Category: Soups


January 31st, 2010 — 6:16pm

Austrian liver dumpling soup. I’ll admit, it doesn’t sound particularly appetising but then neither did a sausage containing cheese, and that turned out to be a delicious component of my ‘hot sausage meal’ at Kipferl Austrian deli in Farringdon. This tiny space accommodates just six tables and several shelves of Austrian wines, bread and countless unfamiliar jars and bottles. You can also buy liver dumplings.

When we arrived for lunch at 12.30pm two of the tables were already reserved and we were lucky that one ‘very regular’ customer was just leaving.

Kipferl serves Viennese breakfast, cakes, cold platters, filled rolls, soups, salads and of course, those ‘hot sausage meals’ which sounded like just the ticket for a rainy January Monday. I hastily ordered the ‘Kipferl special’ with käsekrainer, then caught sight of the sausage with sauerkraut and pickles – a meal that sounds like it was made specially for me – and promptly started sulking.

The owner asked us what kind of sausage we would like. Er… He explained that a weiner would be your standard Austrian wurst (like a Frankfurter), the debreziner spicy and the käsekrainer – a sausage with cheese. CHEESE. It sounded odd, which of course meant that I had to  have it.

It was surprisingly good. Tiny chunks of silky mellow cheese melt as the sausage is heated, creating an uncommonly juicy banger with a milky luxuriance that could easily be sickly if it wasn’t so well balanced. I particularly enjoyed the tight, crisp casing of the käsekrainer, which was so tense that every cut made me lean back slightly for fear of receiving a burst of molten pork fat to the eye. The accompanying salads were, I was relieved to find, lightly soused. This eased my regret at not ordering the sauerkraut and pickles and counteracted the succulent sausage perfectly; meaty lentils, soft potatoes and fresh, dill feathered cucumbers. A slice of rye and a dollop of  mustard were both very welcome guests at the party; the bread enabling a little light sandwich making and the mustard offering a placid, sweet tang.

The liver dumpling soup turned out well too. All you do (according to Kipferl’s owner – oh how I wish I’d asked his name), is plop the dumplings into simmering vegetable stock before garnishing with chives. One dumpling per person or two if you are very hungry. Of course, I did two. The stock I made heavy on the alliums, what with onions and liver being such happy partners. The dumplings taste a lot like faggots but with a slightly finer texture; since a primary ingredient of faggots is pig’s liver, this is hardly surprising.

I could really get into Austrian food. Firstly, they love pork. I think we all know where I stand on that one. Secondly, they love pickles and well, do I really need to repeat the story about me eating so many pickles as a child that my lips would turn white? I’ve not managed to achieve that as an adult but believe me, it’s not for lack of trying.

I highly recommend seeking out Kipferl if you are in the area, but do consider reserving a table. The website also advises that ‘good things take time’ and so if you are in a hurry, they advise calling ahead so that they can have your order ready when you get there.

70 Long Lane
020 7796 2229

Kipferl on Urbanspoon


First make a vegetable stock using two onions, 1 leek (split in half and well rinsed), several cloves of garlic, 2 carrots, 2 sticks of celery, 2 bay leaves, 10 peppercorns, some parsley stalks and any other veg trimmings you have lying around. Add some salt. Cover with water and simmer for about 45 minutes. Strain through a sieve then adjust the seasoning. (Gently frying the vegetables first in a little oil helps to increase depth of flavour but I forgot this time).

Return the stock to the pan before adding two liver dumplings per person. Simmer gently for twenty minutes. Ladle into bowls and garnish with chopped chives.

17 comments » | Meat, Offal, Soups

Food From The Rye: Callaloo

December 20th, 2009 — 5:45pm

I was worried that me and callaloo were doomed from the start. The soup always seems to contain a healthy amount of okra and I had a problem with this for two reasons: firstly, those hairy little fingers irritate the hell out of my (thankfully not so hairy) little fingers, bringing me out in a rash, and secondly, most callaloo recipes called for them to simmer in the liquid for at least half an hour. This to me says one thing and one thing only: slime. Eating overcooked okra is like eating a fat slimy bogey; a big glutinous bowl of snot soup. Yum. Can’t wait.

