Learn to cook through making soup

The word Soup conjures up so many feelings and memories.  Just thinking about it, it probably was one of the first things I made for myself in relation to helping my mum out. ‘What would you like for lunch, why don’t you nip to the shop and buy a tin of soup?’ It was a treat, I got to pick the flavour and at the time I didn’t realise how I was helping my mum out. It was always a tin of Heinz Big soup, probably ham or chicken.

Then there was a year where Mushrooms seemed to be everywhere, and every meal seemed to consist of mushrooms, including a milky soup. I shudder at the mention of this, the taste is so unique it instantly takes me back in time, I can eat the soup it just stirs something deep inside me, probably something I had no choice over.

As a student, I probably went back to my favourite tinned variety and then my best pal introduced me to Chicken and Sweet Corn soup from the local Chinese takeaway. At one point we tried to make it ourselves where whisked egg whites meets chicken stock became a complete disaster and we didn’t try it again!

30+ years on for me the humble tin of soup still lives on, both lunches over the weekend consisted of soup purely for convenience at the time. The boys can get it going and we all sit down with a loaf and some cheese. That said the boys can also reheat stuff we’ve made, pulled out the freezer.

I’ve bought many learn to cook books over the years. They usually start with eggs, or start with a cartouche or some other unworldly technique within a couple of pages.

I’m suggesting home made soup for the wannabe cook as a starting point. It’s an amazing place to start, a great way to learn about foods and simple techniques, it can be forgiving in so many ways. It really doesn’t matter how you chop your onion or your carrots if you’re going to blitz it. At the same time it can be healthy and tasty.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting various Soup recipe ideas, recipes to make your own, or just to fuel your ideas. I’ll add the links here, you can either bookmark this or click on follow so you get them in your in-box as they are added.

 

Would love to know your favourite soup, or whether this is a great place to start as a cook.

Day 1- Nanopoblano

You can do that thing is an apt starting point for my Day 1 of Nanopoblano and I thought I’d share my goal of committing to 30 days of blog activities and essentially trying to post something everyday for the next 30 days.

A post a day in some shape or form might sound easy, I’m both excited and worried. It really means committing to something that I’ve tried to do for so long on and off……but in the spirit of doing that thing I’m giving it a shot.

One day I’d like to pull a cookbook together, it’s a dream that started probably when the boys arrived a good sixteen years ago. I’d wanted to chart the food that helped them to become good eaters. Then it was the food that I would cook that enabled us to move house a couple of times, sustaining us through the fixer uppers. Then it’s Scotland, the walks the exploration, then it was the summer holidays, the camper van. Then it was the box of random recipes that got passed on some time ago. With so many twists and turns, life has a way of happening and time passes by.

The recipe book isn’t about seeking fortune or fame, more a way of collating ideas over the years, the recipes for life and perhaps something that might get passed on at some point. It’s also worth pointing out eight or so home economics classes as a thirteen year old boy doesn’t constitute catering training and neither does a brief stint of washing dishes as my Saturday job before getting fired for dropping a milk crate! That was a good 30+ years ago; my career is in technology and so my experience really is as being a home cook, a family guy who lives in Scotland.

Woefully in fits and starts I’ve posted something every other week to the #WeekendCoffeeshare, nothing that would really move me forward with my purpose, my writing or to push my dream forward. Lock-down and the Covid situation saw me producing even less despite working from home. For a little while I fell into that trap of thinking I’d have more time being at home, that there would be more hours in the day for that side line project. An illusion that disappeared quickly as I realised working from home is harder, time management even more complex from both a physical and mental health point of view.

The ramble and the woe is me is over…….the next 30 days is going to see me put some effort in.

As you can see I’ve put a personal kind of Kanban board together:

  • 30 Days down the side
  • New Ideas
  • In Progress
  • Ready to Post
  • Done

Let’s do this!

