First soup-making attempt since moving to Vancouver: Carrot and Coriander

I have been quiet on the blog front since I made the move from Cambridge to Vancouver. This has been predominantly because I have only just equipped my kitchen to a state where I can actually cook things and also because supermarkets over here confuse me as the brands for everything are different! My first attempt at making soup in my new environment worked out well, despite me making a mess of the kitchen! As it says in the title, my first effort was carrot and coriander!

Ingredients

  • 6 large carrots, peeled and sliced.
  • 1L stock (I used beef because I only had beef stock in my cupboard, but veggie is probably better!)
  • 2 chopped onions
  • 2 chopped cloves of garlic
  • Small amount of oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Bunch of coriander

Procedure

1) Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onions and garlic to the pan. Cook for a few minutes on a medium heat to soften them.

2) Add carrots to the pan.

3) Add the stock and bring to the boil

Bringing to the boil

Bringing to the boil

4) Simmer for 12 minutes

Following the simmer

Following the simmer

5) Add the coriander

Coriander

Coriander

6) Blend the soup. I used a hand blender and got it everywhere! Job was done in the end though.

Making a mess

Making a mess

7) Serve.

Nom

Verdict

I thought that the result was a very tasty soup, that tasted even better when I took it to work for my lunch the next day. So simple to do that I should repeat this soon!

A return to the subject at hand. Soup, Science and Stuff !

Introduction

Hello. Given that the title of this blog is Soup and Stuff I felt that there was a lack of actual soups being discussed. Well honestly there is a lack of anything being discussed but for now I decided to make a soup using what little items I had left in my cupboard. I am trying to avoid going shopping as it is raining and I don’t like Tesco when it is busy. As it has been mentioned before myself and Claire are scientists, and so while I was making this several sciency things came to mind and I decided to include them. I think this makes the blog a bit more interesting (I think I should make it our USP !).

A quick Google search suggested that red cabbage soup could be something worth cooking. I bought the cabbage about 2 weeks ago and I haven’t really had any inspiration for it. For this soup I looked at these recipes and then decided to pretty much ignore both of them. Mainly due to a lack of ingredients, what I took from these is that red cabbage and acid (Lemon juice or red wine) seem to go well together.

Materials and Methods

So first I assembled the stuff I needed. For this soup I used

  • 1 red cabbage
  • 2 small onions
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 beef stock pot
  • 1 small quantity of clover light
  • 2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Lea and Perrins
  • Then for seasoning : Salt, Pepper, and Thyme
Clover light is pretty gross

The gang’s all here

The actual method like any soup is really simple. First I chopped the onions, and garlic and softened them with some clover. Then I chopped up the cabbage into smallish bits, this is when the first sciencey thing came to mind.

Science interlude 1

When I sliced it down the middle, the way the leaves of the cabbage were coloured reminded me of structures found inside every cell in our body, the Golgi apparatus. The Golgi apparatus was named by its discoverer Camillo Golgi, in the late 1800’s. In our cells it functions to process and modify proteins before they are released into the cell. The image in the panel shows a cross section of a Golgi from a thin slice of a human cell, which has been frozen and then imaged with an electron microscope. The actual Golgi Apparatus is a big system of vesicles (membranous sacs), and according to Wikipedia your average cell has about 70 of them. Newly synthesised proteins make their way through these stacks and different enzymes modify the new protein for instance adding sugar groups or phosphoryl groups a protein. The individual cells in the Cabbage would have hundreds of Golgis (Golgii ?) in them too and I thought it was quite interesting how similar looking features can be found on a macro and molecular scale.

Vesicles rock

I hope this picture shows what I was trying to explain in the text

Back to the food

When the aromatics became slightly translucent, I added the chopped cabbage and mixed to ensure that the clover covered the cabbage. I then cooked until the cabbage became soft, stirring often to ensure bits of it didn’t stick to the pan (I was trying not to use too much butter, If you add more I don’t think you would need to stir it so much – for the lazy). The colour of the cabbage seems to intensify as the water inside evaporates.