After a bit of mental wrestling I came to the conclusion that omitting them entirely was not acceptable and so I fried the sappy slices until they were sappy no more, sealed instead by a crispy outer crust. They were added back at the last minute. Other than these (literally) irritating beasties, the soup contains pork, prawns, scotch bonnet chilli, thyme, two types of onion and of course, the callaloo. I think it’s safe to say there’s a lot going on.

The flavour of the callaloo, which I bought tinned, is described somewhere on the great interwebz as, ‘a cross between spinach and cabbage’. That is exactly what it tastes like. Perhaps there’s a bit of asparagus in there as well. You get the idea. This predominantly ‘green’ flavour, makes for a very vegetal soup. At first. Then comes pork and then, even-better-joy-of-joys, pork fat; melty pieces cling to each pink nugget with a seductive wobble. There is the odd surprise of shrimp but it’s not unpleasant.

At first I find the soup musty but as the spoonfuls pass this transforms into an intriguing peppery complexity. The coconut milk is not really discernible as its usual overwhelming self but instead sort of lingers around keeping things in order. The okra keep themselves to themselves.

There’s no getting away from it – this is some seriously hearty fare and I’m amazed that it is usually served as a side dish, to act as a sort of gravy for other foods. Most of my Rye Lane dishes have been similar in weight and intensity. They are the kind of dishes that stick to your ribs; fortify, bolster and sustain.

That said, this soup also has an aromatic quality from the little love triangle going on between chilli, coconut and thyme; a surprising delicacy underneath it all really. But then that was the problem right there: so much in the mix, so many flavours and contrasts that all got a little bit muddy and confused. I really should have started with a simple version (no meat or fish) like the family recipe sent to me by a friend and blogger yesterday.

Although I enjoyed the taste of the callaloo vegetable itself, I’m not sure I’ll be cooking with it that often. A green leafy vegetable from a tin is not really any contender for fresh spinach, kale or chard for example. Well, my version isn’t anyway. I basically made a fundamental schoolgirl error by choosing to make the nitrous oxide, big-bore, super-charged version when I should have started off with the understated yet reliable runner. You live and learn.


325g callaloo (drained weight)
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
3 spring onions, white and green parts, chopped
125g thick bacon cubes
225g small prawns
150ml coconut milk
200g okra, sliced
1 small scotch bonnet chilli, de-seeded and chopped
Stock – about 1 litre (I used vegetable)

Begin by frying the okra in a little oil until soft but crispy on the outside. Set aside on kitchen paper to soak up any oil. In a large pan, soften the onions and chilli gently for a few minutes before adding the callaloo, bacon, thyme and stock. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 30 minutes before adding the prawns, okra and coconut milk for a further 2 or 3 minutes. Check the seasoning and serve.

16 comments » | Caribbean Food, Fish, Food From The Rye, Main Dishes, Meat, Peckham, Side Dishes, Soups, Stews, Vegetables

Pheasant Soup

December 12th, 2009 — 10:59am

As I considered the plump little pheasant in my hands, my mind immediately jumped to a memory of casserole topped with a curly wurly crust of fresh dough – the bread risen and baked to a fluffy top, ready for ripping and dunking into the gamey broth below. Then I remembered my habit of lending out dishes, roasting tins and baking trays, and the fact that my casserole dish has been similarly waylaid. I’m thinking of encouraging an amnesty: a box outside the front door where people can just slip the items in anonymously.

Casserole dreams shattered, I poo-pooed the idea of roasting and challenged myself to draw maximum flavour from this famously stupid bird. Generally found rooted to the middle of the country road, oblivious to screeching of tyres, beeping of horns and cursing of motorists – the thing practically tastes of stubbornness. Considering the fact they seem to sit around so much, pheasants are surprisingly lean and therefore easily dried out, plus those stringy, fusty-tasting drumsticks are, more often than not, plain unpleasant.