Tier 0 – Nearly Normal

Coffee and Notebook

It’s 6.15am, pitch black outside and that’s before the clocks change tomorrow. Saturday morning and I could be lying in, instead I’m keeping the bread machine company as it whirs and wobbles. I’ve gone for a peppermint tea when really I wanted a coffee, which means I can get one a little later!

The wind has got up, which will be stripping the trees of their amazing colours and I’m pondering how to face into the last 9 weeks of the year as the half term holiday comes to an end and the days become shorter and shorter.

To add into the pondering we are still in a strange kind of loch down here in the UK where it’s hard to know what is coming next instruction wise. I’m trying to stay away from the news as a way of controlling my mental state but it’s hard. There’s mention of a 5 tier system in Scotland, cited to come into place from the 2nd November and I’ve no idea what that will mean travel wise.

I can thoroughly recommend taking up podcasts or audio books and walking as solace. Getting out into the day light when you can. Movement is key and I can thoroughly recommend this podcast from Rangan Chatterjee : How to Keep Your Immune System Healthy with Dr Jenna Macciochi and The Surprising Truth About Exercise with Professor Daniel Lieberman

I hope where you are you are safe, thanks for joining me at the weekend coffee share.

How to Keep Your Immune System Healthy with Dr Jenna Macciochi

The Surprising Truth About Exercise with Professor Daniel Lieberman

 


The #WeekendCoffeeShare is an informal weekly link-up hosted by Eclectic Alli that serves as weekly heart beat and sort of of a mind-dump. Helps me reflect on my week, with a list of achievements, thoughts and rambles normally whilst drinking a beverage probably listening to music.

A cheeky one

IMG_4044Coffee this morning is served in a flask, we are up 6am sharp to get a march on the day.  The mountains are calling and in this case its Ben Vorlich one of the Arrochar Alps

We hit the car park around 8:30 and it’s already full to bursting of about 30+ cars.  The car park used for a number of focus points not just our hill.  I’m stumped for a few minutes at the pay point, not accepting cards today which is frustrating in contactless world of COVID.  I haven’t had any coins for months.  Our emergency supply in the van is flush for once and a blessing.

Breakfast is an overnight soak of muesli with raspberries and blue berries and we watch the excitement as people are getting their boots on.  Good to see folk meeting with friends and there is a general jostle to get out on the hill.  Amazingly the toilets are open with plenty of hand sanitisers on tap.

We are off, opting for our bikes on a part way in.  It’s not far before we hit a steep bit and there is a friendly chap meeting my pace just walking.  We discuss plans and how this his first hill this year, just wanting to start with a cheeky wee one.  He’s heading up Ben Vane a neighbour to Vorlich.  I wish him well and then I decide to catch the boss up.

It’s not long before we hit the juxta position for getting off our bikes and just as we start the long slog the rain comes in and goes out and comes back again.   A brief glimpse of the magic that surrounds these hills, before it really came in.

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After 2.5 hours we made the top with probably the quickest selfie in history.  About an hour into the descent it dried up allowing us to get a sandwich.   The bikes a welcome sight as we covered the last mile or so freewheeling.

With a nice kind of synergy, we passed the same guy we met going up.  With a cheery wave, we were all pleased with the goal being met for the day.

The sun shining in the car park and I’m reminded of the quote ‘Better a bad day on the hill than a good day in the office’.   My mind was taken to a different place of reflection and wandering.


The #WeekendCoffeeShare is an informal weekly link-up hosted by Eclectic Alli that serves as weekly heart beat and sort of of a mind-dump. Helps me reflect on my week, with a list of achievements, thoughts and rambles normally whilst drinking a beverage probably listening to music.

Lockdown Escape

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Coffee today is from a small village at the gateway to the Cairngorms, known as Blair Atholl.

The 5 mile Scotland radius lockdown was lifted on Friday and we couldn’t wait to escape.  We’d managed to hire a small lodge in the woods for the week as a replacement to a usual summer road trip into Europe.  In one way we were sad as the usual adventure had been cancelled and in another….just relieved to break away mentally from the confines and routines of home.

