Off Topic #1

If you follow me on Twitter you will have realized that the Winter Veg season has started in earnest. Last week's basket from the AMAP included black radishes which are delicious raw, baked, deep fried, pan fried, in soup, stuffing or made into condiment. I went for soup, as follows:

1 large black radish
2 large potatoes
2 small onions or 3-4 shallots
2 saucisses à cuire
salt, paprika, cayenne pepper, cumin seed

Serves four hungry people or two Russian peasants. Enough for about 6 middle-class English dinner guests.

Chop the shallots into small slices and put them in a hot frying pan with about 2 teaspoonfuls of lard (I prefer mixed lard for this but you can use fatback or caul). My lard is unbleached, untreated and comes from a local farm that has its own butchery. In general I advise getting your lard direct from the butcher or preparing it yourself.

Peel the radish and potatoes, and chop the potatoes into chunks and the radish into thinnish slices. As the shallots start to brown, add the potatoes and radishes, about a teaspoonful of paprika, a pinch of cayenne and a dozen or so cumin seeds. Keep the pan good and hot, and toss frequently.

While it is cooking, heat up a litre or two of water with about half a teaspoon of salt, slice up the sausage and drop it in the water. Let it come to the boil. (It helps if you have already had the sausage before, so you know how salty it is. This can vary quite a lot. With the saltier ones, there is no need to salt the water.

Once the potatoes and radishes start to brown, tip the entire contents of the frying pan in the boiling water. De-glaze the frying pan with about half a glass of red wine. (One the pan is empty, get it good and hot, and tip half a glass of red wine into it. It will boil instantly, and spit a little at first. Swirl it around so it cleans the pan.) Tip the remaining contents of the frying pan into the boiling water. You may need to scrape a little with a wooden spatula. I don't usually drink the last 3cm of any bottle of red. Instead I pour it into a bottle that I keep for the purpose, which is now a horrifying mixture of old wine. This is the best stuff for deglazing, or as a base for an instant marinade, or to add body to any braised dish.

Boil the lot for about 20 minutes.

Separate out all but 2 or three slices of sausage, and re-fry them in the same pan.  While you are doing this, put the rest in the blender and blend it until smooth and creamy (your guests may even think there is cream in the soup. This is part of the magic of lard, even in tiny quantities). If you need to add water to make it blend well, then do. It will probably be too thick at this stage anyway. Once the sausage starts to brown, put it back in with the soup. De-glaze again, but this time use less wine. About a quarter glass topped up to half way with water - or you could use Beaujolais. All it's good for IMO.

With a steady heat on, add a little pre-boiled water from the kettle until you get the consistency you want. I advice tasting it to judge the consistency, rather than just going on the stirring resistance.

Here's my top soup serving tip: if you're worried you haven't made enough, serve it too hot to eat with a spoon but with lots of crusty bread. Your diners will fill up with bread dipped in soup. In any case the radish will still be quite lively if you haven't cooked it too long.

Like any proper winter soup, this is very filling. Also like any proper winter soup you can make it with any damn vegetable. I did another this week with parsnip and salsify. The latter takes a little more preparation. I daresay I'll rave about salsify some time soon.

No comments: