Quick and easy carrot and leek soup

I’ve got bags of carrots in the freezer, and I’m experimenting again. I also made a very peculiar soup with pickled beetroot and sour cream that I don’t think I will try again. This was so quick and easy, and there are at least six servings in there. It is better made with a chicken stock. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 30g butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 leek, finely chopped – do not include any coarse leaves
  • around 500g carrots, grated or finely chopped
  • 1 litre + of chicken stock or similar
  • around 150ml plain yoghurt, unsweetened
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chives

METHOD:

  • Gently fry the onion and leek in the butter. Cover the pan and let them sweat for around 3 minutes
  • Add a good pinch of salt and the grated carrots, stir together, and cook for another 5 minutes
  • Add the hot stock, and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes
  • When the vegetables are tender and cooked through, use a soup wand to blend the soup, and to blend in the yoghurt. 
  • Stir through the chopped chives, and add salt and pepper as desired. 

Serve with some good rye bread, or other wholesome brown bread. 

Loin of venison with rosemary and thyme

We were given some very tender loin of venison from a sika deer. Sika deer are a non-native species that have become widespread across the UK, interbreeding with our native species, red deer and roe deer. They pose a threat to the native populations. 

This recipe is from Norman Tebbit’s book of game cookery.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Around 500g venison loin, divided into portions
  • Vegetable oil (not olive oil)
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 6 juniper berries
  • a small teaspoon of sea-salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

METHOD:

  • Mix the herbs, juniper berries, salt and pepper in a pestle and mortar, and grind together. 
  • Sprinkle the herbs onto the meat and set aside until needed. Heat the oven to 180C.
  • About ten minutes before you are ready to eat, heat the oil in a large frying pan until it is good and hot. Sear the meat on all sides, and put into a small roasting tin.
  • Cook in the oven for around 8 minutes, while you sort out the vegetables and mash. When the time is up, remove from the oven and allow the meat to relax.
  • Slice the venison and serve on warmed plates. We had mashed potato, Cumberland sauce, spinach and tender-stem broccoli. 

Cumberland Sauce

I made this to go with some delicious loin of venison given to us by a friend. I cooked the venison hot and fast, so that it was tender and medium-rare, and served it with mashed potato mixed with fried spring onions, spinach and tender-stem broccoli. This is a traditional sauce, which sounds unlikely, but works really well with venison, hot or cold. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lemon
  • 1 orange
  • 4 large tbsp recurrent jelly, or a mixture of red-current and rowanberry jelly
  • 4 tbsp port
  • 1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp cornflour

METHOD:

  • Pare the lemon and orange with a potato peeler, and simmer in hot water for 3 minutes or so, and drain. 
  • In a small pan, melt the jelly into the port, and then whisk in the mustard, the juice of the orange, and the juice of half the lemon, then add the ginger and the rind. Add the cornflour and simmer for ten minutes. 
  • We left the sauce to reach room temperature, and strained it before serving with the meat. 

Duck Soup 🤓

There has been a culling of the Muscovy duck flock in Loch Eport. I am planning on a Persian stew with the jointed duck, made with walnuts and pomegranate molasses. After I jointed the duck, I made a delicious broth from the carcase, and then followed and adapted a recipe that I found online, to cover the ingredients available locally. 

The whole time, I was thinking of this classic film: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duck_Soup_(1933_film) 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 duck carcase, chopped into three to fit into the stock pot
  • 2 small onions, chopped into quarters
  • Parsley – could be stalks or leaves
  • 20g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1/2 head of garlic, cloves chopped across the middle
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 2+ bayleaves – I used 4 small leaves
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 3 medium or 1 very large carrot, finely diced
  • 2 sticks of celery, finely sliced
  • 1 can of flageolet beans (not always available, I used haricot beans instead)
  • 40g pearl barley
  • 150g chard or spinach, chopped roughly
  • 50ml sherry
  • salt to taste – about a teaspoonful
  • freshly ground pepper
  • grated parmesan cheese

METHOD:

  • Put the duck carcase, onions, parsley, porcini mushrooms, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, and peppercorns into the stock pot, and fill with water to cover everything. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 hours. 
  • Strain the stock, and put in a soup pan. Pick any meat off the carcase and reserve
  • Add the barley, and simmer for 45 minutes. 
  • Add the carrots, celery, bring to a simmer again for 10 minutes, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Add the beans and spinach, and cook for another 5 minutes. 
  • Add the sherry and any duck meat. 

