Category Archives: soups

Salmon & Prawn Chowder

After a period of slackness (Brenda being very familiar with this concept already…), I decided to kick this week off with a creamy, easy-to-prepare, and of course delicious, chowder.

fanny and brendas delicious salmon and prawn chowder

There are many variants on which main ingredients can be added – I happened to have a couple of frozen salmon fillets and a handful of raw prawns lurking at the back of the freezer so this was a great way to use them – gentle, blanketing heat bringing out the best flavour and texture in delicate ingredients. You wouldn’t always swamp absolutely fresh, caught-this-morning prawns, or the firmest spanking fresh fish in a milky sauce, though if you have them, then great!

By the way, I used ham stock which might seem unusual in a fish dish but many recipes call for smoked bacon (cured pork products and seafood have a long history together – like Brenda and me) so, despite having some bacon available, I decided to leave it out and try the ham stock instead. We think it worked, but please don’t worry if you don’t have it, just use chicken or fish stock instead. It’s up to you if you want to fry up 75g or so of bacon with the onions.

Here goes.

Ingredients (serves 4)

300g salmon – cut into bite-size chunks
200g raw prawns, shelled and deveined
400ml ham stock
400ml full cream milk
100ml double cream
500g potatoes (which is about 3 medium size spud) – cut into bite-size chunks
1 extra large Spanish onion (or 2 medium ones) – chopped medium
1 clove garlic – finely chopped
2 corn on the cob – run your knife down the uncooked cobs to cut the kernels off – or use a small tin of sweetcorn
100g French beans – topped, tailed and cut into 2cm long sections
pinch of ground mace
pinch of cayenne
40g butter (40g is about a heaped tablespoon)
25g flour (25g is about a heaped tablespoon)
olive oil
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
1 lemon – juiced
small bunch fresh parsley – roughly chopped

Method

1) Heat a little olive oil in a medium size saucepan over a moderate flame and saute the chopped onion for 8-10 mins, stirring regularly, until translucent and beginning to turn golden. Add the garlic and butter for the last minute or two and after the butter has melted, the flour – cook for a final minute or so.

2) Meanwhile microwave your stock till virtually boiling (or boil the kettle and make up the stock, if using a cube) and add fairly gradually to the pan once the flour’s cooked off. Stir to ensure thorough mixing and then tumble in the cubed potatoes – add the mace and cayenne plus a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Add the milk, bring up to the boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.

3) After 10 mins or so, the potatoes should be mostly cooked and you can now add the sweetcorn (if using fresh – add later, with the beans, if using tinned). Also gently fold in the cubes of salmon.

4) Allow to simmer for another 5 mins, then fold in the prawns and beans and simmer for a further 2 mins – the prawns turn from grey to pink.

5) Now add the lemon juice and a handful of chopped parsley, stir gently through and bring just back to simmer then switch off and serve, with a final sprinkle of fresh parsley.

fanny and brendas delicious salmon and prawn chowder

Lemony Chard and Lentil Soup

summer lemony chard and lentil soup from fanny and brenda 

Our editor decided to bring some home grown chard with him that he had grown in his front garden. Bursting with freshness it would have been a crime not to have done something with it and bless me because there was soon a hive of activity around the oven.

Ingredients

500ml chicken stock
120g green lentils
1 medium chopped onion
1 courgette cut into cubes
1/2 aubergine cut into cubes
2 fresh tomatoes cut into cubes
1 fresh jalapeño pepper – sliced
1 bunch Swiss chard
3 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 lemon – juiced and finely zested
1 tsp za’atar or sumac
1 tsp paprilka
1 tbsn fresh flast leaf parsley – chopped
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
olive oil

Method

I would like to say you can use water and a chicken stock cube for this, but you can’t. Or at the very least, I wouldn’t. But there again, I write this from a very advantageous position as the Fates were smiling on me (which I think was the Universe’s way of compensating me for Brenda’s hideous grimace).Not only did i have my own gorgeous chicken stock ready and awaiting me in the freezer, but, upon retrieving it from there, I chanced upon a little dish containing a disc of pure chicken essence (I’d been inspired to recreate an Elizabeth David butter roasted chicken, served it with its own juices, poured from a small jug. The following day, I discovered that underneath the 2 inch thick layer of butter, was a layer of, as I said, pure chicken essence. By the way, it was from a Norfolk Black chicken and you know what they say, once you’ve had black…..)

1) Set the chicken stock onto the heat and bring to the boil, adding the lentils

2) Start frying the onion, aubergine and courgette, then after 10 minutes, sprinkle on the sumac and add the tomato and jalapeño , continuing to fry for another 5 mins

3) Tip the contents of the frying pan into the simmering lentils, add about half the grated lemon zest and all the juice, the chard and the paprika

4) Simmer for another 5 mins or so until the chard is wilted into the soup

5) Serve with a rough chopped fresh flat leaf parsley and a light sprinkle of lemon zest

6) A slice of sourdough goes awfully well too.

