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Chicken and Beet Greens Soup

Quick and simple.

Take 1 litre of chicken stock, heat it to a simmer and add two handfuls of leftover roast chicken, one finely chopped shallot, a bit of oregano, and three handfuls of macaroni pasta. Just before serving, toss in the roughly chopped greens from a bunch of beets. Crank a little black pepper over the top when serving.

We ate this tonight just with cheese bread and a full-bodied red wine from Cariñena. It’s warming and therapeutic and serves two generously.

Asparagus Soup with Yoghurt

Simple, delicious. Serve this with crusty bread.

 

Ingredients:

2T butter

2 onions, finely chopped

250g (1 bunch) asparagus, finely chopped

500ml hot chicken stock

salt

4T Greek yoghurt

 

Method:

Fry the onion without browning in a saucepan until soft.

Add the asparagus and cook for another two minutes

Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Add salt to taste and simmer for 5 or so minutes until the asparagus is cooked.

Add yoghurt, puree, and serve with fresh grated pepper.

You may reserve the asparagus tips separately, steam them, and add them into the soup before serving for a bit of extra texture.

Caldo Verde

In Portugal it seems as though every meal begins with caldo verde – green soup. My friend Ilda’s family in the far northeast of Portugal, where caldo verde originates, eat it everyday without fail. chouriço (chorizo) or linguiça sausage and couve galega kale crowd into a potato and onion broth in a soup possessed of enough savour and solidity to form the centre of a light supper flanked by a romaine salad dressed with lemon and salt and a good crusty bread. It’s also just the right touch served before a main of grilled fish.

You can adjust the water content of this soup to thin it or thicken it as you desire, or fry the sausage before adding to the soup, but to get this absolutely right you must use the Brassica known as Couve Galega (in English it is called Collard Greens, Tree Cabbage, Walking Stick Cabbage, or Jersey Cabbage), and in order to obtain it in the UK it is generally necessary to grow it yourself. couve galega has large, flat, paddle-like leaves that somewhat ridiculously crown a tough, gangly stem that will rise to head-height. Its strong flavour is at its best in winter, but the leaves can be harvested year-round. Its heads of flower buds can also be steamed and eaten like broccoli. For this soup the leaves are tightly rolled and then very finely julienned – again, this texture is absolutely necessary to get the soup just right. There is hope, though, for those without the right Brassica. Curly kale will work, and I would imagine that it might also be possible to use cavolo nero, savoy cabbage or spring greens as well. I found one caldo verde recipe calling for simple cabbage, but this Irish-Portuguese bastard child will never find employment in my kitchen. Would this be Cald O’Verde?

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 large or 2 small onions, roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic, sliced

750g potatoes (about 6), peeled and thinly sliced

1.5 to 2 L cold water

1 roughly 200g Chouriço (chorizo) or linguiça sausage, thinly sliced

1 1/2 tsp salt

Pepper to taste

400 to 500g Couve Galega, very finely julienned

Method:

In a saucepan or stockpot over medium heat, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil briefly (don’t allow them to colour). Tip in the potatoes and keep stirring them until they’re warmed. Add the water, bring to a boil, and cook until the potatoes begin to fall apart.

Purée the mixture in a blender or with a hand-held food processor. Stir in the sausage and simmer for about five minutes.

Finally, add the salt and pepper and kale and cook for a further five minutes until the kale is cooked but still with some bite to it. Dish up into bowls, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and serve.

The sausage may also be fried before adding to the soup, which adds a different dimension to the flavour. Drain the fat off the sausage before adding to the soup or, if your conscience or cholesterol levels allow, pour that in too. It will only add to the flavour.

Here is some music to listen to while you cook:

Boeuf Bourguignon

As the cold, clear weather continues the lust for soups and stews rages on insatiably. Tonight it’s another canonical dish, Boeuf Bourguignon. This is loosely based on Julia Child’s time-honoured recipe, but is simplified for ease and clarity. It still turns out awfully good. We’ll be having it with some of the last of the season’s Brussels sprouts and a Patrick Lesec Costières-de Nîmes Vieilles Vignes 2007. This recipe serves six, and is usually better the second day if you have leftovers. I usually make a large batch and freeze it for lunches.

 

Preheat the oven to 140C

 

Ingredients:

1.5-2 kilos stew beef, cut in 2 inch cubes

175-200g bacon lardons

Mirepoix: 4 carrots, 1 large onion, 3 stalks of celery, all coarsely diced.

500g dark-gilled mushrooms

1 bottle burgundy or other full-flavoured red wine

450ml beef stock

50g beurre manié (25g flour, 25g unsalted butter)

1 small bunch parsley, finely chopped

1 sprig thyme leaves

2 cloves garlic, crushed

18 small white onions or very small shallots

salt and pepper

 

Method:

Sauté chunks of bacon in a glug of olive oil at moderate heat for two or three minutes. Remove the bacon to a large mixing bowl.

Sauté beef, a little bit at a time, in the bacon fat until browned. Remove the beef to the bowl with the bacon.

Add the mirepoix to the pan and sauté two or three minutes. Add salt and pepper.

