potato soup

Cream of Potato Soup

potato soupFor some reason despite more or less worshipping at the shrine of the spud, I have never made a potato soup without adding either leeks or kale for caldo verde. In fact I’d never heard of cream of potato soup until I moved to England and saw packets of the Erin stuff in Irish sections of the supermarket and discovered it was thought of here as quintessentially Irish.

So when I checked out Ocado’s Irish shop for an event with them and Bord Bia for St Patrick’s Day, I was amused to see that they don’t stock this but lots of things I really do think of as Irish. I decided to make my own cream of potato soup though to be sure and top it with soda bread croutons, fresh dill and smoked salmon to make sure no one confused it with the packet stuff.

Cream of Potato Soup with Soda Bread Croutons (serves 4 to start)

For the soup:

  • 1 large onion
  • 25g butter
  • 500g potatoes
  • 650ml vegetable or chicken stock
  • 100ml buttermilk
  • salt and pepper

For the soda bread:

  • 225g plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 250ml buttermilk

To serve:

This is a very simple dish with a surprising amount of flavour from very few ingredients. I know I’ve described it as cream of potato but I forgot to buy any so I used the leftover buttermilk instead and the slight tang works brilliantly, so if you use cream, don’t skimp on a squirt of lemon juice too.

Finely slice the onion into half moons and allow it to soften into a sticky caramel tangle in butter over a low heat for about 30 minutes. Or use a batch of my slow cooker caramelised onions from the fridge where they last up to a month.

Peel the potatoes and cut into inch chunks. Add to the pan of onions and pour the stock over it all, seasoning well. Simmer on a low heat until the potatoes are collapsing around the edges for about 25 minutes. Use a handblender to blitz it all into a smooth soup.

It will thick and almost gluey at this stage but don’t panic. Add the buttermilk and blitz again and the texture will lift into a sleek soup with an almost foam like texture to the surface.

While the soup has been cooking, you’ll have been making the soda bread. I do buy mine for a emergency stash in the freezer, but having finally found a source of decent buttermilk, it seemed a shame not to make my own farls here.

Heat a dry heavy bottomed frying pan on the stove. Put the flour in a large bowl and add the sugar, salt and bicarb. Gradually add the buttermilk, bringing the dough together to a lump that shouldn’t be sticky. You may not need all the buttermilk. The acid in it activates the bicarbonate of soda and allows the bread to rise, so if you only milk, don’t forget to sour it with a splash of lemon or vinegar.

Flour the worktop and place the dough on it, pressing it into a circle with your hands until it is about an inch thick. Cut into four pieces or farls and cook two at a time in the dry frying pan giving them about 7 minutes on each side. Flip them over if they start to burn. Repeat with the remaining farls.

To make the croutons, split the farls in half and cut into small cubes. Add some oil or bacon fat to the frying pan and add the cubes to it and fry until the croutons are crisp and golden. Drain on some kitchen roll.

Serve the soup in shallow bowls scattered with the hot croutons, thinly sliced smoked salmon and chopped fresh dill. It probably doesn’t reheat well due to the buttermilk, but as there were only clean bowls from my guests, I’m not sure!

malt caramels

Hot Buttered Rum Caramels

malt caramels

A few years into living in Brixton, I started drinking rum as my go to drink. Previously that had been gin which was my loyal weekend tipple throughout my late teens and twenties. My friend Jo and I used to sit in the park watching the world go by on sunny days when we first moved to London with matching plastic glasses, a bottle of Gordon’s, some slimline tonic and a sliced lime in a plastic bag. But somewhere along the line, my tastes moved on and gin and tonic is an occasion drink for me these days.

Living in a heavily Caribbean area, it’s not really that strange that my allegiances have switched to rum. I prefer dark rum, preferably something spiced and have learned that it’s an excellent spirit for drinking either neat or mixed. Hot Brixton days often involve rum drunk long with soda water so that they are very thirst quenching and not particularly likely to get you drunk.

In the winter though I’ve become a huge fan of hot buttered rum. A big favourite in Brixton Village because it warms you up more than you’d think possibly when the wind sweeps through those avenues, I was introduced to it at Snugg (the name starts to make more sense now!) and have made several versions at home including this one with spiced quince rum. This year though I’m taking it easy on the seasonal booze and have turned my attention to making sweet treats instead.

Inspired by this recipe for homemade caramels by Diana Henry, I got my sugar thermometer out. I tweaked it to use condensed milk instead of cream (cheaper when like me you are prone to burning sugar based dishes) and added some spices along with a big glug of dark rum and got my buttered rum fix in a chewy caramel way instead. It’s very easy if unlike me you prepare well first and pay attention while you are making them.

