Cantonese Crab and Sweetcorn Soup

As the Chinese New Year approaches, I thought for my next classic Chinese recipe it would be nice to marry my love of Chinese food with some of the amazing produce available here in the Channel Islands.  What better ingredient to use than fresh local crab, indulgent perhaps, but this recipe uses brown and white meat to really get an intense flavour. So just as every Chinese restaurant has a version of sweet and sour, a great many have their own version of this Cantonese dish on the menu, today’s recipe, Crab and Sweetcorn Soup.

Chinese Crab and Sweetcorn Soup

It is best to view most authentic Chinese soups as highly flavoured, aromatic broths and it is important to note that in Chinese kitchens they take as much care in their cooking as we in western kitchens devote to good stocks and much-celebrated consommés. This does not mean however that this is a complicated or indeed difficult dish. In fact, this is an incredibly easy recipe resulting in a fantastically tasty soup using brilliant local seafood. Enjoy.

The recipe calls for a fish or chicken stock the making of which I will cover in a future post. You can however achieve excellent results with a good quality stock purchased from your local Deli or supermarket, try to source one that is jelly like in consistency as this will add to the fished soup.

Cantonese Crab and Sweetcorn Soup                           serves 4

500 ml good quality Fish or Chicken Stock

100 gr cooked Sweetcorn Nibs

100 gr picked White Crab Meat

100 gr Brown Crab Meat, mashed with a fork

1 small Red Pepper, very finely sliced

A small bunch of Spring Onions, finely shredded

75 ml Rice Wine or Dry Sherry

20 gr Ginger, peeled weight, cut into very fine strips or finely grated

2 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

½ small Red Chilli, de-seeded and finely sliced ( optional )

1 Star Anise pod

Juice of one fresh Lemon

2 tablespoons cornflour

2 tablespoons light Soy Sauce

1 tablespoon Fish Sauce

Small bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Place the stock, sherry, soy, star anise, garlic, chilli and ginger into a medium sized, heavy bottomed pan and bring to the boil, reduce the heat and very gently simmer for at twenty minutes. This will allow the aromatic flavours to infuse into the stock. Do not simmer longer as the stock may go bitter.

Remove from the heat and strain. Return to the pan, bring back to a simmer and thicken with the cornflour mixed with a little water. Add the sweetcorn and peppers and cook for five minutes before adding the crab and spring onions. Heat for a further couple of minutes to thoroughly warm the crab, correct seasoning with the fish sauce and lemon, add the coriander and serve.

Super – Patatas Riojanas Soup

The weather forecast for this week is not good, not good at all, we look to have some real stormy, autumnal weather heading for the islands so perhaps it is time to start thinking of some hearty, warming recipes, comfort food like a nice chunky soup. Now personally I am not a big fan of soup, if I get out to eat, I go for the fish or seafood starter and save soup for when my mum makes her thick tomato and bacon version for a big Sunday lunch. But increasing when I am working and not at home with my family, soup is a one-pot wonder. Soup is tasty, nutritious, extremely good value for money, easy to make and you can use lots of store cupboard staple ingredients and most of the odd bits in the fridge.

Now I had some potatoes, onions and Chorizo in my fridge, so in my mind I was thinking something simple with perhaps a Spanish taste, the potatoes soaking up the flavour of the Chorizo. I looked up a recipe and came across Patatas Riojanas, a very simple rustic soup or stew from La Rioja. La Rioja is a small region in the north of Spain, most famous for its high-quality wines, and it has some lovely indigenous dishes. No one is sure about the origins of Patatas Riojanas, but it would not have existed until at least the 19th century and the introduction of potatoes into Spain during the Napoleonic Wars.

Chorizo and Potato Soup

There is a story that Chef Paul Bocuse tasted this casserole in a well-known winery, and after three more plates told everybody Riojan style potatoes were the best food he had ever eaten. The world famous chef also recommended this meal to be the national dish of Spain. I have added a few carrots and some celery to my recipe to make more of a stew than a soup and have to say the result was absolutely delicious and very satisfying.

Patatas Riojanas Soup

750 gr Waxy Potatoes

2 large Onions, peeled and finely sliced

2 large Carrots, peeled and cut in chunks

3 large sticks of Celery, thoroughly washed and sliced

2 Red Peppers, grilled, skin and seeds removed

250 gr fresh Chorizo Sausage, cut into one-centimetre dice

50 ml good quality extra virgin Olive Oil

600 ml good quality Chicken Stock

A large glass ( 250 ml ) good Spanish White Wine preferably white Rioja

3 large cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

1 heaped tablespoon of Plain Flour

1 heaped tablespoon sweet Spanish Paprika

½ teaspoon fresh Thyme Leaves

1 Bay Leaf

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

Freshly chopped Parsley to garnish

Pour the olive oil into a large, heavy bottom pan and gently sauté the Chorizo, sliced onion, carrots and celery for about ten to fifteen minutes until the onions are soft and translucent, then add garlic slices and potato and cook for five more minutes stirring constantly. Add the flour and cook out for two more minutes keeping stirring. Pour in the stock and white wine into the onion and chorizo mixture and add all the remaining ingredients and stir. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer on low until potatoes are cooked. Be sure to check the level of the cooking liquid adding a little water if needed. When the potatoes are well cooked and start just to break up correct the seasoning, add the parsley, stir and serve.