Cookin aint easy

Note to self to always take more than one photo.

Once it was nice and soft, I added the stock pot and topped up with water from the kettle until the cabbage was submerged. I added about 1 teaspoon of dried thyme at this point. Then I added the balsamic vinegar and the Worcester sauce. I then let the mixture come to the boil and turned the heat down to simmer for 10 mins. When I returned I noticed that the colour of the cabbage had changed from purple to a more red colour. Finally I seasoned the soup with some salt and pepper and at this point I tasted it and decided it was finished. The cogs turned and I realised at this point that the cabbage was purple and not red initially… why wasn’t it called purple cabbage ? This led me to science interlude 2.

Science interlude 2 

When I thought about why the cabbage would change colour when I cooked it I remembered an experiment I did during my A-levels. We took beetroot, homogenised the tissue and diluted it out to use the extract as a pH indicator (pH is a measure of how acidic, or alkaline a solution is). I realised that the cabbage must contain the same or similar molecule as beetroot and that something must have changed the pH of the food as I cooked it. Obviously this was the vinegar, which almost everyone knows is acidic.

I decided to test this and took the base of the cabbage and poured a little bit of white wine vinegar on it, sure enough I saw the purple containing pigment begin to change to a pinky red.

yes I am very cool

If you look in the red circle you can see the colour change when I dabbed vinegar on it

I looked again to wikipedia and found that the molecule which gives beetroot and cabbage (and many other vegetables) the deep purple colour is an anthocyanin. You may have heard of anthocyanins as they are regularly paraded in the media as being super anti-oxidants. In plants they are thought to act as attractors for insects, and as a “sunscreen” protecting leaves from UV light.  The figure below shows the general “skeletal” structure of an anthocyanin, the R groups indicate where different chemical groups or atoms can be present.

The general molecular structure for an anthocyanin (Stolen from Wikipedia)

The general molecular structure for an anthocyanin (Stolen from Wikipedia)

As I noticed, anthocyanins can also change colour depending on the pH. The colour changes from red in acidic pH, to blue at neutral pH, and finally to yellow and then colourless at high pH. The colour change due to pH change is driven by an equilibrium of a hydrated or “open” form, which is colourless and the “closed” or dehydrated form. Low pH favours the closed and coloured form, and high pH the opposite. This research article titled “The effect of light, temperature, ph on stability of anthocyanin pigments in Musa acuminata bract” contains more information on the chromatic shift in anthocynanin molecules in different conditions.

Results

I ate the soup with some rye bread, it was very good. I think for some it might have been quite acidic, so I would maybe recommend using 1 tablespoon of vinegar. I am a vinegar fiend though and thought it was lovely. One smallish cabbage made enough soup for 2 generous servings so I have some to take to the lab with me tomorrow.

Rye bread 4 lyf

Does it look more red I can’t tell ?

Overall I was impressed with this soup, despite it having hardly any ingredients, it was really tasty and it made me think how much of a weird person I am for thinking about science all the time.

I am going to call this trout surprise, the surprise was inside !

Well it has been an age since we looked at this blog, but we (that is Me and Claire) have decided to give it another go. It will change eventually as one of us is in Cambridge and the other in Vancouver. This has the small advantage that I can now make things with fish it in, as I don’t think Claire would have eaten this.

I really intended to make a stir fry, but it went a bit wrong and adding some stock made a really new stewy soupy thing I decided to call a broth. No doubt some pedant will arrive with the definition of a broth, but until then… it’s a broth !

Ingredients

  • 1 x Trout, I imagine any fish would suffice really
  • 1 x Decent size head of broccoli
  • 2 x Carrot
  • an amount of Kale
  • some mushrooms
  • salt, pepper
  • chilli sauce
  • vegetable stock

Procedure

First, I took my whole trout and tried to fillet it. Now I haven’t done it in a while and I can really recommend not using a blunt knife, as was all I had. In fact it’s probably easier to just ask whoever you buy the fish from to do it for you. Or even better just buy the fillets ! Then you avoid your trout being packed full of eggs :o. I thought it just looked plump !

fat fat trout

here s(he) is in all its glory. I picked it because it looked satisfyingly meaty

Alien ?

