Soup - Day 1

Call me crazy but I love watching food cook. I enjoy seeing raw meat turn from crimson to a rich mahogany, I love to see apples caramelise in brown sugar and Calvados and I am always amazed when I watch fish curling up as it broils. I am also fond of watching cheese on toast cook; the rubbery pieces of cheese slowly liquefying and then starting to brown and bubble.
Sometimes I’ll just stand and watch a pan of water come to the boil. Last night I spent 20 minutes gazing into my pan of chicken stock as I watched the slices of garlic bobbing around, the chicken slowly turning a pale ivory colour, the onion slowly disintegrated as the rings puffed up and fell apart.
Don’t panic. I’m not about to start scrawling on the walls with crayons like Paulina Porizkova in in the video for Drive by the Cars.
After a long (very long it seems sometimes), stressful day at work, standing by the cooker watching the fruits of my labour slowly finish off what I’ve started is just a wonderful way to unwind. I am lucky in that I don’t have any distractions at this time of the day. Paul is usually more than happy to sit downstairs and watch Starship Galactica with a sandwich whilst I prepare dinner, so we have that little time to ourselves to unwind. See, Paul watches spaceships and I watch bobbing vegetables to unwind. It’s all perfectly normal.
I know. Enough of your preamble, I hear your cry, yet again. You just want to know what our Day 1 soup was, right? Well, I’m not going to keep you in suspense any longer.
Day 1 Soup was the perfect detoxing soup for a Monday Night, the culinary debauchery of the weekend all forgotten as we sooth our stomachs with the healing flavour of ginger, the stimulant of chili and the diuretic ability of fresh limes. A simple soup that was satisfying without causing the top button of the jeans to be undone: Prawn and Pork Dumplings with Chili, Lime and Coriander in Chicken Broth.
Originally a Rick Stein recipe (from French Odyssey), I had to tweak it slightly to suit our store-cupboard which meant omitting the mint leaves, using a slightly different type of noodle and shortcutting the chicken broth. This was at no great detriment to the recipe however.
At first glance, it appears to be quite simple but in fact it has several facets to it and takes the best part of an hour and a half to cook. Not a big deal since the first hour is spent simmering the stock and, unless you enjoy watching vegetables swim around in water like I do, you can get on with other things whilst this makes its own delicious broth.
So, the first element is the stock, made as regular chicken stock but with 8 cloves of slivered garlic and a nub of fresh ginger. I had originally planned on using chicken stock cubes but I pinched one of the dogs’ chicken wings and used that instead. Just don’t tell them it was me that took it. They are very protective of their chicken wings.
The second element is the prawn and pork dumplings. These are so simple: process some prawns, some pork mince, some shrimp paste, an egg and some salt, form them into little balls and steam them for four minutes until they turn a creamy colour.
The other elements require no cooking: bean sprouts, chopped red chili, chopped spring onion and straight to wok flat noodles (I wouldn’t usually use these noodles but this was all the supermarket could offer me), a good squirt of freshly squeezed lime juice (a crucial component for bringing the dish together) and some fresh coriander leaves, used not as a garnish but as a another important flavour burst. These are all placed in the bottom of the bowls, then the dumplings and then the hot, strained chicken broth is poured over the top, heating the noodles but ensuring everything else retains their nutrients and flavour. Totally delicious.
For the stock:
2 or 3 chicken wings
1 Large Carrot, peeled,
1 Onion Peeled
8 Cloves Garlic, peeled and cut into slithers
1 Nub Ginger, peeled, cut into strips
1 Stick Celery, cut into large chunks
Some Fresh Thyme Leaves
1 Bay Leaf
3 Tablespoons Nam Pla (fish sauce)

For the Dumplings:
80g Fresh Prawns (I used ready cooked but raw would be best)
250g Pork Mince
Half a Teaspoon Shrimp Paste
Pinch of Salt (not too much as the Shrimp Paste is salty)

And rest of the stuff:
1 Red Chili, chopped into rings, de-seeded if required
2 Spring Onions, cut into half inch slices
100g Flat Noodles
Some Beansprouts
Juice of 1 Lime
Fresh Coriander

