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guillaume’s gazpacho

25 Apr

gazpacho

My favourite kinds of recipes are the ones that are handwritten, folded neatly into squares and maybe lost at the bottom of a handbag for a while. Or written in a travel notebook to be made on returning, to bring a bit of the holiday sunshine home.

Even though it was a grey, cool Sunday, I really wanted to make the gazpacho recipe I have been carrying around, neatly written out on French graph paper. I had been warned that it needed at least 12 hours if not 24 to marinate, and was curious to see what difference that made. And we were going to have a long, rich, foie gras filled lunch out. So in the morning, I roughly chopped all of the ingredients and left them in the fridge to soften and meld and intensify. It looked remarkably like panzanella, one of my favourite summer dishes – tomatoes, bread, herbs, oil and vinegar, bread to soak up all the juices – that I wondered if I would blend it after all. The ingredients are so simple that you will have to trust me, the way I trusted my colleague Guillaume, that the sum is greater than its parts.

Most important are good tomatoes, which are popping up at the markets again. The ones that seem to be barely held in their own skins, they are so juicy. The final stall at the end of my street market had the most attractive coeur de boeuf, with those satiny grooves in their flesh. We had jugs of herbs – one euro for three bunches – decorating our new yellow kitchen. And there is always at least half a baguette going stale on the second shelf, just out of reach of the cat. (She will eat everything she can get her claws into, anything we forget to guard for a minute or two, including hummus, brioche and macarons. Sometimes she just likes to puncture bags of flour to watch it stream out and pool on the floor.) Everything ready for a gazpacho.

After a day in the fridge, after blending, the garlic lost its bite, the bread absorbed the oil and tomato juice. The fresh tomatoes, peppers and cucumber kept the spark and verve of almost-summer. For a cold soup, it had real body. And yet it was remarkably comforting, easy to eat at the end of a long day, even if not boiling hot outside. And a few simple, crunchy toppings – garlic croutons, herbs, cucumber – allow people to customise their own gazpacho bowl.

~~~

Guillaume’s Gazpacho

Do buy the nicest, ripest tomatoes you can find. Coeur de boeuf, or beef heartare full of flavour. The recipe is minimal effort, maximum patience: chop everything and then let marinate for up to 24 hours. Trust that your evening self will be grateful for your preparation the previous night, or morning. If I am making a half-batch for one or two people, everything just fits into the food processor bowl which goes in the fridge. One less bowl to wash up.

makes enough for 4 as a main course, 6 as a starter

4 large beefheart tomatoes (about 800g)

2 large red peppers

1 large cucumber

2 fat cloves garlic

half a stale baguette (or 150g white bread)

80ml (1/3 cup) olive oil

40ml (2 1/2 tbs) balsamic vinegar

salt, pepper

(optional: generous handful of fresh herbs like basil or parsley)

to serve:

more stale bread / olive oil / garlic clove

seeds (sunflower, pumpkin)

cucumber / avocado

fresh herbs

Peel the cucumber, and roughly chop it and the tomatoes and peppers. Cut or tear the bread into cubes. Finely mince the garlic. Toss it all with the oil, vinegar and herbs. Season with the salt and pepper. Leave to rest for 12-24 hours in the fridge.

Blend in batches with a food processor or blender, adding a little water to thin it out – between 125-250ml (1/2 – 1 cup). If you want it really cold on a hot day, you can add ice cubes instead. Check the seasoning and consistency as you go: some like a very smooth soup, I like a little texture.

For the toppings: cube any leftover stale bread and gently fry in olive oil with a whole clove of garlic until crisp and brown. Or toast some seeds with oil and some chilli pepper. Dice some cucumber and/or avocado. Finely chop some herbs (parsley, chives, coriander) or tear up some basil.

Ladle the gazpacho into bowls and add a drizzle of olive oil on top. Serve with a selection of toppings in little dishes so that everyone can add their own.

leftovers (08.12.2014)

8 Dec

octopus lisbon

Recent leftovers include:

Too many roast potatoes turned into soup with a whole roasted bulb of garlic and lots of coriander.

Tartines of onion jam, goat’s cheese and caramelised fennel at 5 o’clock in the morning. Perfect midnight feast food.

Thumbprint cookies made of scraps of buttery tart pastry from the salted caramel pecan tart, rolled into balls and covered in coconut. Pressed each ball firmly with a thumb, indent filled with raspberry-tangerine jam. Baked until golden.

Recently reading/writing:

Since Paris seems to be enjoying a second wave of japonisme I am  re-reading the first few chapters of The Hare with the Amber Eyes.

Both David Lebovitz and Tim Hayward in the FT magazine (free registration necessary to read) have been talking about travelling and the fine balance between wanting to find the “undiscovered” away from any other tourists, and of course, needing a guide. Which I thought about when I went to Lisbon last month with a friend: some places live up to the hype, are worth repeating, worth the queue. (The pasteis de Belem really were fantastic, although now I know the Paris version comes a pretty close second.) Some, selfishly, I did not want to spoil by sharing, like the fantastic octopus at Jeronimo.

This weekend I am off to Madrid. I will be packing an Everyman/Cartoville guide: my favouite guidebooks (apart from my own of course!) since they are simple and condensed with fold out maps for each area. This article about Hemingway’s Madrid. And a new sketchbook – I have been playing with watercolour, trying to do more rough sketches to capture the feel of a city, like the lovely Sketchbook from Southern France.

And totally un-related to food, for a diversion from work on a Friday afternoon, I look forward to Ann Friedman’s newsletter in my inbox. Full of links for recent funny, thought-provoking words around the web.

Bonne semaine!

butternut, lentil and ginger soup

11 Oct

004

Halfway to the metro stop is an Indian grocery shop, open until the small hours. I pop in for milk and butter and get distracted by yellow split peas, coconut oil, natural peanut butter, things that can’t be found in French supermarkets. Plantains, orange flower water. Large bags of hazelnuts and almonds are much cheaper too. I stock up on grilled and salted corn kernels, for the new English flatmate and I are addicted, and crystallised ginger.

There is always a friendly word and a smile. Once they added a jar of ginger-garlic paste  to my bag as a gift. It is a perfect pick-me-up for a nearly bare fridge, with stir-fried cabbage or chicken or chickpeas. Yesterday I bought red lentils for a kitchen cupboard soup. Squash keep well for a long time, and even make a nice decoration. Chicken stock (from the freezer) really rounds out the flavour for a satisfying rich taste. Everything else came from the cupboard. I baked the squash before going out in the morning, then barely needed half an hour before lunch to make a hearty meal.

I was worried it would be boring, but the soup had depth, sweet and spicy. The lentils make it filling, needing only a baguette with some blue cheese for sharp contrast. And it was a perfect autumn colour.

