, give it the fuel that it needs and the exercise it requires.
I want every object in my home to have a place and be either functional or beautiful, and have no room for useless clutter.
I want to work on my photography (which is apparently the most common resolution of 2013), more specifically I want to take better care of my camera and work harder on my food styling – I’ve been scouring the DotComGiftShop Winter Sale for styling props, how cute are these ribbons and presentation boxes.
I also want to pull my writing’s focus back to what I have baked, I like that my blog has a personal aspect to it, but sometimes I seem to forget that food is my primary topic.
So back to food, as I mentioned last year after attempting to bake bread I’m not a natural bread baker, or so I thought. A couple of months ago my lovely boyfriend who had been craving home baked bread since my last attempt surprised me with a ceramic loaf tin which I found so much easier to use that I have been baking two loaves a week in it ever since. It creates a nicer crust where it comes into contact with the dough, and unlike the ‘non-stick’ tin I used it hasn’t stuck to the sides.
The ‘secret’ is (with a stand mixer at least) to start early and fit making it around a normal evening. Unlike a cake which requires quite a bit of attention bread is surprisingly low maintenance. Each stage only takes a few minutes and then you leave it to it’s own devices, which is perfect for after work baking.
The result is a delicious loaf that is so much more satisfying that it’s store bought alternative for a fraction of the price.
The Fabulous Baker Brothers White Dough Tin Loaf
from The Fabulous Baker Brothers
makes 1 small 1lb tin loaf
280g strong white flour
5g sea salt
150ml tepid water
10ml rapeseed oil (I used sunflower as it’s what I had in the cupboard)
2.5g dried yeast (or 5g fresh yeast)
Weight the flour and salt into a bowl.
Mix the water and oil in a jug, stirring in the dried yeast to activate it.
Create a well in the flour and add the liquid.
Bring together with a wooden spoon, then knead for 15 minutes by hand or for 10 minutes using a dough hook on an electric mixer.
Cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place to rise for an hour, or until it’s doubled in size.
Well oil and flour your bread tin.
When the dough has risen (this is the tricky bit to explain!) stretch the dough out until you have formed a thin sheet about 1cm thick.
Fold into thirds – imagine you’re folding an A4 letter to go into a standard envelope.
Starting at one of the thinner ends, roll the dough towards you, using your thumbs to tightly tuck the roll so it stays taut, you don’t want any gaps in the roll.
Place the loaf in the tin, sprinkle with flour, cover with clingfilm and leave to rise a second time, for about an hour or until it’s doubled in size again.
About 30-40 minutes in, turn your oven on as high as it will go (mine was about 250C) you want it screaming hot. If you have a baking stone – I used my pizza stone – put this in the oven now too.
10 minutes before your dough is ready put a tray of water in the bottom of the oven to create steam.
Remove the clingfilm and put the tin in the oven for and set a timer for 10 minutes.
When your alarm goes off, remove the water tray from the oven and let some of the steam out, and turn the oven down to 210C.
This is where my instructions differ from the cook book as my recipe is for a small tin rather than a 2lb tin. I found that my loaf was ready after 5 minutes cooking at a lower temperature – you can test this by removing the loaf and knocking on the bottom. If it sounds hollow it’s ready.
Leave to cool, if you can wait that long, and then enjoy!