Thursday, September 18, 2008

Highs and Lows

With the tomato season now coming towards its end, feel that this recipe could make good use of a glut. For anyone who does not grow their own, canned plum tomatoes have even more flavour. To gain a more intense taste from the fairly bland bought tomatoes, cut in half and place cut side up in a grill pan, then grill until soft and beginning to scorch around the edges. They could also be roasted in the oven (when cooking something else). Not sure if the name I have given this soup is linguistically correct (Zuppa is Italian for soup and Pomodoro is Italian for tomatoes but what the heck... ). If you wish just a hint of garlic, remove slices from the oil after frying. If you like garlic blitz some or all of the slices with the tomatoes where stated.
Zuppa Pomodoro: serves 6
8 fl oz (225ml) olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
9 lb (4kg) tomatoes, skinned, quartered, deseeded
...OR half their weight in canned plum tomatoes
1 pint (570ml) water
salt and pepper
1 tsp sugar or to taste
1 ciabatta loaf
handful fresh basil leaves
Heat half the oil, but not too hot and stir in the garlic. Cook over low heat for a few minutes until just beginning to colour, then either remove the garlic, or leave in the pan. Add the tomatoes and simmer, uncovered for about half an hour, stirring from time to time. When the liquid has reduced and the tomatoes become concentrated, stir in the sugar and seasoning to taste. Pour in the water, stir and bring to the boil.
Remove as much of the crust from the ciabatta as you can and tear the crumb into chunks. Add this to the tomato mixture and stir until the bread has absorbed the liquid (add more boiling water if too thick). Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes, then tear up the basil leaves and stir these into the soup, along with the remaining oil. Stand for 10 minutes, then serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a scattering of fresh basil leaves.

This next soup is simple to make, and although the traditional way is to use a home-made gammon stock, myself prefer to use a ham stock cube. Alternatively this soup can be made using vegetable stock. Although the weight of carrots is given, this can be approximate as carrots do not always come in uniform sizes, so we don't want to be left with a couple of inches do we?
Carrot and Lentil Soup: serves 6
9 oz (250g) carrots, finely chopped
2 onions, finley chopped
4 oz (100g) red lentils
3 pints (1.7ltrs) gammon stock*
ground black pepper
Put everything into a large saucepan, cover and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about half an hour until everything is tender. Puree in a food processor or blender. Serve with chopped parsley or croutons.
Note: * the one stock made in the Goode kitchen is always (and usually only) chicken stock. Chicken stock cubes are too salty. On the other hand it is often worth keeping other flavoured stock cubes. Fish, ham, lamb and Italian Vegetable stock cubes are always useful to keep in store. The Marigold bouillon vegetable powder is excellent. As to beef stock, myself prefer to use a spoonful of Bovril (from a jar), or AWT's Beef Gravy. For vegetarians, Marmite can make a good substitute for beef stock. A spoon of Bovril or Marmite stirred into boiling water makes a good winter drink. Not quite a soup and certainly not a cup of tea, but nonetheless very satisfying and warming.

This next soup, although made similar to the above with lentils, carrots and gammon stock is completely different. For a change try making it with all split peas, or half split peas, half lentils
Lentil Soup with Bacon: serves 4
1 oz (25g) butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
8 oz (225g) red lentils, washed and drained
2 tblsp tomato puree
2 1/2 pints (1.5ltrs) ham stock
4 oz (100g) streaky bacon, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely diced
handful fresh parsley, leaves finely chopped
Saute the onion in the butter, adding the garlic after 3 minutes. Cook a further minute then stir in the lentils and tomato puree. Cook for five minutes, stirring to prevent sticking, then add the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for half an hour or until the lentils are tender. Blitz in a food processor/blender until smooth then return to pan and add the bacon, carrot and parsley. Simmer until the carrots are tender then serve.