~~~

Obviously you can use fresh garlic and fresh ginger, but it is useful to have a jar of ginger-garlic paste and a jar of curry paste on hand. Peek into the Indian grocery stores around La Chapelle and Gare du Nord for inspiration.

~~~

Butternut, lentil and ginger soup

serves 4

1 butternut squash

2 onions

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp ginger and garlic paste

1 tsp madras curry paste

200g (1 cup) red lentils

125 ml  (1/2 cup) white wine

750ml (3 cups) chicken stock

salt and pepper

extra water

Peel and thickly slice butternut squash. Bake in a 200C oven with a little olive oil and salt until soft and caramelised around the edges.

Roughly chop the onions, sautee in olive oil until translucent. Add the ginger and garlic paste and garam masala, stir for a minute. Add the lentils and let them toast for a minute as well. Pour in the white wine and chicken stock. Cover and let simmer until the lentils are cooked through. It won’t take long. Meanwhile, cut up the roasted squash, then add to cooked lentils.

Blend everything together (careful not to burn yourself on the hot liquid/steam). Taste and season with salt and pepper. You may need to add up to 250ml extra water depending on how thick you like it.

Serve with crusty bread and a sharp cheese.

new year soup

1 Jan

spoon

Between the Christmas festivities and the expansion of our pâtisserie to a grand total of two shops just a month beforehand, my schedule has felt a little vampiric recently. For the month of December, I had to work nights to make up the deficit in yule logs for the new shop. At first I enjoyed the calm and the quiet, stirring figures of eight in vats of crème anglaise and pouring the finished bavaroise into hundreds of long gutter-shaped moulds. I liked coming home at sunrise, picking my way through the morning market with its oysters, pyramids of tangerines and a solitary suckling pig. Then I started to miss the clatter of customers and the warmth of the bread oven. The time difference began to give me all the dizziness of jetlag. We worked in organized panic right up until the morning of the 25th, icing and decorating, before we could finally take a breath.

New Year’s Day meant catching the metro at 5.30a.m. as usual, but this time with a crowd of tired revellers and a strong smell of vomit and cigarettes permeating the carriages. It meant the parties were over and I could go back to the comfort of a daily routine. Best of all, it meant New Year Soup.

Until we sat down to drink the simple broth, buoyed up with cabbage and scraps of chicken, I had been muttering grumpily to myself about the seemingly endless long hours. It is all very well following a dream, but the reality always seems to include more drudgery than bargained for. It is one thing to have a burning passion, but if it leaves scorched earth behind it… In short, I was as miserable as a sleepy toddler.

But the soup – o-zōni, a Japanese tradition for New Year’s Day – was nourishment itself, flavoured with miso and fish stock and a splash of yuzu (a citrus fruit even more bitter than lemon). Floating in the middle, a sticky mochi rice cake on which many old age pensioners and young children choke every year. Though it is obviously a sad predicament, I had to laugh at the dangerous nature of their celebration soup and at the obvious joy my Japanese colleagues showed in drinking every last drop.

For the rest of the afternoon, I felt like a person again. Like I could go back to writing and running, two parts that make up my whole, as well as working. I would have the time to indulge all of my passions and not get lost in just one. I started noticing, and taking pleasure in, the satiny fluff of egg yolks whipped with hot sugar and the scrap of blue sky out of our new window. Paragraphs started shaping themselves in my head… until the milk boiled over.

Back to work, now with a lighter heart. Fortified by lucky soup and all the possibility of beginnings. Happy New Year, everyone!

