• Savoury,  Soup

    Gazpacho and midnight feasts

    France has been subjected to apocalyptic heat and unusually large, uncontrollable forest fires over the past ten days. Apparently though, this isn’t punishment enough; according to Britain’s half-witted Foreign Secretary, France is also single-handedly responsible for the giant tailbacks happening at the Port of Dover. And today, a colleague of the half-wit, who is also on the Genius Podium, is piling the blame on France for a ‘meltdown’ at the UK Passport Office. As Clément Beaune, the French Transport Minister, said: ‘France is not responsible for Brexit’.

    Although Java The Guard Dog has been sleeping outside during the hot weather (by ‘sleeping’ I mean running round and round the house all night, like a maniac), one of our resident deer has been sneaking midnight snacks, apparently consisting of Léo’s grapevine leaves, with a side order of my geranium flowers. As the geraniums are on the terrace attached to the house, this is pretty unabashed as petty crime goes, but Java, who is only interested, randomly, in guarding the compost heap, has been of no use whatsoever. There were no such unlawful goings on during Hugo’s watch, I can tell you. Java, get your act together!

    We’ve been eating a lot of gazpacho in the the past few weeks, as it’s been too hot to cook. We haven’t even been able to use the barbecue for fear of setting our surrounding forest on fire. The original recipe dates back to Roman times. Tomatoes are particularly beneficial during hot, sunny weather as research shows that a powerful antioxidant, lycopene, could protect our skin from UV damage from sunburn. Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene.

    Ingredients (serves 4-6)

    1 cucumber, peeled and chopped

    1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped

    1 green pepper, deseeded and chopped

    1kg ripe plum tomatoes, skinned and chopped

    2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

    1 onion, peeled and chopped

    50ml olive oil

    75g stale white bread, chopped

    3 tablespoons sherry vinegar

    Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper

    Dash of tabasco (optional)

    Place the prepared vegetables, bread and olive oil into a blender and mix until smooth. Then add the seasoning, mixing again. Taste and adjust. If the mixture is too thick, you could add some cold water. Refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.

  • Savoury,  Soup

    Courgette and goat cheese soup and raucous men

    Neither Luc nor I are fans of shopping, especially shopping together. You know those couples you see casually and contentedly wandering around shops hand in hand? That will never be us. Lockdown suited very well from that point of view; one of us went shopping (usually Luc as he thinks I’m an irrational, inefficient and irresponsible shopper), and the rest was bought online.

    But we needed new patio furniture and decided to brave the garden centre. I was very happy to try out the swing sets and suspended deck chairs, which I discovered weren’t properly anchored, while Luc frantically looked around for someone to help us. We’d been told that ‘Emilie’ was the salesperson to look for, but she was proving difficult to pin down. Problem solved: Luc planted himself in the middle of the expansive furniture section and absolutely boomed ‘E-M-I-L-I-E!’. After that it was plain sailing; eight dining chairs and two deckchairs were chosen, paid for, and loaded in under 10 minutes, and I hobbled out only slightly bruised.

    Because I’m old and broken (see above), I visit my physiotherapist twice a week. He loves to sing as he works, and last week launched into a charmingly boisterous rendition of an old French song about a once — but no longer — glorious, unseaworthy, abandoned ship: ‘Quand je pense à la vielle anglaise…’ (when I think of the old English woman…) Bursting into laughter I said ‘I’m so happy to have inspired you!’ Since then, strangely enough, he has refrained from refrains.

    This is a lovely, quick and easy soup for Spring.

    Ingredients (serves 6)

    45g butter

    1 onion, peeled and sliced

    2 shallots, peeled and sliced

    2 garlic cloves, crushed

    200g leeks, washed and chopped

    450g courgettes, washed and cut into rounds

    1 large potatoes, peeled and sliced

    1l chicken stock (or vegetable if you prefer)

    1 teaspoon paprika

    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

    150g soft goat’s cheese

    Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onions, shallots and garlic, fry for about five minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Add the leeks, courgettes and potato coating in the butter and cook for a few minutes longer. Add the stock and seasoning and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Add the goat’s cheese and blend the soup until smooth.

