Sunday, November 20, 2005

Scotch broth's distant cousin

I like making soup: you start with a pile of unassuming ingredients, and through some kind of culinary alchemy, you end with a meal.

As meals go, it is a particularly cook-friendly one. There are no tricky timings, and it can be prepared ahead without problems. Re-heating does not change the texture or dry it out. And there are endless variations.

Scotch broth is a classic soup made of lamb, barley and vegetables. This recipe has no barley in it, but took its inspiration from it, so I call it Scotch Broth's cousin.

A note on the ingredients:

Lamb: the meat came from some chops I cooked for my childrfen. I had cut off the fat, which had some meat imbedded in it. I slivered the meat from the fat (the fatty bits were chucked out ), and then cut it up finely. I ended with slightly less meat then you get on one chop.

Butter beans: not a traditional ingredient. I took a handful of beans and soaked them over night. Then I simmered them for an hour, before removing the outer skin, and adding them to the soup to simmer for another hour. They picked up lots of flavour from the broth, but STILL HAD NOT COOKED AT THE END. So they were discarded before eating.

The other ingredients were lurking in the fridge. All the vegetables were cut up
finely, typically in 2mm cubes. It took ages, but the result was good.

The cooking

I started with finely sliced spring onions which I sauted in vegetable oil. Meanwhile I chopped two sticks of celery, and added them. Then I chopped a carrot and a parsnip and added these. Next I added half a red pepper and three mushrooms, also chopped. I stirred it for a bit, then add the lamb and stirred a bit longer, before covering generously with water, and two mushroom stock cubes. Finally once the water was boiling, I added the peeled butter beans, turned the heat to a brisk simmer and left it to cook for about an hour.

And that was that: rich and tasty, served with bread to soak up the juices.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Another dilettante posts again

A few years ago I read a book called something like "Play to your strengths". It had a line that stayed with me - "choose one of your strengths and master that: don't be a dilettante". My immediate reaction was that being a dilettante was my strength.

Of course, I could claim to be a Renaissance (Wo)man or a polymath - except I'm not either of those. The dictionary definition of a polymath includes "excelling" at multiple fields. A true Renaissance Man has a desire to truly master a subject, and I'm too much of a generalist to get that depth. Neither polymath or Renaissance Man describes me well.

So that leaves a dilettante, a dabbler, an amateur. That's me. I like to find out about lots of things, and have a range of skills, but there are too many things to learn about to spend too long on any one subject.

What does that mean for this blog?

It means I'm going to write on a variety of topics. To find out what they are, check back later.