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Archive for the ‘soup’ Category

miso soup with clams

In soup, year-round on 17 October, 2012 at 8:56 am

If you like clams, and you like miso soup, I urge you to make this as soon as possible.

In fact, even if you think you don’t like clams, but you like miso soup, I reckon you should at least give this a try.

(If you don’t like clams or miso soup, this might not be for you. But maybe you’d like to rethink your stance. Unless, of course, you have a shellfish allergy, in which case, please don’t rethink your stance.)

When I lived in Japan ten years ago (! showing my age) I was, at first, the pickiest teenager alive. I didn’t eat fish, eggs, potatoes, pretty much any vegetable except carrots and lettuce. But slowly, things changed, and by the end of my year there I ate nearly everything. And what brought me around to clams was the time, one morning, my host mother served a bowl of clam miso soup with breakfast. I was at first wary, then delighted: an instant convert. Now it’s one of my favourite ways to have miso soup.

It’ s a very basic recipe – just three or four ingredients – but the result is both light and rich, deeply savoury and complex. It makes sense: clams (packed with umami) plus miso (also packed with umami). Umami plus umami equals very delicious. Incredibly satisfying. Salty, meaty, but not too intense.

When I’ve had clam miso soup (あさりのみそ汁) in Japan, the clams have always been a small, littleneck variety. They’re lovely and delicate, their thin shells clinking together as you sip from the bowl, the little meaty morsels providing miniature flavour bursts with each mouthful. I’m not sure if this species of clam is commercially available in New Zealand, but nevermind that – just use what you can get. (For me, it was the much larger, but still very tasty, Cloudy Bay clams I picked up from Rachel at the City Market a couple Sundays ago.)

Normally, the key to a good miso soup is a good dashi base, made from dried fish and/or kombu. But because the clams are so packed with flavour, you can get away without making a dashi for this one. (I prefer to make a light, kombu-based dashi beforehand, but it’s entirely optional).

CLAM MISO SOUP
(translated and adapted from this recipe – serves 2)

1 10 x 10cm piece kombu (optional)
2.5 cups water
200g clams (in shell)
1.5 – 2 tbsp miso, depending on how strong you want it
chopped spring onions

Slowly bring kombu and water to a boil over medium heat, let simmer a few minutes, remove kombu (this step is optional if you don’t have kombu).

Add clams and simmer until they all open up. Remove from heat and stir in miso. Add spring onions.

That’s about it. I like to leave it on a low heat for a little while for the flavours to meld, but don’t let it boil again once you add the miso.

ps. somewhat but not entirely coincidentally, in a few days I’m off to Japan for a month or so and will hopefully eat plenty of clam miso soup while I’m over there. If you’d like to follow my adventures I’ll be writing a travel blog of sorts at strangersandnoodles.wordpress.com.

chicken & barley soup

In autumn, soup, winter, year-round on 23 April, 2012 at 7:10 pm

It’s hard to believe we’re already almost at the end of April, the days are getting shorter and darker, I’ve finally re-embraced wearing tights. It seems like just yesterday that we were all complaining about the lack of a summer, and now here we are, thigh-deep in autumn, whether we like it or not. I like it. Despite the deliriously frantic pace of the last few weeks, this autumn has been nice – that sort of settling-in feeling has set in, I’ve been making soups and curries and braised meats and bringing out the woolly jumpers and savouring every bit of it.

This time last year was much the same: April sped by at a breakneck pace, just shy of overwhelming. But this time, though it’s crept up on me, I’m in a bit more control. If last April started with a bang and a headlong descent into a chaotic busy-girl frenzy, this year’s April started with a whimper and a steady crescendo to a controlled pandemonium. Which is better, I guess.

At the beginning of the month (and I can’t believe it’s already three weeks ago) I found myself huddled under the duvet in a friend’s* bed in Auckland, that horrible alternating between shivery cold and feverish sweat, dreaming weird feverish dreams in which I didn’t make it back to Wellington alive. Of all the times I could possibly get sick, of course it had to be on a weekend away.

