Py cooks…tomato soup

Soup for my sweet, sandwich for my honey,
Your first taste thrilled me so…

Soup-er fix

Soup-er fix

First, a bit of business. You may have noticed from the emphasis on love and passion in my post on porridge that I am feeling the love this February. This being so, I am going to devote my posts this month to those foods and meals that play a role in my love of life, and also, indeed, my love life.

Now ya’ll know by now that I love soup. It just seems to be something that my body craves during these cold, wet, and occasionally snowy, months. This is never more true than when I am also suffering from cold, another common feature of February. As this is currently the case (woe is me), I thought I would share my fool proof recovery meal: homemade tomato soup with a fish-less finger sandwich. It’s a miracle worker.

Now I have nothing against a good ol’ tin of soup. I have one almost every day. However, there really is something to be said for doing it yourself. Actually seeing the kilogram of tomatoes going into the mix makes you fully aware of the goodness you are going to take in; that knowledge alone makes you feel better.

Before...

Before…

...after.

…after.

You will also need...

You will also need…

It may not be pretty, but the charred bits and juices are the most important bit!

It may not be pretty, but the charred bits and juices are the most important bit!

INGREDIENTS

1kg tomatoes
 (the better tomatoes, the better the soup)
Pinch of sugar

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Bunch of basil, separated into leaves and stalks

600ml veggie stock

1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (+ extra to drizzle and serve)

2 – 3 tbsp creme fraiche

RECIPE

Preheat the oven to 190C/gas5

Cut the tomatoes in half (if you do it horizontally it means they will sit better on the tray). Arrange them, cut-side up, in a baking dish or tray, drizzle with oil and season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar.

Bake these for about an hour, until the tomatoes are soft and starting to char around the edges.

Heat a bit more oil in a large pan over a medium heat and add the chopped onion, carrot and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until softened.

Meanwhile, chop the basil stalks, and then add to the pan and cook for another minute.

Remove the tomatoes from the oven, and add them, plus any juices from the dish (which is the really important bit in getting the deep tomato flavour), to the pan.

Add the stock. Stir and bring to the boil, turn the heat down, cover and leave to simmer until all the vegetables are soft, which should take about 20-25 minutes.

Once the soup has cooled slightly, use a stick blender (or whatever you have) to purée the soup to whatever consistency you like.

Stir the vinegar and creme fraiche through the soup, and season to taste.

Reheat gently, while you tear the basil leaves into pieces, then serve with these and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar on top.

Enjoy!

As for accompaniments, some buttered bread may do. However, to have full effect on me I need some fish-less fingers, housed between two buttery slices of homemade white bread, with lashings of tomato ketchup. So wrong and yet so right.

So wrong and yet so right!

So wrong and yet so right!

Don’t I spoil you? Just a little while ago I gave you the cure for a hangover, and now you have the cure for a cold. No need to thank me though. These little things just help keep the love, even when things are a little less than rosy.

What cold cure do you swear by? And what soups do you really love?

Py xx

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What Stew Looking At?

Well, aren’t I like a bus? No words for ages, then two blogs come almost at once!

As I mentioned last time, winter food drives me wild. Especially winter food that comes with a cheesy, herby dumpling floating on the top. So this stew is just perfection to me.

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Loved ones may see the list of ingredients for this stew and begin to doubt the honesty of the above claim that this is perfection to me. Granted, the barley and spelt mix is found on the LoveLife aisle, whilst I am generally more inclined toward the ‘love carbs’ aisle. Nonetheless, the heartiness of this stew, and the gorgeous warming effect that it had on me in my unheated flat, won me over instantly. And, anyway, it is true to say that I love anything with a dumpling (or two) on top.

Notes on the recipe:
– This recipe is adapted from one found here, on the BBC GoodFood website. It serves 3-4, with 6 dumplings.
– Don’t feel constrained by the veg listed – they simply came in a pack – but just use whatever you like or whatever you have lurking in your kitchen.
– I would normally use uncooked pearl barley in this recipe (about 100g), however the supermarket were out of stock. In its place, as stated in the recipe, I used a cooked mix. Feel free to use whatever you wish. (But note that you will need far more liquid if using uncooked barley, about 1l stock, and it will reduce by around half as the barley soaks it up.)
– Ideally for this stew you would have a beautiful, vast casserole dish, perhaps one by Le Crueset. I don’t have such a thing. I use a large pan for the bit on the hob, then transfer it individual dishes for the oven part.

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INGREDIENTS:

1 tbsp olive oil
5 small shallots, peeled
1 big leek, thickly sliced
½ swede, peeled and chopped into chunks
1 parsnips, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
250g cooked grain mix (I used these)
About 1/4 bottle white wine
About 200ml vegetable stock, made from a cube
2 tbsp tomato purée
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
A small of bunch parsley, finely chopped

FOR THE DUMPLINGS

100g self-raising flour
50g salted butter, fridge cold
60g mature cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

RECIPE:

Heat the oil, over a medium heat, in a large pan (or large casserole dish). Add the shallots and cook for 5-6 mins until they start to soften. Then add the mound of leeks, and leave them to soften for a couple of minutes. Stir in the swede, parsnips and carrots. Get them all coated in oil and allow them to cook together for 5-6 minutes.

Pour in the barley mix and wine, and cook, uncovered until the wine has reduced a little (about 5-6 minutes). Add the stock, tomato purée, herbs and some seasoning (be careful as your stock may be salty).

Cover the pan, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 mins, until the veg is beginning to soften. (Do stir the stew every so often, to prevent sticking, and to check on the consistency; don’t be afraid to add liquid (stick or just boiled water) if your stew is too dry for your liking.)

Meanwhile, make the delightful little dumplings.

Heat your oven to 200C/gas 6. Rub the flour and butter together to form fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the cheese and herbs and mix well. Sprinkle 2 tbsp of water over the flour mix, then bring it all together with your hands to form a soft dough. Divide the mix into six, and shape into divine little balls.

If using a casserole dish, skip to the next step. If however you have been using a pan, now decant your stew into your chosen oven dish(es).

Dot your dumplings atop the stew and pop it all into the oven. Cook, uncovered, for 20-25 mins until dumplings are golden and plump.

Enjoy.

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Anyway, that’s all for now. I’m off to pack, as I am being whisked away to Paris for a couple of nights as a birthday treat. Aren’t I a lucky girl?!

On that note, if you wish to be made green with envy (or just see some snaps of hot chocolate quaffed on the Champs Élysées) please do follow me on twitter (@pyandplate) and instagram (pyandplate). I am occasionally funny.

Anyone got any twitter or instagram accounts that I should be checking out?