  • Nutritional information,  Savoury,  Soup

    Radish top soup and hot air and bubbles


    I love our dogs, I really do, but they’ve been doing my head in during this Sahara Bubble. Yesterday they kept forgetting just how hot it was outside, which meant that I spent the better part of the 41° heat of the day and early evening playing ‘Doors’, when I should have been prostrate with a cool compress on my head, perusing my book about expeditions to the South Pole to conjure up ice-cold thoughts. The rules of ‘Doors’ are quite simple: you run between the back door and the front door, alternately letting in and out hot, panting dogs with very short memories.
    You might be wondering why I don’t exercise a bit of authority (LOL – you and I have obviously never met), and tell them to stay put, but Hugo would head butt the door until he knocked himself unconscious, and Java would do her standing-on-hind-legs routine and end up falling over backwards, also knocking herself unconscious. So tempting, but no. And then this morning, to add insult to injury:  You know those hilariously funny videos you see of dogs rolling in wet, sticky mud coming back coated from head to paw? Java. Not hilarious. That’s all I’m saying.
    While I was jet washing the muddy kitchen floor, Luc ‘phoned from the supermarket to say that he had put his trousers on back-to-front (he realised when he tried to put his wallet in his pocket and it fell to the floor). He had to waddle back to the car to wrestle them off and back on again the right way. Give me strength. On a positive note at least it’s a bit cooler today.
    As I was far too hot and exhausted to go shopping yesterday, I made this soup with radish tops from the garden. It was more of a success than my dog disciplining attempts, which is admittedly not difficult. Radish greens contain a high concentration of vitamin B6, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, calcium, and vitamin A.
    Ingredients (serves 6)
    45g butter
    1 onion, peeled and sliced
    2 shallots, peeled and sliced
    2 garlic cloves, crushed
    3 bunches radish greens, rinsed
    2 large potatoes, peeled and sliced
    1l chicken stock (or vegetable if you prefer)
    1 teaspoon paprika
    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    4 tablespoons crème fraîche
    Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onions, shallots and garlic, fry for about five minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Add the radish tops and potatoes, coating in the butter and cook for a few minutes longer. Add the stock and seasoning and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the radish tops and potatoes are soft. Blend the soup until smooth and add the crème fraîche.

  • Nutritional information,  Savoury,  Soup

    Watercress soup and disarray at dawn


    I have to get up far too early at the moment; it’s still dark  which makes it the middle of the night in my book. Java has become a bit of an early bird and launches herself at me like a little, blonde heat-seeking missile as soon as I come downstairs. I have to let her out quickly because she has work to do.  She has taken to ‘rearranging’ the scruffy pile of shoes that hangs out on the doorstep, depositing them thoughtfully and poetically on the grass in front of the house. This morning she outdid herself: She took each shoe and dunked it in the river before laying it out to dry on the grass. Getting ready to leave in a rush is fun when it involves having to retrieve a pair (preferably, although I have on occasion resorted to wearing odd shoes) in my size, which is  neither too soaking wet nor chewed to pieces. You might think I’d be inspired to tidy the shoes away, but no. I can’t tell her off because it causes her to develop a very bad limp and disappear for hours.
    When Luc gets up I have to ‘talk him down’ with regard to whatever weird dreams he’s fallen victim to during the night. It’s asparagus season, and for some reason eating asparagus in the evening has much the same psychedelic effect on him as a large plate of shrooms. This morning he was quite distraught at how France had suffered despicable referee bias during a France/Spain football match. He was obviously thinking in terms of retribution, because he asked me lots of detailed questions about disposing of bodies in concrete, which is just the ticket when you’re eating your porridge. This is obviously my specialist subject so I was happy to provide him with particulars. A few nights ago, there was a coup d’état in Argentina, which he was called upon to fly over and sort out, taking me along as his interpreter. I’m still worrying about how that would have turned out.  Thank goodness for small mercies: Hugo and Léo are far less complicated in the morning because neither of them communicates until after midday.


     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Watercress contains enormous quantities of vitamin K, but also vitamin C and vitamin A.  It contains the minerals manganese, iron and calcium and flavonoids such as beta carotene, zeaxanthin, and lutein.  It is a good source of B-complex vitamins.
    Ingredients (serves 6)
    4 potatoes, peeled and chopped
    2 turnips, peeled and chopped
    2 onions, peeled and sliced
    2 cloves of garlic, crushed
    1 tablespoon olive oil,
    Freshly ground black pepper, sea salt,
    1 teaspoon paprika
    4 bunches of watercress, well rinsed and chopped
    600ml organic stock
    Crème fraîche
    Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, adding the potato, turnip, onion and garlic.  Fry until translucent. Add the seasoning, watercress and the stock and simmer for about five minutes. Blend until smooth and serve with crème fraîche.

