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Gherkin Soup

gherkin soupI have several loves in my life. Black eyeliner. Slow cookers. Carmex. But my heart really belongs to gherkins. Just say the word to yourself. It’s delightful to utter. It looks comical to write. And you get to decide how deep your relationships with people will be depending how they feel about them in burgers.

I always keep a jar in the house and have to ration myself from crunching through a gherkin every time I open the fridge (and yes, I know pickling preserves them. There’s just more room in there.) I garnish sandwiches with them and add them to salads, but I’ve never cooked with them.

Like most people, by late August, I’m in courgette apathy. Allotmenteers have gluts of them, but for fodmappers like me, this lasts all year as they are one of the few vegetables I can eat.

Staring glumly at a courgette on a chilly August lunchtime, I wondered how I could perk things up a bit. Deciding soup would be more acceptable than turning the heating on, I used a jar of gherkins to add some bite and interest to the whole thing. My Polish friends might clutch their pearls in horror at how inauthentic it all is but it tasted great and made courgettes interesting again.

Gherkin Soup (serves 2)

  • 1 large courgette, grated
  • 1 large potato, grated
  • 1 parmesan rind or 25g grated parmesan
  • 1 anchovy fillet
  • 450ml stock (vegetable or chicken)
  • 100g gherkins, chopped finely
  • 25g fresh dill or parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream

This is so easy and quick, writing the recipe out as a blogpost definitely took longer than cooking it from scratch (and I’m a speedy writer!)

Peel the potato and grate it and the courgette on the largest hole of a box grater and put into a large saucepan and cover with the stock. Add the anchovy fillet and the parmesan rind if you are using it. I stash mine in the freezer in a Tupperware until needed.

Simmer for about 10 minutes until the veg is soft and the anchovy has dissolved. I’m still working on a homemade fodmap friendly stock as it’s the place I miss the depth of onion the most, but I’m using the Knorr Touch of Taste one from a bottle. It’s onion and chicory fibre free for fodmappers and the least cheap roast chicken crisp flavoured commercial one I’ve found. Stop me if I sound too like Marco Pierre White though…

Fish the parmesan rind out and add in the chopped gherkins. Chuck in the grated parmesan if you’re using it instead and carefully blitz the soup with a stick blender, remembering hot liquids expand.

Add the chopped dill (I went fancy and added the parsley too. Mint would work if you are a dill-phobe) and stir in the sour cream and serve. It’s the perfect late summer soup, all fresh and tangy but warming and soothing at the same time. I’ve made it twice in a week which means my gherkin usage is about to fill my whole recycling bag singlehanded, but who cares when it’s this good?

 

Sweet on corn…

It’s still theoretically summer and that means just one thing to me right now….fresh corn on the cob! I can’t get enough of those sweet juicy bursting kernels of sheer goodness in the past few weeks. And with tightly wrapped ears of corn a mere £1 for four at the farmers’ market last week, I can afford to indulge this lust with wild abandon.

I’ve been eating the corn straight from the cobs, lightly boiled and slathered in chili and butter, dripping down my hands and smeared over my face as I eat the barely cooled corn over the sink with glee. I’ve stripped the kernels from the cobs with a knife and added these yellow nuggets of joy to the classic Chilean stew of porotos granados to put my munchkin squash to good use. And I’ve made stock with the denuded cobs and warmed up these increasing autumnal evenings with the delicious chicken and sweetcorn soup from the Leon Cookbook. And yet I still can’t enough corn so when I stumbled across a recipe for double corn muffins, I just had to make them…

A Dan Lepard recipe from the Guardian Weekend magazine, this is an incredibly simple recipe which combines fresh corn kernels, cornmeal and grated courgette, making it perfect for anyone with a zucchini glut! I decided to leave the bacon out as I wasn’t sure if I was serving these to any vegetarians and replaced it with a scotch bonnet pepper for a bit of a tingle. Other than that I followed the recipe exactly.

And it is a particularly easy recipe to follow. A quick softening of the onion, pepper and corn while I measured out the dry ingredients, beat an egg and poured the wet ingredients in my beloved measuring cups, then stirred it all together in one large mixing bowl. No folding, no faffing and absolutely no chance of over working the flour because it all combined beautifully. I mixed up this chunky flavoursome batter and popped it in the fridge overnight, so I could make the muffins fresh on Sunday to take to accompany a fried chicken fest at a friend’s house.

In the morning I spooned one dessertspoon of the batter into a regular sized bun case. Obviously these are meant to be muffins, but I’ve run out of muffin cases and couldn’t be bothered going in search of some over the Bank Holiday weekend. I planned to reduce the cooking time slightly to balance up the smaller sized muffins, but since I’m not at my sharpest early on a Sunday without at least two cups of tea in me, I actually put the oven on at 180° instead of 200° and ended up having to leave them in for 15 minutes longer after turning the oven up a bit to get them both cooked and appetisingly golden brown.

The mini muffins came out looking rich, glossy and golden but the paper cases looked soaked in oil even though I think I might have undermeasured it, but definitely had a bit less courgette in there that might have helped soak it up. I left them to cool slightly on the advice of the recipe to firm up before sampling the smallest and least appealing looking of them just to make sure I wasn’t going to poison anyone!

They were pleasingly firm, breaking apart cleanly and without disintegrating into crumbs. They were deliciously moist and studded with chewy kernels of corn with a good kick from the scotch bonnet and tasted so intense I could have sworn there was a bit of mature cheddar in there too. And despite the marked cases, they weren’t at all oily on the tongue, remaining light and chewy.

While these were a good accompaniment to chicken and would be a good breakfast dish too, they didn’t really make the most of the corn as it ended up tasting suspiciously like tinned sweetcorn after I’d cooked it. In fact with the scotch bonnet added, it tasted a bit like that weird tinned corn with bits of peppers in which was not what I was expecting. They would have been better with the sharpness of cayenne instead of the fruitiness of scotch bonnets or chilli sauce to minimise the tinned feeling. I might even go crazy next time and add some cheddar or parmesan to oomph up the umami undertones they already have.

But if you ever find yourself with a forlorn tin of sweetcorn, a courgette that’s seen better days and 30 minutes to spare, you couldn’t do better than making a batch of these, preferably full sized, and serving one split in half with a fried egg on top for a top class store cupboard supper…