chicken noodle soup (ramen-ish)

This looks so drab and boring but it actually wasn’t! Of course it’s not the most exciting noodle soup I’ve ever had, but at the time it really filled a craving.

I was heading home from work and didn’t have any inspiration for what I wanted to eat.  I had one leftover chicken breast from something and I felt like I should use it, but I didn’t know what for. Browsing the supermarket recipe selection I came upon this recipe that they called Asian chicken soup and it sounded simple yet excotic-ish enough to fill me needs that day. It’s not a very complicated, several ingredient Asian ramen, but it fit the bill then and there.


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Ingredients (1 portion)

1 chicken breast or thigh

4 mushrooms

0.75 red chili

0.5 yellow onion

1 clove of garlic

0.5 tbsp fresh ginger

2 tbsp chicken stock

300 ml water

50g noodles

Thai basil


Fry sliced mushrooms, chicken and onion in oil in a pot for a few minutes.

Add chili, ginger and garlic and fry for another minute.

Pour over chicken stock and water. Add the noodles and cook for as long as the instructions on the pack says.

If you want to, add Thai basil (I had it at home already) or spring onion to your soup. I can really recommend Thai basil because it brought an extra flavour-note to the soup.


And that’s it. Not including chopping time this will take you max 10 minutes to make, and when you’re craving Asian food or just want something light and simple it’s a perfect quick fix.

/t

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how to: convert recipes to slow cooker recipes

I tried my hand at converting a normal recipe for the slow cooker this week! I found this recipe for a spiced venison stew with chocolate on BBC Good Food, and thought it sounded really nice. I always wanted to try a stew or chili with chocolate – to see what kind of a difference it may make. I like dark chocolate with chili in it – and when I lived in Italy my favourite ice cream shop made an amazing chili chocolate ice cream – so the idea of that hint of chocolate in a hearty stew was intriguing. However, my local supermarket didn’t stock venison, so I had to go with beef instead.

Having experimented a little with my slow cooker so far (the three bean chili, a beef stew that turned out way too dry, two different batches of peanut butter shredded chicken, and a parsnip and apple soup that was more reminiscent of apple sauce) I’ve come to believe that mine is a bit stronger than may be usual. When I made the beef stew and the first batch of shredded chicken I followed the cooking time exactly and they both turned out really dry. For the second batch of chicken I took off 30 min of the lower estimate and it was still a bit dry. I don’t know if there’s any way that you can figure out what the heat is (instruction manual maybe) but since I was cooking beef I figured I’d be ok even if it was a little bit underdone.

Scouring the internet for how to convert recipes I found a number of articles that set out very similar tips. Essentially it seemed that your best bet is to take soups or stews since they’re often ‘slow cooked’ anyway and since they contain a good bit of liquid. Lifehacker provided me with a slow cooker conversion chart by One Good Thing by Jilliee, but like I said above I made my own adaptions to the cooking times.

Conventional recipe time    Slow cooker time on low     Slow cooker time on high

15-30 min                           4-6 hours                             2-3 hours

35-45 min                           6-8 hours                             3-4 hours

50 min – 3 hours               8-10 hours                           4-6 hours

My stew falls into the last category (about 2.5 hours) but my previous experience has shown that cooking the food on the low setting for the time specified as the high estimate on the high setting (i.e. cooking the stew on low for 6 hours in this case) may be the way to go. So this time I went with my gut.

There are also a few things they say you should think about in terms of the ingredients – the big thing being the liquid. If your recipe is a soup or stew, or something else that already has liquid in it, the tip is to reduce the liquid by half. If your original recipe doesn’t have any liquid (or sauce) in it you should instead add 100-125 ml water to it – to create the steam needed for the slow cooker to reach its cooking temperature.

As for meat and vegetables, the general tip is to brown/sear any meat – unless you want to shred it – and seafood going in the pot. Obviously you don’t have to sear the meat, but they say it enhances the flavour and it helps in that it removes some of the excess fat which otherwise will just end up in your broth. Onions and garlic on the other hand should apparently always be browned first, or it will be too strong in flavour.