Serve in large soup bowls, garnished with grated parmesan, and with a good bread, such as sour-dough bread. You could also drizzle good quality olive oil on the soup or the bread. 

Borlotti bean and vegetable stew

I found the original recipe I was given rather sweet, so I have reduced the amount of honey in the recipe here. I’m currently trying out all sorts of recipes with potato in, if you hadn’t noticed. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 can of borlotti beans
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely sliced
  • 8 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 carrots, 1cm dice
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 4 dried chillies, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp mild dried chilli flakes
  • 2 medium potatoes, cut into 1cm cubes
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • juice of half a lemon, about 2 tbsp
  • a good grind of black pepper
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • flat-leaf parsley, chopped, to serve

METHOD: 

  • Heat the oil over a medium flame, and fry the onion, garlic and carrot for around ten minutes. Keep stirring so that the vegetables don’t catch. 
  • Add the tomato paste, chillies and chilli flakes, and cook for a minute. 
  • Add the borlotti beans, potato, dried basil and salt and cook for a few minutes to heat everything through
  • Add 500ml boiling water and the lemon juice, and simmer for around twenty minutes until the potato is cooked. 
  • Add the black pepper and honey to taste, and stir the parsley through. Leave the stew for around ten minutes before serving, to allow the flavours to mingle. 

Cracked wheat, courgette and yoghurt soup

This took a bit of testing before I got the method and recipe I liked best. It is from Van, in the east of Turkey. The history of this area is full of conflict, with Anatolian Christians being persecuted. I used to go to the Lake Van monastery in exile in Edinburgh, not really a restaurant, more of a place of welcome with food and history; I learnt a bit about the history of the Lake Van monastery there from the monk that ran the place.  

Remember to start the night before. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 100g coarse bulgar wheat
  • 250g Greek-style yoghurt
  • 1 large courgette, diced
  • 1 tbsp plain white flour
  • 300g spinach, chopped
  • 100g coriander leaf, chopped, OR mint or savory leaves. 
  • 1.5 litres chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

METHOD:

  • Cook the bulgar wheat in 500ml water, simmer for five minutes and then leave overnight. 
  • The next day, drain the wheat
  • In a large pan, bring the chicken stock to a simmer, and add the wheat and the courgette, and cook gently for around 20 minutes. 
  • Mix the flour with a spoon of hot stock, and add to the soup, along with the spinach and salt to taste. Cook for another ten minutes
  • Add the fresh coriander and whisk in the yoghurt before serving. 

 

Chinese potato stew

This is a delicious vegetarian stew, it reheats well, and is very forgiving with variations on the vegetables. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 slices of fresh ginger, peeled and crushed
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 4cm cubes
  • 1 pack of green beans, sliced into 4cm lengths
  • 2 carrots, cut into 4cm batons
  • 1 punnet of mushrooms, cut into 4cm chunks (or whole if you picked the right size at the shop)
  • 4 tbsp dark soy sauce (Chinese Soy Sauce)
  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp dry sherry or shaohsing wine

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a large pan, medium to high heat, and when it is hot, add the ginger and garlic, fry for around 15 seconds. 
  • Add the potatoes, beans and carrots, and stir for another minute.
  • Add the mushrooms, and fry for another minute.
  • Add around 500m boiling water, the soy sauce, sugar and wine, and bring back to the boil. Cover, turn the heat down low and simmer for around twenty minutes. 
  • Remove the cover and turn the heat up, boiling the sauce down, stirring gently as you go. You are aiming to get down to a thick gravy-like sauce which coats the vegetables. 
  • If you want to prep ahead and reheat for after work, leave a little more sauce, so that this boils down as you reheat it. 

Curried mutton pie

This is a recipe from ‘Original Flava’ – an excellent starter for West Indian cookery. I didn’t follow the recipe in the book (do I ever) but it reflects my own tastes and also what is available in the garden. I am looking out recipes to use up the last of the maincrop potatoes for last year, and this one fit the bill well. Also, who knew that adding creamed coconut or coconut milk to mashed potato was so good.