~~~

P.S. Upon googling o-zōni, I have discovered a fierce rival. Cooking with Dog – charismatic and well-coiffed, and he is even called Francis. I fear I cannot compete.

cauliflower soup with toasted hazelnuts

26 Dec

cauliflower, whole

The pile of books by my bed is getting dangerously high. Possibly because I am ignoring the worthy French literature in favour of Nigel Slater’s ‘The Kitchen Diaries II.’ If I am too tired to actually cook, reading his simple prose is a comforting substitute. His are recipes of happenstance, of successful improvisation. He knows food well enough to play with it, to strip it bare and  build it back up again.

I want to say it is “real food” but that carries shades of judgement, like “real women have curves.” Slater is honest: though he admits that there is a better flavour in soaked beans, he cheats when he is hungry after a day in the garden. (Girls come in different shapes and sizes and food is always real, whether you have the time and energy to kill and pluck your own pheasant, or you just want to trick out a can of beans.)

It is earthy practical writing, punctuated with the odd hymn to the perfect wok, to the spurtle (a porridge stirrer) that is delightful to read. Also, I adore his grumpy “the world doesn’t need another cupcake recipe.”

Though his baked potatoes with rillettes are high on my list, the book ribbon is marking his cauliflower soup. It is pure and hearty – no cream, he insists, as it masks the shy flavour of cauliflower, which is supported by bacon and bay leaf and pepper. To decorate, he saves a few florets before blending the soup smooth and toasts some hazelnuts with oil and salt.

I do not have any stock in the freezer – rarely ever do, since it is Parisian pocket-sized – but improvised with a few dried porcini slices and a parmesan rind. I think Nigel would approve.

cauliflower, halved

Cauliflower soup with toasted hazelnuts

serves 6 – from Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries

1 enormous cauliflower

3 rashers good-quality bacon

1 onion

1 clove garlic

1.2 litres stock (or water + porcini + parmesan rind)

2 bay leaves

100g hazelnuts

1 tsp olive oil

salt and pepper

Cut bacon small and fry in its own fat until crisp and golden. Dice the onion and cook with bacon until translucent. Finely chop the garlic and add at the last minute so it does not burn.

Cut cauliflower in half, cut out the middle stalk and break the florets into small pieces with your hands. Chop the stalks small as well. Add cauliflower, stock and bay leaves to the pot and allow to simmer until the cauliflower is tender.

Remove bay leaves and a few florets for decoration. Let cool a little while you toast the hazelnuts in a small frying pan with the olive oil. When they start to smell toasty, go brown inside, they are done. Add a generous pinch of sea-salt.

Blend the soup perfectly smooth – be careful with hot liquid in a blender! – and add generous pinches of salt and pepper. Taste. Serve with the remaining whole florets and a few hazelnuts sprinkled on top.

cucumber, melon and yoghurt gazpacho

9 Aug

Like most things in life, there is an easy way and a hard way.