This was a surprise. Can you even eat these ?

seriously get a sharp knife

Not bad for an amateur

So anyway, after washing the eggs, and hacking away with my butter knife I managed to get some fillets. I baked them in foil with lemon, salt and garlic for about 30 mins at 180 degrees. Then I flaked the flesh off the skin and kept it to one side.

So for the veg, this part was even easier. I chopped them up with my fearsome dull blade and started to fry them in a wok with a little olive oil. I quickly realised that there was a lot and I wasn’t going to cook them very well (I am crap at stir frying) so I had the genius idea to put in some veg stock and sort of cook them through in that. It took about 20 mins or so.

yep, just veg

This is what it is

I have no idea what I am doing

Here it is after cooking in stock

Finally I mixed in the flaked fish and left it simmering for a few mins. I then splashed in some sweet chilli sauce to give it a bit of bite. Here is a photo of the dish. My presentation leaves a lot to be desired, but really it was delicious. If I was making it again I would take out the mushrooms and add some noodles or something. It sort of tastes like something you would get at Wagamamas or somewhere like that. Plus with all that veg I think it is relatively healthy. I reckon it would work with chicken too.

Beware the occasional bone

Sorry about the bowl

Spicy(ish) parsnip soup!

I have been attempting a new variety of soups this week and my latest attempt was spicy parsnip soup. For once I didn’t look around for recipes and just guestimated what I should use. The outcome was quite tasty, but I think I could have made it spicier!

 

Ingredients

  • 3 large parsnips
  • 1L vegetable stock (I used two veggie oxos in 1L water)
  • 2 medium sized onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1tsp ground cumin
  • 1tsp paprika
  • 1tsp chilli powder
  • Knob of butter

Procedure

  • Peel and chop the vegetables
  • Melt the butter at a medium heat and add in the garlic and onions. Cook until softened, but not brown.
  • Add in the parsnips, cumin, paprika and chilli powder and cook for a couple of minutes
  • Add the stock and bring to the boil

IMAG0739

IMAG0740

  • Simmer for about 15 minutes/till the parsnips are soft
  • Take off the heat and blend using a hand blender
  • IMAG0741
  • I tried to make some parsnip crisps at this point, but ended up burning them. I think I had the right idea, just too high a heat. I shaved some pieces of parsnip using my veg peeler and then fried them at a high heat. I still put some in my bowl to look cool.

IMAG0742

 

Excuse the mess in my kitchen!

All in all it was pretty nice, but I would increase the spice factor next time and not burn things!

Mushroom Soup!

Happy new year everyone! Over the Christmas and New Year period I didn’t do any cooking myself as I was looked after by my family! In the last week it has been back to reality for me and back to my kitchen! I have been enjoying making soup to take to work for lunch again and this week’s highlight for me was mushroom soup!

Ingredients

  • 500g (ish) mushrooms, chopped up! I had 3/4 of a 750g pack left in my fridge!
  • 80g butter
  • 2 chopped onions
  • 2 chopped cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsps plain flour
  • A litre of hot stock (I used a beef stock pot from Knorr, I think most people would use veggie or chicken stock)
  • 4 tbsps cream (it works okay without it too)
  • salt and pepper for seasoning

Procedure

  • Melt the butter in pan and cook the onions and garlic on a medium heat for about 5 minutes until they are softened.Image
  • Add the mushrooms and cook at a high heat for about 3 minutes while stirring!Image
  • Then add in the 2 tbsps of flour and mix well to coat the mushrooms
  • Add the stock, bring to the boil and then simmer for 10 minutesImage
  • After the 10 minutes is up, blitz with a hand blender (take it off the heat for sure and let it cool down if you are scared of injury).
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Reheat and stir in the cream.Image

All that is left to do is eat it! I had mine with a very nice seeded roll. Nom nom nom!