So that was awful. But despite my fever-induced delusions to the contrary, I did live to see the morning (and an excellent breakfast at Kokako in Grey Lynn, and the Degas to Dali exhibition at the art gallery, and some amazing turbot sliders at Depot), and I managed to make it back to Wellington alive.

And when I got home, I made this soup. It’s a simple chicken soup, simple enough to make when you’ve got nothing in the fridge, just as long as you get some bone-in chicken pieces and a carrot or two. It was super delicious, and it saw out the rest of my cold, and the rest of that crazy-busy week when the only thing I wanted was the thing I didn’t have time for: rest.

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You see, chicken soup is the best thing for when you’re sick, tired, hungry, stressed, overwhelmed, all those things that happen to people all the time but to me especially when the seasons are changing and it’s getting colder and darker and things are getting busy. It’s down-to-earth, pure, simple comfort food, and it’s kept my feet firmly planted on the ground during what was an incredibly busy couple of weeks.

This recipe is really more of a loose method than anything else. You might have your own favourite chicken soup recipe; for those who don’t I’m sharing mine. It’s simple enough that you can make it even when you’re too feeble to do much else, which is an important thing for this kind of food.

Feel free to get creative and add or subtract ingredients – the key thing you’re looking for is a deeply soothing broth with chunks of meat and vegetables. Things like barley, noodles, rice, little alphabet pasta, etc are an added bonus – I really, really like the almost-chewy, wholesome quality of barley though.

*so many thank-yous to Sophie for looking after me! x


CHICKEN & BARLEY SOUP

Get a bone-in chicken leg quarter, or 3 or 4 drumsticks, or any combination of bone-in chicken pieces. Put in a big pot and cover with plenty of water. Add some things like: an onion, sliced in half, a carrot, maybe some celery tops, herbs from the garden, peppercorns, bay leaves, that sort of thing. Bring to the boil, skim off the scum that rises, cover and let simmer on a low heat until the chicken’s cooked and comes off the bone easily – about an hour.

Take the chicken out of the pot, pull the meat from the bones, return the bones to the pot and let simmer as long as you can manage – an hour more, perhaps, or longer if you’ve got time to kill, like if you’ve taken the day off work.

Meanwhile, chop up the chicken (or pull apart with your fingers, depending on how you like it) and set aside. Roughly chop a carrot or two, an onion, celery if you’ve got it, plenty of garlic. 

In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat up some butter or olive oil (or both) over a medium heat and saute the carrot, onion and celery until they start to soften a bit. Add the garlic and some sprigs of thyme* and let cook a little bit more until fragrant, then add some pearl barley (I used about 3/4 cup, but you could use less or more depending on how thick you want it – just adjust the liquid if need be). Season with a bit of salt and pepper.

Using a sieve, strain the chicken stock from the other pot into the pot with the vegetables and barley. If it needs more liquid, add a bit of water and adjust the seasoning. Bring to the boil and then let simmer for 30 minutes or until the barley’s nice and tender. Add the chopped chicken, heat through, taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Serve on its own or with hot buttered toast.

 —

*or whatever herbs you’ve got on hand that you think might go nicely: oregano, chopped up rosemary, tarragon, etc.

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leaves and broth

In soup, year-round on 27 August, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Just a very quick post today: it’s the most beautiful day outside, I’ve been sitting in the sun eating kedgeree at Nikau and gelato on the waterfront, riding my bike around after three months of a flat tyre, just popped home to do some chores* before going back out for a walk in the town belt. I’m happy to say I’m embracing the advent of spring now, in contrast to last week.

Speaking of last week: it was intense. It culminated in me consuming a Wellington on a Plate burger at Bisque on Bolton, a three-course set dinner at Fratelli and an incredible Malaysian lunch at Kayu Manis (with the sensational Chef Wan, no less) within 24 hours. If you add a pizza on Saturday night and a massive Sunday brunch you’ll start to understand why I needed this soup.

