Cooking for one somehow seems more complicated than it should be. Even though it’s just a case of halving a recipe designed for two if I’m ever cooking for myself I often find myself opting for a slice of toast rather than anything more involved. But toast isn’t really that filling for dinner and no matter how much jam you spread on I’m not sure it’ll count as one of your five a day. That’s where this simple beef and chard ramen comes in. It is easy to scale up or down, you can use almost anything that you have in your kitchen and it doesn’t take much time to put together.
I made some enchiladas a few weeks ago and added one chipotle chilli for four people. You couldn’t taste it at all; there was a little bit of smoky flavour but no chilli heat; it wasn’t the end of the world, they were still very tasty. When I made this Smoky Chipotle Tomato Soup I added one chilli again, this time for two people, and it was probably the hottest thing I have ever eaten. It’s amazing how different two chillies that look just the same can have completely different heat levels. Despite it being so hot, it was actually rather delicious. Served with lots of bread and a glass of milk.
I like to look forward to my lunches; whether I’m using up some leftovers to make a quick salad, sticking all sorts of ingredients in a sandwich or slurping on soup. Sometimes it can be very tempting to just grab the quickest thing in the kitchen but if I do that I am invariably disappointed at lunch time. So say hello to my three easy soup toppings which can all be made in less than five minutes, using ingredients you probably already have and can be made in advance to enjoy at work.
New Covent Garden Soups are currently encouraging everyone to revive their lunch life, something I was really keen to get involved with as I think lunch can make or break a day. Below are my three easy soup toppings and the soups that I chose to serve them with. You can get creative and add any of the toppings to any of the soups and have a go at putting your own twist on them too.
First impressions are terribly important, but then so is not judging a book by its cover. This may look, on first glance, like a bowl of indistinct yellow mush but trust me, don’t judge this bowl of incredible-ness by its ‘rustic’ appearance. When I have a bowl of dahl it has to be three things: comforting, frugal and full of garlic. My Yellow Split Pea Dahl, which I have been trying and testing for some time now, fulfils all of my dahl needs and wants. Absolutely dahl-icious.
In case it has escaped your attention, September is the month where people make a fuss about organic; aptly named Organic September. I have to admit that the majority of food that I buy is already organic so for me I wanted to try some new organic ingredients that I hadn’t tried before. I loaded up my weekly veg box with tomatillos, Homity pies and all sorts. I was challenged as part of Organic September to make an all organic three course meal, for four people, which cost less than £30.
I have done a few dinner parties before but not a budget conscious one so I was looking forward to seeing what I could make without going over the allowance. Initially I thought a roast chicken would be quite a good idea but with the cold weather closing in I wanted to make something a bit more hearty and autumnal.
My three course menu ended up being as follows: Pea and Bacon Soup (recipe in this post), Beef Cooked with Beer and Onions (see below) and Blackberry and Pear Pavlova (recipe for this one to follow). My total spend in the supermarket to get all the ingredients I needed was £25.85. I already have organic flour, sugar, vegetable stock and oil in my cupboards so if you don’t the spare change allows you to pick up these bits too and have plenty leftover to use in future. I used my change to pick up some lovely organic bread to serve with the soup.
Pea and bacon soup is one of my favourite combinations but as I don’t have a freezer I have nowhere to keep frozen peas so don’t get to make it very often. Not to worry though as my recipe conveniently uses a whole bag of peas at once. It makes four big portions, or four smaller ones for your dinner party with two left for lunch the next day.
You will need (all ingredients organic):
- 1 bag frozen peas (750g)
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
- 600ml hot water with 2 tsp vegetable bouillon powder stirred in
- Oil for frying
- Salt and pepper (not organic)
- 6 rashers of bacon, diced
Start by frying the onion and potato together over a low/medium heat with a little oil until softened.
Add the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
Stir in the peas and return to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 3 minutes.
Blend the soup with a hand blender or in a food processor then pour back into the pan to keep warm. Check the seasoning and add any salt and pepper as needed.
While the soup is keeping warm dry fry the bacon in a frying pan until brown and crispy.
Serve up the soup with the bacon on top.
I love what a fantastically vibrant colour the soup comes out. It’s light and fresh but without being too frugal. The sweet peas and salty bacon are classic companions and the potato gives the soup a lovely texture. A sprig or two of mint would be a good addition if you have any hanging about.
With the starter all eaten it was on to my Beef with Beer and Onions. A delicious and slightly cheaper version of Boeuf Bourguignon I love this recipe. It’s one I’ve made before so you can find the recipe here. Slow cooked (for a no fuss dinner party) and simply served with some mashed potatoes and some shredded cabbage that came in my veg box.
Everything was followed up with my Blackberry and Pear Pavlova, the recipe for which is here. Have you given something new and organic a try this month?
I really like duck; usually in a pancake with plenty of spring onion, cucumber and hoisin sauce. If it’s on a menu in a restaurant I will normally order it because I love the flavour. Gressingham (the remarkable duck people) got in touch to see if I’d like to come up with a recipe with some of their duck and I thought it was a great opportunity to have a go at cooking something I enjoy eating but don’t cook that often. Ramen is something that I find both cleansing and filling and love that you can add whatever you like to it. This pulled duck ramen is a great way to use leftover duck and is really quick and easy to make.
I always like seeing sweetcorn growing in the fields near where I live; it’s one of my absolute favourite vegetables. The only thing that is a little irritating is the inevitable corn-stuck-in-the-teeth situation which ensues after consuming corn from the cob. Particularly irksome if surrounded by unfamiliar company. Worth it though; especially if you’re lucky enough to have a 50:50 butter to corn ratio. If you’re looking for something different to try with your cobs, this sweetcorn chowder is my most favourite soup ever.
I’m not sure you can ever have too many vegetables in the house at once but at this time of year with the peas in the garden, the veg box and whatever looks tempting at the farmers’ market I can find it a little challenging to close the fridge door. You know it’s got a bit excessive when your carrot fronds are getting in the way of the door seal. If you find yourself fighting some spinach to reach the butter or battling beans to get to the mayonnaise there’s only one thing for it: make a minestrone.
When I was younger I didn’t much care for vegetables. The one exception to this was my regular request for ‘Mummy’s Vegetable Soup’. I had tried soup in tins, in restaurants or at other people’s houses but nothing else came close. I think the thing that fascinated me about it was that no matter what amount or combination of vegetables went in (never potato) it would always come out somewhere between green and orange and it would be just right. No stock, no cream, no cheese it was just vegetables and water. It was my Mum’s way of clearing out the fridge, feeding me vegetables (willingly!) and it was even better after a snowball fight.
There’s plenty of inspiration around at the moment for your Brussels sprouts, turkey, leftovers and the like. The thing I find my fridge full of, at this time of year particularly is cheese. Don’t get me wrong I will happily eat it all on its own or with copious pickled onions but when you’re preparing for a week of non-stop eating it’s nice to have something light and fresh to get things going. This recipe also helps to make a small dent in the side of any cheese mountain you may be harbouring.