The view from the bedroom window is one of trees, an abundance of green….and rain, lots of torrential rain.  The rain drops almost the size of golf balls, then with moments of blue sky and sun.  To me though the rain didn’t matter we were going to get out to soak up the fresh air and absorb the life forces that just seem to emanate from the cycle paths, the trees and the hills.

Foodwise it was a strange one…..we really had to think ahead, put a weeks’ worth of a meal plan together.  We knew there was a local village store, which we counting on for bread.  The watermill (dating back to 1590) was only for pre phoned through orders for the Saturday….and it looked like the local chippy was coming out of hibernation.

The meal plan roughly:-

  • Friday – Chicken Stew, Rhubarb Crumble
  • Saturday – Chippy (Fish and Chips)
  • Sunday – Chicken Stew, Rest of the Crumble
  • Monday – Scrambled Eggs, Beans on toast followed by Chocolate Puddle Pudding
  • Tuesday – Bacon, Pasta and Crème Fraiche rest of the Puddle Pudding
  • Wednesday – Backed Potatoes, Smoked Mackerel – Pancakes
  • Thursday – Grains, Chicken Legs – Roast Apricots with a crumble topping
  • Roughly gave me the idea for the following post around a few tips for self-catering for the home cook.

 

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We managed some of the mighty big hills (Munroe’s) in the area and my lungs and mind are feeling all the better for it.  A break from the screen, the escape and that feeling of euphoria that you get by challenging the mind through excursion.

So home now and the weekend has flown by, with jobs in the garden to catch up on.  Amazing how the weeds shoot up whilst your away.  It’s like they were sat in waiting, for that moment when nobody would be looking!

Hope your choice of beverage is both relaxing and refreshing and that you have a great week ahead.


The #WeekendCoffeeShare is an informal weekly link-up hosted by Eclectic Alli that serves as weekly heart beat and sort of of a mind-dump. Helps me reflect on my week, with a list of achievements, thoughts and rambles normally whilst drinking a beverage probably listening to music.

 

Self Catering Tips for the Home Cook

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Mainly written as an aide memoir post a rainy week away in north Scotland.  A work in progress and hopefully something you might find useful.

For the home cook the prospect of a self catering holiday can be both exciting and daunting at the same time.  I love the idea of being able to explore the local area and make up ideas on the fly, for others I sure there is a sense of dread about that prospect.  There is also the challenge of an unfamiliar kitchen and the unknown that it brings.  This is my brain dump for the essentials that help make cooking easier hope you find something you can adapt or share your thoughts.

What should you take?

There is only so much space in the car, and in my experience you need as much stuff for one night as you do for seven.  Especially if you have young children.  So the idea of taking a bunch of cooking equipment is a no no.   I do think there are a few of essentials that can make life easier.

  • A peeler – typically there is one in the drawer, but it will have seen better days.  Bringing your own will put a smile on the sous chefs face
  • A tin opener – If it’s yours you will most likely understand how it works, and that it doesn’t mangle up your tin lid so it doesn’t become a lethal weapon
  • A knife – create your own carboard sheaf and you’ll be glad of bringing your own tool of choice, especially if you’re a diced onion with every meal kind of cook.  I have one that slots into the chopping board from joseph joseph, great for picnics and although not my first choice in my kitchen….it’s like night and day between the ones that will be on offer

Prep Up Front

For me self catering is about the adventure of the holiday and talking about it at the evening meal.  Lunch is usually something on the run with the day being spent doing something busy.  So evening meal needs to be easy to cook and cognisant of the unfamiliar surroundings.  I like to make a casserole the night before travel day, slow cook with enough for two meals.  Taking tubs to re-heat.

