dimanche 20 janvier 2013

Born to prawn - it's the Return of the Soup Dragon

January being cold, dank, wet and possibly snowy according to latitude and altitude, there's nothing for it but to make more soup.

I was talking food with a young chap called Ezra, when he mentioned a sweet and sour prawn soup from somewhere vaguely Far Eastern.

I promptly forgot the soup's rather exotic name and I'm far too lazy to look it up, but one essential point actually registered in the decaying grey matter.

You boil up all the prawn heads, skins and other gubbins to add to the stock. Being very much in a waste-not want-not phase, the basic idea appealed so I made my own soup. Never can understand anybody else's recipes anyway . . .

As you're probably aware, prawns just love it hot and sweet so here goes:

* Skin 500g of cooked prawns. I diverted some of the flesh into an cunningly-placed dhansak sauce but kept all the debris for the soup. If you're just making soup,cut the prawns to say 300g.

* Put all the skins etc in two mug of water in a saucepan

* Skin and crush/grate three cloves of garlic, an inch of ginger root and chopped hot chillies to taste, fresh if you can, otherwise dried, or maybe an inch squdge of harissa toothpaste. Add to saucepan.

* Boil the lot together for ten minutes.

* In a second saucepan, fry a finely chopped onion in butter until soft. You could add some finely chopped red pepper.

* Pour the liquid from the first pan through a sieve into the second. Discard the debris.

* Add a veg stock cube, a shake of paprika and of black pepper and four mugs of water.

* Bring back to boil, add chopped prawns and a handful of chopped, fresh bean sprouts, a slosh of soy sauce, and simmer for five minutes.

* Serve

 PS This kind of soup is a bit of a movable feast. I added a handful of mixed frozen seafood because I wanted to finish the packet. You could try a bit of finely chopped crab meat. If your chillies are fresh you could add them at the frying stage. You could also add noodles or a little finely chopped pineapple. Chop the noodles and bean sprouts so that they will sit conveniently on a soup spoon

mercredi 16 janvier 2013

This, as you are probably aware, is a horse . . .

It's actually rather a useful pic, being marked with all the different bits of horse, so that you wouldn't mistake them for . . . a beefburger perhaps . . . like those jolly silly chappies in the British food industry.
Apparently, back in dear old Blighty, they're getting terribly worried that bits of horse have been getting into beefburgers, thus rendering the description on the packet . . . wrong. 
Of course it's wrong - Everyone knows that beefburger means "round frozen thing composed of fat, gristle, onions, E-numbers, as much ice as they can get away with, and miscellaneous cack." Eight out of ten bacilli that expressed a preference stated that they preferred the packet.
Having lived in France for some 11 years now, the thing that really intrigues me is: Why are they so worried that someone's found some meat?
 I was deeply shocked the first time that I cooked French beefburgers. They bled. Il y avait du sang partout! These weird, even alien objets were clearly contaminated with beef . . . we only needed one each for a meal because they filled you up.
Of course the French, in some ways, don't take these things so seriously. A restaurant is quite within its rights to serve you steak and chips without being absolutely specific as to whether a cow or a horse donated the requisite pound (or should that be demi-kilo?) of flesh. In terms of averages, you're more likely to eat horse up north or anywhere near Belgium.
 But the whole affair does highlight very well something that I find quite strange about the British: They fill horses up with top quality natural foodstuffs. But it's cruel to eat cute-shaped animals so they sell them to the Belgians. The horses still get eaten. But by Belgians.

Then the British take some un-cute-shaped animals and fill them up with utter shite, such as cows (which are naturally vegetarian) with bits of other cows, because they think that's not cruel, and feed the un-cute-shaped animals to their children.

Then the British get worried because some of the ultra-processed utter shite accidently gets polluted with bits of healthy cute-shaped animal meat.

Only the British could do this . . .
To be honest it's the idiotic sentimentality that really pisses me off. It's OK to eat animals so long as they're not cute-shaped. What kind of consistent moral stance is that? Either you think it's acceptable to eat animals or you don't.
Then there was the English woman I met at a restaurant in Perpignan who ordered un plat du lapin and sent it back because she hadn't realised it was another cute animal - a bunny rabbit.
I couldn't help noticing that she wore a small fur. 
"What fur is that?" I asked, sort of innocently.
"Oh, a rabbit."
"So you will wear it but you won't eat it?"
Mon bloomin' Dieu! I rest my case, m'lud.

mardi 1 janvier 2013

2013 - Year of the Soup Dragon Tattoo or something

Well there you go, it's only January 1 and here I am already getting my Clangers mixed up with the Steig Larsson trilogy.

And I can't even blame it on the booze. I was distinctly abstemious on New Year's Eve - only one glass of wine. This could be down to natural virtuousness but also the near-absolute certainty of meeting the flics out in force at Couiza crossroads.

In fact les Gendarmes were all at home in beddybyes, I was surprised to find, while driving home at 1.30am. The theory au Café de Fa this morning was that they were all tired and shagged out after a prolonged and forlorn wait for Armageddoff.

On reflection that's probably wasted the overtime budget for the next three years, so you can understand their lack of enthusiasm. But of course it's not good to drink and drive.

New Year's Day usually being a gentle affair, I decided to indulge in the noble art of faire la soupe. Not the infamous and Petomaneous soupe au choux, I hasten to reassure you. But I have got a bit of a root vegetable thing going at the mo.

I don't know if it's the same where you are, or why, but round here le prix des legumes has shot through the roof. Root vegetables, being in season and occasionally even on offer, are the only reasonable proposition. Thus it was, that I decided on a cheap and cheerful leek and potato soup with lardons:

* Chop up a couple of onions and three cloves of garlic, a packet of lardons and fry together in a little olive oil in an iron casserole or large saucepan with lid.

* Chop up a couple of leeks and four large potatoes. I was particularly careful about washing soil out of the leeks so that I could use the whole vegetable, discarding only a few bruised outer leaves.

* Add four mugs of water.

* Add a veg stock cube, two bay leaves, a teaspoonful of marjoram, and of thyme, half a teaspoonful of nutmeg, a dash of paprika and black pepper.

*Bring to boil and simmer for half an hour until the leeks and potatoes are soft.

*Take off the heat. Allow to cool a bit. Remove bay leaves and blend together.

*Stir in a pot of crème fraiche and salt to taste.

It's fine like that, if you like your food mild but I couldn't help feeling that I'd prefer a bit more bite. I stirred in a half a teaspoonful of cayenne pepper and some grated Parmesan that seemed to be lurking in back of my fridge, thus disposing of another leftover (and awarding myself a Gold Star on the domestic budgetary front).

Bring back to a simmer, add a little more water to taste if you prefer a lighter soup, then serve.

Bon appetît!

PS my mate Viv, of Vivinfrance's Blog, Normandy, suggests substituting an inch of harissa paste for the cayenne pepper. I can find no fault whatever with this suggestion!