Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Turkey Noodle Soup
They say you regret the things you don't do. I never flew on Concorde though I watched it arc overhead a thousand times and marvelled at its beauty every time. I didn't buy the set of 'How to Grow Everything' books at Sutton Hoo a few months ago and now I don't know when my potatoes will be ready - mind you I don't know what variety they are either so I may well regret not checking that before they were interred. I never ate at Harveys when Marco Pierre White was at the pass - even now I don't believe it. Here was a chef who had trained under Raymond Blanc and the brothers Roux who went on to have Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal, amongst many others, in his own brigade. He is the link between old school and new in British gastronomy - unrepentant in his quest for perfect food. Somehow I never made it - there's regret writ large.
So last week when I was invited by Clarion Communications to have lunch with the man himself I was intrigued. He has gone on to more of the business side of restaurants and in public has been tapping his enormous carving knife in a menacing fashion on Hells Kitchen on TV. On the day he was charm itself. He headed up the table in a downstairs private room at Wheeler's of St James's and served up a tasty selection of turkey. Not much used in the UK outside christmas there is a campaign afoot to bring this bird to our kitchen all year round. I confess I never think of it much myself as a starting point and yet, as I discovered it is a versatile meat and lean and healthy with it.
Lunch started with a turkey liver paté, a luscious delicate thing topped with a raisin sec jelly which Marco himself had never before eaten. He explained it was easier to work with turkey liver as they are larger than their chicken counterparts and less likely to need soaking in milk. He spooned quenelles onto plates and passed them round (I am always impressed by the making of quenelles!). Spread thick on toast it was amazing. Then onto simpler fare - a Norfolk pie. Think that family staple cottage pie but use turkey rather than beef mince and voila! Norfolk pie.
Turkeys are on the big end of the bird scale - it's the one on the outside of those fabulous multi bird roasts that have become popular lately at christmas. As well as boning them out to stuff them, the individual elements are also scaled up. The breasts are large enough to cut into steaks which offer lots of possibilities - beat them out and crumb them like escalope, char grill them after marinading in something garlicky for an hour or two. Or do like Marco and top with a spiced crumb and serve with the most exquisite Parmesan cream sauce I have ever had the good fortune to eat. It was so spectacular that one of the others suggested she could happily bathe in it. I know what she meant!
A simple turkey masala like the one pictured at the top of this post, was the next dish and for me it was the one that worked best. Big chunks of mixed thigh and breast meat in a lovely masala sauce it was a pleasing match of flavour and texture atop a mound of lightly spiced rice. The final dish was gnocchi topped with turkey bolognese. Had to confess to MPW that I'm not really a fan of gnocchi even when made by someone who had Michelin stars before he was 30. The turkey mince gave the sauce a lighter texture than a beef version, it would work well on a hot day.
Inspired by my brush with brilliance I decided to make a pan of soupy noodles with little spiced turkey balls and shredded cabbage topped with fresh carrots and herbs for a light and lovely supper last night.
Turkey Noodle Soup
You are aiming for a bowl of noodles with lots of liquid rather than an actual soup
150g dried noodles - I use the kind that come in 'nests' in bags in Chinese supermarkets
1/2 sweetheart pointy cabbage, shredded
300g minced turkey
1tbspn finely chopped fresh ginger
3 stems of coriander, leaves and stalks finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tspn rice wine or sherry
1 tspn light soy sauce
1 tbspn peanut oil
500ml of chicken stock
1 star anise
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely cut to matchsticks
2 small carrots, peeled and thinly sliced into coins
Fresh coriander and chopped spring onions to garnish
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the noodles till tender - about fifteen minutes. Drain into a colander, rinse then mix in a little bit of peanut oil to stop them all clumping together.
Put the pan back onto a high heat and add the rinsed cabbage with about a tablespoon of water. Cover and cook for a couple of minutes until the cabbage has just begun to wilt. Drain.
For the meatballs, mix the turkey mince with the finely chopped ginger, coriander and garlic along with the rice wine and soy sauce until it all comes together. Using about a tablespoon at a time make little balls, put them onto a plate and refrigerate for 30 minutes or so just to firm them up. Heat the oil in the large pan (one pot dinner this!) over a moderate heat and fry the turkey balls until they caremalise on the outside and smell divine. Remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon onto a plate covered with absorbent paper.
Don't wash the pan - all the caremalised juices and sticky bits on the base add a depth of flavour to the soup. Put the pan back on the heat and, when it is hot, add the stock. Scrape all the bits from the base into the liquid til they dissolve. Add the shredded ginger and star anise and simmer for a couple of minutes, then taste the soup. Season and add some chilli paste if you fancy it a bit spicy. When it's to your taste add the noodles, cabbage and the carrot coins. Simmer for a couple of minutes, then top with chopped coriander and spring onions and serve in big bowls.
A great dinner. Particularly in this funny on/off summer when you can never tell if it will be hot/wet/dry/cold/windy. This one covers them all!