Chocolate… in a soup? And other delicious things

As planned, today I made Jack Monroe’s chocolate, chilli and black bean soup. It wasn’t a particularly labour-intensive process but anything involving dried beans takes a while to put together, so I used the various simmering times to whip up a batch of shortbread and put the leftover vegetable mince from yesterday’s recipes into some pastry to make a monster pasty which will probably end up being at least two meals. To keep my strength up while I cooked, I also made some of Jack’s peanut butter hot chocolate using some of the chocolate from the soup recipe (and of course carried out a bit of quality control on the rest of the bar, you can’t be too careful…).

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The soup turned out rather browner than I had expected, oddly

My flat now smells delicious and is extremely warm! Once I’ve portioned out yesterday’s lasagne and pie along with today’s culinary efforts I think my freezer will be well and truly stocked for the next few weeks. I am going to freeze the shortbread in single-portion bags in an attempt to stop myself from eating them all in one go; they’re intended to be snacks for placement but that’s what last week’s flapjack was meant to be and I’d eaten it all after two days off.

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The monster pasty – and there is still mince left over!

I’ve also made sure that I have all the ingredients for a loaf of banana bread and what the internet assures me is the Best Chocolate Cake Ever, which I’m planning on making on Tuesday or Wednesday. Doing all this baking in the same week might be a miscalculation given the aforementioned lack of self-control where baked goods are concerned, but it’s a lot cheaper than running to the hospital shop to buy snacks during my breaks, and I’m rapidly discovering that on a 14 hour shift I need a bit more than a Thermos of soup, a small tub of pasta and an apple to keep me going.

Incidentally, I was excited to discover today that I had misjudged Aldi – they do in fact sell soya milk, I had simply failed to find it last time I looked, and it’s also cheaper than in Sainsbury’s. And at the checkout today there was a box of flapjack with two varieties clearly labelled as “suitable for vegans”. To cap my delight, in the chocolate section I discovered an accidentally-vegan bar of dark chocolate-covered marzipan, possibly my favourite treat ever. It took great strength of mind to prevent myself from buying both just because I could. Soya milk was the only remaining thing I thought I needed to go to Sainsbury’s for; now that I know I can get it at Aldi more cheaply, my loyalty to the big orange megastore (bought many years ago by the simple expedient of their issuing me with a discount card and a monthly payslip) has been wholly transferred.

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Broccoli and Potato Soup

My second veg box contained a head of broccoli which looked approximately the same as the remaining stalk from the first box, two weeks earlier: yellowish, dry and with some fuzz on it that was probably mould. I wasn’t enormously impressed, but considering that everything else in the boxes so far have been delicious and fresh, I didn’t make a fuss.

ImageInstead, I made soup! An onion, a few potatoes with the skins scrubbed but left on, a head of broccoli with the mould washed off and some vegetable stock made with my new vegan Bouillon powder, all simmered up until the potatoes were almost falling to pieces. On the advice of several recipes, I didn’t add the broccoli until the potatoes were already soft, but then I had to boil it for longer than I’d have chosen before the broccoli was soft. However, adding the broccoli later did mean it stayed relatively green.

It was delicious, and I’ll definitely be making it again soon. I’ve got two portions in the freezer and I ate one this evening after I got back from a five mile run. It would be excellent with some of the crispy white bread sold at the local bakery, but sadly they don’t open on Sundays or Mondays. I’ll be there tomorrow to grab some!

Fresh-from-the-garden Tomato Soup

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Yesterday my mum came to visit! I now live close enough to her that she can get the train here for the day, which is lovely (it also means I’m a train journey away from snuggles with my cats). She arrived with a big bag of vegetables from the garden. Initially we had planned to make a curry for lunch, but we went for a walk round my neighbourhood and ended up having lunch in a little cafe that had not one but two vegan options! I was excited.

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National Vegetarian Week 2013 – Tomato Soup

Happy National Vegetarian Week! This year I’m setting myself the challenge of cooking seven new recipes, with a particular focus on vegan dishes. Each day I will post a photo, a summary of the recipe and my verdict on whether the meal will make its way into my repertoire.

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Surprisingly difficult to photograph well

I am not quite sure why I had never made tomato soup before. I’ve made various vegetable soups and I often buy the tinned tomato soup, but somehow it never occurred to me to make my own. However, I always have chopped tomatoes on hand, and I had some left-over cream as well as a mostly-unused packet of frozen basil. Time to experiment.

I ddin’t use a recipe for this, I just drew inspiration from various sources. First I chopped and gently fried an onion until it was soft. I’ve seen that instruction a hundred times: fry until soft, but I have never actually managed to be patient enough to achieve it. This time, because I was busy doing a dozen other things ready for the dinner party, I actually forgot to keep poking and prodding at my frying onion, and it caramelised beautifully. It’s not “real” caramelised onion, but it’s the closest I’ve ever come.

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Soft, golden onions

Then I put the onion, two cartons of chopped tomatoes and a bit of water (just enough to rinse out each carton to avoid wasting the tomato) into a pan and simmered it for ages. Again I was distracted by other things, and simply stirred it ever so often to stop anything sticking. Once it had reduced down to a thick puree I added about 100ml of single cream (to make this vegan, you could omit the cream entirely or simply use a dairy-free alternative) and a handful of basil. Then I blended everything for a while and divided it up into tubs for the freezer.

The puree was too thick to be considered soup, but this was part of the plan. When I wanted to eat a portion, I added more water (enough to almost fill the plastic tub, which I realise is an unhelpful measurement for anyone else – just add as much as is needed to get the consistency you want) while reheating. I like my soup thin and liquid, but I think it would have made quite a nice thicker soup as well. The flavour is strong, stronger than Heinz I think and not dissimilar to Sainsbury’s soup in a cup sachets, but without the acidic tang that puts me off that product. I’ll definitely make it again, and I’ve got three more portions in the freezer for future quick and easy lunches.