Chick pea cabbage and chorizo soup

This really is a lovely fresh and warming soup with vital flavours that are good for cold days. Nourishing and gorgeous, there won’t be any leftovers when you make this recipe!

chorizo chick pea and cabbage soup

Ingredients

1 large onion, halved and finely sliced
3 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
1 chorizo – they’re usually 200 or 225g – cut into fine rings
I small Savoy cabbage finely sliced(although any dark green leafy cabbage will work well – just avoid the almost white, very crunchy versions – the sort associated with coleslaw)
1 tin chickpeas, rinsed.
1 lemon or lime cut in halves
1 litre rich chicken stock
Fresh thyme/lemon thyme
3-4 bay leaves
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp chilli flakes
Sea salt
Fresh cracked black pepper
Olive oil

chorizo chick pea and cabbage soup

Method

Gently heat your chicken stock which should take about 20 minutes to start simmering, during which time…

Fry the onion and garlic for 5 minutes in several tablespoons of olive oil, fairly slowly. Then add the chorizo and continue to fry for at least another 10 minutes so that the vegetables get really transluscent and also with some edges turning brown although be careful not to burn as the garlic easily goes bitter. The chorizo should be getting some crispiness and also have released beautiful reddish brown oils.

Add a paprika, chilli, thyme and bay leaves and continue to fry for 1-2 minutes until the pan is releasing very rich spicy aromas.

Now add the simmering chicken stock directly to the onion pan and stir together. Then immediately add the chickpeas and lemon/lime halves and simmer for 5 minutes.

chorizo chick pea and cabbage soup

Finally, add the sliced cabbage, simmer for another 5 minutes or so until the cabbage is tender but not mushy. Remove the citrus halves and squeeze any remaining flesh/juice into the soup. Given the saltiness of the chorizo, you should only check the seasoning at this point – adjust accordingly with sea salt and black pepper.

Serve immediately in warmed bowls with an additional squeeze of lemon juice and some finely chopped parsley. You definitely won’t need bread with this as the chick peas and rich, meaty, paprika flavours make for a satisfying, but still quite light and immensely tasty meal.

chorizo chick pea and cabbage soup

Thai Chicken Noodle Red Curry Soup

There’s nothing like a bit of spice to make Brenda react and indeed I like to get a reaction, which in this case was positive. Had it been anything other than that, she’d have been carted out feet first in a body bag I can tell you. This is a superlative red curry soup that uses Asian spices and plenty of inspiration from Thai cuisine. It’s easy to put together and with the help of some fantastic fresh red curry paste (available from some supermarkets and Asian food emporia), you can be eating in under an hour from initial preparation. It’s a good evening choice for a light bite after a hard day at work, and can be eaten as a starter or a main.

thai chicken curry soup photo by simon c bennett photographer

Ingredients: serves 3

• 1 tbsp of vegetable oil
• 200g red curry paste
• 750ml fresh chicken stock
• 1 tsp palm sugar
• 300 g chicken thigh fillets, thinly sliced 
• 18 raw king prawns, shelled, de-veined
• 400 ml coconut milk
• 200 g beansprouts
• 300 g fresh vermicelli rice noodles
• 8 medium size mushrooms quartered
• bunch of spring onions sliced,
• bunch of coriander
• 3 Lime wedges, and juice of a lime
• 2 red chillies

Standing time: Serve immediately

thai chicken curry soup photo by simon c bennett photographer

thai chicken curry soup photo by simon c bennett photographer

Cook laksa paste in tbsp of vegetable oil and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add stock and sugar. Stir to combine, then bring to a simmer. Add chicken, return to a simmer and cook for 4 minutes. Add prawns and cook for 1 minute.

thai chicken curry soup photo by simon c bennett photographer

thai chicken curry soup photo by simon c bennett photographer

Add coconut milk and beansprouts. Stir gently to combine, then bring almost to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook for 2 minutes or until prawns are just tender, beansprouts are wilted and are heated through. Add juice from a lime.

thai chicken curry soup photo by simon c bennett photographer
Meanwhile, place noodles in a large bowl. Microwave the noodles for a minute. Divide noodles, then ladle laksa mixture among the bowls. Add some chopped red chillies, coriander and spring onion and serve immediately with lime wedges.

thai chicken curry soup photo by simon c bennett photographer

Easy and Quick Pea and Ham Soup

pea and ham soup - photo by simon c bennett photographer

I don’t often tell anyone that my recipes are easy and quick – largely because I believe a lot of the best food is something which has had a bit of time spent on it. That said, there are exceptions and this recipe is one of them.