You can throw an elaborate Sunday brunch for all your friends. (Menu may or may not include ridiculous impossible mushroom quiche; warm potato salad with gherkins and sunflower seeds; cucumber and melon salad with mint, mocha maracons, cream cheese brownies and peach cake with chili sugar.)

Bake frantically for three days between night shifts on chocolate duty at work, wake up early to clean apartment, painstakingly filter 3 litres of cold-brewed iced coffee.

Enjoy being a hostess, if a little like a pushy Italian mamma. Eat, eat, why aren’t you eating?

The next morning, drowsy and still a little full from all the eating, find just a bowl of wilted melon salad left over. Blend with a little yoghurt. Discover it to be delicious and refreshing, worthy of both a restaurant and a hangover cure. The downfall of the salad – a little too juicy between the honeydew melon and the cucumber – is a positive boon for a soup.

It is a beautiful pastel green, with a slight crunch. Sweet and cool, definitely a starter for a hot summer day.

Or, alternatively:

Chop some cucumber, melon and mint. Add a few cubes of feta, yoghurt. Blend and serve with a sprig of mint.

So, which way was more fun?

Cucumber melon and yoghurt soup

per person:

1/2 cup diced cucumber, seeds removed

1/2 cup diced honeydew melon

1/2 cup (125ml) natural yoghurt

a few cubes of feta cheese, preferably marinated with oil and herbs

mint leaves

salt

Deseed and peel melon and cucumber. Chop roughly. Blend with yoghurt and feta and some mint. (If plain feta, add just a drop of olive oil to the mix.) Salt to taste. Chill for a couple of hours. (Or stick it in the freezer for 10 minutes, blend again.)

Serve very cold with a few mint leaves on top.

red pepper and almond soup

23 Feb

What do you do with that big restless pain of being alive? That is more than lonely or tired or just plain stressed? That doesn’t disappear with a quick fix or a pot of money?

I don’t know.

I do know that whatever it is, we swim up and out of it eventually. That those rough crunchy moments are always next door to sweet and calm ones, if you can only wait a little.

I know that miraculously, however sad and pathetic you might be feeling, there are some things that provide relief, and not just noise.

