Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pea Pod Soup

My kids all love eating fresh raw peas straight out of the pods. When I was young and stupid, that is, a few years ago, I would get annoyed that they would eat half the peas or more that I had podded ready for dinner. Then I realized what an idiot I was. Now we eat green beans at dinner, and peas are an afternoon snack.

At least once a week at this time of year, I present them with a bagful at 4 o’clock. The deal is, if they pod them, they can eat them. It seems like a fair deal; at least, they seem think so as they are happily occupied for half an hour or more as they demolish a pound or two of peas.

They pod them by grabbing the top stem, where the pod was attached to the plant, and tearing the string completely off. When all is done, I am left with a pile of strings, a pile of pods, and three happy girls who have had their green vegetables for the afternoon.

Thanks to a lovely idea in Chocolate & Zucchini, I stash the pods in the freezer until I have a few bags full, then turn them into soup. One warning: although the soup is very frugal, being made of pea pods, homemade stock and all, it does take a bit of washing up: you need to use a food processor, bamix or blender, and a food mill, if you don’t want to spend the rest of your life pushing pea pods through a strainer.

Pea Pod Soup

- about 1 kg pea pods, strings removed
- 1 red onion, diced small
- a small handful of fennel tops or other herb (basil, parsley, chives)
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 1 ½ litres stock (I use homemade chicken stock, but an all purpose veggie stock would also be good)
- olive oil
- salt
- tarragon vinegar (optional)

Warm some olive oil in a soup pot. Add the onion and a good pinch of salt, and cook until the onion is soft. Add the pea pods, and allow them to become glossy, then raise the heat, add the fennel tops and the wine, and cook until the wine has reduced to a syrupy consistency.

Add the stock, bring it to a simmer, and cook for half an hour. Allow to cool a little.

In three or so batches, whizz the soup in a food processor or blender (or use a bamix) until it looks like very wet grass clippings. Transfer the clippings I mean soup to a mouli (food mill) placed over a smaller pot, and grind away. (If you have a masochistic urge or a great deal of time on your hands, press them through a strainer instead.)

When it has all been processed and run through the mouli, dump the shredded pods in the compost and give the soup a good stir. Place it on the stove to warm up again, and serve.

My kids are especially fond of this soup when it has been enlivened by a dash of tarragon vinegar. Tarragon vinegar is made by shoving fresh clean dry tarragon into a bottle of white wine vinegar, and forgetting about it for a couple of weeks. It is perfect splashed over asparagus, dripped onto a green salad, or drizzled into this soup.

(Local: peas, onion, fennel tops (gleaned), white wine, olive oil. Various sources: chicken stock. Not so local: tarragon vinegar, salt.)

Chocolate & Zucchini  : Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Kale Crisps

Eat your greens! Well, I do love greens and I do eat a lot of them in salad, in horta and in pie. But every now and then I just don't feel like a great pile of leaves mounded on my plate, and that's when I fool about with kale.

Kale is such a sturdy vegetable that it can be, effectively, chipped. That is, it can be baked with oil and salt, and a bit of chilli perhaps, and turned into a delightfully flaky nutty flavoured thing. For this chips-not-chocolate girl, kale crisps are perfect for an afternoon snack, with an evening beer, or anytime really.

Sure, I can buy wildly expensive packages of kale chips, but why would I when they are a doddle to make and cheap as, well, chips?

Kale Crisps

- 1 bunch black kale aka cavolo nero or Tuscan kale
- olive oil
- chilli flakes (optional. I often do two batches, one with chilli for me, and one without for the kids.)
- salt

Preheat the oven to 180°. Position an oven shelf near the top of the oven.

Wash and dry the kale. Cut out the thick central stems, and chop the leaves into bite size pieces.

Drizzle olive oil into a large bowl. Sprinkle in chilli flakes to taste (start with about ¼ tsp) and a large pinch of salt. Throw the leaves into the bowl and toss with your hands until they have a slight sheen from the olive oil, and the salt and chilli flakes are evenly distributed.

Line a baking tray with silicon or baking paper, and place the leaves in a single layer on the tray.

Slide the tray into the top shelf of the oven. Check after 12 minutes; if they are not yet crisp and slightly golden, give them another couple of minutes in the oven.

Remove from the oven. Serve warm or cold.

Kale crisps do not stay crisp terribly long, so either eat them immediately or, as soon as they are cool, place them into an airtight container lined with paper towel or similar to absorb any residual moisture.

In lieu of chilli flakes you could use some sort of spice mix. Experiment!

(Local: kale, olive oil. Not so local: chilli flakes, salt.)