  • Nutritional information,  Savoury,  Soup

    Chicken soup and unruly hair


    My hair is a free-for-all, to be chewed on, judged and discussed without compunction or reserve. I’m asked on a regular basis if it’s natural (because you think I would I chose it?), if it’s wet, if it’s dry, if it’s just been to the hairdresser and if it hasn’t. In some parts of the world, people come and stroke it like a strange woolly pet. A rather uncharming old lady who lives nearby actually uses the word ‘mop’ when referring to it, which she does every time I see her. And Luc said the other day ‘it just really suits you – it’s chaotic’. This was meant as a compliment (wtf?). The assistant in a posh haircare shop not long ago suggested, without a hint of irony, that I could ‘always try using a comb’ when I asked for advice on how to tame it. And to add insult to injury, Hugo chews on it in much the same way that he chews on Java’s ears.

    A number of studies have been conducted on the usefulness of chicken soup (aka Jewish penicillin) in warding off and treating cold and flu viruses. It appears that the soup inhibits the movement of neutrophils, the most common type of white blood cell that defends against infection. The theory is, that by inhibiting the migration of these infection-fighting cells in the body, chicken soup essentially helps reduce upper respiratory cold symptoms by reducing inflammation.

    The researchers couldn’t identify the exact ingredient or ingredients in the soup that made it effective against colds but say it may be the combination of vegetables and chicken that work together.

    Make what you will of the research, but at the very least, chicken soup with vegetables contains lots of healthy nutrients, is easy to digest, increases hydration and tastes delicious.

    Ingredients
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    2 onions, peeled and chopped
    2 shallots, peeled and chopped
    3 cloves of garlic, crushed
    2 leeks, washed and cut into rounds
    1 fennel bulb, washed and cut
    1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes
    4 carrots, peeled and cut
    200g cabbage, shredded
    1 red pepper or chilli pepper, cut into strips
    2 sprigs of thyme
    1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
    2 teaspoons turmeric
    1.5 litres chicken stock
    2 tablespoons Pernod (optional)
    300g pre-roasted chicken, skin removed and shredded
    100g frozen peas
    2 serving of pre-cooked brown rice
    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    Gently brown the onions, shallots, garlic and leeks in the olive oil in a large saucepan or casserole dish. Once browed, add the fennel, butternut squash, carrots, cabbage and chilli pepper and continue to cook for a few minutes. Add the thyme, ginger, turmeric, chicken stock and Pernod and bring to a simmer. Once the vegetables are almost cooked, add the chicken and frozen peas and continue to cook for another ten minutes. Add the brown rice towards the end of cooking, season with the salt and pepper and serve piping hot.
     

  • Gluten-free,  Savoury,  Soup,  Spicy

    Spicy chicken and coral lentil soup and dog ASBOs

    chickencorallentil

    Every time I go to London I’m reminded of just how unruly our dogs are. Dogs in London parks amble around acknowledging each other politely, sometimes stopping for a chat or a bit of a play, then rejoining their owners as soon as they’re called. Our dogs? Not so much; if canine ASBOs were a thing, we would have an impressive collection. Hugo, in his labrador way, does have a certain amount of innate savour faire, but it doesn’t stop him and his 30 kilos from climbing onto unsuspecting visitor’s laps or availing himself of the driving seat of their cars. He also has a tendency to break into neighbour’s kitchens to relieve them of their baguettes.
    Last time I visited the vet with Hugo, we were asked to leave by the back door because his arrival by the front door (the Door for Civilised Dogs) had created pandemonium (try to picture cats and small dogs splattered all over the walls). The following week when I visited with Java, I was allowed to leave by the Door for Civilised Dogs, which was a big mistake because she launched herself at a pony-sized Pyrenean sheep dog like a tiny heat-seeking missile. Luckily for her, enormous dogs tend to have impeccable manners and gentle dispositions and he shook her off like a rather annoying fly. With great shame I picked her up, seat-belted her into the back of the car and ignored her all the way home.
    The dogs have outdone themselves this week though: Hugo got stuck in the car for nearly four hours and we only realised where he was when we heard the car horn tooting persistently. Java, not to be outdone, got herself stuck in the railings of the staircase. Between her wriggling, our giggling, and not knowing whether to push or pull, getting her out was quite a feat. In hindsight, we should have left her there because on our walk afterwards we met five seriously well-trained and hard-working English Setters with a hunter. (At least they were well-trained until Java intervened – I think she must have revealed a chink in their training armour.) She ran into the midst of the pack, her body quivering with high-spirited enthusiasm, despite her presumably bruised ribs from the staircase debacle, hysterically barking ‘PARTY TIME’ and after that there were six setter reprobates running around like maniacs. I’m off to lie down.
    Ingredients (serves 6)
    4 chicken thighs, skin removed
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    Dried rosemary
    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

    1 tablespoon coconut oil

    1 onion
    1 celery stick, chopped
    1 leek, chopped
    2 carrots, peeled and sliced
    2 cloves of garlic, crushed

