Monday, 14 October 2013

Quick Nourishing Green Soup, Using Left-Over Fresh Herbs

A fresh & grassy soup that's quick to make, intensely nourishing and delicious served with a dobble of cream and sequins of olive oil.

Quick Healthy Green Soup, Using Left-Over Fresh Herbs
Quick Healthy Green Soup, Using Left-Over Fresh Herbs.

My herb-management system is abysmal, I have to admit. Every week I buy many packets of fresh herbs, and pick bunches from my garden as I need them, but about half of this harvest goes to waste because the leaves wilt in the fridge. They're still edible, but not perky enough to use in salads or as garnishes for other dishes. I abhor food wastage, so over the past few weekends I've been making this fresh-herb soup from the leftovers in the fridge.

I have not given you exact quantities of greens in this recipe, because this will depend on how much herbage you have to hand. This is a versatile formula, and it tastes different every time you make it.

Quick Healthy Green Soup, Using Left-Over Fresh Herbs
A few fronds of fresh dill on top of this soup lift it to a new level of yum.

I do think this soup needs a stock to give it a rich flavour base, but I don't expect you to make a stock from scratch, or it wouldn't be a quick 'n easy recipe, would it?  A carton of good veggie or chicken stock, or a Knorr* jellied stock pot, or a few teaspoons of Nomu fonds will do nicely, but please don't use a cube or your soup will taste like salted hay and not a fresh green field.

Quick Nourishing Green Soup, Using Left-Over Fresh Herbs

4 big potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
1.25 litres good vegetable or chicken stock (see my comments above)
an onion, peeled and finely sliced
a few parsley sprigs, if you have them
a stalk of celery, roughly chopped
½ tsp (2.5 ml) salt
a big bunch of left-over 'soft' herbs of your choice: parsley, basil, coriander, mint, chives, spring onions, dill, and so on
¾ cup (180 ml) cream
a pinch of nutmeg
the juice of half a lemon
milled black pepper

To serve:
extra-virgin olive oil
cream or natural yoghurt

Quick Healthy Green Soup, Using Left-Over Fresh Herbs
Simmering the veggies in stock.
Put the potato cubes, stock, onion, parsley, celery and salt into a large pot and bring up to the boil. Simmer for 25 minutes, or until the potato is soft.

Remove and discard any thick stalks from the bunch of herbs, roughly chop the leaves and add them the pot.

Cover with a lid and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the herb leaves have wilted.

Immediately blend the mixture to a fairly fine purée, using a stick blender or liquidiser.

If the soup is too thick after you blend it, thin it down with a little water or stock. If it is too thin, add a slurry of cornflour and water, teaspoon by teaspoon, and reheat, stirring, until it's thickened to your liking.

Stir in the cream and nutmeg, then add a spritz of lemon juice - just enough to give the soup a pleasant little zing. Season to taste with salt and milled black pepper.

Quick Healthy Green Soup, Using Left-Over Fresh Herbs
Add cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper,
then freshen up the soup with a
squirt of lemon juice.
Serve hot, with a swirl of olive oil and a dribble of cream or yoghurt.

Serves 4. 

Cook's Notes: 

1. Instead of using raw potatoes, you can use left-over cold potatoes, skins and all.

2. If you don't fancy cornflour to thicken the soup, use arrowroot instead.  I find that a little cornflour adds a lovely silken texture to soups.

3. Here are my top tin tips for making memorable soup: Top Ten Tips

* I am associated in my capacity as a freelance agent with the Knorr brand. 

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Thursday, 3 October 2013

Ricotta and Chive Hotcakes with Smoked Salmon Roses

For the past few weeks I've been standing in for Jenny Morris, the Giggling Gourmet, on Africa Melane's 567 Cape Talk food show. Jenny's away filming in France, and it's been a thrill for me to step into her famous boots. This week I'm going to be talking about brunch recipes, so I thought I'd share a favourite recipe from my book.

Ricotta and Chive Hotcakes with Smoked Salmon Roses
Ricotta and Chive Hotcakes with Smoked Salmon Roses.
Photograph by Michael Le Grange, and plate by David Walters
Image © Random House Struik 2012.

A crisp delicate crust and a hot oozy filling make these little hotcakes a real crowd pleaser. They are good warm but best served piping hot, so if you have a portable gas burner, make them at the table and let your guests help themselves to the toppings.

Ricotta and Chive Hotcakes with Smoked Salmon Roses

500 g fresh ricotta cheese
5 Tbsp (75 ml) finely grated Parmesan
2 extra-large eggs, separated
½ cup (125 ml) milk
½ cup (125 ml) cake flour
½ tsp (2.5 ml) baking powder
½ tsp (2.5 ml) salt
4 tsp (20 ml) finely snipped fresh chives
milled black pepper
sunflower oil

To serve:
400 g finely sliced smoked salmon or trout
lemon wedges
milled black pepper
1 x 250 g tub crème fraîche or sour cream
caviar and capers (optional)

First make the salmon roses. Cut the salmon slices into long strips about 2 cm wide. Twirl each slice into a loose spiral, place on a plate, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate. You’ll need about 24.

Put the ricotta, Parmesan, egg yolks and milk into a large bowl and beat energetically with a wire whisk. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and mix to a batter. Stir in the chives and season with pepper. Using a clean whisk and bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff (but not dry), then gently fold them into the mixture, adding more salt if required. Heat 1 Tbsp (15 ml) oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Drop tablespoons of the batter into the pan and cook for 1 minute, or until the bottom edges turn golden brown. Flip over and cook for another minute, or until the hotcakes are puffed and their edges look set. Watch them like a hawk as they burn quickly. Keep warm.

Arrange the hotcakes on a platter and top each one with a salmon rose. Serve immediately with lemon wedges, black pepper and little bowls of crème fraîche, capers and caviar.

Makes about 24; serves 8 as a snack.

Cook’s Notes

Prepare the salmon roses up to 10 hours in advance and keep covered in the fridge. The batter can be made up to 6 hours in advance, but beat and fold in the egg whites just before you fry the hotcakes.

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