Remember to start the night before, and then allow a couple of hours cooking time on the day of eating.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1.2kg mutton, boned and diced
  • 1 tbsp West Indian curry powder (from seasoned pioneers)
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • salt and pepper (approx 1 tsp salt and pepper to taste)
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 200ml coconut milk
  • 125ml water
  • 1/2 tsp scotch bonnet pepper paste, or to taste
  • 2 carrots or 1 turnip, diced.
  • 6+ large maincrop potatoes, such as Maris Piper or Arran Victory, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 125ml coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • A pinch of thyme leaves

METHOD:

  • Put the mutton in a plastic container with the curry powder, dried thyme, ginger, allspice, salt and pepper, and leave in the fridge overnight. 
  • In a large cooking pot, heat the oil and then gently fry the onion and garlic until they are soft
  • Add the spiced mutton, and fry until browned. 
  • Add the 200m coconut milk, water, scotch bonnet and chopped carrots/turnip and mix. Cook on a low heat for a couple of hours until the meat is very tender. Adjust seasoning if required.
  • Preheat the oven to 180C – Gas 4
  • Steam the potatoes for around 15 minutes, until soft and cooked through
  • Mash the potatoes with 125ml coconut milk, butter, salt and pepper, and a pinch of thyme leaves. (The original recipe includes chilli flakes, but I think it is better to have the potato as a contrast, not so spicy)
  • Put the stewed mutton in a casserole dish or deep pie dish, top with the mashed potato, and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, until the mashed potato is beginning to brown. 

I served this with sprouts. It would also be good with a spinach side dish.

 

Nargesi – spinach and eggs – Persian style

A delicious recipe from Maryam Sinaiee’s book Nightingales and Roses. If you have been living in Uist this last week, you’ll know that a combination of ferry break-downs and bad weather led to no food deliveries onto the islands for five days. I managed to get the last bag of spinach from the co-op, and I had duck eggs from Clair. This is just as good with hen’s eggs. 

I’ve seen a few versions online, adding leeks and za’atar. I think I have an Ottolenghi recipe with that combination. Here is Maryam’s version:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 500g fresh spinach
  • 50g butter
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 eggs
  • Extra lemon wedges

METHOD:

  • Rinse and roughly chop the spinach, and put them into a very large pan over a medium heat. Cook until the leaves have wilted. 
  • Meanwhile, in a frying pan, melt the butter and cook the sliced onions over a medium heat until they are turning golden. Add the garlic and continue to cook. 
  • When the garlic looks cooked, add the spinach and the lemon juice, along with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer for a couple of minutes, then uncover and simmer until the mixture is nearly dry. 
  • Make four wells in the mixture, add an egg to each well, cover and cook for three or four minutes on a low heat, until the eggs are cooked to your taste. 

Serve with flatbread, and a squeeze of lemon. 

 

Mutton Paprika

This stew is so tender, so tasty, and so simple. Tonight we served it with mashed potatoes, but it is also great with dumplings. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1.5 kg neck of mutton or lamb, chopped
  • 3 tbsp mild paprika
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 onions, peeled and chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 500ml stock
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • chopped parsley 

METHOD:

  • Check the meat over, remove any excess fat or loose bits of splintered bone. I leave the neck chops with the bone in. 
  • Mix the spices, salt and pepper, flour and meat together in a container, seal it and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to cook; this could be overnight, but don’t worry if you forget and don’t have so much time. 
  • Heat the olive oil in a large casserole pan, and gently fry the onions until they are soft. 
  • Add the meat and heat through, before adding the stock. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 2 hours or so. This can be done in the oven, temp 130 C
  • Once it is cooked, add the lemon juice (which is optional) and serve garnished with chopped parsley. 
  • If you want dumplings, mix 225g self-raising flour with 110g suet and chopped parsley, and add enough ice-cold water to make a loose dough. Make balls of dough about the size of walnuts, and drop them into the stew. Let them cook for around 20 minutes. 

Delicious. Also, adaptable. You can swap around the stock, add wine, add a few herbs such as bay leaves and oregano, add sliced potatoes for the last hour of cooking instead of dumplings.