I like my vegetables with a bit of a bite still in them, and have found that even on the low setting, 6 hours in a slow cooker does mushy things to them. Most of the tips I read online said that hard vegetables like carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, swede, parsnips, etc. can go in right at the beginning, but I would say that if you’re able to (i.e. you’re not cooking it overnight or while you’re at work) it’s nicer to add your vegetables halfway through. Softer vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, peas, etc. should always be added nearer the end, or they’ll disintegrate in the stew. Another tip on the root vegetables (if you have to add them at the beginning) is to wrap them in foil and place on top of the beef, and then stir them in when the cooking time is over. This way they’ll stay a little bit firmer.

I haven’t yet tried a recipe containing dairy products or rice or pasta so I can’t comment on the next tips, but apparently any dairy products – milk, cheese or other – should be added in the last 30-60 minutes of cooking, and rice and pasta should be parboiled and added at the end – with just enough time left to heat through.

If your recipe calls for a thickening agent to be added to the sauce/broth, wait until the end. My tip (based on what I’ve done with my other stew) would be to reduce the cooking time by 30-45 minutes. Once finished cooking, combine cornstarch and water  until no lumps remain(the quantities vary but a good basis is 4 tbsp water and 2 tbsp cornstarch) and add to the slow cooker. Cook on high for 30 minutes. Another option is to remove the broth/sauce from the slow cooker and reduce it on the hob (stove in American), or to simply remove the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for 30 min. I haven’t tried the last way, but the cornstarch approach is tried in tested in many regular recipes, so I’ll probably keep using that.

When I was doing my conversion prep I read somewhere that the liquid in your recipe should still cover your meat and vegetables completely. When I had halved my wine and beef stock it was nowhere near covering everything, so I added the other half of the stock to make up the full amount. However, when the stew was done, there was then way too much liquid, and even reducing it on the hob with added cornstarch mix didn’t make it thick enough in time for me to pop to work this morning. So I think I should have maybe stuck with the halving of the liquid rule. (Also, adding more beef stock compared to the wine will have changed the flavour of the stew compared to the original recipe – for better or worse I don’t know.)

Either way I’m going to keep experimenting with my sloow cooker until we’re best friends and I know all its secrets, likes and dislikes. And I’ll post my adapted recipe for the stew tomorrow or Thursday.

/t

potato and leek soup with bacon

Did I tell you I was in a soup mood? I wasn’t kidding! For the past few weeks I’ve made the carrot and sweet potato soup twice, a roasted red pepper and tomato soup (which was much better than the other one I made)  and now this potato and leek soup with bacon. I have to admit I was a bit worried about this soup because I’m not actually super keen on leek. But since it’s the texture rather than the flavour I don’t love, I figured it should be ok.

I’ve been feeling a bit rough lately as well – my back and shoulders ache, and not just in an exercise pain way. I feel like it’s difficult to do certain exercises – well more difficult – and I get an ache behind my right shoulder blade when I sit at my desk at work.

I also haven’t been that great with what I’ve been eating lately (a few too many sweets and buns) so I’m trying to go down a slightly healthier route now that we’re in the last few days before the Christmas food starts popping up everywhere, hehe!

Anyway, this soup turned out really nice, warming and hearty and perfect with some toasted bread. The recommendation is to serve it with some crispy fried bacon – which was lovely – but it’s just as nice with just some bread.


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Ingredients

3 baking potatoes

400g leek

1 onion

3 cloves of garlic

3 rashers of streaky bacon (in the soup)

1.4 litres stock

140 ml cream

butter

salt

pepper


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Chop up your ingredients.

Melt butter in a pot. Throw in your onion, garlic and bacon and cook until browned/golden.

Add your potatoes and leek and cook for 5 minutes.

Add your stock – I haven’t specified which stock here because the recipe says vegetable but I used 900 ml chicken and 500 ml vegetable to get a fuller flavour – and being to boil. Leave for 20 minutes.

