Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Eat your destiny

Time to use up some of that produce I dragged home from the Temple Bar Food Market the other day…

First up is some lovely-looking kale from McNally’s Farm, North Co. Dublin. The lady at the stall suggested that all I needed to do to keep the kale fresh was trim the stalk ends and plonk the lot in a jam jar of water - no need to bother with the fridge.

And she was right. The kale was a bit limp after the trip home but perked up when I gave it the recommended treatment. That's osmosis at work, folks.

Unusually for me, there was no dithering over what to do with this bunch of kale. It was always destined to become soup.

A couple of weeks ago, we were in Limerick to visit some good friends, M. and S.. S. is also a keen cook, so talk inevitably turned to favourite recipes, new cookbook finds and what we'd both been making recently. Unsurpisingly, I raved about Dorie Greenspan at great length. When I finally stopped to draw breath, S. took the chance to recommend an excellent recipe from The Soup Kitchen, a book we'd both picked up for a song in the bookshop bargain section. No idea why it was going so cheap as it's a great book, full of interesting recipes - ranging from the simple and comforting to the ridiculously complicated/slightly intimidating... Oh... Maybe that's it.

Anyhoo, colcannon soup has been on my hitlist ever since that chat with S.. It's one of the easier recipes from the book - much more my style. But simple doesn't mean that it isn't good. And it makes the perfect lunchtime meal to combat the chillier weather that's creeping in.

Sometimes less messing around leads to better results.

Colcannon soup - recipe donated by Darina Allen to The Soup Kitchen, edited by Annabel Buckingham and Thomasina Miers

(Serves 4 to 6)

For the soup, you'll need:

55g butter
450g floury potatoes (I used Roosters), peeled and diced
120g onions diced
salt and pepper to taste
1.1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
130ml creamy milk

For the buttered cabbage/kale, you'll need:

450g Savoy cabbage/kale
40g butter

1. Melt the 55g of butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. When it foams, add the potatoe and onion and toss in the butter until well coated. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 6 to 10 minutes. Add the stock, increase the heat and cook until the vegetables are soft.

2. Meanwhile, make the buttered cabbage/kale. Remove any tough stalks or leave and then cut into fine shreds. Put 2 to 3 tablespoons of water into a wide saucepan with 20g of butter and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, add the cabbage/kale and toss constantly over a high heat, then cover for a few minutes. Toss again, add salt and pepper as needed and then stir in the remaining butter.

3. Purée the potato and onion mixture in a food processor/blender and return to a clean pan. Add the cooked cabbage/kale to the soup. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Thin with milk to the required consistency.

Cook's notes

OK, I did mess with it a little bit. Colcannon is traditionally a creamy mashed potato dish with cooked cabbage mixed in. Kale is sometimes substituted but cabbage seems to be more usual.

And, when I weighed the kale, it turned out I only had about 250g rather than the 450g specified. Oh well, I could always bulk out the greens with some spinach that only had a couple of days left before it started going mushy. But it turned out that I wouldn't need it. Although the kale cooked down, it was still pretty bulky and filled the soup nicely (see pic above). So I'm not sure what 450g would look like. Maybe it would be more cabbage/kale with a bit of soup at the bottom of the bowl.

There's a lot of butter in the recipe. I balked at just how much to start with but then shrugged my shoulders and thought,'Try it this way first, then adjust later (and go for a run in the meantime)...' So if I work out a way of reducing the fat without compromising the buttery flavour, I'll update this post.

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