I think much of the bird is better used as a flavour base and so I jointed him, slinging the legs into a pot with some aromatics (a.k.a the contents of the fridge plus some herbs and  juniper berries), along with the roughly chopped carcass. The breasts were pan-fried until barely cooked, ready to add back to the broth in the final moments of cooking. A few fine shreds of savoy cabbage gave extra nourishing winter heart and parsley, grassy pungency.

The resulting soup powered right through to our chilled, dampened bones with the kind of restorative effect that can only come from simmering some animal bits in a big old pot over a teeny little flame for a moderate amount of time.  A generous hunk of crusty loaf was plunged and plunged again into meaty depths, sucking up robust,  peppery juices; dunk slurp, dunk slurp and wipe the bowl clean. A piping hot end to a fine little bird and a cold winter’s day.

Pheasant Soup

1 pheasant
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 fat spring onion, roughly chopped
1 small carrot, chopped into three
A few juniper berries
1 bouquet garni (thyme, bay and parsley stalks for example)
500ml chicken stock
500ml water
A good slug of brandy (I used Courvoisier)
40g butter
30g flour
1/2 small savoy cabbage, cored and leaves finely shredded
About 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Put your pheasant breast side up on a chopping board and remove the legs by pulling them away from the breast and using a sharp knife to cut them at the joint. Remove each breast by cutting along either side of the central bone and then following the line of the carcass until the meat is free. Chop the carcass into a few pieces as best you can manage.

Rub the breasts with oil, season, and cook skin side down in a skillet on high heat for about 4 minutes, then turn and cook for another 2-3 minutes another until just cooked through. Set aside.

Put the legs and carcass pieces in a large pot and add the onion, spring onion, carrot, juniper berries, bouquet garni, brandy, stock and water, bring to the boil and then simmer gently for about 45 minutes, skimming every now and then if necessary. Remove the legs from the stock and set aside, then strain the soup through a fine sieve. Return to the pan.

Melt the butter in a separate pan then mix in the flour on a low heat. Stir this into the soup and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the shredded cabbage and simmer for another 10 minutes. Remove the meat from the legs, then shred the breast meat and add both back to the soup during the final few moments (you don’t want to cook it any more). Check the seasoning, add the parsley, and serve.

19 comments » | Game, Meat, Soups

Food From the Rye: Okazi (Afang) Soup

December 6th, 2009 — 5:54pm

As I stood at the butcher’s counter waiting for my goat meat to be diced, I could sense the man next to me staring intensely. A tap on my shoulder came next and I turned to face a big smile and twinkling eyes. “You are buying goat meat?” he enquired, “but usually it is only the West Indian people who buy goat meat!” The next thing I knew we were hugging and he’d told me all about his wedding (happening in January, in Trinidad), where there will be a whole roasted goat and a delicious soup made from the cooking juices. The butcher joined in with tales of his brown stewed goat, followed by a customer with their version and in a matter of moments we were well and truly united by common ground. I’m really feeling the love from the people here right now.

Goat secured, it was over the road for dried okazi vegetable (a Nigerian forest plant, also known as afang or ukazi), and salt fish. I will admit to deflating slightly under the weight of apprehension. I mean, goat and salt fish together? That just didn’t seem right. Add to the mix some dried crayfish and scary quantities of bright red palm oil and I was worried for my dining companions. Could it really work? Only one way to find out.

I started by cooking the goat, onions and a whole scotch bonnet (not chopped) in stock and immediately ran into the first of many areas of confusion. Most recipes advised cooking the meat for about 30 minutes, then for a mere 20 minutes once the other stuff goes in. Now anyone who has ever cooked goat knows that after 30 minutes cooking time, that meat is going to be about as tender as a piece of my shoe. I gave it an hour and turned my attention to the salt fish.