Make the broth. In a large saucepan, place all the ingredients and cover with about 2 litres of cold water. Slowly bring to a gently simmer. Do not let boil as this will turn your broth cloudy. Leave to simmer for an hour.
After an hour, strain and let simmer some more until it has reduced to about 1.2 litres.
Once you have strained the broth/stock, prepare the dumplings. In a food processor blend all the ingredients together until they form a thick but not too smooth paste.
Bring a pan with about 2cm of water in it to the boil. Place the dumplings in the steamer (I had to do mine in three lots as I don’t have a steamer, just a colander) and put the steamer over the pan of boiling water. Leave to steam for about four minutes. They will turn white when ready.
To assemble the soup, place some of the noodles, beansprouts, chili, spring onion and coriander in the bottom of pre-warmed bowls. Place some of the dumplings on top and pour over the hot broth. Pour over some fresh lime juice.
Serve and feel very rejuvenated. At least until Pancake Day.


Joyce said...

Having chicken stock ready and waiting will make this a slam dunk soup to try soon. 'course it will deprive me of the pleasure of daydreaming while I watch the water turn to broth - seems very biblical! Nice rendition. Thanks.

Brilynn said...

Those are some of my favourite flavours, sounds delicious!

Ros said...

I wish I could enjoy watching the food cook as much as you do. I think my worst chore in the kitchen (after the washing up) is waiting for onions to soften.

I love oriental dumpling soup. That picture is making me so hungry.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Just at
I know. Enough of your preamble...
I was so enjoying my laugh!
This is beautiful soup. Great the way you watch the pot and he watches starships. Sounds right to me.

deinin said...

I love watching some things (soup bubbling away, breads, muffins and souffl├ęs rising in the oven) but I must say water coming to the boil is very frustrating to wait for if you have nothing else to do. It always seems to take ages!

This soup looks and sounds (well, reads) fabulously fresh after all the heavy food I've been eating lately. Yum!

wheresmymind said...

Ok zombie're crazay! ;)

Kathryn said...

It looks really good! I love that sort of soup, I have to say. Yum.

I'd need chocolate after, though:).

Kathryn x

Ulrike aka ostwestwind said...

This soup sounds yummy!
Just a stupid question: What does a British woman think about crumpets baked from a German woman? I am not very familar with crumpets.

Kristen said...

This looks like a great soup!

Mary said...

Paulina Porizkova - Now that's a blast from the past! :)

Julie said...

Dumplings always improve any soup (as far as I'm concerned) and Asian soups are my favorite soups by far. This sounds delicious.

Toni said...

Freya - Perfect timing for this soup! Eating dumplings is considered good luck for Chinese New Year - and since this recipe has chili in it....well....what can I say? It's PERFECT!!!

And I get the thing about watching the food cook. Cheese melting? It's better than TV!

Claude-Olivier said...

Hi Freya, I speak English (at least some words ;-)! Thank you very much for your nice comment comment on my blog! Our blog is nice too, your recipes look very attractive ! I like this one, sounds good. Dumplings are so good, even better if you make it by yourself !!!

Have a very nice day


Kate said...

freya, you could be my long lost twin. I get absolutely mesmerized watching food, especially cheese melt, and sometimes overcook things because I become enthralled with what's going on. Read my archive post on the Mac-n-Cheese Off and you'll see a perfect example. I think it's a sensory thing....i can play with a set of keys forever because I love how they feel in my hands. (whacked??? why yes!)

I am on a soup kick too, and will be putting a nice pot together today.

Terry B said...

I know what you mean about watching food cook, Freya. All the senses get a workout when cooking. A big thing with me is all the aromas building on one another--as a new ingredient hits the hot skillet or gets stirred into a broth or sauce...

I also like the interesting ways things can cook. Helen over at Beyond Salmon [there's a link on my blog] just posted a simple fish soup in which the fillets are added to the pot after you turn off the flame. The heat of the broth cooks them! To me, that's just fascinating.

Callipygia said...

freya just found your blog and i think I must be your long lost twin as well since I too appreciate the beauty of food and how it transforms with heat. The soup looks delish.

Melting Wok said...

freya & her mini lion meatballs hehe, yummys !! gosh, you got so many delicious soups going on here, I don't know where to start :)