Buttered Rum Caramels (makes about 65)

  • 175ml condensed milk
  • 60g salted butter
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 75ml dark rum (I use Bacardi Oakheart which is excellent and easy to get)
  • 250g white sugar
  • 160g golden syrup

Start by lining a 8 inch square dish or baking tray with greaseproof paper. Oil it lightly with a flavourless vegetable oil and set it aside.

Pour the condensed milk in a saucepan, add 30g of the butter, the salt and all the spices. Warm it through to infuse the spices and melt the butter but don’t let it boil. If you are doing this on an electric cooker do it on the ring behind the one where you’ll melt the sugar so you have a cold area on the hob so you can take the sugar off the heat for ease. Take the pan off the heat and add the rum. Set aside.

In a large deep pan (I used my Le Cresuet) heat the the sugar and the golden syrup together on a medium heat, stirring occasionally to help melt the sugar and prevent it burning. Once it is molten, turn the heat up and without moving the sugar around too much, heat to 155℃. I used a thermometer to make life easier here.

Take the pan off the heat the second it hits 155℃ and pour in the still warm spiced condensed milk. It may spit and bubble slightly so be careful. Stir it well to make sure it is smooth and return it to the heat until it reaches 127℃. Take it off the heat again and pour it into your lined tray.

Leave the caramel to cool for about 5 hours. Then lift the greaseproof paper out and cut the caramel into bite sized squares and wrap in 10cm squares of waxed or greaseproof paper. I got my rather festive looking stuff from Ebay but also used plain white. The caramel is soft enough to be able to roll up nicely. Store in an airtight container for up to a month. These make a lovely gift and are basically a very grown up version of Highland Toffee bars from my childhood.

 

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Brixton Spiced Beef

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Having been reintroduced to the Irish tradition of spiced beef by Niamh Shields’ fantastic recipe in Comfort and Spice, it’s become a North/South food festive favourite again. This year I’ve gone a little bit Brixton with the cure and the cooking liquor and am hoping to make pastelles with my leftovers.

This version was for the Brixton Blog to show the wealth of Christmas ideas in the area. Help make it an extra tasty treat by donating anything you can to our crowdfunder for a news editor to help us keep local journalism alive and supporting independent traders in a unique community. It closes on December 6th and will make a massive difference. You can even get signed copies of Recipes From Brixton Village this way for Christmas so click as you read!

This cured slow cooked beef is a traditional festive dish in my home country of Ireland. It’s an excellent Christmas Eve meal and creates fantastic leftovers in the best breakfast hash you’ll ever eat. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients and prep time. There’s not much activity, just time in the fridge before low slow cooking. The flavour is so good, it’s well worth it.

Originally published at the Brixton Blog…

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dressing on spoon

Slow Cooker Thanksgiving Dressing

dressing on spoon There are many examples of Britain and America being divided by their common language. Some seem exotic like a short stack of pancakes. some seem amusing such as the confusion between suspenders and braces and some are just baffling. Why did Americans always talk about eating dressing at the Thanksgiving meal when there was no salad on the plate?

It turns out in this context dressing is another word for stuffing. Momentarily clearer until you realise most dressing is made from cornbread. I’ve tried repurposing cornbread crumbs by combining with them with liquid and the memory still haunts me. There is no word can do that level of stodge justice. I remained confused as to why anyone would eat it willingly even if they genuinely like green bean casserole.

Everything became much clearer last year when I went to my first ever Thanksgiving lunch, hosted by my co editor at the Brixton Blog, Lindsay. An ex pat American living in south London, she’s a food writer and fantastic cook. As well as turkey so moist and juicy we all had thirds, she served stuffing and I discovered that Americans make it totally differently to the British and Irish version.

Big squares of pillowy soft bread are mixed with flavourings such as sausagemeat, herbs and dried fruit and combined with beaten egg and stock before being baked. It has similar flavours to our traditional stuffing, but it’s much lighter yet crispier round the edges and I loved it so much I asked for the recipe when I emailed to thank Lindsay for her hospitality.

Sadly this year I haven’t found any Thanksgiving dinners to gatecrash so instead I’m just going to use the date as an excuse to eat stuffing til I’m, well, stuffed. I’ve made the Thanksgiving stuffing with pumpkin, kale and cranberries from Slow Cooked again (see page 127) and this time am trying a dressing style stuffing in the slow cooker as well with sausage, apple and sage. Any excuse…

Slow Cooked Dressing (serves 4-6 as a side dish)

  • 150g caramelised onions
  • 450g sausages, preferably something with sage
  • 100g bacon or pancetta
  • 600g stale white bread or 300g cornbread and 300g white bread, cubed
  • 1 apple, peeled and diced
  • 50g dried of fresh cranberries
  • 25g fresh sage, finely chopped or 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 25g melted butter
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 2 eggs, beaten

The onions are important. You’ve either already turned to page 122 of Slow Cooked and followed the recipe there (or at the linky above) and have some gorgeous caramelised onions about your person or you need to roughly dice one large onion and sweat it in butter until golden for about 40 minutes. Set aside until needed.

