Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Soups - Cookery Course

Last night was the third night of our cookery class - cook a complete dinner and we covered a second starter option. For some reason, I always offer 2 starters - you can use the soup of course as stand alone starter - or even have it for lunch, it is delicious either way ... 

Soups are an excellent second starter. They can be prepared in advanced and then just re-heated before serving. When making soups, try to use the best quality you can afford – it makes all the difference.

I like to serve bread with soups – but remember, you don’t want to fill your guests too much. Soda bread is a good choice for bread, especially when made with white flour and I like to use a mix of Cream of Tartar and Bread Soda – which gives the bread a lighter texture. But of course, any bread can be used.

The mushroom soup we are making here gets its full flavour from the use of dried porcini mushrooms. I also use chestnut mushrooms as they have a deeper flavour than ordinary mushrooms but it also works perfectly with the common mushrooms. Or why not use a mixture of wild mushrooms?

The courgette soup is fresh and easier to make than some people think. When preparing the soup in advance, make sure not to bring it to a boil again but just heat it through.

The amount of cream in the soups is entirely to taste. If you don’t like to add cream to your soups but still like them ‘creamy’ cook a potato with your vegetables and puree it together. It will have the same consistency.

To serve a soup – you can use the usual soup bowl but also larger cups – as the portions will be smaller than a soup for lunch. I like to give each guest their own butter in a little dish. It looks nice and you don’t have people reaching across the table to use butter. I even go so far that I am using a little stamp to decorate the top of the butter. Remember, it’s the small touches that make a dinner special.  

Mushroom Soup
Mushroom Soup

  • 750g mushrooms (cleaned)
  • 1 large onion - chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery – chopped
  • 1 leek - chopped
  • garlic
  • A handful of thyme
  • 500 – 750 ml of chicken or vegetable stock
  • 20g dried mushrooms
  • Olive oil
  • Knob of butter
  • Salt and pepper

Soak the dried mushrooms in warm water (cover the mushrooms). Heat the oil and butter in a saucepan and sautee the chopped onions and leek until translucent but not browned. Add the garlic and fry until soft – add the mushrooms & celery and sautee over a low heat until all softened.

Add the stock, soaked mushrooms including the soaking liquid. Add the thyme and season to taste. Let cool down a bit and pour the soup into a food processor or liquidiser. Process until smooth. Return to a clean pan, add cream and serve.

Wine: A light Pinot Grigio

Courgette & Orange Soup

Courgette & Orange Soup
  • 4 medium sized courgettes (roughly chopped)
  • 1 onion (chopped)
  • Garlic (minced)
  • 2 small leeks (sliced)
  • 2 sticks celery (chopped)
  • 700ml vegetable or chicken stock
  • 50g butter
  • 250ml cream
  • Juice of 2 oranges
  • Fresh coriander or parsley (optional)

Heat a large saucepan with the butter and gently sauté the onion and garlic until it has softened but not coloured. Add the leeks and celery and continue to sweat off for a few more minutes. Add the courgettes. Cook on a low heat taking care not to colour the vegetables.

Slowly add the stock and allow this to come to a gentle boil. Once it boils, reduce the heat and gently simmer until the vegetables have softened.

Add the cream and juice and blitz the soup either in a food processor or liquidiser. Season to taste (if the soup is too thick, add more stock or cream).

Just before serving, add the coriander or parsley and ladle into soup bowls.

Wine: A nice Chablis will compliment this soup nicely

Soda Bread

  • 400g plain white flour
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Up to 500ml buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a loaf tin with baking paper.

In a large bowl sieve the flour, soda and cream of tartar. Add the salt and pour in the buttermilk. With your hands or a wooden spoon, mix until well combined. The mixture will be too wet to knead so just pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin.

Bake for about 20 mins or until it sounds hollow when knocked on the bottom. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

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