Introducing…Soup of the Week!

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Admittedly not my photo. Definitely not my kitchen. As if I’d have a cocktail in my kitchen

I was such a good girl last year that Father Christmas decided that I was worthy of some lovely new kitchen gadgetry and, alongside the fancy-shmancy sandwich press toastery wotsit and the super-dooper spinny churny juicer blendermebob, I got this shiny beast – a VonShef soup maker.

Now, those of you who know me well will know that I can just about hold a butter knife without severing a major artery, and am so accident prone and (understandably, some might say) paranoid that I cast a very wary eye over anything that has that evil and potentially doom-laden triumvirate of electricity, liquid and things that spin around very very fast by way of a motor.

It has taken me quite a while to pluck up the courage to use the Beast on my own, without a responsible adult to watch and make sure I didn’t need saving and I dutifully read the rather interesting instructions thirty six times to ensure I was of the mental capacity of to be using of this food cookering machine of the most safe and sensible of manners.

It actually couldn’t be simpler. Cut things up (not fingers), bung them in the Beast. Add liquid and whatever else the recipe calls for. Make sure you are above minimum level and below maximum level. Put on lid. Choose whether you want your soup smooth or not. Press start. 30 minutes later – soup!

So, the next step was to try and find something to actually make soup with; but a cursory glance inside the bottom cupboard of doom soon revealed a rather sad looking leek and five forlorn carrots. On the search for red lentils, I fought bravely past the 546 packets of half-empty Aldi Everyday Cheapness pasta shapes to reach what I optimistically call the ‘pulses shelf’ (actually fourteen Chinese takeaway tubs harbouring a pathetic selection of long forgotten soup thickeners and some oatmeal); I discovered that Holy Grail of the frugal house-frau’s larder – the can of coconut milk which was, no doubt, bought in a moment of utter madness when it was on a BOGOF or some kind of half price offer.

Looking over at the windowsill, I was thrilled to see that I could still almost class as bourgeois because I still had half the growing coriander from the spicy lamb rice thang flopping helplessly and rather pathetically over in one of my window pots.

And a plan was hatched.

Carrot and Coconut Milk Soup with Coriander and Chilli

Serves 2 and a stupid small amount that’s too small to give to one person for dinner but too big to actually justify throwing away so it sits on the ‘good intentions’ shelf on the fridge labelled ‘healthy lunch’ until you realise you’ve forgotten about it and you could relabel it ‘potential cure for Ebola’.

Ingredients:

1 leek, finely chopped (saute this if you’re cooking it in a normal, bog-standard, boring, old fashioned saucepan rather than a trendy soup making beast)

5 or 6 carrots, finely chopped (see above, cretins. If you’re all fancy like me with ma soup maker you can just bung these bad boys in raw)

400ml can of coconut milk

150ml passata (or equivalent in tinned tomatoes with a wee squirt of ketchup, that’s what I used because I was keeping it real and – c’mon – who on a cooncil scheme buys bloody passata?)

600ml vegetable stock. (I use Aldi’s own vegetable stock cubes)

Good dod of cayenne pepper / chilli powder. You know your limits.

Generous sprinkle of cumin powder (brings out the taste of carrots lovely).

Small handful of chopped fresh coriander (I’m sure a good dod of dried would work almost as well).

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In a pan: Bring the lot together and cook, you know, like soup. Then faff about with a stick blender, or laboriously ladle soup from pan to jug blender and blend.

In a Beast: Press button for ‘smooth’. Leave for 30 minutes to do its magic.

I forgot to take a photo of the finished soup, but it looked like the sweet, shining happiness tears of mating unicorns; only slightly more orange. Taste-wise (and I’ll admit now after nearly 700 rambling words), I will confess to not being much of a fan of soup (not my soup, anyway), but this was lovely. It was sweet and rich, with a deep, warm spiciness that I wasn’t expecting to work as well as it did. Other than any salt and pepper in the stock, I didn’t add any extra into the jug and I only added a tiny bit of salt at the table (more through habit than necessity). Even Captain Calamity gave it the thumbs up, so that’s high praise indeed.

A perfect spicy, filling soup for dunking bread into on cold evenings when you need something a comforting but with a wee bit of zing, because you have stupidly given up wine for charity and your life now lacks any kind of substance or meaning……

 

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Leftover Lamb Ricey Spicey Thing with me, your Slapdash Contessa

As many families do at Easter, we were a bit naughty and spoiled ourselves with a leg of lamb for Easter Sunday lunch. I must admit, my domestic goddess skills came to the fore once more and it was utterly gorgeous. I basically bastardized a Jamie Oliver recipe, threw in a bit of a BBC Food recipe, looked in the cupboards and realised I didn’t have everything I needed anyway, couldn’t be bothered to go back down the shops and just improvised with stuff I did have. It was basically an olive oil, fresh rosemary, garlic and lemon juice rub followed by a thorough Nigella Lawsonesque massaging of sea salt and freshly walloped black peppercorns. I cooked the lamb uncovered at 170 degrees C for just fifteen minutes per 500g plus and extra ten minutes at the end, with a fifteen minute rest before carving.

We served it with steamed broccoli and roast spuds, carrots, red onions, parsnip and swede which we put in a serving dish rather than straight on the plates so that any veggie leftovers (there wouldn’t be any lamb leftovers, not with my little carnivores) wouldn’t be hideously maimed with hurriedly tipped-on gravy.