    2 teaspoons cumin seeds

    1 teaspoon curry powder
    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    2 bay leaves
    3 litres chicken stock
    250g coral lentils
    Preheat the oven to 180°C. Put the chicken thighs into a roasting tin coated in olive oil, dried rosemary and seasoning and roast for about 30 minutes, or until cooked through. Once cooked, cut or rip into pieces, removing from the bone and set aside. Melt the coconut oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion, celery, leek, carrots and garlic and fry until golden. Then add the seasoning and stock and bring to a simmer. Add the coral lentils and simmer for about 20 minutes (don’t cook the lentils too much or they’ll go mushy). Add the chicken pieces, warm through and serve.

  • French,  Nutritional information,  Savoury,  Soup

    Leek and potato soup with mushrooms and repeat offenders

    leekpotatomushsoup
    After a busy week for tumbles — my husband fell backwards off his horse and frontwards off his bike — we had planned to go the beach for lunch on Sunday. Léo however had other plans; he performed a forward somersault off his bike and landed on his already twice-fractured arm.
    Emergency departments are never a pretty sight, but even less so on Sunday mornings when they’re full of bloody rugby players (I don’t have anything against rugby players, but they always seem to have blood spouting from somewhere), and the dregs of Saturday night. As they fast track young children, I told Léo to make himself look little, which, as he’s over 6ft now, made me sound a bit insane.
    The receptionist greeted us like old friends and commented more than once on the fact that our family’s records took up a substantial amount of room on her database. As this was potentially his fourth broken arm (he once very efficiently broke them both at the same time), she wondered if he might have any deficiencies. I said that yes, I was convinced he had a number of deficiencies: fear and common sense to name but two. She looked at me strangely and said that she had be thinking more along the lines of calcium or vitamin D. In the end, it turned out that his arm wasn’t broken, just badly dented, which didn’t really sound much better to me, but I suppose it made for a change. For some reason, on our way out I felt compelled to shout over to the receptionist like a madwoman that his arm wasn’t properly broken this time. I felt the need to justify as she’d made me feel like a repeat offender. I suppose she might have a point…
    Leeks are an extremely rich source of  vitamin K which is surprisingly important for bone health. Mind you, so is avoiding falling off your horse or bike. Vitamin K has repeatedly been shown to help avoid bone fractures. Leeks also contain substantial quantities of vitamins A and C, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus and are a rich source of allicin, a sulphur-containing compound with anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties.
    Ingredients (serves 6)
    45g butter
    6 small leeks, rinsed and diced
    2 large potatoes, peeling and diced
    1 garlic clove, crushed
    2 shallots, peeled and chopped
    1 thyme sprig
    2 bay leaves
    500ml chicken stock  (or vegetable if you prefer)
    1 teaspoon paprika
    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    4 tablespoons crème fraîche
    85g mushrooms, sliced
    Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the leeks, potatoes, garlic, shallots and thyme and cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Add the stock and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft. Remove the thyme and bay leaves. Blend the soup until smooth and add the crème fraîche. Fry the mushroom in a little butter until golden brown, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add a spoonful of mushrooms to each bowl of soup and serve.

  • Savoury,  Soup

    Cream of porcini soup and dog day trips

    cepsoup
    Immediately following The Ditch Fiasco, Hugo was very solicitous and insisted on staying by my side at all times. This was very sweet, but a bit of a logistical nightmare when it came to showers etc.  After a little while though, the novelty of me not moving anywhere very fast wore off and he began to search for new horizons. Deciding that Luc’s porcini hunts were a poor substitute for long hikes, Hugo took matters into his own paws by organising vigorous ‘sorties’ every morning to our neighbours’ house a kilometre away. This was a sly plan for two reasons: Their cats hadn’t yet eaten their food (which he gallantly saw to) and his coming home either entailed a horse being saddled up to accompany him, or his absolute favourite – a car trip. I’ve managed to curtail the visits for the moment with the promise of short walks and Java’s electric collar. Why is it I seem to specialise in errant, insubordinate animals?
    We have had more porcini than ever this year. I think that the combination of a hot Indian Summer and just the right amount of rain have made for ideal growing conditions. Porcini soup sounds very decadent, but less so when you’re finding several kilos a day.
    Ingredients (serves 4)
    300g fresh porcini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
    30g butter
    2 shallots, peeled and sliced
    1 clove garlic, crushed
    1 medium size potato, peeled and cubed
    2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
    10ml white wine
    Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper
    1 teaspoon paprika
    750ml chicken or vegetable stock
    50ml single cream
    Place the mushrooms, butter, shallots and garlic in a large saucepan, heat gently and leave to ‘sweat’ for about five minutes. Add the potato and parsley and cook for another couple of minutes. Add the white wine and seasoning and then the stock. Bring to a gentle simmer and leave to cook for a further 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the cream and blend.

