Saturday, 28 April 2012

Soup and salt cod

With Belgium hoving into view on the horizon, there was little shopping to do on Broadway Market this morning.

But while I’m looking forward to visiting another northern European country for the first time, there are still a couple of days to go before we head to the land of chocolate, beer and chips with mayonnaise.

Two pieces of cod fillet had been salting for a couple of weeks, and on Wednesday, I started softening them in water. The intention was to try a Sicilian dish on Friday, but The Other Half wrinkled his nose when shown the recipe and, to be frank, by close of play yesterday, I really wasn’t in the mood to deal with any such response.

Having started our break by having my hair done – Belgium deserves to see me looking neat and tidy, instead of as the rather shaggy specimen of recent weeks – I headed to a nearby Waitrose and picked up lamb chops from the south west, plus Jersey Royals.

The meat was grilled, the potatoes boiled and buttered, and some frozen peas served up too, together with mint jelly.

Innovative cooking it might not have been, but who needs innovation when you have decent, seasonal ingredients?

Today, however, was a leap into the realms of experimentation (for me, at least).

Just after noon, I chopped a banana shallot and started cooking it gently in olive oil.

It was followed into the pan by chopped celery, cauliflower and asparagus. None of these had been bought today, but really did need using up.

After a softening in the oil, everything was then cooked in chicken stock.

And here we have a little diversion.

In the last couple of years, I’ve been using Knorr’s bottled liquid stock for when I don’t have any homemade, when I only need a little or when I’m doing something unplanned and haven’t had time to thaw some  of my own out.

But when I looked at one of the bottles a few weeks ago, I was stunned to see the ingredient list.

Today, I happened to pick up a box of organic Kallo stock cubes to check the ingredients. It was replaced when I saw that the second ingredient listed was palm oil.

And Marigold stock contains the same.

The production of this stuff is a major problem in terms of killing off the natural habitats of orangutans.

I’m not claiming any sort of ‘green’ saint, but I’m not going to help kill off more of our cousins if I can help it.

Does anyone know of any organic – or even non-organic – stock cubes or powder that isn’t stock full (sorry) of crap or has palm oil in it?

Anyway, back to today’s fodder.

Once the veg were cooked, the solids were decanted into my mini processor and blitzed, then placed into a clean pan with the strained liquid.

After a little more gentle cooking, seasoning (it needed a fair bit) and double cream were added.

It was served with (for me) garnishes of some dried chili, dried mint and grated Pecorino, and was very enjoyable.

Soup really is humble food – but such a joy once you get a handle on it. Cheap and good for using stuff up too.

Later, the salt cod was drained and then dried before being placed in a pan with ordinary olive oil to cover, brought gently to a bubble (just over 100˚C) and left to cook for around 15 minutes.

It was served with basmati rice and the warmed contents of a tin of Italian tomato ‘fillets’, to which had been added some salt and some chili flakes.

The rice was probably overcooked for some tastes, but the fish was very pleasing.

It was interesting to cook something like this without a specific recipe, and I was reasonably pleased with the results.

I doubt, though, that it will be the sort of thing we eat next week.

Chocolate-flavoured beer or grass-flavoured chocolate, anyone?

And at least one of those really does exist.

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