It’s the perfect thing for coming down off an eating marathon, for trying to restore some sense of balance. It’s also all I want to eat when I’ve got a cold or when I’m so exhausted I can barely stand at the kitchen counter without my eyelids falling shut. It’s soothing in a non-guilt-inducing way and when you’ve had a long day or an overwhelming month it just barely whispers: “settle down now, everything’s fine”.

At its very simplest this soup is so incredibly easy to make: some garlic, some good-quality chicken stock, some herbs and seasonings, a handful of fresh greens. This time I added a fried egg and some toasted bread for a little more substance: had to ease myself off all those enormous meals I’d been eating.

Because there’s not much more to it than leaves and broth (especially if you leave out the egg and bread), you want to make sure you use the best stock possible. Homemade, if you can. If you haven’t roasted a chicken lately you may be able to buy chicken frames for stock-making (in Wellington, I get mine from Moore Wilson’s for about a dollar apiece). I usually toss one of these in a big stockpot along with the end bits and pieces of vegetables I’ve chopped and stashed in the freezer in a ziploc bag labelled “friends of stock”, some peppercorns, herbs, a few cloves of garlic, bay leaves, whatever else I have that might be happy to be tossed in a stockpot. Celery, carrots, onions, the lot. Bring it to the boil and let it simmer for a few hours. Your house will smell amazing.

*(and what better way to procrastinate from doing chores than writing a quick blog post?)

CHICKEN BROTH WITH GARLIC, SPINACH & A FRIED EGG

The most important part of this soup is the chicken stock, so try to use a good one, or even better, homemade.

Take a few cloves of garlic, peel them and either slice or leave them whole. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and add the garlic. Fry gently over a medium-low heat until they go all golden but not so much that they start to turn brown (this will take a lot longer if you’re using whole garlic cloves, and you want to almost caramelise them, so don’t get impatient and turn up the heat. Or you could roast them).

Take the garlic out of the frying pan and add to a saucepan along with some chicken stock (about 1.5-2 cups per person should do – less if you’re not adding bread, since it soaks up plenty of liquid). Turn the heat to high; bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to low and simmer for about 10 or 15 minutes. Season to taste with sea salt & black pepper.

Meanwhile, toast some sliced crusty bread (day-old is fine: another way to use up all that stale bread in the pantry!). Once the broth is ready, ladle into bowls and float some baby spinach on top. Fry an egg. Float the toast on the soup and top with the fried egg. Sprinkle chopped herbs over everything – here I used parsley and dill but you could just as easily use sage, thyme, anything really.

creamy jerusalem artichoke & miso soup

In autumn, gluten free, soup on 22 May, 2011 at 11:47 pm

On Thursday afternoon my workmate approached me: “I’m so sorry I never brought you those quinces*, but to make it up I’m going to bring you a surprise tomorrow…” Turns out she’s just as bad as keeping secrets as I am at waiting to find out, and so I quickly discovered that the surprise was freshly dug Jerusalem artichokes from her garden. I’ve been looking forward to Jerusalem artichokes ever since summer, so this was heart-stoppingly exciting stuff. Also it may have been a slow day at work.

So on Friday morning I arrived at work to find, sitting on my chair, a plastic bag tied shut, full of what looked like moist, brown lumps. I did a double take and then remembered: the Jerusalem artichokes, so fresh out of the ground the dirt hadn’t quite dried. Best Friday morning ever.**

These knobbly, alienlike*** tubers aren’t from Jerusalem and they aren’t artichokes either; this combination of ugly looks and peculiar misnomer gives them sort of an oddball charm that I can’t help but love. I found out from Sasa (of Sasasunakku) they’re called topinambur in Austria, which is even more endearing, reminiscent of some awkward imaginary creature (we thought perhaps a round, brown, snuffly marsupial).

