Shall we make some soup?

Hi everyone,

It’s been a while since my last post and since I wrote a food related post! But since my exams are over now and I’ve got more time to enjoy time in the kitchen, I’m going to start posting more posts related to the food I am cooking and eating.

When I first started getting into cooking, I was shocked at how easy it is to make soup at home! I had only had soup at restaurants or at school cafeterias so I had no idea how easy they are to make. I started off with making chicken soup, and now I regularly make tomato soup and sometimes potato and leek soup if I’m craving something warming and cozy.

Since a few months ago I’ve also started making my own stock for soups and I have to say that it’s so worth the extra time and effort instead of using store bought stock. It also couldn’t be easier to make homemade stock!

Here’s what I do. Usually, I plan a few days in advance of what I will be cooking so if I know that I want to make soup in 2-3days, I save all my veggies scraps from cooking all my meals leading up to the day I want to make soup. Since I always have a bowl next to me to put all my veggies scraps in when I am cooking, I just put all those in a freezer safe container or bag to pop in the freezer till I am ready to use them. I will mostly use any veggies scraps but you definitely want lots of carrot, onion or leek, celery scraps for the best-tasting stock. Veggies that I wouldn’t recommend you use is tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, cucumber, you get the idea. You could make an amazing veggie stock with leftover veggie scraps and some herbs but if you prefer the deeper flavor of chicken stock you can always save chicken bone when you buy a whole chicken or chicken thighs.

I get a pack of chicken thighs or a whole chicken almost every week so when I am cooking with the chicken thighs, I remove the thigh bone and always pop those in the freezer to use in the future to make stock. With the whole chicken, if I’m doing a roast, I always spatchcock my chicken so I save the backbone as well in the freezer for future use. You could always use fresh veggies and chicken but I like to do it my way to waste less food.

So I have all your veggie scraps and chicken, I put them all into the biggest pot that I have (which is a wok for me), making sure it has a lid. I wouldn’t say there’s an exact amount of veggies I use because it just depends on how much there is but for the chicken, I usually use about 5-7 pieces of chicken bone to make stock for about 3-4 people depending on the serving size. With the veggies and the chicken, the more you add to the pot with less water, the more intense the flavor of the stock will be. Which in that case, you could always add more water to it when you go on to make soup with the stock. So it really doesn’t matter how much water you use, but I always put enough water in the pot to cover all the veggies and bone. If I have any in the fridge, I also put a few stalks of parsley, a jalapeno, a few bay leaves, and some black peppercorns for additional flavor.

Once everything is ready, I put the lid on the pot and bring everything to a boil, then simmer it for about 1 1/2 hours. One important step is, when the stock first comes up to a boil, it’s going to have a lot of foam with little bits of veggies floating to the top. My grandma always removes them with a spoon so I do the same. I think it just makes for a more clean stock even though I do strain the stock once it’s finished. I would also advise you to stir the stock every 15mins or so just to check on them and to make sure the heat isn’t too high that the stock is at a rolling boil instead of a simmer. If you are using a jalapeno in the stock, it’s not a bad idea to taste the stock to make sure it’s not too spicy for your taste. And if I’m making chicken soup, sometimes I’ll add a few chicken breasts into the stock in the last half hour to add extra flavor and to poach the chicken for the soup. This is also when I start prepping to make the soup now.

For the soup, I always finely chop up 1 carrot, 1 onion or leek(only the white part), and 1 celery stalk to make a mirepoix. You could always add some broccoli or potato but the mirepoix is a must for best tasting soup in my opinion. Once all the veggies are prepped, chuck them in a medium to big sized pot on the stove with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and dried thyme to taste. I always like to have the heat on medium to low for cooking the veggies for soup, constantly stirring, so I don’t get any caramelization happening in the veggies for the cleanest soup. Once the veggies have softened up a bit, the stock will most likely be ready now so I will remove the chicken breasts, strain the stock, and pour them into the pot with my veggies. If you think the stock is too strong, you can always add some water to the pot to adjust to your taste at this point. Depending on what mood I’m in, sometimes I add a bit of rice, peas, lentils, or pasta to the soup. So I will add whatever I’m fancying to the pot, bring the soup back up to a boil and simmer until the rice, pasta or whatever is cook through. If you do decide to put extra bits to the soup, one thing to keep in mind is to only use about 1/3 of a portion of whatever you put in the soup. This is because rice, lentils, or pasta will soak up a lot of the stock and if you have a full portion of them, it will make for a chunkier soup. If that is what you want, feel free to you however much you want, but I always like to use less for soups. Oh and don’t forget to chop up your chicken breast and put those in the soup as well. Once your soup is finished, check for seasoning and voila! You’ve made homemade soup!