Sometimes though the run up to holiday is stressful, there is enough to do to get ready let alone think about the gourmet meals that you might need to prepare.  If that’s the case….take a few tins.  Pulses, Chopped Tomatoes and a good curry paste.  Weigh out a couple of family portions of rice or pasta.  Worst case you bring them home again.

The Treats

Then there is the magic to a self catering holiday food wise that I’d like to think adds a few memories to our time spent around the table.

Most places I’ve been to have some sort of oven to table ware, typically in the form of a Pyrex casserole dish

Chocolate Puddle Pudding.   Really easy to take in two tubs dry ingredient wise, the sponge in one and the puddle in the other.

Crumble of some shape or form, again take the dry ingredients in one tub (100g oats, 100g wholemeal plain flour, 60g sugar).  Just stir in 100g of melted butter nearer the time

A 250g block of butter will cover both desserts, and leave a little left for pancakes if you desire.

Help and Support

This is the time to rope people in, meals needn’t be fussy and dried pasta, doesn’t get any easier if your to combine it with say a pre-prepared Bolognese.  Get the kids to put it together.

Spaghetti or tagliatelle pasta and Hot Smoked Salmon, Crème Fraiche, a little lemon juice with some tinned lentils can go a long way and my 14 year old pulled this together.

Does depend on the size of the kitchen though…..too many people in a confined space….has been known to create frustration.

Cookbook suggestions

Jamie Oliver’s 5 ingredients…..simple and effective meals with 5 ingredients just watch out for stock cupboard items.

The Camper Van Cookbook by Martin Dorey Life on 4 Wheels cooking on 2 rings…..a good ethos around cooking in different surroundings.

Washing Up

Partly why I do the cooking 🙂

Not really the fun part of self catering, you definitely need to rope people in.  Put the Nintendo Switch down and agree a rota.

I don’t know what it is about self catering pans and this just might be me.  There typically isn’t a non stick pan in sight and food seems to stick so easily.  Take a pan scrub…it’s a definite life saver!

Research

This might seem obvious, Look up where your going on google maps, find the local food places.  Clicking on the pin’s will bring up a brief description along with opening times.  In times of lockdown knowing your favourite café is closed or has reduced opening hours can be a life saver if you’ve chosen to cycle there!

A Quick List

Mainly to summarise my rambles!

Kitchen Items:

  • Pan Scrub
  • Knife
  • Tin Opener
  • Peeler

Food Shop

  • Tinned Chopped Tomatoes
  • Tinned Chick Peas
  • Curry Paste
  • Crumble Fruit
  • Crumble Mix
  • Puddle Pudding (2 tubs)
  • Eggs
  • 250g Butter
  • Family Rice Portion
  • Hot smoked salmon
  • Crème Fraiche
  • Pasta

Pre cooked suggestions items

  • Chicken Casserole
  • Slow cooked Lamb curry
  • Bolognese

 

 

 

 

 

Fortnite

IMG_3879If we were having coffee it would be served with a huge slab of Chocolate birthday cake, a side of fresh Scottish strawberries and a dollop of Greek yoghurt.

The weekend is a busy one and I took Friday off work (which means trying not to log in, to not peak at the emails and to not worry about the issues that you know are building up).  Mainly to enjoy some family time as we celebrate a couple of anniversaries, ar year wiser for the boy and to acknowledge another year of marriage.  It all flies by so quickly.

As ever food has been a big feature.  At the request of the boy, there was breakfast pancakes and a Chinese take away for tea followed by a Fast and Furious film, I think it was number 8, they are very much blending into one!

The cake already mentioned baked and iced with a secret ingredient…..Condensed milk.  Which you wouldn’t believe how hard was to get in this current climate.   I turned it into a labor of love by drawing a Fortnite character on top using white chocolate.  Let’s just say there was room for improvement.  Fortunately though it didn’t stop it being eaten….and at time of writing there is only one slice left….which you are more than welcome to.

