Child Friendly Vegetable Soup

“You can make a meal out of nothing, if you’ve got the stuff.”

An ideal way to use up some bits of veg that might not otherwise constitute a full meal, and a quick, vegetable-rich dinner that can be prepared ahead of time and frozen into meal-sized microwaveable portions. The day after your kids have had this, you can give them pizza in front of the telly without your conscience pricking you!

You will need:

Butter (or vegetable oil)

Cumin seeds (optional)

Onions

Garlic

Turmeric (optional)

About six Maris Piper potatoes, or whatever you’ve got hanging around that will eventually get thrown away

Three carrots

A cauliflower

Some broccoli – a bit that’s starting to go slightly bendy in the back of the fridge will be fine

An apron

A hand blender

Salt and pepper

Cream (optional)

French Sauvignon Blanc

1. While you gently heat up a decent-sized lump of butter in a large saucepan, roughly chop 3 small onions (or two whoppers, whatever you’ve got)

2. Throw in a small handful – at least two teaspoons – of cumin seed. This will impart a discreet, autumnal warmth, as well as making your kitchen smell nice. Don’t worry if you haven’t got any, it won’t spoil your dinner.

Cumin and turmeric, the very soul of any self-respecting kitchen.

3. Add the onions and sweat/gently fry until soft. While this is going on, quickly peel and dice the potatoes.

4. Crush, or coarsely chop, four cloves of garlic (or more, if you really like garlic) and add it to the onions.

5. Put a kettle on to boil.

6. If you have turmeric, put a teaspoon into the pan and stir into the onion/garlic mixture. It will enrich the final colour of the soup. If you don’t have turmeric, make a mental note to get some tomorrow, which your brain will erase instantaneously.

7. Pile in the diced potatoes, and stir until they look attractively yellow and have bits of seeds and onion sticking to them. This brings no proven culinary advantage, but it’ll make you feel as though you’re doing something a little more exotic than just tossing stuff into a pot.

8. Go and get the newly-boiled kettle, and pour enough water into the pan to cover the potatoes. Then pour in a little extra, because you’ll be adding more vegetables in a moment.

9. Peel and chop the carrots, and add them to the now cheerfully boiling spuds. Leave them at it for a few minutes, while you clear up the terrible mess you’ve made of your worktop.

10. Cut the cauli into florets, and as little bits fall off left, right and centre, mumble a few dark imprecations about messing up your worktop again. Place into the pan, and do your best to stir them up while there’s already so much other stuff in there. Add some more water, probably.

Your kitchen will never speak to you again!

11. Quickly set the table, then repeat step 10 with the broccoli.

12. When everything in the pot is verging on mushiness, put on the apron, plug in the hand blender and cordon off the kitchen. Blend the contents of the pot to the desired consistency – if serving to children, you may wish to eliminate every trace of veg-betraying texture. Season, and add cream if desired.

13a. Grown-ups: serve with hot, crusty bread and a glass of either French Sauvignon Blanc, or, if heavier on the cumin, a decent entry-level Chianti. You can be forgiven for having opened these already, especially during step 12, when there mightn’t be much to do except wait for things to get squidgy.

13b. Kids: serve with a couple of soft rolls or a few slices of Sunblest, while cleaning up the kitchen and issuing constant reminders that they need to hurry up and get ready for cubs/guides/grade 2 bassoon/beginners’ cage fighting etc.

The kids need never know that this innocent-looking concoction contains health-giving ingredients!

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No Frills Chicken Curry

“One pot and it’s dinnertime, two pots and it’s Christmas!”

 

 

You will need…

Vegetable oil

Eight chicken thighs

Three medium onions

At least half a bulb of garlic

One red chilli, finely chopped, with seeds left in.

Turmeric  (mainly to enrich the colour)

One tablespoon and one teaspoon of cumin seeds

Half a tablespoon of coriander seeds

Six cloves

Six cardamoms

Six black peppercorns

One-inch cinnamon stick, broken up

A big tub of plain yogurt, set

Salt, to taste

A bunch of fresh coriander

Half a cucumber

To start, you will need a good sized chunky saucepan, and a frying pan. This might seem contrary to the “one pot” aspect, but the alternative is to try and fry eight chicken thighs in a saucepan that already contains everything else. You will thank me.

First, put your two pans on to warm up. Then roughly chop the onions and garlic, add a couple of tablespoons of water, and blend them to a smooth paste. Remove the skin from the chicken thighs.

Put a little oil into the hot frying pan, and add four chicken thighs to seal. You’ll need to turn these, and repeat with the other four thighs, while you’re cooking the sauce. You’re a grown up, you don’t need me to tell you how to do this kind of stuff. Into the saucepan, put a glug of oil, and when it’s hot, throw in the teaspoon of cumin seeds for a few seconds, until they go a shade darker. Pour in the onion/garlic paste, pretending not to be startled by the noise this makes, and while the mixture fries on a medium heat, put on your marigolds and finely chop the red chilli, leaving the seeds in. Add this to the saucepan, the contents of which should be turning slightly brown, together with half a teaspoon of turmeric.

Now put the cumin, coriander seed, cardamoms, cloves, cinnamon and peppercorns into a coffee grinder and grind to a powder. The cumin and coriander are non-negotiable, I’m afraid, but the others are more for depth of flavour and warmth of aroma, so your dinner won’t be spoiled if you haven’t got one of them. Stir the powder into the saucepan, and fry for thirty seconds or so, while wondering how you’re going to get all that powder out of the tricky bits of your grinder.

Remove the saucepan from the heat, and whisk the yogurt. Stir it in to the saucepan a tablespoon at a time – five or six tablespoons will usually be fine, but you can use as much as you wish, as long as you leave a little for later. When you have a yellowy-brown sauce that looks vaguely appetising, return the pan to the heat and add the chicken. No matter how much yogurt you’ve used, you won’t be convinced that there’s anywhere near enough liquid in the pan to simmer the chicken, so add half a cup or so of water (where “one cup” = your morning coffee mug). In times of austerity, you might first rinse this round the pot that you blended your onions in, or even heat it up in the frying pan, to gather up all the oil and chicken-y gunge that’s sticking to it. Waste not, want not! Add salt to taste.

Put some rice on while the chicken’s simmering. In the meantime, sort out your worktop, which is now covered in onion peel, chicken skin, and hurriedly discarded marigolds. You have taken them off, haven’t you? Cut your cucumber in half lengthways, and get one of the kids to scoop out the fleshy middle with a teaspoon. Finely chop your coriander, and stir all but a teaspoon of it into the saucepan.  Mix the rest with the remaining yogurt, chop the cucumber, put it all together in a bowl and lo and behold, a simple raita accompaniment.

Finally, serve with your choice of bread and a bottle of the kind of Australian blended red that has plenty of body and spice and a touch of vanilla creaminess.

Handy coriander hint – if you don’t live near a reputable fresh coriander outlet, you can freeze it by the tablespoon in ice cube trays topped up with water. Then when you need some for a sauce, just pop a cube in!