It has been a while.
For the past month while the temperature has been largely below zero the kitchen has been a building site. We have lived on coffee from the local deli Di Lieto's in the morning and various combinations of bread, cheese, salami, olives and rocket in the evenings. Throw in the odd glass of wine and, at the beginning, there were seemingly infinite permutations of this most elegant repast. The plan had been to break up the pattern with dinner out occasionally but it was way too cold to head out after dark. Instead I have tried all the salami's on offer round the corner, revisted all my favourites from Gastronomica and bought a few new ones, made the journey to Maltby Street and sampled some of the exquisite ones on offer. Gianni is now selling cheese in Lower Marsh on Fridays which differ from the cheese at Gastronomica, and Rippon Cheese in Pimlico have a brilliant selection. I love bread from St John, The Old Post Office bakery do some lovely loaves and I discovered the sourdough baked by Franca Manca being sold at Wild Caper in Brixton and it is sublime. Bought a lot of rocket and the occasional peashoot when I found some. The man loved it, cold collation is his absolute favourite.
However there came a time when even he needed respite. The good news is the new kitchen is very nearly installed. And it's beautiful. There are benchtops (yay!) and a sink (possibly the thing I missed most) but still no table and chairs or new lighting or freshly painted surfaces. So I duck in and out, unable to resist making something at the end of every day just keeping it simple. I poached a whole chicken and had it hot with leeks and creamy mash then cold with salad and roasted garlic mayonnaise. There has of course been steak, thick cut rump with mushrooms and salad and crusty bread. On the weekend a feather steak from Nathan, who used to butcher at the Ginger Pig but now has set up in Maltby Street. He advised simply show it the pan and eat it rare and he was right.
Yesterday was a bleak old day in London, wind then rain then drizzle then more rain. Bleuuugh. A most perfect day for soup, conveniently fitting the bill of quick and easy. I had seen a recipe by Angela Hartnett for parsnip soup in The Guardian the other day but what really snagged my attention was serving it with onion bhaji. What a great counterpoint to a bowl of soup - hot and crisp and sweet and salt. Genius.
Spicy Parsnip Soup with Onion Bhajis
This serves two very well for a tasty supper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely sliced
4 medium parsnips and 1 floury potato, peeled and finely sliced
2 tsp curry powder
300ml chicken or vegetable stock or water
150ml double cream
Put the butter and olive oil into a pan. When it warms, add the onion and saute for two minutes. Before the colour changes, add the parsnips and curry powder and continue to fry for five minutes.
Cover with the stock or water, simmer for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Blend the contents into a smooth soup and return to the pan. Then add the cream, bring to the boil and season. If it's too thick, add some stock or milk.
1 medium onion, finely sliced
30g plain flour
Pinch coriander powder
Pinch cumin powder
1 egg, beaten
200ml vegetable or groundnut oil
Put the sliced onion in a bowl with the flour and spices and mix together. Add the egg, season, and mix well.
Heat the oil in a deep pan and add a large spoonful of the bhaji mix. Fry for one minute, turning occasionally until golden brown.
Drain on to kitchen paper and serve with the soup.
The soup was very fine indeed but it was the bhajis that made it into a great supper.