For some I’m sure your wondering if I’ve spelt Fortnite correctly.  It’s the name of an online shoot em-up, last man standing kind of thing.  You can play solo or in teams of up to 4 players.  Either Duos or Squads.  As a boy who’s games console was Astro Wars, and moved onto a second hand Spectrum 48k.   This is mind blowing with headsets to boot in order to talk to pals just round the corner, or around the world in New Zealand.  It’s been a god send during lockdown as the boys stay in touch with their pals over the power of broadband.

The best part is that I’ve been allowed to join in….I’m carried every step of the way, and they don’t seem to mind.  It just adds to being in the game for the boy and his pals.  It’s one of those if you can’t beat em join em moments and I’m really lucky to have this extra time with a teenage boy.

Saturday evening, In an effort to get sophisticated and have a more adult meal with the boss, I tried a new recipe where I discovered Freekeh.  Served with roasted butternut squash, a fillet of sea bream and a green salad.   Freekeh is an amazing grain, nutty, chewy and soft at the same time.

After the big cookbook sort out…..(Yes, I finally finished).  I bought a couple of new ones  (Don’t groan :)). Honestly, more went out than have come in!

  • Aran by Flora Sheddon,

Based around the startup of a village bakery cafe In Dunkeld, along with the ebb and flow of the daily life in a Scottish day.  I managed to grab 30 mins with a coffee, and I don’t know if was just peace for the self reflection, or the writing.  It took me back to my childhood, staying with my Gran at weekends, cricket teas and warmth of people.  This is a beautiful heart warming book about a bakery café.

  • 26 Grains by Alex Hell-Hutchinson

This I bought really for my wife, I’ve not had the time to delve deep yet.  It’s part of my journey into healthier eating.  It’s got the London vibe of another start up café.  Where the previous book is about old fashioned warmth…lets say Scottish Hygge.   This book is more akin to the new wave of modern eating, professing to be on trend and on message, the author having spent a year in Copenhagen as part of a degree, enjoying the scene and food so much that it translated into a new start-up café in London based around grains and good living.  This is where I plucked up the courage to tackle Freekeh from.

The battle bus is calling……I hope you have a great week.

The #WeekendCoffeeShare is an informal weekly link-up hosted by Eclectic Alli that serves as weekly heart beat and sort of of a mind-dump. Helps me reflect on my week, with a list of achievements, thoughts and rambles normally whilst drinking a beverage probably listening to music.

 

Fog

IMG_3836If we were having coffee we’d talk about the fog that seems to have enveloped the city.  The Meadows shrouded in an eerie cover of damp that sucks the warmth out of your bones.  Don’t hang around….who knows what’s lurking.

This morning’s walk took in the Saturday errands a good 8k including the local health foods store, the butcher, the fishmonger and a Boulanger I’ve been meaning to pop into for a while.  Greeted with a bonjour and thanked with a Merci.  It was a little bit disorientating but added to the experience.  Walking away with two sourdough loaves, a fig and a seeded.

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A smoked haddock risotto for tea with more of a nod to kedgeree than an authentic Italian dish.  Followed by a fruit salad, strawberries being in full swing at this time of the year.

Exercise wise, I’ve managed 4 runs.  Monday was really tough.  Thursday was a record breaker sub 30min for my 5k  route.  The last part is up hill, and at the end of it I barely had enough energy to stop the clock.

The cookbook sort out that started last weekend is thankfully coming to an end.  A good selection up for the charity book shop when it opens, some to go in a staging area (a cooling off period) essentially  hidden from being a distraction, some on my shelf next to me in my study, the diary and reference type idea.  The rest in the main hub, the kitchen for easy access…..and it opens a couple of spaces 🙂

Hopefully the week ahead sees the fog lifting with further restrictions from lock down eased.  Thank you for popping by and I hope that if you are surrounded by a fog in any form it lifts soon.