Gazpacho

Trying to enjoy the not so sunny Jersey summer and dodging the thunderstorms I can at least celebrate some of the delicious produce available on the island, fragrant, ripe Jersey tomatoes and a host of salads, fruits and vegetables. This simple version of classic chilled tomato soup is ideal as an appetizer or as a light lunch. Gazpacho is very popular across the Iberian peninsula and is believed to have developed from either Moorish or Roman origins. It varies across Spain and Portugal from thick purées, almost the consistency of a dip, through to fiery pepper water with the addition of a selection of diced vegetables.

I once had a disagreement with an Executive Chef. Not good for your career, on the authentic Gazpacho texture, rough or smooth, thick or thin. He was of course right because quite simply he was the Head Chef and I was right because I am an annoying know it all ( there I said it before anyone else ). Eventually we came to an unusual and diplomatic compromise in a kitchen, especially between two opinionated individuals, we were both right. We did however totally agree on its early preparation to allow the flavours to fully develop and most importantly to ensure sufficient time in the refrigerator to completely chill. Quite a few years later, after a lot more research, as I tried to find out if I was right, I saw just how many varied recipes and what is a highly individual approach there is to making Gazpacho, there is no cookery book classic or definitive method. The texture and ingredients are different, region by region, family to family, person to person.

Chilled Spanish Tomato Soup

Chilled Spanish Tomato Soup

Traditionally made in a pestle and mortar to keep it cool, the result is rustic, less than the smooth finish achieved in many modern recipes using a food processor. You may add green bell peppers which I omit on a purely personal basis ( I just don’t like them ), whilst stale bread soaked in a little water thickens and adds a silky texture. As a lunch time dish bowls of ham, egg and almonds are served alongside the soup. I guess the key is to experiment and find your own personal preference. I have often used Gazpacho as Amuse bouche in restaurants ( see photo ) to get a customers taste buds tingling and this recipe is ideal. Modern Gazpacho variations can be made with cucumbers, avocados and watermelons for different colours, flavours and textures.

Gazpacho serves a good 12 shots or 4 individual portions

1kg really Ripe Tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 small bunch of Spring Onions, washed, trimmed and roughly chopped

3 cloves of Garlic, peeled and chopped

1 Cucumber, peeled

2 roasted Sweet Red Peppers, peeled and de-seeded

A good pinch of Cayenne Pepper

75ml good quality Olive Oil

3 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar

Sea Salt and cracked Black Pepper to taste

to finish your choice of

Finely diced Red and Green Pepper, grated Egg, Air dried Ham, toasted Almonds, Pimento, extra virgin Olive Oil.

Put the chopped tomatoes, spring onions, garlic, cucumber and Cayenne in a blender and blitz until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve a couple of times to remove most of the pulped skin and seeds. Put the mix back in the blender and slowly add the olive oil and sherry vinegar and season well to taste. Chill thoroughly in the fridge. Serve as an appetiser or as a light lunch with a selection of toppings to spoon over your soup in the centre of the table.

Serve with a chilled Amontillado over ice.

A Bastille Day Classic Recipe

Tomorrow is the 14th of July, Bastille Day, and across France there will French Onion Soupbe large military parades and festivities commemorating the beginning of the French Revolution. Beginning with the storming of the Bastille, a large prison in Paris, the period was one of great political and social upheaval which saw the over throw of the French monarchy and the establishment of the French Republic. In honour of this traditional French National Holiday I am going to cook this classic recipe, which probably had it’s origins in Roman cooking but became prominent amongst eighteenth century French peasants, for which onions were one of the staple dietary components. The addition or use of stock came later as did the cheese croute ( a kind of crispy cheese on toast ). The dish went through a renaissance in the sixties when American chefs really started promoting French recipes and was used as a very fancy dinner party starter although I think it is altogether better as a lunch dish. Enjoy


My Classic French Onion Soup serves 6

1.5 kg peeled sweet Onions, peeled and finely sliced

6 cloves Garlic, peeled and finely crushed

1 ½ litres fresh Beef Stock

100 ml quality Dry Sherry

60 gr Butter

50 ml quality Olive Oil

1 tsp fresh Thyme Leaves, finely chopped

2 Bay Leaves

½ tsp each of Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

¼ tsp freshly ground Nutmeg

Half of a day old Baguette

50 gr grated Cheddar or Gruyère

50 gr grated Parmesan

A couple of pinches of Cayenne pepper

To garnish

Parsley, washed, dried and finely chopped

Heat a slug of the oil and the butter together in a large heavy bottomed pan and add the onions. Stew the onions stirring frequently until all the cooking juices evaporate and the onions start to caramelise. Begin to stir continuously, to prevent the onions sticking and burning and cook until they reach a light brown nutty colour. Add the garlic, thyme, nutmeg, stock and seasoning and bring up to the boil. Simmer gently for fifteen minutes add the sherry and simmer for a further fifteen minutes to evaporate off the alcohol. Correct the seasoning and keep warm.

For the croutes preheat your oven to 325 F / 170 C / Gas mark 3 and thinly slice the baguette. Lay the pieces on a baking tray and drizzle with the remaining oil. Place in the oven and bake for forty minutes until golden brown. Turn up the oven to 375 F / 190 C / Gas mark 5. Pour the soup into six oven proof bowls and top with the grated cheeses then sprinkle with the Cayenne. Place the bowls on a tray and place in the oven for fifteen minutes until the cheese is golden brown and bubbling. Take out of the oven, top with chopped parsley and serve. Please warn your guests about the hot bowls.