Simply Souper! or ‘the day the soup maker arrived…’

As I am sure you have gathered by now, I love to cook, love food and kitchen tools generally.  I am not a complete gadget addict, but occasionally one catches my eye and is great to try.

Years ago it was my slow cooker.  To me it’s a fantastic investment.  I use it all the time, even to slow cook Sunday roast if I’m busy, with amazing gravy base that creates itself.  Wouldn’t be without it.  Would certainly replace it.

I’ve avoided Bread Makers.  Not because I don’t like them, quite the opposite.  I love fresh bread but don’t want to end up doubling in size as a result.

Ice cream makers I do like the idea of.  I can keep my control with a bowl of ice cream.  Unlike a loaf of bread.  So there’s one to try.

The latest thing I keep seeing everywhere and hear glowing reports both online and from my friends is a soup maker.

Now I adore soup.  I am always making it for my family.  It’s delicious, often very healthy and can be so economical.   My toddler loves every soup I’ve made.  Wonderful nutrition for him and so quick when you’re a working Mummy too.

And for dieting.  If you’re in total control of what goes into a soup it can really tasty and filling.  Lots of flavour, so satisfying, but very low in fat.

Of course it’s nice to be decadent too.  In Winter, especially Xmas holidays I make a creamy turkey soup with sage and onion croutons.  Also Broccoli & Cauliflower with Stilton and cream.  I tell you, after a long and freezing walk a hot boil of either is wonderful.  I make sandwiches from crusty white fresh bread spread with butter and filled with ham.  Dunking those is pure bliss.

In Summer, Gazpacho.  So light and lovely dinner party food.  Garlicky greens or Spiced tomatoes, blitzed smooth and served cold with some grilled Ciabatta and olive oil.  Mmmm I’m on holiday…

Isn’t soup comforting.  The smell is like a great big hug.  When I make celery soup I can’t get enough of the aroma in my kitchen.  Pure heaven.  I have recipes from my Mum, Aunt and even Grandma.  From different regions and even countries.  I’ve suddenly realised I really do have a thing about it!

I’ve always made soups the old fashioned way, chop, simmer on stove, blitz with food processor.  This really isn’t hard work at all.  But the other day I was browsing and succumbed.  I ordered a soup maker.  By hunting around there are amazing offers.  My Morphy Richards cost me £30 Inc. delivery.

Anyway.  It arrived.  Oh my I don’t think I’ve unwrapped anything that fast since my Crystal Barbie in 1982!  Such excitement and first impressions didn’t disappoint.  It’s nice and chunky yet compact and wouldn’t look out of place on the work top.  Shame it’s not purple, but you can’t have it all.  It has options for chunky and smooth soups, also juices and makes smoothies, which I know little one and his dad will love.

Well all I wanted to do was try it out.  So I hope my boys are ready for a soup fuelled week.  My first batch was tomato and red pepper.  I’ve made it by hand a million times.  It’s my partners favourite and super (no pun intended) healthy.

I chopped a dozen tomatoes.  One large onion and 2 red peppers.
Added some salt and a good grind of black pepper.
I had some fresh basil so roughly chopped a great big handful.
I de-seeded and chopped 2 mild red chillies.  Gives a little kick.  You can leave them out or add more.
I then added approx. 2 litres of vegetable stock (chicken is lovely to).  Just from stock cubes
I used the smooth setting on the machine and switched on.

While it worked its magic I dug out all my own soup recipes and started typing up some new ones I’ve been dreaming up.   I am salivating thinking about watercress or asparagus.  I adore green soups.  This is such a fun and yummy project.  I’d love to turn it into a book

If you have a favourite soup/recipe you’d like to share I’d love to hear it and happy to credit you and publish it.

Bye for now.  I’m off to chop, cook, blend and savour J

Victoria

xx

NB The image is from one of my favourite stories.  Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper

Flaming June

Flaming Junecatwithumbrella

Well.  What can I say?  Welcome to the Great British Summer peeps.

I walked to work today with tights on again and a warm fluffy jacket.  I have to say the only thing ‘Flaming’ this week is the pilot light for the central heating!

Yesterday was one of those days where the wind is destroying your umbrella.  You can’t even keep your hair dry.  Even Smartie my cat had a duvet day and literally didn’t move for around eight hours!

Last night I felt so chilly all I wanted to do was be cosy.  Then I pondered how sometimes everything can have a Purpose.  A good purpose.  Even a bad weather day on 1st June.  You sometimes need to look for the positives and so I thought great, I’ll make home-made soup with crusty bread, savour in my pyjamas with candles lit and some recipe books to trawl through.  The kind of evening you’d have in November, but so heart-warming if you embrace it.