The #WeekendCoffeeShare is an informal weekly link-up hosted by Eclectic Alli that serves as weekly heart beat and sort of of a mind-dump. Helps me reflect on my week, with a list of achievements, thoughts and rambles normally whilst drinking a beverage probably listening to music.

 

 

 

Monday

Monday

Monday again, and all those thoughts come flooding in. The wheel starts turning again and I’m berating myself for the food choices I made over the weekend.

I weighed myself, and I’m further away from my target than when I set my target. Internally I’m groaning, and my whole demeanour is one of a depressed 47 year old wondering how to put this right. I’m fighting so many demons in my head right now.

I weighed myself as a kick up the backside, on the whole it’s my science barometer, it tells me what I already know….without allowing me to lie to myself.

By this time it’s 6:30, I’m awake, I’ve done a little bit of yoga/stretching in order to keep the back pain in check, and despite knowing that the run is going to be hard work I push through my negative thoughts and don the kit. It’s back to being cold again, the mini heat wave gone and I’m double layered, also back to wearing light weight joggers.

My pace is slow but persistent, initially laboured, a tune comes on and then another and I find myself half way without realising and then the hill approaches, which I manage half way. I decide to take the scenic route round the pond rather than the road and it makes for a much more pleasant experience passing folk who I saw on the other side doing a similar circuit but in reverse.

The final quarter is painful with a couple of uphills, really tests my ability to push through. Although door to door this particular route is 6k. I usually walk from 5 as part of the warm down (or so I tell myself)

Today I managed to do some post run stretching, despite this I still feel like I’ve stiffened up after breakfast.

My head though and the woes of 6:15 are slowly melting away……time to get on with the day ahead…the PC is calling…….Monday

Cookbook Sort

img_5059-1024x768If we were having coffee we’d be having it with a slice of Torta Caprese, a flour-less chocolate and almond cake. Served with a good dollop of Crème Fraiche and some fresh strawberries (it is the season so it would be rude not to).

Staying local, has forced us to appreciate what we have, cycling round Arthur’s seat more times in 10 weeks than in 20 years. So the search for a bit of variety has kicked in, sticking to our 5 mile radius this weekend has seen more exploration of our local cycle-ways, disused railways turned into cycle paths. Amazing bunch of inter connecting routes that are hidden away and have the ability to disorientate even though I know the city well. They are on the other side of the town to us, the side we typically drive through on the way to somewhere else. We incorporated it into a trip to the bakery we found last week with the addition of a couple of essentials that we didn’t manage to get in our click and collect shop.

 

Covered a good 10 miles in all, via a fairly circular route. Made a couple of mistakes as we popped up our heads which is a good learning for when we come out of this lockdown. More educated about the space we live in, which will also help me get about town in future as part of my weekend exercise and weekend shopping… ‘messages’ as they are affectionally known as in Scotland.

I’ve decided that the cookbook collection has got too big and it’s time, it’s out of hand and needs to be sorted. Which is easier said than done. The criteria for both discard or a keeper both fraught with nuances, was it a gift, how many recipes will we use again, will I need it in the future, as I flick through memories are evoked on the decisions on why I bought it in the first place. The books I’ve picked up at charity shops are easy to sift through and let go with my reasoning being that the charity made good money on my spend. It’s the new books that that coveted my attention at the time, I didn’t buy then lightly. Then there’s my favourite author from back in the day, his newer books not hitting the mark, or touching my needs of now. Do I really need to complete the range, they don’t match anyway.

What I do know though is that having too many on the go has caused me a bit of paralysis, too much choice and I’m finding that the books I want to enjoy and learn from can easily be deviated from. So the sort out is really a goal of trying to simplify and focus. Will let you know how I’m getting on next week….need to stay focused!

 

The #WeekendCoffeeShare is an informal weekly link-up hosted by Eclectic Alli that serves as weekly heart beat and sort of of a mind-dump. Helps me reflect on my week, with a list of achievements, thoughts and rambles normally whilst drinking a beverage probably listening to music.