Slice your bread into decent doorstops and from there into 1 inch cubes. Mine were a bit too big and some pieces remained slightly soft rather than crisping up enough, giving a slight hint of savoury French Toast to it all. I used a white batch loaf from the supermarket which was going a bit stale and then left the cubes of bread to sit for a while to dry out further. As long as it isn’t soft and squidgy, it’ll work well here. Put the bread into a large bowl.

Put the bacon or pancetta into a hot pan and without moving it about too much, allow it to get a lovely sticky caramelised feel to it on one side. Mine took about 4 minutes but watch to make sure it doesn’t burn. Tip the bacon and any lovely bacon fat into the bowl of bread.

Skin the sausages and break the meat up into big lumps. Using the same the pan, cook the sausagemeat for 3-4 minutes on one side without moving it too much. Again you want caramelisation before it all goes in the slow cooker, but you don’t need to cook the sausages the whole way through.

Take them off the heat and mash the sausagemeat with a potato masher to get the right texture. You don’t need to do this if you are using sausagemeat rather than skinned bangers, but for some odd reason I can only get this in England around Christmas time. Add the sausagemeat to the bread and bacon.

Peel and chop the apple and add along with the cranberries, onions, sage, mustard and cayenne pepper. Mix it well so everything is evenly dispersed. Fresh cranberries are especially good here but I couldn’t get any. Melt the butter and pour it into the mix. Add the chicken stock and the beaten eggs. Stir well to coat the bread well. Leave to sit for 5 minutes to allow it to settle.

Grease your slow cooker crock well with more melted butter or a flavourless oil. Don’t use olive oil. I also don’t like the spray oils people seem to favour for the slow cooker. You need to use so much to grease the crock properly I can always taste it afterwards. I’ve never bought cake release spray because frankly I see no reason not to use butter but some people swear by it.

Check the bread. If any of it seems dry, add a splash or two more of chicken stock and then tip it all into the greased crock. Don’t press it down, but just leave it as it is. Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for 3.5 – 4 hours on high. The very edges of mine were burnt at 4 hours but everyone’s slow cooker cooks slightly differently so best to check after 3.5 hours.

raw dressing

Serve straight from the crock as part of a Thanksgiving meal or roast dinner or heap a bowl full of it with some gravy on the side for the ultimate comfort food. It reheats brilliantly and I had some of the leftovers next morning with a poached duck egg on top. This is one where the Americans are ahead of us. I’ll be trying it with leftover cornbread next time and hoping that this is the dish that takes from pulled pork as the UK’s Americana of choice!

Extra treat for you all today: you can win a spare copy of Slow Cooked and an utterly gorgeous cast iron slow cooker from Netherton Foundry here at The Happy Foodie (closing date 23/11/14.) I don’t mind telling you I am green with envy whoever gets this stunning slow cooker. I might just invite myself round for dinner in fact…

I’m entering this into this month’s Credit Crunch Munch hosted by Camilla and Helen and via My Little Italian Kitchen this month.

Credit-Crunch-Munch

 

boxty 2

Brixton Boxty

boxty 2I have to admit that boxty wasn’t something I ate as a child. Popular in Monaghan and Leitrim, it’s a type of potato pancake made from grated potato, but it was so alien to me as kid, I basically thought it was made up until I was older. I first saw it as a real thing in my beloved potato bible The Humble Spud and I’ve been meaning to make it for years, but I disappeared down the tangent of rosti instead and forgot to back up until recently.

Half of you are probably lost by now. Isn’t a potato pancake just a potato pancake I hear you cry? Well, no, rosti are made with semi cooked grated potato with a high starch content, mixed with onion and fried on each side in butter and is eaten as a savoury side dish. Boxty uses raw grated potato before being fried and can be sweet or savoury. Potato farls are made with mashed potato before being cooked on a griddle and then often fried until golden. And I’ve never yet made a latke, but I’ll bring you breaking news about them when I do…

Some recipes for boxty use mashed potato in with the grated spuds but I thought I’d some pureed fresh corn instead since I have tonnes left over from a recent Brixton Bugle recipe. Combining corn and potato gives a autumnal feel and a taste of Brixton which I thought I’d enhance by adding some chopped Scotch Bonnets, fresh coriander and lime. I then served it with some grilled tomatoes for a really good brunch. Read more