So I set about my mission.  Grabbing a couple of essentials on my windy walk home I got cosy and then made a gorgeous creamy leak and potato soup with crusty bread.  Leak and Potato soup is hardly ground-breaking.  But my version yesterday was a ‘throw it all together soup’.  And it was an absolute winner.

I pre-heated a big favourite pan with a knob of butter and splodge of olive oil

I had a pan of already cooked Charlotte potatoes – John obviously hadn’t spotted them in the fridge or they’d have vanished J  I chopped these along with two large leaks then finely chopped a big fat white onion.  2 crushed garlic cloves and a big bunch of chopped fresh parsley.  I had some left in the fridge but dried is just as good if not.  Plus a couple of bay leaves.

Everything was added to the pan and given a really good seasoning of salt and pepper.  Left on a low heat I let everything soften gently, about 10 mins.

Now I do love to make bread, but sometimes, after work a good fresh crusty loaf from a 76739_Cobs-Rolls--Wraps-The-Cooperative-Batardsupermarket is more than adequate.  Doesn’t mean you can’t jazz it up though.  I  bought an onion and red Leicester loaf from our local and sliced it almost through (like garlic bread).  I then added a little butter (Clover actually) in each slit.  Sprinkled the top with salt and black pepper, wrapped loosely in foil then put the whole thing in a pre-heated oven, just to warm through.

potato-leek-soup-4

Meanwhile I made a pint of chicken stock (veg is just as good) I use stock pots or cubes.  When the veg was tender, I added this to my mixture and stirred well.  I then added a pint of semi skimmed milk, stirred well and let the whole lot simmer gently and thicken.  I find you don’t need a thickening agent like flour, the potatoes do the job just fine.

Sometimes I love smooth velvety soup.  But today I felt like rustic and chunky.  So instead of blitzing I attacked it with the potato masher.  This thickened and squished it beautifully.  My last thing was to stir in a big dollop of low fat crème fraiche.  Love crème fraiche as it doesn’t split but adds that luxury creaminess.

10 minutes later I had bowls of thick creamy soup with a little leftover parsley and black pepper sprinkled on top.  Alongside hunks of comforting, warm, cheesy bread.

Oh goodness, the smell in my kitchen!

Well if reading this is making you hungry I do apologise.  Who am I kidding?  I’m trying to tempt you all deliberately.  Or is that on ‘Purpose

Happy Cooking!

Victoria

Top 10 Kitchen Quickies…

We all love, or should I say need, a foodie short cut sometimes.  And actually I’m a classic list maker, I really love a top 10, so here we go…

Have to say I don’t subscribe to much convenience food and I really don’t do ready meals. Just my choice.  But there are certain little things I couldn’t be without, from the freezer, fridge or store cupboard.  Actually there are so many gems, but I have to say it  very much depends upon the season as to which magical ingredients I reach for.  My December list will definitely vary from my June list.  However, here is my ‘today’ list.  In no particular order…

Tinned Cherry Tomatoescherry toms
Love these little ruby-red jewels.  So many uses, but…if you want a quick but delicious pasta sauce chop an onion, leek, or even snip some spring onions into a pan with a splash of oil.  Slice mushrooms, peppers – anything lurking in the fridge.  Fry gently until softened.
Season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle in some basil and oregano (chop fresh if you have it).  Add garlic.  Crush a couple of cloves or sprinkle in some dried.  Pour in the canned cherry toms.  Stir and leave to simmer until the tomatoes burst.  Serve with some cooked pasta.  Grate some parmesan or even cheddar on top.

Fish FingersCod-Fishfingers
I’m not a convenience food fan, usually.  I break my rules for good quality fish fingers.
My partner loves them in sandwiches.  My little boy loves them chopped up with all manner of fresh veg.  I like bread crumbs, not batter.  So there you have it.  Cook, accompany and demolish!

Bisto Gravy Granules Bisto
Huge cheat.  Huge British institution.  Gorgeous taste.
I love to make my own gravy, especially on a Sunday.  In a hurry, mid-week or seeking comfort, Bisto, every time 🙂

Frozen Yorkshire Pud
yorkshiresAnother total cheat.  But why not sometimes?
I love a full fat, fluffed up, marmitey bottomed yorkshire pud with my roast beef on a Sunday.  Or a totally homely toad in the hole is to die for.
But when I’m up against it and need to jazz up dinner, these tiny frozen beauties take 5 mins and really brighten up mid-week dins.

