Monday, 29 February 2016

Spiced Red Kidney Bean Soup

I've given up parsley for Lent and we still have weeks and weeks to go, it already feels like ages. This soup recipe however uses bay leaves, two of them fresh if you are lucky enough to have a bay tree or live in Fentiman Road where the local pub has a magnificent one. The other particular flavourings are cumin, chilli and a tiny but relevant amount of cinnamon. The result is a delicious warming soup with definite flavours of Central America. How else could you feed 4 to 6 people with a hearty luncheon dish using little more than a carrot, a leek, an onion and some kidney beans.

For thie recipe you will need;
300g of cooked red kidney beans
80g of chopped carrots
80g of chopped leek
1 small onion
1 tablespoon of sofrito click here for the recipe
1 tablespoon of tomato oil click here for the recipe
1 tablespoon of good tomato puree
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 teaspoon of chili flakes
2 teaspoons of Pul Biber chilli
1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
1/3 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
2 bay leaves
1/2 tablespoon of light olive oil
2 litres of vegetable stock
50g of unsalted butter

Begin by gently frying the spices in the light olive oil in a large saucepan for 1 minute. Add the chopped vegetables and the sofrito. Sweat the vegetables gently for 3 to 4 minutes before adding the tomato puree and the tomato oil, continue to cook over a gentle heat for a further 3 to 4 minutes. I've said it before but it's essential to cook out tomato puree whenever you are using it in order to soften and enrich the flavour. Add the cooked beans and the vegetable stock, throw in the bay leaves and pop on a lid, simmer the soup for a good hour to an hour and a half.
I like to think I invented this next step, a method of enriching any soup without having to add cream and in so doing, giving it in my opinion, too dairy a flavour. I blend some or all of a soup with a small amount of butter. I restrict the amount of oil used in the first place in order to avoid the soup being to oily. In this case I blend about half the soup, taking care to include the bulk of the beans and to remove the bay leaves before starting. I want to end up with a soup that has some texture and this method works well. Add the butter and taking the precautions you always would whilst blending any hot liquid, blend until you have a smooth result. Return the blended soup to the remaining soup in the saucepan and heat through before serving.

It must be obvious to people that the weights for the vegetables are a bit arbitrary, I still have carrots I am happily pulling up in my garden and a few stray leeks, you can always adjust these weights to suit what you have in the house. It is also true that you could choose alternative beans, borlotti or pinto beans would be good as indeed flageolet beans would, though of course they would produce subtly different flavoured soups. As with all good recipes this is one that I would hope people will adapt to suit their pantry's contents.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

February Cake

You know what it's like, you buy an extra pot of double cream, thinking that the Bishop of Ely or the Ukrainian Ambassador might drop in for tea and when no such dignitary turns up and the use by date is getting close, you have to come up with a plan. I decided to create a recipe for a chocolate cake, not the intense deep chocolate flavour of my moist chocolate cake click here for the recipe but a cake with a light chocolate flavour, utilising a good milk chocolate, I favour Green & Black. I apologise now for the fact that this recipe relies on a food processor and an electric whisk, but it's the first day of Lent, so perfect timing.

For this recipe you will need;
250g of self raising flour
250g of caster sugar
4 medium eggs
300g of double cream (sadly not available in the United States)
150g of good quality milk chocolate
1 teaspoon of vanilla paste
1/4 teaspoon of salt

Heat the oven to 180C, prepare 2, 20c shallow cake tins by lining with baking parchment on the base and greasing the sides with softened butter.
Begin by processing the flour and chocolate in a food processor until you have a fine, pale chocolate powder with only the odd speck of chocolate, this should take no more than a minute. Whisk the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt until you have a thick pale creamy foam. In another bowl whip the cream until you have soft peaks. fold the whipped cream into the egg and sugar mix and finally fold in the chocolate flour. Transfer to the prepared cake tins and bake in the oven for 35 minutes. Cool completely before turning out of the tins. I sandwiched mine together with a butter cream frosting, flavoured with chocolate hazelnut spread and cream cheese. I sprinkled a few toasted hazelnuts on the top having spread half the frosting on first.

Processing the chocolate in the flour makes it possible to achieve a fine grind, it also means the ingredient gets evenly distributed. Its a really good method of grinding up ingredients such as dates, crystallised ginger featured in the January cake, nuts, liquorice etc.