This time I used the boiling method, instead of soaking overnight in water as I did for the buljol. It worked an absolute treat; I’m never looking back. I boiled it three times (in fresh changes of water) for about five minutes per boil. The excess salt was removed in a fraction of the time, but even better than that, the fillets were much more tender and flaked apart like they loved it. That went into the mix, along with some dried crayfish (to thicken, apparently), chopped spinach (a substitute for ‘water leaf’) and of course, the okazi.

Next in the pot was the oil. After reading pretty much every recipe I could find, I reached the conclusion that the amount of oil added is a matter entirely of personal preference. Quantities ranged from 2 tablespoons to a cup. A whole cup! I decided to start with 2 tablespoons and work up from there, eventually adding about 50ml, which is quite a lot in my book, but it really did add a pleasing richness.

The end result then, as judged by me, Chris and our mate Joe, was a genuinely tasty, if rather unusual thick stew. Unusual in the sense that it was musty; it smelled rather like Peckham Rye actually. The flavour of the okazi is simply plant-like, but combined with the spinach to produce a satisfying earthiness. Surprisingly, the soup didn’t taste fishy at all; crayfish and salt fish just melted down to a thick, savoury base for the tender goat pieces to nestle in; each bony nugget was picked out and nibbled clean. It was also spicy. Really quite spicy indeed. We sucked air through our teeth and reached for the tissues.

If I were to make okazi soup again, I would definitely soak the vegetable in water first, and then blend to a paste before using; it was slightly reminiscent of that stuff you use to pad out packages for the post. Or, even better, I would try and lay my hands on some of the fresh leaves, which apparently are usually in stock but are significantly more expensive (my two dried bags set me back £2). The soup also traditionally contains snails, although unsurprisingly I couldn’t find any, and I bombed one final time by forgetting the essential accompaniment of pounded boiled yam; a major oversight.

These details aside, I’m going to declare the soup a success. Actually, I’m going to declare it a minor miracle. The fact that those ingredients can combine to produce something that everyone wants a second helping of, and then somehow totally disappears once you’ve gone to bed, is to be celebrated in my opinion. I also scored a triple whammy by using three ingredients that are entirely new to me (okazi, dried crayfish and palm oil). Bring on the next contender!

Okazi Soup

2 fillets of salt fish – I would say mine were about 10 x 5 cms each
2 x 25g bags of dried okazi, soaked overnight and blended to a paste with a little water
Stock (I used vegetable) – you need enough to cover the goat and top up with
50ml palm oil or to taste
700g goat meat, diced (you can also use a mixture of stewing meat and offal)
A handful of prepared snails (I could find any)
1 ounce of dried crayfish, pounded to a powder
A bunch of spinach, chopped (probably equivalent in size to one of those bags you get in the supermarket)
1 whole scotch bonnet
1 large onion, finely chopped

Put the meat in a large, heavy based pan with the onion and chilli (leave it whole) and cover with stock. Bring to the boil then turn down low and simmer gently for an hour or until tender.

At the same time, boil the salt fish in several changes of water, boiling for around 5 minutes each time. Taste the water for saltiness and if it doesn’t make your face pucker, you’re done. Skin and de-bone and flake the salt fish, then add it to the soup. You might need a bit more stock at this point.

Add the okazi, spinach, snails (if using) and crayfish. Bring to the boil, then turn low, add the oil, and simmer for 20 minutes. Check the seasoning and serve.

21 comments » | Fish, Food From The Rye, Main Dishes, Meat, Peckham, Soups, Stews, Vegetables

Polish Cucumber Soup

May 10th, 2008 — 1:47pm

I couldn’t wait to make this soup. Given to me by a friend (his mum’s recipe), it is apparently a traditional Polish dish. The idea of a warm soup may sound a bit crazy now that summer has (finally) arrived but don’t let that put you off – I’ve heard you can also serve it chilled. I was so excited when I got this as my friends’ mum had been kind enough to specify details such as which brand of preserved cucumbers are the best (Krakus, below) – it is particulars like this which make a recipe work.


