Saturday, February 10, 2007

February 9, 2007: Stu's Soup

So who's Stu, whom I've named this soup after? I've only met Stu once in person, but his mum Jane and I work in the same lab. He was one of the judges at last year's culinary competition, and he also made the lemon meringue cupcakes! If those weren't evidence enough of his cooking skills, every couple of weeks over lunch, Jane will tell us of something interesting he whipped up over the weekend. In recent weeks she's even brought in little samples of his first (and highly successful) attempts at bagels and sourdough bread.

Over breakfast one morning last week, I found the comment that Stu left on my tortilla soup post, offering me a soup recipe of his to try. And when I arrived at my desk an hour later, there it was! A rice and seafood soup, photocopied from a cookbook, with handwritten notes on how he makes his vegetarian version. Thanks, Stu!

As Michael hinted, the risotto he made the other night was in anticipation of this soup. One of the ingredients, curiously, is "1 cup cooled risotto, omitting parmesan". Unfortunately I didn't read the "omitting parmesan" bit: I just picked out the asparagus from the leftover risotto. (I don't think this did the soup any harm, and keeping the aspargus probably wouldn't have either.) Other than requiring some already-prepared risotto, this recipe is pretty straight-forward to make and doesn't take a long time to cook. I can see why the tortilla soup reminded Stu of this soup - it's a tomato-y base with lots of yummy bits and pieces floating in it. But I put a bit too much water in it, and consequently the liquid wasn't as intensely flavoured as I'd prefer. Next time I make this, I probably won't add the extra cup of water and I might use more risotto. As it was we had plenty of carbs, with Michael bringing home a loaf of Phillipa's wholewheat and honey bread - yum!

The other thing that Stu has introduced me too is Massel brand "chicken" stock cubes, which are actually 100% vegetarian! Given the big "chicken" lettering, I've probably walked right by these dozens of times in the supermarket and it took this recommendation for me to carefully read the packet. Do carefully read the packet, though, because they were sitting right next to some genuine chicken stock cubes on the shelf at Allergy Block.

Stu's Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
a pinch of saffron threads (Stu sometimes skips these, but I had a few on hand)
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon smoked hot Spanish paprika (I only had mild paprika, so I also added a dash of chilli powder too)
1 L water + 1 Massel "chicken" stock cube (should have added two)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup cooled risotto, omitting parmesan (I'll try 1 1/2 to 2 cups next time)
2 red capsicums, roasted, skins removed, and thinly sliced
4 egg tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup coarsely chopped coriander leaves

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the onion and saffron and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin seeds and paprika: cook for a couple more minutes until fragrant. Next add the stock, tomato paste, risotto and a cup of water (I'll skip the water next time), combine well and bring to the boil. This actually took longer than I expected - maybe 20 minutes? Stir in the capsicum and tomatoes, and cook for a further 5 minutes over medium heat. Stir in the coriander, heat through for a minute, season to taste and serve.

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