There was, as I expected, rather a lot of vegetables leftover afterwards for today, alongside another two meals’ worth of lamb; so today I thought I would rustle up a sort of ricey, lamby, fruity, spicy, Middle-Easterny type of thing. So, here we go – Middle Eastern ricey spicy sort of thing.

Ingredients (all approximate, in true Slapdash stylee):

Serves 4, including two boys with hollow legs

300g cooked lamb

300g uncooked basmati rice

600ml stock of whatever you like (I used OXO lamb stock cubes)

1 leek (or 2 medium onions would be fine)

4 cloves of garlic

12 dried dates

12 dried apricots

Whatever leftover root veg you have kicking about

1 tsp (or thereabouts, yanno, just chuck it in as you see fit) of ground coriander, tumeric, cinnamon

1 tbsp that really lazy as anything ginger you can buy in a jar and then leave lurking in the back of the fridge for three years. If you are the sort of unbearably middle-class person who actually has fresh ginger, use about half. If you, like me, usually just has ground, wallop a load in.

Juice of a lime.

Flaked almonds and fresh coriander leaves, if you’re feeling extravagant.

Method

  1.  Gently toast almonds, set aside until later.
  2. In a large hob-friendly pan, fry up the spices (including the ginger) in your preferred oil (I used olive) on a medium heat until your kitchen smells lush, and add in the leeks or onions and garlic and cook until soft.

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3. Add in the lamb and your leftover vegetables, apricots and dates and stir well to coat with the lovely spicy oil.

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4. Add your rice and stir well to coat, stir for a good minute or two until the rice becomes translucent.

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5.Add the stock and stir in well, then pop on a lid and reduce the heat to a medium low (3 or 4 on an electric hob) and leave.

6. Go and sit down. Stress about it burning, get up again and check it. Taste the rice, notice it’s still uncooked. Sit down again. Imagine you smell burning and return to kitchen. Notice mess on hob, worktop and floor. Wipe it up. Stir your creation. Test rice again. Go and sit down again.

7. Repeat step 6 every minute for around 12 – 14 minutes, paranoidly adding more stock if needed. Wash some dishes, wonder when your life came to this.

8. Scream at children to get from underneath your feet, wonder where you put the knife that you have in your hand, wonder about what filter to use on your Instagram of your upcoming dinner.

9. Chop some coriander, if you have some.

10. Dollop into bowls, sprinkle with toasted almonds and coriander. Squeeze over the lime juice with your bare hands like a boss because you’ve misplaced the juicer. Throw pan with gay abandon into sink full of cold, greasy water and slip on an escaped apricot. Drag children away from Minecraft, ponder why the very moment you serve up dinner and could use a hand is the ideal time for man to disappear upstairs for a wash, shave, shit and complete change of clothing.

11. Sit down. Get up again to get salt. Sit down again. Scoff. Feel smug.

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The last evening of Greenwich Mean Time for a while

Darling reader,

The time is nearly upon us, my calling almost here. Tomorrow, with the dawn and the start of British Summer Time, I stride ahead into a bright new future of healthy new habits and none of that evil demon drink. For fifty days, at least.

Yes, the 5 x 50 Challenge (with extra added ‘no alcohol’ hardship added by me in a minute of abject stupidity) kicks off tomorrow morning and, truth be told, I’m rather looking forward to it.

I appreciate that I am in a very strange time of life (I will start some dedicated blogging on the subject, I promise – a few folk have contacted me and asked me if I would, so I will) where some doors are gently closing whilst others seem to be slamming shut loudly and dramatically. This year has also found me finding aspects of my life (and, dare I say, myself) that I really quite like and feel quite contented with.

Work is going well, I’ve got back into the swing of things OK, I think, and I’m managing the motivation of working from home; and the extra money – though not a fortune as I’m only working part-time – is a welcome addition to the family and we’ve been able to afford to go exploring further afield (because we can afford the petrol money for adventures now). Working also makes you appreciate your free time more – I have become intensely aware of how much time I used to waste staring into middle distance, whereas now I love to ensure that I am always doing something that I really enjoy in my spare time, rather than wasting it gazing at the TV or gawping at social media.

I am, however, aware of how easy it is for me to get stuck in a rut, and that is why I have chosen to undertake the 5 x 50 Challenge. Yes, I do walk a lot anyway (as a lot of people have pointed out already), but this is going to be a mental challenge as much as a physical one as I HAVE to go out every day, despite how horrible the weather might be, or how bone-tired I am (hormonal changes have left me more exhausted than anything I have EVER experienced before, and it is a really very strange sort of tiredness that hits out of nowhere and is accompanied by the strangest sense of sudden melancholy – certainly not the sort of sensation that makes you think ‘Yes, a five kilometre mountain bike ride is just what I need right now’).

I’m interested to see how the increase in exercise, and the decrease (very sudden decrease!) in alcohol consumption will make to my health, my weight, and my overall mood. I’m a creature of habit, and I’m sure the first two weeks – particularly weekends – are going to feel very strange as I am forced to change my habits and routines to accomodate my change of lifestyle. No more lounging around drinking wine and gabbing on Facebook, for starters!

My tiny support crew are ready!

For some reason tonight Google Drive is being a whiny little bitch and I can’t post up any of my adventuring photos or any more truly thrilling photos of my crochet or my almost-empty but reassuringly unweedy raised bed. You can, however, look them up on my Instagram if you are so inclined. Please do bear witness to today’s brief hour of being a total domestic goddess, in between losing my temper in Aldi and screaming at Helen Titchener during a disturbingly blissful catch-up of this week’s episodes of The Archers. Do not judge me.