This is what mine looked like and as you can tell, I had a lot of veggies in mine, which is how I like it but if you prefer to have fewer chunks of veggies, you could always cook with less! If you cooked your stock for long enough, soup liquid should have a bit of a yellowish tint to the color and that’s usually how I tell if the stock is ready.

If you don’t already make soup at home, I hope you try it out as it will taste so much better than store bought soup! It’s a go-to meal that I cook for when James is sick, during the winter, and even when I’m just lazy to cook since this only requires a few ingredients to make!

Till next time guys!

xx

Easter Cooking!

Hello, world!

For the Easter holidays this past weekend, James’ sister and her family asked us to house-sit for 3 nights. They own 2 border collies, 1  cat, lots of chicken, duck, geese, 2 alpacas, pigs, and 3 ponies so I was beyond excited to spend the weekend in the countryside! And because they have a huge, fully equipt kitchen I was very excited to get to cook in a kitchen with windows and so much counter space.

Our kitchen in London is big for a 1-bed flat, but it’s definitely not the same as a kitchen in a big family home. So, I thought it would be nice to invite James’ parents and grandparents over for Easter Lunch since they cook for us everytime we visit. Once the time and date were confirmed, I did panic a bit after I realised I’d be cooking for his family so I started my research on Pinterest to decide what I would be cooking for them.

In America, it is more traditional to have ham for Easter dinner so that was my first choice for the main protein but I had never cooked a big chunk of ham so I wasn’t completely comfortable with the idea. I knew I’d be cooking a roast dinner since it is quite traditional here in England to serve a roast for a family gathering but I wanted it to be special and not so predictable. And after hours of “Pinteresting” (yes it’s a thing I do😅) to find the right amount of sides with different varieties of vegetables, I decided on what I would be cooking on Easter Sunday. The menu was:

  • Deviled eggs
  • Goat cheese rolled in seasonal herbs with crackers
  • Challah bread and butter
  • Roast rump
  • Duchess potato
  • Green beans tossed in garlic and walnuts
  • Baked cauliflower in a broccoli cheese sauce
  • Red wine and apple braised red cabbage
  • Asparagus tart
  • Steamed carrots
  • Lemon surprise cake with strawberries and blueberries

I have to say that this wasn’t my original menu as I was also going to do a sweet pea soup as a part of the appetiser but I took it out last minute when I was getting a bit stressed. I also wasn’t planning on doing a big dessert because James’ Nanny had offered to bring a trifle but she couldn’t make it so I decided to bake a cake as it was a special occasion. Now that I’ve written down everything I made, damn, that was a lot of food I cooked! But thankfully, everything went smoothly, tasting great if I do say so myself.

So, I thought I’d share the recipes I used to pull off my first Easter lunch/dinner! My photography skills are poor so I do apologise in advance for the crooked photos with not so good lighting!🙈

For the deviled eggs, I used the recipe from YouTuber/food blogger Chef John. I have been following him since I first got into cooking and his recipes are always so delicious so I knew I couldn’t go wrong using his recipe. Here is the link to his recipe: http://foodwishes.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/recipe-666-deviled-eggs-damn-these-were.html                          I made a few changes to his recipe by garnishing with fresh dill instead of candied peppers, used lemon juice instead of vinegar, and left out the sriracha. I had only made deviled eggs once but this recipe was super easy to make and tasted great too.

Next, for the goat cheese and crackers, I stole the idea from Entertaining with Beth who is also a YouTuber/food blogger. She is a home cook who loves entertaining and is the person who inspired/introduced me to love entertaining as well. The recipe can be found here: http://kincommunity.tumblr.com/post/46022017776/beths-easter-sunday-lunch                                               The original recipe uses fresh dill, parsley, and chives but I didn’t have any chives on hand so I just used fresh dill and parsley. And because the crackers and the cheese is on the savoury side, I thought it would be a nice touch to add a bit of different texture and sweetness through some grapes. I have to say that I am not a big fan of goat cheese but this was really tasty! The texture and flavour combinations were all on point! I also let the goat cheese come up to room temperature before serving, so it was much easier to spread on the crackers.

