Even before I embarked upon the kitchen marathon that is the 12-week cookery course at Ballymaloe Cookery School, I did wonder whether the intensive cook-eat-watch-eat-sleep-eat regime would quash my enthusiasm for food. Fortunately for me (but possibly unfortunately for all those who want to use the kitchen in our household), this has not been the case.
Yessiree, it seems that I’ve returned home with a whole new set of addictions, and, coupled with my new found ability to make said creations with a pretty decent amount of proficiency, it’s looking likely that I’ll be taking the monopoly on our kitchen for the foreseeable future.
The scone cravings began early on in the afternoon. Everyone was out and the kitchen was empty, so I whipped out the necessaries and made a small batch. And then I figured that while the oven was on, why not crack out a wholemeal loaf too?
No sooner had I closed the oven door on my lovely loaf, last night’s chicken carcass began calling me from the fridge. And that was it. Things just spiralled from there, really. All the techniques that we had been practising repeatedly since early January just came spilling out: chicken stock; shortcrust pastry (which I have since decided will become tomorrow evening’s quiche); a basic soup technique; and yet more scone dough for a rhubarb pie-type affair.
I can already predict that the basic soup technique is one that will be revisited regularly over the coming months. This evening it was employed to deal with a glut of purple sprouting broccoli we’re currently enjoying and next it’ll be tackling the spring cabbage, which is coming on abound.
And if all my forthcoming soup tastes as good as the one we ate tonight, I’ll be one happy Ballymaloe baby.
Here’s how it went:
Purple Sprouting Broccoli Soup
Onions – 1, medium
Potatoes – 1, large
Purple sprouting broccoli, plus the leaves – 250g
Butter – 50g
Chicken stock – 900ml
Full fat milk – 100ml, or more
Salt and Pepper
Parmesan for shaving (I used the wonderful Gabriel cheese made by the equally wonderful Bill Hogan. See note below.)
Capers (I used some packed in salt) – 3 tbsp
Olive oil – 7 tbsp, approx.
Garlic – ½ a clove, smashed
Chop the onion and potato into fairly fine dice (approx. ½ cm if you feel like measuring). Melt the butter in a pan and add the onion and potato, turning to coat them, and then season with salt and pepper.
Turn the heat right down, press a used butter wrapper or piece of greaseproof paper down onto the onion and potato, and cover the pan with its lid. Sweat the onion and potato for 10 to 15 minutes, until the onion is completely soft.
Meanwhile, make the caper oil. Chop the capers roughly and tip them into a pestle and mortar along with the garlic and a tiny drizzle of oil. Pound these ingredients together until smooth, add the remainder of the oil and then set aside.
Once the onion has softened, add the chicken stock, bring to the boil and simmer the vegetables until the potato is completely cooked. Add the purple sprouting broccoli, replace the lid briefly until the soup returns to the boil, then remove it (so that the broccoli retains its colour) and continue to cook until the broccoli is tender.
Puree the soup until smooth, return to the pan and thin as necessary with milk. Correct the seasoning, but bear in mind that the caper oil will be pretty salty, so be careful not to add too much at this point.
Serve the soup in warmed bowls, drizzled with caper oil and topped with shavings of Parmesan cheese.
P.S. Apologies for the shockingly bad quality of the picture above. I was rather hungry by dinner time and had seemingly developed a case of the shakes!
Bill Hogan is a cheesemaker based in West Cork, Ireland. He makes two terrific cheeses, Desmond and Gabriel, which are both made using unpasteurised milk from a local farm cooperative.
These cheeses are thermophilic (think Parmesan and Gruyere style) cheeses, which were originally made in Ireland up until the Great Famine took place during the 1840s.
Gabriel is definitely the feminine of the two cheeses and is wonderfully aromatic and nutty in flavour. It can be slightly gritty in places, due to salt and dry ripe curd becoming crystalline as the cheese looses water during the ageing process. Typically, Gabriel is sold when it is at least eighteen months old – the age at which the crystals become apparent – with its flavour intensifying the older it gets.
If you should ever happen to come across a wedge of this wonderful cheese, I urge you not to think twice about buying it.