  • Hugo blogs,  Nutritional information,  Soup

    Cream of mushroom and spinach soup and Hugo’s take on sterilisation

    soup2
    HugojournoandJava
    Java spent all day yesterday at the vet. Although I had a nice peaceful day, I did miss her, which is a bit like missing a sore paw really. I heard Bossy tell someone that she was being sterilised. I know that she’s inclined to be dirty (Java, not Bossy), because she’s often covered in mud (and sometimes worse), but I didn’t realise that it was that bad. And anyway, once she’s been sterilised, surely she’ll just jump into the river and roll in the mud and be dirty all over again. When she came back last night she was in a very sorry state; I think that the sterilising machine must have slipped or something because she had a big bandage on her tummy. Also, she cried all evening and couldn’t walk properly and had to be carried to bed. I’m not allowed to practise my judo on her or chew her ears for two whole weeks, which makes me wonder what the point of her is. I hope they don’t take me to the vet to be dry-cleaned because I don’t want to end up like that. She seems to be better today, but I’m not: I’m quite exhausted because I had to comfort her all night while everyone else was asleep *exploited doggy sigh*.
    Thank you Hugo. I’m sorry that you’re feeling exploited, but it was very kind of you to take care of Java. This soup is packed full of nourishment. The mushrooms provide vitamins D and B complex, as well as minerals such as selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and copper. The spinach contains high levels of iron, folic acid and calcium as well as vitamins A, C and K. The butter and cream aid absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K).
    Ingredients (serves 6)
    10g butter
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 large onion, finely sliced
    1 clove garlic, crushed
    125g mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (I used button mushrooms but you could use any sort)
    225g baby spinach leaves
    1 litre organic vegetable or chicken stock
    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    1 teaspoon paprika
    100ml pouring cream
    Gently heat the oil and butter in a large pan, add the onion and garlic and cook until softened. Add the mushrooms and cook for five minutes before adding the spinach, stock and seasoning. Simmer for about 15 minutes and purée until smooth. Add the cream, stirring well and serve.

  • Hugo blogs,  Savoury,  Soup

    Pea and mint soup and Hugo’s new byline

    peamintsoup
    hugotypewriter2by
    I recently joined the NUDJ (National Union of Dog Journalists) because Bossy can be inclined to take advantage of my good nature. I also decided that I needed a proper byline and my favourite artist submitted a few pwoofs that you can see above and below. I quite like them, although I do wonder whether they properly portray the fact that I am a sophisticated dog of great intellectual gravitas… I would appreciate your opinions.
    I’ve been rushed off my paws even more than usual this week; we are in the throes of a baby deer boom. These baby deer have no sense of territory or propriety, which is quite exhausting. And as if this isn’t taxing enough, a family of ducks has moved in without so much as a by-your-leave. They quack very loudly all night and stop me from sleeping. As I work until at least midnight every night, I need all the rest I can get *bone-tired doggie sigh*. When I get time, I shall write to my union about all this noise and overtime.
    To be honest, this pea soup is as dull as ditchwater. I’ve never been keen on green-coloured food because, in my world, green means that it’s gone bad. Still, they all seemed to like it, although the Noisy One appears to share my suspicion of anything green.
    hugotypewriter1by
    I’m sorry this soup doesn’t meet with your approval Hugo, although, as this is a healthy eating blog, you might want to dilute your opinion on green things a little bit for next time? I thought it was a particularly delicious Spring soup and will certainly make it again. Peas are sometimes referred to as ‘nature’s multivitamin’, as they contain no fewer than eight vitamins and seven minerals. They are also a good source of fibre and protein and lower the overall glycemic index of any dish to which they are added.
    This soup is adapted from a recipe in Anthony Worrall Thompson’s excellent book, ‘GI Diet’.
    Ingredients (serves 4 – 6)
    10g salted butter
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 onion, peeled and chopped
    2 leeks, washed and chopped
    1 garlic clove, finely chopped
    275g peas, fresh or frozen
    1 large courgette, washed and chopped
    1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    1 teaspoon paprika
    1 tablespoon fresh mint, finely chopped
    Melt the butter in a large saucepan with the olive oil. Add the onion, leeks and garlic and gently soften. Add the peas, courgette and stock and bring to the boil. Add the seasoning and cook until the peas and courgette are tender (about 20 minutes). Add the mint and purée until smooth.