Leek and Potato Soup

There are many, many recipes for leek & potato soup out there. I typed ‘Leek and Potato Soup Recipe’ into Google and it came back with 254,000 results. Leek and Potato soup is a miracle in many ways – it is very cheap, very easy and tastes absolutely amazing. In terms of bang for your buck, it is almost unbeatable.

The version I decided to follow today is Joel Robuchon’s, because if you are going to make a french classic of anything, there is absolutely no reason not to use his recipe. I would say, however, if you are trying to cut back on calories, it will be perfectly fine to cut out the cream – it isn’t essential and cream’s omission will make  it an extremely healthy dish. I also used parsley in place of the chervil, because I just couldn’t find any chervil  today. Also, bear in mind that this is a blended soup – I used a hand blender in the saucepan. To serve 4, generously.

  • 2 leeks, whites parts only, washed thoroughly
  • 25g butter
  • 1 litre cold water
  • 400g potatoes
  • 100g double cream or whipping cream
  • tsp chervil, finely chopped
  • salt

Take your leeks and chop them into rounds approximately 2cm wide. Melt 20g of the butter into a large saucepan and add the chopped leeks. Cook, stirring in the melted butter for 3-5 minutes. You are aiming for the leeks to become slightly translucent but not browned. Add the cold water and bring to a simmer, add your salt and simmer for a further ten minutes. In the meantime, peel and chop your potatoes and add them to the water. Bring back up to simmering point and cook for 30 minutes with the lid partially on the saucepan.

Take the pan off the heat, and when it has slightly cooled either whizz in the pan with a hand blender or pour the soup into a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Return to the saucepan and return to simmering point again. Now turn the heat off for a final time and stir in the cream and remaining 5g of butter. Sprinkle with herbs and serve.

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Seafood Pancakes

It’s not often inspiration strikes me at 5.30pm in Sainsburies. Normally to face the trauma of a supermarket shop after a full day at work, I need to recover with wine and a pizza. For I hate supermarkets. But sometimes, the supermarket gods send a message so strong about dinner, that one needs to give in. Having a special deal on shell on scallops is one of those messages, in my view..

This is not the healthiest dinner you’re ever going to get – seafood sautéed in garlic butter, cooked in a cream and white wine sauce is not for those who follow the cult of weightwatchers, but served with salad and only ever now and then, is hardly going to kill you. Probably not much worse than that supermarket pizza, anyway.

  • Packet of supermarket crepes. Look, you might well have some in your freezer left over from pancake day. I’m not that good at the moment.
  • 500g of seafood. I used squid, scallops and prawns but one of those packets of frozen mixed will be ok
  • 3 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
  • 15g fresh parsley, very finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • medium carton double cream
  • large glass of white wine
  • salt and pepper
  • 30g parmesan grated

Preheat your oven to gas 6. First make the filling for your pancakes – melt half the butter in a large frying pan, add your butter and heat until bubbling, then add your parsley and your garlic, and seasoning and cook over a medium heat for a few minutes – long enough to soften the garlic but please be careful you don’t brown it.

Add your seafood and sauté over a high heat until cooked through. If cooking from fresh this will be a matter of a few moments. Again, be careful. No one wants overcooked seafood. Allow to cool for a few moments and then fill probably 4 pancakes, and leave them in an ovenproof dish while you make the sauce.

Take the remainder of the butter and melt it in a saucepan. Then, add your glass of wine and cook over a medium heat until it has reduced by about half. Add the cream, and cook again until the cream has reduced by around the same volume. Pour over the pancakes and cover with parmesan cheese. put it in the oven, and cook for a matter of 15 minutes or so, just to heat everything through together and make sure the parmesan has melted. Serve with salad.

I Need a Little Thyme – Boulangere Potatoes

Farmers Market day today. I picked up some steak and needed something to do with it that wasn’t chips. Don’t get me wrong, I love chips and I adore chips with my steak but I’ve had a lot of fast food and meals out over the past week for various reasons and I needed something a bit more homely and a bit healthier.In my view this is nicest with a tiny little bit of thyme scattered through it, but my usually reliable herbage supplier at the market had everything but today. If making this to go with lamb, I’d suggest a teaspoon of very finely chopped rosemary instead.

This is an easy dish, and apart from chopping, isn’t a great deal of work. If you have a food processor with a slicing blade then this is obviously a non issue. If you have a sharp knife then it’s ten minutes work and if you have money to burn, you can buy presliced Maris Pipers in Marks and Sparks these days. Just a thought.

  • 750g floury white potatoes such as King Edward or Maris Pipers, thinly sliced
  • one large onion, finely sliced
  • 150 ml hot stock. Chicken or veg is best. Lamb or beef is alright.
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to Gas 4/ In a frying pan over a medium heat, slowly sweat off your onion in a tablespoon or so of olive oil. When it is softened and golden, turn off the heat. In a shallow baking dish, maybe like a lasagne dish, put a layer of sliced potato. Season with a little salt and pepper, a little of the herbs if you are using them, and a third of the onions. Keep layering the ingredients in turn until you have used up all of the onions and potatoes. Pour the stock over the potatoes and dot some butter over the potatoes. I have probably used about 20g of butter.

Cover the dish with foil and put in the oven for 60 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for another 20- 30 minutes.Scoff.