One of the most intriguing things about this soup is the method. Vegetables (carrot, parsnip, potato) are simmered in stock and water with a leg of chicken or a fatty cut of beef. At the end of cooking time, the meat is removed and my friend has noted, ‘do with it what you want!’ The cucumbers, which (importantly) are brined and not pickled, are then grated and fried in butter before being added to the pot. Cream, seasoning and dill are then stirred through, together with a little of the cucumber brine if you want a slightly more sour taste. It is this brine that makes the cukes Polish-style. The process of natural fermentation in brine is how they develop their sour taste – no vinegar involved.

As you can see we put the shredded chicken back into the soup afterwards – not part of the original recipe – we are just die-hard carnivores and couldn’t resist it. I also added quite a lot of the brine back to the pot as I really loved the sour taste. The soup was quite unlike any I’ve ever tasted before, a delicious unique flavour and so simple to make. As I understand it, there are many variations, it’s all down to personal taste.

Polish Cucumber Soup

3 pints water (I used 2 pints water + 1 pint of stock instead of the stock cube below. This is purely because I have an irrational fear of stock cubes!)
1 stock cube (if using)
284ml single cream
1 bunch dill
1 parsnip, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 baking potato (I used 2 normal sized potatoes as I didn’t have a baker), diced
1 jar of cucumbers in brine (my friend’s mum recommends Krakus, which is the brand I used but apparently, others will do fine), drained weight 540g.
1 chicken leg (or beef but this needs to be a fatty cut)
2 tablespoons butter

-Add water, stock and chicken (or beef) to pan.
– Add the chopped veggies and simmer until meat and veggies are soft (around 30 minutes). At the end of this time, remove the meat (I shredded it to add back at the end).
– While the soup simmers, grate all the ‘cumbers’ and reserve the brine.
– Fry the cumbers in the butter on a very low heat for around 5 minutes and add to the soup.
– Finally, add single cream, dill, salt and pepper. If you want the soup to be more sour, add some cumber brine. If you want a thinner soup, add a little water. Add the chicken back in if you like.

29 comments » | Gluten-free, Meat, Soups, Vegetables

Celeriac Soup with Parsley Oil and Lancashire Cheese Toasts

February 19th, 2008 — 4:17pm

Celeriac soup, lancashire toasts, parsley oil

I’m making a lot of soups at the moment, partly because it’s winter and I need comfort food and partly because I seem to end up with a lot of odds and sods that need using up. The tangy cheese is a great foil here for the creamy soup. I added a little leftover Gruyere to mine too, still hanging around from the French onion soup I made recently.

A quick look on Wikipedia tells me that the celeriac ‘can last three to four months if stored between 0° and 5° C and if not allowed to dry out’ – can you believe that?! What a trooper! I can imagine it now, every time the fridge is opened the celeriac is still sitting there, unblemished by time, begging to be eaten – until someone says, ‘we really should be doing something with that knobbly thing in the fridge’ Although there are a hundred different things to do with the humble root, think remoulade, gratin, mash, rosti, chips etc etc, I think the good old soup is something I’ll keep coming back to.


Celeriac Soup with Parsley Oil and Lancashire Cheese Toasts (Serves 4)

1 smallish celeriac
2 small carrots
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
2 pints good quality vegetable stock
3-4 tablespoons single cream
1 bay leaf
Olive oil
A knob of butter
Salt and pepper

For the Oil

1 small bunch flatleaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped
Olive oil, extra virgin or not is up to you (I wouldn’t be tempted to use very-strong flavoured extra virgin here, it will overpower the parsley too much)

For the toasts

8 slices baguette or similar bread, cut on a slight diagonal
Grated Lancashire cheese

– Chop the celeriac and carrots into cubes and roughly dice the onion.
– Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and the butter to a pan and gently cook the veggies until they just start to colour. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more.
– Add the stock, bay leaf and some seasoning, give everything a good stir and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, put a lid on and simmer for around 20 minutes until the veggies are soft.
– Meanwhile, make the parsley oil by chopping the parsley and adding enough oil to make it into a loose sauce.
– Lightly toast the bread on one side, then turn over, add the cheese and toast again until golden and bubbling.
– Remove the bay leaf from the soup and puree until smooth.
– Add 3-4 tablespoons of single cream, check the seasoning, ladle into bowls and drizzle the parsley oil on top.
– Serve with the Lancashire toasts.

