I’ve already expressed a love for chinese hot and sour soup. In my pre-veggie days, my second favourite chinese soup was chicken and sweetcorn. It’s one of the great comfort soups of the world I think. The problem was, I could never recreate it properly. I tried different combinations of garlic and ginger, different levels of smoothness from blending the sweetcorn – none of it worked. None of it tasted right. Then I stumbled on a magazine recipe that gave away the secret. I’ve lost the magazine cutting now, but I’ve retained the secret ingredient.
Let me whisper it to you.
Tinned, creamed sweetcorn.
That’s it. Forget complicated spicing or other combinations. The flavour and texture is based on creamed sweetcorn. I don’t know how ‘authentic’ take-away sweetcorn soup is, but now you can make the authentic inauthentic version for yourself anytime you please.
100g tofu, cut into small cubes
2 tbsp soy sauce
418g tin creamed sweetcorn
425ml vegetable stock
1 tbsp grated ginger
50g frozen sweetcorn
Put the tofu in a bowl and mix with the soy sauce. Leave to marinade for at least half an hour.
Heat the creamed sweetcorn, vegetable stock, ginger and frozen sweetcorn in a pan and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the tofu and its marinade and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper.
Serve with some sesame oil drizzled over.
Serves 2 as a light lunch
Cucumber frequently gets paired with mint, which highlights its coolness, but here the sweet fragrance of dill brings out the sweetness of a ripe cucumber. You frequently see this salad with the cucumber peeled. I think that misses the point of the green skin mixed with the pinkness of the red onion.
1 cucumber portion (about 100-150g)
1/2 red onion, finely sliced
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp vinegar (white wine or cider)
1 tbsp dill, finely chopped
Halve the cucumber lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon and discard them.
Slice the cucumber as finely as you can.
Put the cucumber in a bowl with the other ingredients.
Season with salt & pepper.
Mix thoroughly and set aside for at least half an hour at room temperature before serving.
Serves 2 as a side salad
I like baked potatoes. I really, really like baked potatoes. I was always the one first in the queue for the baked potato stalls at music festivals (followed by a swift rush over to the crepes one for afters!) If you’re vegetarian, though, you get a bit bored with cheese and beans, or cheese and coleslaw, or cheese and onion (guaranteed bad breath, that one) or the dreaded cottage cheese and pineapple. If you’re vegan, it seems to be beans, beans, beans or hummus.
So here’s one vegetarian and one vegan suggestion for when you want a comfort supper with minimal effort.
I think the original recipe for stuffed baked potatoes came from Delia Smith, but I wouldn’t swear to it. Whatever, it’s dead easy to make and I’m sure you can think of variations on a theme. When the potato is baked to your satisfaction, scoop out the insides and mix with Boursin or whichever soft cheese you prefer. I always use garlic and herbs variety, but I’m sure the others would work (well, dunno about the fig one …) Loosen the mix with a drop of milk, add salt and black pepper, then pile back into the skins. I chop some leeks for the top, then put the potatoes back in the oven for ten or 15 minutes to warm the filling through and turn the leeks slightly crispy.
You can eat it as it is, or with a side salad. Rocket and watercress are nice, sharp counterblasts to the creamy filling.
The vegan filling is mushrooms and beans (not the baked variety). It came via my sister-in-law, Maria, and may be from Weightwatchers originally. She did it with tinned kidney beans and tinned mushrooms. I’ve never used tinned mushrooms in my life and don’t intend to start now, so I just fried some mushrooms (olive oil or low-cal spray, depending on your weight-watching status!), warmed through a tin of mixed beans (the ones in a slightly spicy tomato sauce are best, or it’s all a bit bland) and then added the lot to the baked potato. A knob of butter might have sneaked in there as well. And it’s extra tasty served with either cranberry or apple sauce.
This is inspired by a new dip I spotted in the chiller cabinet at Marks & Spencer. Beetroot and mint dip. I had never thought of putting mint and beetroot together. It looked, from the display that it was mixed with yoghurt, but when I tried it it was horribly sweet and cloying. Lemon juice worked much better. I’m not the biggest fan of beetroot, but this has a mild sharpness before the cool freshness of the mint kicks in. I would not have believed, before trying it, that three disparate ingredients would taste so good together. I urge you to give it a try.
