Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Green Soup or Zuppe Verdi?

What's in a name? Green Soup or Zuppe Verdi? Really, I felt the latter was a bit pretentious, especially as this soup isn't traditionally Italian - so plain old Green Soup it is, even though I have to say that the name doesn't reflect at all how good this soup is. .

Green Soup

Green Soup

Green soup packs a punch, nutritionally speaking, but it’s also delicious, elegant and super simple to prepare.
A hint of chilli and lemon zest lifts the flavour; and the small amount of cream cheese and the avocado bring it all together.
Freezes well.
Serves 6

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and sliced
1 green chilli, seeded and finely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 litre unsalted chicken or vegetable stock
3 cups frozen or fresh, shelled peas
1½ tsp salt or to taste & ½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
180g chopped spinach leaves or 100g thawed, squeezed & chopped
1 medium avocado, peeled, stoned & chopped
1 Tbsp basil pesto or ¼ cup fresh chopped basil leaves
¼ cup cream cheese, chopped (50g)
Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon plus extra for garnish
Leaf tip of basil and finely sliced red chilli (optional)

Heat the oil in a large, heavy based saucepan over a low-medium heat. Sauté the onion until softened, then stir in the chilli and garlic and sauté a few minutes more.
Turn the heat to medium high, pour in the stock and the peas, salt and pepper and bring to simmer point. Stir in the spinach and simmer three-four minutes.
Transfer to a processor with the avocado, pesto or basil, cream cheese and zest. Puree very thoroughly to ensure the cream cheese is well blended into the mix. This may have to be done in two steps.
Return the pureed soup to the original saucepan and reheat to serve in warm bowls accompanied by hot crusty ciabatta or quesadilla .

Garnish with lemon zest ‘threads’, a leaf tip of basil and some finely sliced red chilli.

Strawberry Custard Shortcake

At last we're getting sun-ripened strawberries with flavour. This lovely shortcake is perfect for something a bit different to make with the berries, and of course you could use raspberries too, when they come available. Thanks to Sue Carruthers-Brown for the original recipe so many years ago. . .

Strawberry Custard Shortcake

Pastry – use bought sweet short pastry, or make your own:
100g cold butter, diced
2 Tbsp caster sugar
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla paste
1 ½ cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder

Lightly oil or grease a 20cm spring form cake or flan tin.
Place the flour, baking powder and sugar in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Add the egg and pulse again to mix. If needed, add about a tablespoon of chilled water to form a ball, but this shouldn’t be necessary. Divide into almost equal halves – one half has to be slightly larger, as the pastry has to extend about 3 cm up the sides of the cake or flan tin. Wrap each half in cling wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Roll out the larger half to fit the tin and rise about 3cm up the sides.
Roll out the second half of the dough for the top.
Keep chilled until ready to bake.
Pre heat oven to 190 C.

1 punnet fresh strawberries, hulled (450-500g) – slice half for the filling but set aside the remainder for decoration
3 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp water
1 cup cream or UHT lite cream
2 Tbsp custard powder
1 Tbsp cornflour
½ cup milk
2 tsp strawberry jam
1 Tbsp caster sugar

Place the sugar and water in a heavy based saucepan. Cook over a gentle heat to dissolve the sugar, stirring only once or twice  - if over stirred the mixture may crystallize, in which case the only remedy is to start again or use a stick blender.
Remove from the heat and stir in the cream.
Mix the custard powder with the milk until smooth, and add slowly to the syrup and cream, stirring constantly.
Return the saucepan to a gentle heat and bring to the boil, stirring constantly, until thick and smooth.
Cool for 15 minutes.
Stir in the jam and the half punnet of sliced strawberries. Pour the custard into the prepared base and top with the second round of dough, pinching the edges together.
Sprinkle the top with the caster sugar and bake at 190 C for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown.
Let the shortcake cool slightly in the tin before turning out.
Serve warm, garnished with the remaining strawberries whole or sliced