7 comments » | Blogging Events, Soups, Starters, Vegetables

Some Recipes for Valentine’s Day

February 16th, 2008 — 7:03pm

French Onion Soup

I think most people would argue that cooking French onion soup for Valentine’s Day is not a good idea. Stinky onion breath anyone? The thing is, we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day so we don’t care. Well, at least I thought I didn’t care. I can’t complain because I am the one who said it was all a load of rubbish, designed to make people spend money. I could have made Chris his favourite, individual beef Wellingtons like these that I made for my friend last week. I served them with a black salsify, spinach and gruyere gratin, my favourite way of cooking such an interesting vegetable.

Beef Wellington and Salsify Gratin

Black salsify is such a joy to cook with as it is so odd! I really enjoy it’s earthy, nutty flavour but I do sympathise because of its rather unfortunate looks, like a bunch of twigs lurking in the bottom of your vegetable box. Then you cut into it and realise that it behaves oddly too, oozing out a sticky goo (similar to okra) and then requiring instant cooking or submersion in water and lemon juice/vinegar to stop it turning brown at record speed. The smell of the salsify cooking in boiling water is good, you can smell nuttiness and I sometimes think a slight whiff of candyfloss (!) but that could have been a bit of spilled sugar burning on the stove….

Black Salsify, Spinach and Gruyere Gratin

30g of butter plus extra for greasing the gratin dish
450g black salsify, peeled or scrubbed (some like to scrub their salsify but I use a ‘Y-shaped’ potato peeler and find this works well)
250g baby spinach
300ml vegetable or chicken stock
300ml single cream
Gruyere cheese (no exact amounts here as it depends on how much cheesiness you like!)
White breadcrumbs, a couple of handfuls

– Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C/Gas6/400F and butter the inside of your gratin dish.
– Bring a pan of salted water to the boil.
– Peel the salsify and cut into the desired lengths, then drop straight into the boiling water. Cook until just tender (around 8-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your salsify).
– Meanwhile, mix the stock and cream together and season.
– Place a layer of salsify in the bottom of the dish and then add a layer of spinach. Grate over some gruyere cheese then finish with the remaining salsify and spinach.
– Pour over the cream-stock mixture then mix the breadcrumbs with a generous amount of grated gruyere and sprinkle over the top of the gratin.
– Bake until golden and bubbling.

French Onion Soup with Gruyere Croutons and Parsley Oil

1 tablespoon olive oil
40g butter
700g onions sliced thinly
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
A generous splash of brandy
250ml dry white wine
2 pints of vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
A generous pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper

For the croutons

2 cloves garlic, cut in half
A fat baguette or similar
Gruyere cheese
1 small bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Olive oil

– Heat the oil and butter and add the onions, garlic and sugar. Cook for a few minutes on a medium-high heat then reduce the heat to minimum until the bottom of the pan is coated with caramelised onion goo (around 45 minutes).
– Add the brandy and cook until you can smell that the alcohol has burnt off. Add the white wine, stock, bay leaf, seasoning and give everything a good stir.
– Bring up to simmering point and leave to cook for an hour to an hour and a half (on the lowest heat).
– In a bowl, combine the parsley and then add enough oil to loosen the mix.
– When the soup is almost ready, cut thick slices (on the diagonal) from the baguette and toast lightly on both sides before sprinkling over the gruyere and toasting again until bubbling. Drizzle some of the parsley oil over each crouton.
– Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with the cheesy-herby croutons.


8 comments » | Blogging Events, Main Dishes, Meat, Soups, Starters, Vegetables

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