Dried Pasta
Every variety!

pasta varietyI love dried pasta. It isn’t secondary to fresh pasta, it’s different and equally amazing. I love the shapes, colours and gorgeous italian names of all the beautiful varieties.  And oh that clatter when you tumble itinto bubbling water.
I love Artisan pasta in farm or local stores.  Huge shells, curly wurly lasagna sheets and over grown penne. I like to put different types in jars and display in my kitchen.  And with every pasta sauce, lasagna or cannelloni imaginable, make your mark with your fave pasta 🙂

Frozen Baby Peas
I know.  Everyone has them.  Everyone likes them (I think).garden peas
They are fresh from the field and unless you have an allotment or super garden and pod your own peas, they’re the best you’ll get.
I alway have a bag in the deep freeze.
Add to curries and stews.  Make pea based soups   Add to salads or simply steam with Sunday Roast.
I never get P’d off with them!

Hard Boiled Eggs
eggs
Hmm… A class ingredient but my reason for this is my John.  He loves hard-boiled eggs as a snack and I love him.  I can’t boil enough to keep up with him!
They are a gorgeous addition to potato salad, fish pie or my mums  tuna salad.
My tip for egg mayo or when you want them combined easily, use a cheese grater.  De-shell and grate.  So easy and really chops eggs tiny.

Stock Cubes – beef, chicken or vegetable (and many spicier varieties)

Fat free (virtually) and an abundance of flavour.
I use these in so many things.  Curry, Chilli, Bolognese, Stroganoff, Casseroles.
You can rub on a roast chicken or crumble on any meat or fish.
They are wonderful.  Don’t be without them.

 

Bread Crumbs
Gorgeous to add into a stuffing for chicken.  bread-crumbs.jpg
Fantastic to make a coating.  Fish chicken, even lamb or pork chops.
Great to add to meatballs.
Leftover or stale bread?  Turn to crumbs in the food processor, or grate by hand.  Tumble into a freezer bag and freeze until needed.
You can season them with any herbs, salt, pepper, lemon zest etc,
It feels wonderful not to waste sometimes.

Tinned Beans (Butter, Kidney, Cannellini etc)
beansHow many beans?  So many types.  Very inexpensive too.  We are very lucky to have so many varieties always within reach.
Kidney beans are wonderful in Chilli.
Cannellini beans gorgeous warmed in oil and mashed to serve with meat.  With lamb chops they are heavenly.

I’ve even used butter beans with chorizo for a Tapas dish. And of course good old baked beans.  How do you eat yours?  Poured over buttered toast after a morning walk in the snow.

Love to hear your favourites,

Victoria 
xx

Hi from me, Victoria…

Hi!  I’m Victoria Lewis.

I am a loving Partner, Mother, Daughter and Friend.  I am crackers about Owls and love love love the colour purple.

I love to cook, love to write and photograph food.  Combining all of these and sharing on here is really fun and exciting.Vicster

I live in a beautiful market town with my lovely man John, little toddler Oliver.  Also proud to be cat mummy to the most wonderful ‘Smartie’.

The other love in my life is the church.  My faith means the world to me.  I adore the serenity of a beautiful church and can’t tell you how many wonderful friends it has bought into my life.

I grew up in a loving family home.  I learned to cook with Mary my Mum.  Pastry so over-worked it was grey and warm when I’d finished.  Then shaped into a bunny with one burnt current eye, before being proudly presented to my dad.

I remember tossing pancakes, all around the room!  Then yep… Dad!

But I also remember successful days.  Cooking a roast dinner by myself with mum over-seeing.  Making a multitude of cakes.  Bakewell tarts and Almond slices.  Butterfly cakes and coconut pyramids.

I make her Christmas Pudding recipe every year.  I decorate my chocolate log with her mini decorations, remember the 70’s churches, holly, snowmen etc

And her stew.  I make it still, all the time.  I remember the smell as I opened the door from school.  The warm feeling it gave me.  My need to recreate it for my loved ones.

Best of all, her suet bacon and onion roll and her bread pudding.  Food heaven.

My greatest food memory of all though was my ‘poorly food’.  Toast, cut into tiny triangles with butter (proper butter back then) and dabs of marmite.

I can’t not mention her sister, my Auntie Liz.  A heart of gold and the most homely kitchen I know.  Liz and I can sit for hours drinking Earl Grey and discussing recipes.  Thankfully she has passed many on to me.

To summarise, Mum left me too soon.  But she left me with a heart full of loving memories.  A brain full of recipes, a love of cooking and traditions that will never die and a huge love of sharing these little golden secrets of the kitchen.

All the tales, memories, recipes and pictures are from my heart,  I dedicate this site to all the special people in my life, in particular to you Mum, for teaching me, to Dad for coping with eating it all!  To Liz for being my teacher, comfort and friend.  To John my partner, for putting up with me, for eating anything I put in front of you, never complaining and always telling everyone ‘Vic is a great cook’.

With my love to you all and thank you to anyone else who stops by and reads my blog 🙂

Victoria xx

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