Image

French Onion Soup:- “it was really really really good”

This weekend I decided to make an attempt at making French onion soup for dinner. It is something that I have always loved yet never actually tried to cook myself. It really was perfect comfort food for a lazy day.

I turned to one of my favourite sources for recipes: the BBC good food website. You can find the recipe here: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/4250/french-onion-soup, but I will list everything below.

Ingredients

  • 50g butter
  • 1kg brown onions , thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp thyme , picked leaves
  • 3 tbsp dry sherry
  • 2 Knorr beef stock pots made up to 1.2 litre (BBC says you can use fresh stock or stock cubes)
  • 1 small baguette , sliced
  • 1 garlic clove , halved
  • olive oil
  • 100g Gruyère cheese , grated

Procedure

  • Melt the butter and gently cook the onion and thyme for about 20 minutes.

Chopping this amount of onions really made my eyes stream. It was worth it.

Sweating down onions and thyme

  • Increase the heat slightly and cook for 15 minutes. The onion will become sticky and caramelised. Stir it a few times while it is cooking so it doesn’t stick to the bottom and burn.
  • Add the sherry and cook for 3 minutes
  • Add the stock and bring to the boil. Season.
  • Simmer for 10 minutes.
Simmer simmer simmer
  • While this is going on, toast the bread (I forgot to do this bit), rub each slice with garlic and if you want crush some of the garlic and spread over the bread. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over it and then cover it with the cheese. Stick this in to grill until the cheese is bubbling and looking yummy.

Just in case you don’t know what grated cheese looks like

  • Stick the soup in a bowl and put a crouton on top

Nom nom nom nom

  • DEVOUR

I think this has been my favourite soup making exploit to date. I had it for lunch today and it still tasted amazing!

 

Guest post #2 from the boy: Pulled Pork

As his last effort was so good, I let Thomas loose to right another blog post. Here is the result:-

The porkening

Introduction

Well as my last entry for this blog seemed to go okay, I thought I would write another entry to tide it over until Claire makes more soup. Last weekend we decided that we needed to eat lots of meat… we settled on pork because:

1. Beef and Lamb are expensive

2. Chicken can be pretty dull

3. Who wants to eat huge amounts of fish? (note from Claire: I don’t even want small amounts of fish)

A few times in the past my dad has roasted pigs whole, and with this in mind on a smaller scale we decided to follow this recipe from the Beeb. You could just follow the link now and read it yourself, but its probably easier to just read on now.

The Ideal Scenario

Materials and methods 

100 g sea salt

150 g light muscovado sugar

1 kg pork shoulder

50 ml maple syrup

50 g wholegrain mustard

1 tbsp English mustard powder

Right so this is a really easy thing to make. You take the pork (we had a chunk that was about 1.3 kg) and rub in a mix of all the salt and 2/3 the sugar. Then you put that in the fridge overnight.

Pork in preparation

In the morning I found that the bag I left it in was full of liquid a sort of salty sugary bloody mix. I took the executive decision to pour it away. Then I made the marinade using the rest of the sugar, the mustards and the syrup. I then used my hands (gross) to smother the pork in it. Like so:

The morning after…

Afterwards I put it on a tray and sealed it with foil. The BBC page said to make a tight seal but I pretty quickly broke the seal when I was curiously checking to see what was going on. I have no idea if this affected the final meal in anyway. After sealing it was put in the oven at 130 degrees for about 7 hours. Half an hour before we took it out I poured some more of the marinade on, I am not sure if it was necessary really but I did it anyway.

Results

Cooked pork

The finished thing looked amazing, it smelt really good too. It doesn’t look exactly like the picture on the BBC article, but after tasting it I no longer cared because it was bloody great .I shredded it with 2 forks and we had it on sandwiches. Then on sandwiches the next day. And then on sandwiches the day after that. Claire grilled the skin on the top to make it crispy, she said it was nice but you will have to take her word for that as I don’t like the skin.

Pulled pork huzzah

In conclusion this really satisfied a craving. It’s probably not the healthiest thing in the world, but when it tastes that good who really cares ?

9/10 – would eat again !

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