Blitz the soup with a hand mixer or in a blender until smooth.

Add the cream and season with salt and pepper.

Serve with crispy bacon rashers.

honey roasted parsnip soup

My first Christmas working in Parliament – which for the record was three years ago – we went for lunch in the Members’ Dining Room. Staff members are not usually allowed to have lunch there, but we were allowed to book a table for our Christmas lunch.

It was a very funny lunch, at the time were six staff members – five full-time and one part-time, though mainly because of the comical mishaps and misunderstandings, such as one of our group shouting ‘no’ quite loud at the waiter because s/he thought he was going to pour red wine in the glass of someone who wanted to drink white. Let’s just say that in a somewhat subdued and rather serious atmosphere that turned some heads.

Now an English Christmas lunch is nothing like a Swedish one. We don’t even call it ‘lunch’; we call it Julbord – which means Christmas table! The English ones I’ve been to have had menus with three or so options per course, and most of them have been Christmassy. In Sweden you pay a set price per person and it’s a massive, and I mean massive, buffet. One table with just cold food, one table with just hot food, and one table just for sweets, biscuits, and desserts. A Swedish Julbord is the kind of thing where you should skip breakfast and still won’t need any dinner. This can become quite difficult if you’re going back to work afterwards though, so unless you’re doing it on the weekend, most people have a Julbord at dinnertime rather than at lunchtime.

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But the English lunch has its charms, (one of them being that you don’t grow tired of eating the same food before you have to do it again on Christmas Eve) and when we went in the House I decided to try a honey roasted parsnip soup for my starter. I wasn’t necessarily a huge fan of parsnips, but I wasn’t too excited by any of the other options, so I went for it. My indifference towards parsnips soon changed though, and I’m pretty sure this was the turning point because I really liked that soup. So much so that almost three years later I still remember it.

I think my thinking that I wasn’t a big fan of parsnips came from when my dad used to make potato gratin when I was little. He would often make potato and parsnip gratin (with lots of onion!) so I would bite into what I thought was a lovely, soft potato – and it wasn’t. That has then followed me through life making me think I didn’t like parsnips, until I moved to the UK.

Now I’ve realised that I actually love parsnips, and being in my soup mood I’ve been thinking about this honey roasted parsnip soup I had in Parliament – especially since parsnips were half price in my supermarket last week. I started Googling for a recipe, but mainly came across regular parsnip soups. So I took a roasted parsnip soup recipe I found on BBC and combined it with my honey roasted parsnip recipe, and tada!


20161024_214328 (2).jpgIngredients

500g parsnips

70g butter

2 tbsp brown sugar

4 tbsp honey (2 + 2)

1 onion

2 vegetable stock cubes

750 ml hot water

750 ml milk

salt

pepper


Peel your parsnips and cut them into smaller pieces. Then melt the butter, brown sugar, and 2 tbsp of the honey in a pot. Pour the honey-mixture over the parsnips and toss them around to make sure they’re well-coated.

Roast for around 15-20 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius.

Chop of your onion and fry in a little bit of oil or butter (your preference) until it goes somewhat translucent. Add the parsnips, making sure that you get all the gooey honey-mixture into the pot with you.

Add the stock cubes, water, and milk, and bring to boil. Then leave to simmer for around 5 minutes.

Add the remaining 2 tbsp of honey, then blitz the soup in a blender or with a hand blender.


20161025_175224 (2).jpgI had very high hopes for this soup, and I was not disappointed. It was not quite as sweet as the one I had for our Christmas lunch, but with four tablespoons of honey I think this was probably sweet enough. If you really want it to be a bit sweeter (or you want to make it look more appealing to your guests) you can always drizzle some honey on top.

I got about 4.5-5 portions out of this recipe (last portion was a bit smaller than the other 4), and again, a nice slice of bread with it is not wrong.

/t

sweet potato and carrot soup

It’s getting very wet here. Until last Friday, October had been cold and very grey, but not very wet – but Saturday bought an end to that!