Ingredients
I large onion
1 large potato
1l ham stock
Small handful of mint to chop
500g petits pois
200g diced smoked ham
4 tblspns of creme fraiche
pea and ham soup

Dice the onion and soften in a saucepan in a knob of butter. Add the potato and pour over the stock. I sometimes use a 50/50 mix with water to dilute the saltiness if the stock is very salty. Simmer the onion till soft.
pea and ham soup

Meanwhile chop the mint finely and add to the peas.

Once the onions and potato are soft add the peas and boil for a couple of minutes.
In the meantime get your blender out and plug it in! I used a hand blender which I just stuck in the soup!
pea and ham soup

Pulverize the peas, onions and potato and add four tablespoons of creme fraiche and stir in.
pea and ham soup

Pour into the bowls required, add some chopped mint and some diced ham. If you’re feeling naughty then another dollop of creme fraiche as it never hurt the postman. Mind you my postman has a nasty habit of leaving “we called and you were out” cards even when I’m in and I can tell you that irritates the vajazzle out of me!

How to shoot yourself in the foot

You may remember that in my last posting re the soup making that I said we were making soups based with vegetable stocks. This wasn’t a complete lie I can tell you, but as ever the minute you commit yourself to an absolute, you find that someone helpfully points out that you’re talking total rubbish. In this case it was Fanny who politely said something along the lines of “are you completely stupid you witless amnesiac?”. I’ve been paid nicer compliments I can tell you. To put matters right here indeed is one of the many exceptions to my last blog – the mushroom soup made with home made chicken stock which I have to say was absolutely delicious.

fanny and brenda's mushroom soup

Ingredients:
20g butter + 30g chicken fat *
700ml of chicken stock
350g sliced mushrooms
1 fat clove of garlic
glass of dry white wine
Sprig of thyme or lemon thyme
Creme fraiche or double cream (volume to your taste)
(* the top of the solidified/jellied chicken stock).

Put the stock on to simmer in a pan
Fry the mushrooms in the butter and fat
Let the mushrooms expel their juices then add the garlic
Once the mushrooms are soft and cooked (but not browned), then add them to the simmering stock
Add the (lemon) thyme and white wine to the pot
Simmer for 20 minutes
When all is thoroughly tender, then blitz in the liquidiser
Pour into a clean pan
Swirl in creme fraiche or double cream to your taste
Add chopped parsley, and serve with some hot buttered sourdough bread/toast

We are soup making

It is early summer and for once we have summery weather. It hasn’t improved Fanny’s face much – leathery, wrinkled and now red, but at least it has brought about some cheer. We will be uploading a couple of lovely soup recipes later in the week and these will have  vegetarian appeal. We felt that if there is any time to appreciate this country’s  fresh produce, now is that time and accordingly we will want to share it with all of you – and to ensure that we have made the stocks vegetable based. So what have we learnt so far? Well we have tried a recipe or two and vegetables do not do well en masse- they need to be appreciated for what they are. It’s different if you add meat or fish to the complex, but when they are purely vegetable we think you have to allow the flavours to have their own prominence, which in short means not drowning them in lots of herbs, or mixing them up with too many other vegetables. And why? Well this morning we finished one really rather complex  (and frankly very labour intensive) recipe that had originated from a very established source and it tasted like wet weeds. We tried this recipe twice to be sure that we had got it ‘right’ . Needless to say we are subsequently rather amazed that it had ever been published. We also tried another recipe from the same source that was a effectively a mush of vegetables too. We didn’t need to re-try that one. It is fascinating when award winning chefs put their name to recipes that either don’t work or are just plain miserable, but given that that does happen, it makes us more determined to bring you the best recipes we can.

I know that I am am bound to be questioned on my love of the likes of Gazpacho after a posting like this -there will always be exceptions to the rule. However, that said, give your vegetables the room to allow their own flavours to come through – they are more subtle than meat or fish so recognising that basic difference will help.
fanny and brenda soup making

Fanny finds a delicious use for her chicken stock

After a heavy week in my stillies I needed to relax. So what better than to wake up and descend the stairs in my divine floral nightie to find Fanny’s irritated face at the stove. Apparently she’d been there all morning and she was very very stroppy. A face like utter thunder.

“All rather different from the sort of fungus you give people, I think you’ll agree” she said referring to her mushroom soup in a rather sniffy voice.

However she’d seen fit to use the marvellous chicken stock that she’d made from the remnants of a delicious lime chicken dish which we will be showing later on and I have to say that the soup and the wine were a marvellous tonic for a Sunday lunchtime.

delicious white wine for a light summer lunch

summer delicious mushroom soup