While the mirepoix is cooking, quickly make the beurre manie and coat the beef and bacon with it. Then add the meat back to the pan.

Pour in the wine and stock to cover the ingredients. Add small onions or shallots, garlic, parsley, and thyme. Bring to a boil.

Cover and bake for three hours at 140C

At the last, sauté the mushrooms in butter and stir into the stew.

Serve with boiled new potatoes.

Avgolemono

If simplicity and elegance in the most satisfying dishes is beginning to appear as a theme in this blog, then this is no accident. The Greeks are as devoted to Avgolemono as the Provencal are to Bouillabaisse and the Portuguese are to Caldo Verde, and for all the same reasons; that a few virtuosic ingredients are allowed to play keening music together in one forthrightly orchestrated bowl.

Avgolemono is a simple soup of chicken stock, orzo pasta or rice, egg, and lemon. Smooth and piquant and charismatically persuasive, it rouses the appetite in an assertive, even bellicose way. And what does one do with a lemon-scented stock from a Greek roast chicken but put it to most urgent use as the basis for this most necessary soup.

This takes an hour or two because a fresh stock is made, so this is a good weekend dish. The preparation is straightforward, though, so it will allow plenty of time to put together hummus, souvlaki, and whatever other Hellenic stalwarts might follow this coup de main. This recipe serves six as a first course, but will make a marvelous light supper for four if served with a salad and crusty bread.

 

Ingredients:

1 chicken carcass from a 2kg roasted chicken (with some meat left on it)

2 L water

2 carrots halved lengthwise

2 celery stalks

1 onion, halved (this can be the onion used to moisten a roast chicken during roasting)

2 bay leaves

2 tsp salt

1/2-3/4 C orzo pasta or rice

3 eggs, room temperature

Juice of two lemons, strained

 

Method:

Pick any useful meat from the chicken carcass and set it aside.

Combine the first seven ingredients in a stockpot. Simmer covered for an hour.While this is cooking, mince the meat reserved from the chicken quite finely and set aside.

Remove the vegetables to a bowl and set the chicken aside to glean any meat from the carcass. Strain the broth through a sieve into a large bowl, return it to the stockpot and return to the boil.

Add the orzo and cook for ten minutes until al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, whisk the eggs until frothy and then whisk in the lemon juice in a drizzle. Slowly add two or three ladles of stock from the pot, continually whisking, in order to temper the eggs.

When the pasta has cooked, turn the heat down to its lowest setting, add the reserved minced chicken meat, and once it has come back up to temperature, slowly stir in the egg and lemon mixture. Heat the whole for 5 minutes until it begins to thicken ever so slightly.

Serve it forth with a grating of fresh black pepper.

 

Traditionally this soup is served without the chicken meat added, but the minced chicken, in combination with the orzo, adds a toothsomeness to the dish that is irresistible.

 

 

Cioppino

The English weather is never extreme, but as a bank of fresh late winter rain rolls in over London, I’m grateful for my warm, cozy kitchen. Cioppino is a dish that trails gratefulness behind it in a long wake – a light in the late winter fog – a dish that holds the profundity of the cold ocean and the promise of bright summer together in embrace. Quintessentially American, this dish is a marriage of Ligurian immigrant cuisine and the early twentieth century bounty of the San Francisco Pacific. It transposes well to any winter kitchen anywhere, though. We had it tonight with a 2009 Cote du Py Morgon, torn chunks of pain de campagne and a simple mesclun salad in a state of near undress coated with walnut oil and and spiked with Maldon salt. Ecstasy.

This recipe serves 6 if restrained, or 3 if given free access to the pot.

Ingredients:

4 large garlic cloves, minced

2 medium onions, diced

1 bay leaf

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried hot pepper flakes (I know, they’re dried spices, but they are only there for the basso profundo)

1 small tin anchovies in oil

1/4 C olive oil

Fresh cracked black pepper to taste

1 green bell pepper, finely diced

2 Tbsp tomato paste

2 glasses dry, light red wine

2 400g cans chopped tomatoes (a good brand)

Fill both cans with water and add

500g crab legs

1 kilo mussels

500g firm fish (halibut, tuna, tilapia, whatever)

500g large prawns

1 dozen scallops

1 small bunch parsley, chopped

1 small bunch basil, chopped

Method:

Cook the garlic, onions, anchovies, bay, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes and pepper in the oil in a large pot over moderate heat until the onions are translucent. Stir in the bell pepper and tomato paste and cook for another minute. Add the wine and bring again to a boil. Add tomatoes and water and simmer for half an hour.

Add crab, scallops, prawns, and fish and bring back to the boil. Then add the mussels and/or clams, parsley and basil and cook until shellfish have opened. Ladle gratefully into wide bowls and consume.

(NB: The sauce is so fragrant that this is a good place to hide fish that isn’t fresh. Not shellfish, though. Shellfish should always be unimpeachably fresh. Please play fast and loose with the seafood in this dish and simply use what is at hand. It should always take about 2-3 kilos of seafood, about a third of which is shellfish.)