It’s best not to forget, exactly. Not to shout down the empty space. Go into it, listen a little, and then carry on again.

~~~

1. Tidy your desk. Post a letter. Do something that doesn’t take long, that you have been putting off. Then continue the existential despair with the secret satisfaction of not being completely useless.

2. Look up at the sky for five minutes. Time it. Don’t check your phone or glance at the pavement.

3. Take a scalding hot bath.

4. Make soup, preferably for someone else. Cook with care and dreamy slowness. Chop onions and roast peppers and drink deep.

Red pepper and almond soup

(imagined from a version at Bill’s Cafe @ All Saints)

serves 3-4, just about – make more if hungry!

2 large red peppers

1 onion

2 cloves garlic

1 kg tomato puree / tinned tomatoes

500ml veg stock / water and stock cube

150g ground almonds (or hazelnuts are good too)

1/2 tsp rice vinegar (use cider or sherry vinegar for a milder taste)

1/2 tsp sugar

salt and pepper

Roast the peppers whole in a hot hot oven for half an hour, or until they collapse, skin blackened.

Toast the nuts on a baking sheet at the same time – just a few minutes until golden but not brown.

Chop the onion and garlic and fry in a large saucepan with olive oil. When translucent, add tomato puree and water/stock. Leave to simmer until pepper has roasted.

Remove stalks and seeds from the peppers (don’t burnt your fingers!) and add to pot. Tip in nuts too. Blend carefully (hot) then stir in sugar, vinegar and seasonings. Taste to check.

velvet carrot soup

8 Dec

The lovely flatmate and I often end up leaving each other notes in lieu of actual facetime. More often than not, I get a pointed do the washing up, please. I normally leave, I LOVE YOU (I took your shoes) or on a good day cake! eat delicious cake in fridge!

Sunday evening though, I cancelled my plans for a long bath and a pair of striped possum socks. When I surfaced, rumpled and steam-damp, the flatmate was waiting, with carrot soup firmly in mind.

Velvety, it has to be velvety.

She chopped and I googled (fair division of labour, no?) finding a suitable version from Joy the Baker. We streamlined it to the contents of our fridge and a Sunday craving for simplicity. No ginger, no fashionable cumin. Just a hint of lemon zest, with coconut milk in the background, serving to spotlight the overwhelming sweet smooth carrot.

It doesn’t seem like a remarkable recipe in fact: but the velvet texture comes from a limited amount of liquid, creating a thick orange lava. This is no watery make-do soup. It’s more like a carrot puree, filling and indulgent (like pudding! but made of carrots!) but still good for your insides.

So good I made it again three days later, and got another note in reply:

Gnammy! Buonissima!      (official Italian stamp of approval)

Velvet carrot soup

(simplified from Joy the Baker, serves two or three)

dash of olive oil

750g carrots, diced

600ml vegetable stock

zest of half a lemon

coriander leaves

two shallots

65g coconut milk

salt, pepper

Roughly chop shallots and fry in a splash of olive oil, large saucepan. When soft, add the diced carrots and cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes. (Let them get some colour without going black around the edges.) Add the vegetable stock, bring to a simmer and cover. Let simmer for 20 minutes or so, until the carrots are soft but not mush.

Take off heat, add lemon zest and coconut milk and blend to a smooth smooth velvet puree. (Take care when blending hot soups, they can explode and cover you in painful orange liquid.) Add more stock if you like – I prefer it thick. Salt and pepper – you can add a little chili oil for punch, or lemon if you like it bitter-sweet, but try it plain first.

chicken soup with lemon, ginger and nam pla

7 Oct

Sunday was market day. Two pineapples, lots of lemons, a bag of carrots that went mouldy the day after, and a chicken, its head lolling grotesquely. Squeamish girls, we asked for the head and feet to be chopped off.

Sunday night we had roast chicken and leek tart. I boasted that I had not been really sick, stay at home miserable sick, for more than a year.

Wednesday the leftover roast chicken went in a pot with a red onion and a dodgy carrot. The tiny apartment was invaded by chicken stock, the scent of smug preparation. We thought of risottos, soups, pasta.

Thursday morning I got sick. Nauseous, head-spinning sick. At a creepy crawly pace I cut salmon slices at work. Whipped eggs and almonds. For once I didn’t want to taste the latest experiment: turmeric, pistachio and rose-water tart. I just wanted to go back to bed. To have someone make me chicken soup.

No-one made me soup. I went home early (was accosted by a creepy pony-tailed man who insisted on complimenting my breasts) and dozed off alone on the sofa.

I made me soup. I chopped onion and courgette, grated ginger. Skimmed the fat off the stock. Pulled the remaining scraps of chicken from the grey carcass. Stirred, slowly. I squeezed in half a lemon and added a tiny splash of soy sauce and fish sauce, nam pla, for flavour without salt.

It was clear if not pretty, a lemon slice floating on the surface. Light and bright and soothing. Just right (and just easy enough) for sad invalids. When I feel better, I might add salt and pepper, bulghur wheat or rosemary-garlic croutons, cherry tomatoes. Cream. Endless possibilities.

Chicken soup for sad, sick people

For the stock:

1 leftover chicken carcass (roast or not), a little meat left on

1 red onion

1 carrot

For the soup:

a little olive oil

1 red onion

1 courgette

1 inch ginger

50ml white wine

leftover chicken pieces

chicken stock

2 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp nam pla (fish sauce)

juice of 1/2 lemon

lemon slice, to decorate

Make the chicken stock: (Preferably the night before.) In a huge pot, place your chicken bones, hopefully with a little meat left on, onion and carrot. Fill the pot (at least enough to cover the chicken). Bring to a boil and then turn down to simmer for at least one hour if not two. The kitchen should smell satisfactorially chickeny. Let cool and skim off some of the fat on the surface.

Make the soup: Heat olive oil in a large saucepan. Finely dice the onion and courgette and grate the ginger. Sautee the onion until translucent, then add the courgette and ginger. Cook and stir every now and then until the courgette is nice and soft. Add the white wine and let most of it bubble off.

Now add enough stock to fill your saucepan. While it heats, pull any leftover chicken meat off the bones and shred it with your fingers. Add to pot. Squeeze in the lemon juice, add the soy sauce and nam pla. Let it warm to desired temperature, then serve with a slice of lemon.

If you are not sick – I hate you. But you may add fun things: croutons, parmesan, black pepper, creme fraiche, lardons.

 

 

 

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