And before moving on to the main course, we all had a slice (or two!) of some homemade Challah bread. Challah bread is a Jewish eggy sweet bread that always looks very impressive due to its braid. For this bread, I found a random recipe on food.com that had a lot of great reviews so I thought I would follow this recipe:  http://www.food.com/recipe/famous-challah-90765                                     It turned out to look very impressive because I made my Challah bread a 6-braid Challah instead of the less-impressive 3-braid Challah but I forgot to put salt in the flour mixture before forming the dough so I had to try to knead in the salt once I had already formed the dough. Because of that, the bread was under-salted (as expected) and wasn’t as tasty as I hoped for. The blandness was easily covered with a bit of salted butter so I wasn’t very happy with the end result, tastewise. But other than that, the texture was nice and fluffy like any normal yeast-based bread so I would definitely make it again, making sure to add the salt before forming the dough!

Before moving on to the main course, let’s talk about the dessert as I think the main course will have to be introduced in the next blog post.

I usually don’t bake big cakes because it takes time and is a threat to my sweet-tooth, but I thought why not! It’s Easter! With any desserts I make this time of year, I love to incorporate some sort of fresh fruit to all the desserts I make. So I decided to bake a lemon cake with fresh fruit. Because there wasn’t much all-purpose flour but a lot of self-raising flour in the kitchen, I baked a cake with self-raising flour for the first time and it made my life a lot easier! I found a recipe on AllRecipes with a few ingredients and a lot of great reviews so I decided to give it a go with this recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/17398/grandmas-moist-cake/?internalSource=amp&referringContentType=amp%20recipe&clickId=amp_directions

I added the juice from a lemon and a lime to add a bit of citrusy flavour to the cake batter itself and also made a simple syrup using citrus juice instead of water that I brushed on each layer of the cake for extra flavour and moistness. For the filling/cheat frosting, I whipped up a tub of heavy cream till stiff peaks then added half a tub of cream cheese for added stability with some sugar and lemon zest. Since the cake was on the sweeter side, I only added about 3-4 tablespoons of sugar to the filling. I came up with this frosting a few years ago because it requires way less sugar, fat, and effort than a normal buttercream frosting and it also keeps very well at room temperature for a few days.

Because the cake was going to be 4 layers and quite heavy, I made holes in the center of the two middle layers of the cake to fill with some fresh blueberries to make it a surprise cake. I also didn’t coat the exterior of the cake with my cheat frosting to keep it a bit lighter. I then made a white chocolate ganache to cover the top layer of the cake. For some reason, the ganache was too thin and got soaked into the cake so I covered the top layer with fresh strawberries. I’m so glad I added the strawberries because the tall layered cake definitely needed extra freshness in the form of fruit.

So that is it for now, since I don’t want this post to get too long and boring!  I will share the recipes that I used for the main course in my next post (hopefully tomorrow). Till then!

xx

Mother’s Day Baking

Recently, it was Mother’s Day here in England where I am currently living in. Since I would not be able to celebrate Mother’s Day with my own mom this year, I wanted to do something nice for my partner James’ wonderful mum and nanny. As I love baking for others, I of course knew I would be baking something for them. I made cream puffs for my mom  last year(which she loved) so I thought it would be safe for me to make those again for James’ mum! But being who I am, I didn’t want to make the same thing for James’ nanny.

I started looking around Pinterest and YouTube to find something special for her. I stumbled upon EverydayFood’s “1 pot french pastry cream “recipe which I thought would be perfect for filling a small tart with the pastry cream and fruit garnished on top. It was also the perfect thing to make because I could use about half of the pastry cream for the tart, and the rest folded in some whipped cream for the filling of the cream puffs! A win win since I didn’t want any leftover cream!

EverydayFood  is a great channel on YouTube that introduces great recipes everyday from Martha Stewart’s test kitchen. The main host of the channel is Sarah Carey who is so bright, funny, honest, and down-to-earth which is great because she has such an up-lifting energy. The recipes she shares are just as great as Sarah herself, that I’ve been subscribed to their channel for about 3-4 years now.

Another star of the EverydayFood channel is Thomas Joseph. He started his show called “Kitchen Conundrums with Thomas Joseph” a few years ago where he shares tips and tricks to kitchen conundrums submitted by the viewers. He’s very organized and has lots of knowledge related to the sciences behind recipes which is great for someone like me who can be a bit of a  skeptic at times.

So I used EverydayFood’s recipes for both the pastry cream and the pastry for the cream puffs. I would’ve made the tart shell for the tart as well but since my tart tin is quite big, I decided to buy a smaller pre-baked tart shell this time.

I wish I took some pictures but everything turned out really well and James’ mum and nanny both enjoyed their baked goods.😊 The recipe videos are down below as I highly recommend you try making them yourselves!

xx

Make No-Fuss Pastry Cream – Kitchen Conundrums with Thomas Joseph

The Perfect Cream Puff – Kitchen Conundrums with Thomas Joseph