But enough about loving these things simply because they’re weird: they’re actually delicious. I only discovered this last autumn, when I had one for the first time as part of a tray of roast veggies at a friend’s potluck dinner. I haven’t looked back since. As long as I could get my hands on them last year, Jerusalem artichokes appeared on my plate. When cooked, they’re almost creamy in texture, nutty-sweet in flavour. You almost expect them to taste like potatoes and then you bite in, and your eyes pop open in a moment of “whoa”: expectations exceeded. Here is a short list of things you can do with these delightful nuggets:

  • roast them, either on their own or tossed into your usual roast veg mix
  • peel, cook & purée them in place of pureed potato or parsnip (also very good mixed in with pureed potato)
  • sauté them with herbs and butter
  • make soup

I love Jerusalem artichoke soup; it’s up there with roasting as one of my favourite ways of eating them. This time, though, I felt I had to do something a bit special, seeing as these Jerusalem artichokes were a bit special themselves, having been hand-dug and delivered to my desk and all. I saw this recipe for a creamy bamboo shoot & miso soup on Just Hungry**** and had this hunch that Jerusalem artichokes would go perfectly in place of the bamboo shoot.

And I was right: the nutty sweetness of the Jerusalem artichokes combined with the deep, salty-earthy miso flavour made every bite of this soup eye-poppingly good. I guess you have to like miso, though; my flatmate didn’t seem too impressed after one bite: “hmm, I can really taste the miso!”

I changed a couple of things from Maki’s recipe – because I wanted the flavour of the Jerusalem artichokes to stand out (and because the leek I had was massive) I upped the Jerusalem artichoke to 2 cups (chopped) and cut the leek by half. I also used Maki’s instructions for making this using uncooked rice, since I didn’t have any leftover cooked rice.

If, like my flatmate, you’re miso-averse, you may want to consider cutting the miso down to 1 tablespoon. Don’t omit it altogether, though – it really makes this soup something else.

*Girl lives in Featherston, has an ancient quince tree and evidently lots more exciting things growing in her garden. She promised to bring me quinces but we both seem to have forgotten… I’m so glad she remembered and felt she had to make it up to me, though!

**well, until morning tea time, when we had an amazing pineapple & brazil nut cake from Pandoro

***though not as alienlike as celeriac

****I may have mentioned it before, but it’s a great blog, with mostly Japanese recipes, written by a Japanese expat

CREAMY JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE & MISO SOUP:
(adapted from this recipe on Just Hungry)

8-10 Jerusalem artichokes (2 cups peeled & chopped)
1 tbsp butter
1/2 the white part of a leek, finely sliced
1 tbsp uncooked white rice
2 cups milk
2 tbsp miso 

Start with the most time-consuming and annoying part: peel the Jerusalem artichokes. Yes, it’s infuriating, because they’re so small and knobbly (I find a sharp paring knife works better than a peeler here, but up to you). Once that’s done, cut them up into fairly even-sized chunks; set aside.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the leek. Sauté over medium to medium-low heat. Don’t let it burn. Once the leek reaches that soft-translucent stage, add the Jerusalem artichokes and give everything a good stir; let it sauté for a couple minutes and add the rice along with 2 cups water. 

Turn up the heat to high until the water boils, then lower heat to a simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes until the water’s mostly evaporated and the Jerusalem artichokes are soft when stabbed with a fork. Transfer to a blender (or save use a stick blender – I couldn’t get mine to work, boo hoo!) and purée until smooth.

Return the purée to the pot and add the milk. Heat gently; patience and stirring are key. Once it’s heated through, add the miso: the easiest way to do this is to make a slurry with the miso and a ladleful of soup, and add this back to the pot. Stir and season with salt and white pepper to taste.

I ate this on its own, garnished with a bit of parsley and some sesame oil.

Makes 2-3 servings, depending on how hungry you are. It’s also gluten-free, for those who are so inclined.