I feel like I haven’t seen the sun in weeks. Every day as I sit and look at the small square of sky I can see from my office window, I see a thick, grey cloud cover which never seems to let up. It’s been chilly, but not so cold you need to bring out your winter jacket and has mercifully, up until now, not been raining very much.

This was the first weekend this month that S wasn’t here, so to spend the time I signed up to go to the gym. On Saturday morning I was signed up for 90 minutes of yoga in the city, and thought I could hang around in town after and browse the mid-season sales or so. (Side note: since when are there so many sales all the time?) As I was leaving I was running a bit late, and just grabbed the first jacket in the wardrobe without checking the weather, so when I came out and it was 3 degrees Celsius instead of the 7-ish it had been all week, as well as raining, I got a bit of a shock. No time to go back up and change though, so I ran down to the tube, but as I was walking around town after the class I was so cold. Luckily I had an umbrella in my handbag (if my time in London has taught me anything it’s to always carry a small umbrella in your bag), but the scarf I had on is a loop one that has been too stretched, so it leaves a gap around your throat – thus defeating the purpose of a scarf. Before long though, my mum WhatsApped me and said did I want to come hang out with her.

Anyway, what I was going to say was that on Saturday it started raining and it hasn’t stopped since. The weather websites are claiming that it will be dry tomorrow, and even bright sunshine and 7-9 degrees on Friday and Saturday, but I’m not getting my hopes up. I don’t mind the cold, I don’t (really) mind the fact that the sun is soon going to set before I leave work, and I don’t even mind (that much) if it’s grey out. I just don’t want it to rain. November is a bleak enough month as it is, and with climate change or whatever it is making the winters hotter, there’s not even the promise of a white December to get you through it. All you can do is hope.

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Because of this bleak weather I’ve been in a real soup mood. I have a faint memory of writing somewhere in here – possibly in the blueberry post – that when I was little I didn’t like soup. Any soup. But having discovered that soup could be something other than the dreary, often lumpy, things we got in school, I’ve now come to expect these soup cravings this time of year.

My first soup of the season was a roasted red pepper and tomato soup which I unfortunately was quite disappointed with. It was too liquid and didn’t have the depth of flavour I was expecting, so I won’t put that recipe in this post.

Next up, however, was something much better. I was browsing soup recipes online and came across a carrot and sweet potato soup on BBC Good Food. I really like sweet potatoes, but the thought of putting them in a soup had never hit me. I immediately thought it was a good idea and decided to try it out.

This recipe is so easy, and takes very little effort. It’s a thick, earthy, autumnal soup – in other words everything I wanted it to be.


20161021_203539 (2).jpgIngredients

500g sweet potatoes

300g carrots

2 onions

4 cloves of garlic

1 litre vegetable stock

100 ml crème fraîche

oil

salt

pepper

paprika


Start by peeling your sweet potatoes and carrots and chopping them up into smaller pieces. Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Then roast for 20-25 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius. You want the pieces to be ever so slightly darkened (read burnt) around the edges.

While your sweet potatoes and carrots are in the oven, chop up the onions and some garlic. I used 4 cloves, because I love garlic. Fry the onions on medium heat until they start to look translucent. Then add the garlic and fry for a minute or two, before adding the stock. Bring to boil and leave to simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Add the carrots and sweet potatoes to the stock and blitz with a hand blender (or, if you don’t have one, add the carrots and potatoes and then the stock mix to a normal blender). After I had blended to soup so it was smooth, I also added about 2 tbsp paprika. The original recipe didn’t call for this, but I think it complemented the flavours well.

Add the crème fraîche and stir until it’s completely blended in with the soup. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy with some additional crème fraîche on top, if you want, and a nice bread roll.


This was exactly the kind of feeling I was looking for when I was making the roasted red pepper and tomato soup, which is why I was disappointed when I didn’t get it. I ended up with three servings from this – but my servings are probably around 500ml each, so they’re quite large.

Next up is a parsnip soup I amended to turn it into a honey roasted parsnip soup. See you then!

/t