1 packet of cooked beetroot (about 250g)
Juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp mint, finely chopped.
Grate the beetroot into a bowl.
Add the other ingredients and season well.
Mix thoroughly and then set aside for about half an hour to let the flavours mix.
Serves 4 as a side salad.
I know that this is summer and everyone should be eating fresh salad stuff straight out of the garden, but I think there is still a place for something quick and tasty that uses store-cupboard ingredients. Especially when the weather rains off the picnic on the lawn!
This is practically a store-cupboard soup, if you omit the red pepper and lime, but it is full of the gutsy flavour of a good chilli.
I have used black beans here, but red kidney beans or adzuki beans would be perfectly good substitutes. This recipe is dairy-free, but you could add a grating of cheddar cheese instead of lime as a garnish.
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
2 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
400g tin of black beans, drained and rinsed
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
200g frozen sweetcorn
750ml vegetable stock
lime slices for garnish (optional)
Sweat the onion and pepper in a little oil until the onion is translucent.
Add the garlic and stir for a couple of minutes.
Add the spices and stir until the vegetables are coated in them.
Add the rest of the ingredients apart from the lime.
Season with salt and pepper.
Simmer for half an hour.
Serve with the lime slices as garnish.
Mushrooms, garlic and brie all in one recipe, served with crusty bread? Out of my way, if you please …
Anth’s ninja Google skills tracked this little gem of a recipe down at the Amuse Your Bouche site. The amounts there are precise – I’ve happily fiddled around with it depending on how garlic/cheesy I wanted it, or what was lurking in the fridge at the time, or how many people were standing around looking forlorn and hungry …
Salt and pepper
Slice the garlic and put it in a roasting dish. Add the mushrooms (cut them into bite-sized chunks and then roast them in either butter or olive oil, depending which you prefer, for 15 – 20 minutes. You don’t want them shrivelled or soggy, but they do need enough time to pick up the garlic flavour.
Chop the brie into bite-sized chunks and add to the mushrooms. Grate over sea salt and black pepper then scatter plenty of basil on top. Roast for another ten to 15 minutes until the cheese has gone all melty.
It cries out for crusty bread, but would probably also work with ciabatta – particularly if you toasted it lightly, then rubbed a clove of garlic across the surface for added garlicky-ness.
The dish is very more-ish and works nicely as either a light lunch or as a dinner party starter.
I don’t know what you remember about the summer of 1993? A quick check on Wikipedia reveals that weapons inspectors were having problems in Iraq even then, Ireland won the Eurovision song contest with “In Your Eyes” (nope, hasn’t stuck in my memory either), Monica Seles was stabbed (I do remember that) and there’s one thing that isn’t on Wikipedia that I do remember: Delia Smith’s Summer Collection was first shown on the BBC. It was a phenomenon. I have the 1996 edition of the recipe book of the series and it was reprinted twelve times in 1993. That’s a lot, that’s an awful lot.
It’s been a while since I read the Summer Collection, but one of the recipes in it, I do use a lot: Roast Tomato Salad. I think I stick with is because it’s very easy to make and it’s far more delicious than the effort involved suggests. It’s also a salad where the leftovers are just as useful as the main meal. They can form a great base for a pasta sauce or for a light, summery soup. It’s best, of course, with the ripest of local tomatoes, but it will also perk up some of the more insipid offerings at other times of the year.
6-8 large ripe tomatoes, halved
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fresh basil, shredded
If you want to skin the tomatoes (and I don’t usually bother), put them in a bowl of just boiled water for a minute. The skins will then slip off reasonably easily.
Cut the tomatoes in half and place them, cut side up, in a shallow roasting tin.
Mix the garlic, oil and 1 tbsp of the basil together in a bowl and season well.
Spoon over the cut tomatoes so that each half gets a share of the oil, garlic and basil.
Put the roasting tin in a hot oven (220-200C) for 40-45 minutes, until the tomatoes are a little browned/blackened around the edges.
Leave to cool.
Serve with the juices spooned over and with the remainder of the basil sprinkled on top.
Serves 4 as a side salad