Stuffed Mussels

I cannot say these are quick to make. If you are only of the throw it in the pan and stir about school of cookery, you might find these to be frustrating or bothersome. I am only warning you to ensure that you don’t become unhappy half way through, give it all up and have to serve cheese on toast for tea. You might also think about doing the first parts of the recipe earlier in the day if you want to. However, if you do decide to make these, you will be rewarded by elegant, garlicky, scoop-with-a-spoon satisfying dinner. If you are organised enough, best served with shoestring fries, but a great salad would almost be as good. Serves 2-3 greedies as a main. Converted from John Burton Race’s French Leave.

stuffed mussels

Part 1:

  • 1 kilo mussels
  • 375 ml white wine
  • knob of butter
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 sprig of thyme, roughly chopped
  • 2 sprigs of flatleaf parsley, roughly chopped

Clean your mussels. This involves nothing more technical than, using a small sharp knife, pulling away the beard – or that stringy stuff that attaches itself to the mussel and tapping any open mussels firmly. If they close, you can keep them, if they don’t close within a few seconds you have to throw them away. I reckon we lost about 10% this way, which is about average .

musselscookingstock

In a large, lidded pan, melt your butter over a low heat and then tip in your herbs and vegetables, salt & pepper and stir gently for a few minutes. Once the veg are just beginning to soften, pour in the wine and turn the heat up and cover with a lid to bring the wine to a vigorous simmer. Chuck in the mussels and put the lid back on. It will take around 5 minutes to steam them all open. Drain, and when slightly cooled, pull open the mussel shells and separate the mussel flesh out from the shell. Place each mussel in one half of the mussel shell and discard the other half.

Part 2:

  • 50g white breadcrumbs
  • 50ml dry white wine
  • 60g ground almonds
  • 125g butter, room temperature
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 large sprigs flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper

Either in a large bowl, with a wooden spoon, or with the mixer attachment of a food processor, cream the butter until soft and fluffy. Pour the wine over the breadcrumbs and leave to soak for a few moments. Add the garlic to the butter and beat until thoroughly combined and then add your soaked breadcrumbs and ground almonds. Then add your parsley. Beat again until completely mixed.

If you are ready to eat now, turn on your grill to it’s highest setting. Otherwise, you can refrigerate the stuffed mussels after this stage until you are ready to eat. With a teaspoon, get a little bit of the mixture, and stuff it into the shell containing the mussel, smoothing it over as you go. Once all the shells are filled, put the baking tray under the hot grill, and cook for maybe five minutes until the mixture is brown and bubbling. Scoff

Dinner Out: Tilleys Bistro, Bath

tilleysOk,  not dinner out but lunch out today.

Myself, I think I would have given this restaurant a more favourable review had I visited in the evening. At lunch time there is a set menu, with no a la carte option. This is alright for lunch, I guess, but I do like to have a choice. Set Menus are usally designed with economy in mind, and yes, while the food was delicious on this occasion I can’t honestly say I was so inspired by the menu that I would have picked any of the dishes from it. Having viewed the a la carte menu, I’m certain that given the standard of cooking, I will go back.

So we booked a table for two for a pre theatre, Saturday lunch. How Greedy Companion and I chuckled to ourselves as the person I spoke to said he ‘would see what he could do’ on the phone when I asked to book. When he confirmed the booking, we thought there was no way that it would be that busy right? Early Saturday lunchtime in a  recession? Well, seems like Tilleys was more popular than we thought, as the dining room upstairs was already full (of pensioners) when we arrived and the basement, which apparently seats 46, was starting to fill quite fast too.

We were shown quickly to our seat, and a basket of delicious bread and butter arrived on our table. We were asked if we wanted to order a drink? Wine? There was no drink menu, so we asked for a glass of dry white wine.He said he’d bring the house white. I guess this what was supposed to happen as I overheard people requesting drinks all through lunch, and yep, they given house wine too. Only trouble was the house wine wasn’t up to much and I would have preferred to pay maybe a pound more than the £3.75 which I paid for that not particularly dry, not particularly nice glass, and get something a little better. Our food order was taken fairly quickly by a polite, if rather brusque waiter. Greedy Companion says thats what french waiters are like. Maybe. We both ordered salmon and tilleysmenuasparagus tart for starter. It was very nice, but it was definitely a quiche rather than a tart, and it was not exactly bursting with salmon and asparagus. However, it was perfectly cooked with gorgeous pastry. My friend had a homemade steak burger or ‘biftoke’ with roquefort. I can vouch for the fact it was delicious. I had madiera pork, which was pork tenderloin in a…uhhh..madiera sauce. Very nice too. The carrots that came in the side of vegetables were hard. And given that the average age of the lunch customer was probably about 60, I’m wondering how easy they would be to eat with dentures. I mean, really, have a bit of consideration for your core patrons!

Dessert for me was Crepe Normandy – pancake filled with cooked apple and served with cream, and the other Greedy had the chocolate pudding. They were both fine. Portions are not huge. Really. I know I am greedy, and I know this is 3 courses  for just  £15. I know its nice not to feel too stuffed after lunch. But it did feel a bit light. Well made, properly considered, tasty food. Just a bit stingy in terms of portioning. My only other negative really was the piped music. Thankfully, it was playing quite quietly, I’m just not sure that Motown Crooners really struck the right mood.

So, if you’re not needing a huge meal, if you don’t mind a restaurant that has a *hint* of the geriatric ward about it, and you are fairly easy going about choice, then you could do a lot worse than come for lunch here. Especially in comparison to a lot of the chainey tourist toot tat that dresses up as ‘restaurants’ in Bath. Cafe Rouge, anybody? I still would recommend you hang on for dinner if you can though.

Booking, really recommended.Website