Red bell pepper bisque

In autumn, late summer, soup on 20 March, 2011 at 11:55 pm

I’m conscious that I’ve been eating a lot of sugar lately (just look at the last few blog posts for proof). Call it disaster-triggered comfort eating or whatever, but over recent weeks I’ve been victim to one too many cake-batter-induced tummyaches and sugar-overload sore throats. Dessert for dinner just doesn’t have the same appeal when you do it several nights in a row.*

Things came to a head last week when I made this amazing semolina-cashew slice and Could Not Stop Eating it. I swore I’d lay off the sugar the next day and was doing so well at work, passing up cookies at morning tea, having a salad for lunch, not reaching for that bar of emergency chocolate hanging out in my desk drawer. I was full of this triumphant sense of accomplishment until I got home and… oh hello leftover semolina slice!**

So I’ve been trying to balance out the sugar with reasonably healthy things. Like soup. I know I’ve been whining about the end of summer for the last few blog posts*** but I’m actually harbouring this secret excitement for cooler weather and autumn (I won’t dare say I’m excited for winter, but close enough) and SOUP.

If there’s ever a soup that can be both spicy and soothing at the same time, it’s this one. It adeptly bridges the gap between summer and cooler weather: the flavours are bright and bursting with height-of-summer-ripeness, but at the same time it’s earthy and robust and the cayenne pepper adds enough heat to warm you from the inside on a cold rainy day. (This soup is also really good served cold at lunchtime, ideally on a sunny deck or balcony, maybe garnished with some chopped parsley.)

The recipe is from this book my mum got me called Cooking School Secrets for Real World Cooks. It’s full of consistently accessible (and good!) recipes and informative sidebars full of tips and tricks but no photos, which is somewhat unusual for cookbooks these days but, you know, all good. It’s been one of my favourite cookbooks over the years and this is one of the first recipes I ever made from it.

Though the page is dotted with bright orange splatter-marks I hardly need to look at the recipe anymore, it’s so simple: red capsicums cooked with the holy trinity of carrot, onion, celery, plus a bit of cayenne pepper for heat and a bit of cream for… creaminess. You don’t really need to think much while making this, which makes it the perfect recipe for getting back into the soup groove.

*Dessert for dinner is still awesome though.

**I am going to start over this week, er, well, after the waffle breakfast we’re having at work tomorrow!

***although summer is clearly still not over, seeing as I’m typing this sitting on my balcony, no sleeves, bare feet.

RED BELL PEPPER BISQUE (serves 3-4):
recipe from Linda Carucci’s Cooking School Secrets for Real World Cooks

You will need:
olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
cayenne pepper
4 red capsicums, seeded, deribbed & roughly chopped
1 litre chicken stock (ideally homemade, but anything goes)
1/4 cup cream
sea salt, freshly ground pepper
crème fraîche

Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a decent-sized pot over medium-high heat, add the onion, carrot and celery and saute for several minutes until the onion is soft and translucent. Add 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper and the capsicum, give it a good couple of stirs and let the capsicum cook for about 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock (you may not use the whole litre, the idea is you want enough stock to cover all the vegetables in the pot). Bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer about 30 minutes.

At this stage the capsicum and carrots should be nice and soft and cooked. Take the pan off the heat and blend until smooth (a stick blender works perfectly here but do as you please), then strain through a medium-mesh sieve.* Smush the pulpy bits with a spatula or ladle to squeeze the last bits of liquid out.**

Add 1/4 cup cream and salt and pepper to taste. If you want it spicier go ahead and add a little bit more cayenne pepper but beware that this stuff increases exponentially in heat (this book is full of these fun facts!). Garnish with a big spoonful of crème fraîche***, drizzle with olive oil, crack some black pepper over the top, eat!

If you have any left over the next day, it is just as good (if not better, depending on the weather) straight out of the fridge.

 

*If you’re feeling lazy you can skip this step but the silky-smooth texture of the strained soup is totally worth it.

**For what it’s worth, I found this step oddly reminiscent of making pâté…

***OK, so it’s just a garnish, but the crème fraîche definitely takes this to another level. Especially if you strained the soup. The combination of the silky-spiciness and the silky-cool-creaminess is so ridiculously dreamy.

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