Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Cooking for friends - Tomato and pepper soup

A picture-less couple of posts as there isn't really a lot of time or thought for pictures when you're serving up a meal for guests! I might have a picture somewhere of the trial run I did for the soup though.

This tomato soup recipe I adapted from the recipe at Nigella's website, and the main change was to make it serve 5 people and be a bit more peppery. Here is the original:


This is a brilliant soup to make if you have friends over, because once the chopping is done you just stick it in the oven for 40-45 minutes and blend it with some stock in the end. It leasves plenty of time for socialising outside of the kitchen! I made bread rolls the day before to go with it with my usual bread machine method.

The soup itself is quite textured; if you don't like the skins on the tomatoes and peppers you can peel them afterwards by sticking them in a sealed plastic bag for a few minutes and letting the skins steam so they can easily peeled off. It's a lot of effort though, and probably best done with just the peppers. You can add cream/creme fraiche/soft goat's cheese as the end to make the soup a bit richer.

Roasted tomato and pepper soup

Serves 5

Takes around 1 hour and 10 minutes to complete totally

800g vine tomatoes

3 peppers (red is good for colour, but any can be used; I used 2 red and 1 orange)

2 small red onions

5-6 cloves of garlic

650ml stock

1.5 tbsp Mushroom ketchup/soy sauce/Worcestershire sauce

Olive oil and seasoning

The recipe on the website includes tabasco which I didn't use as I'm not a spice fan, but would go very well.

Preheat oven to 200C (180C fan)

* Prepare the vegetables - Cut the tomatoes into halves or quarters (depending on size), the peppers into quarters, the onions into chunky wedges and separate the garlic cloves but keep the skin on.

* Put all the vegetables into a large roasting tin, season and drizzle with your preferred amount of olive oil. Mix well.

* Roast the veggies for 40-45 minutes so they become soft and slightly blackened.

* A few minutes before the veggies are due to come out make up the stock and keep it hot it in a large pan.

* When the veggies are out, first squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins into the stock and add the mushroom ketchup. Then plonk in all the veggies and mix around a bit. Heat if required.

* Whizz up with a hand blender or in a food processor.

Soup done!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Gnocchi Al Forno

A baked gnocchi dish adapted from a recipe I collected at Waitrose. With the spinach and broccoli it gives a green, healthy hit and the tomatoes offset that nicely with their salty tang. You could use another creamy cheese if you don't fancy ricotta and add another strong cheese on top instead of Parmesan.

Gnocchi Al Forno

Serves 4

Takes around 30-35 minutes

400g chopped spinach (frozen is ideal)

800g gnocchi

250g ricotta cheese

A crown of broccoli

Several sun-dried tomatoes to taste

A handful of fresh basil leaves, torn

4 tbsp breadcrumbs

4 tbsp Parmesan cheese

Salt & pepper

* Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan. Chop the broccoli into florets and defrost the spinach. If not using frozen, then wilt the spinach gently then whizz in a blender. Frozen is easier though!

* Boil the broccoli for 1 minute, then add the gnocchi and boil for 2 more minutes, then drain.

* In the meantime mix together the ricotta, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, basil and 1 tbsp of the Parmesan.

* In a large, oven-proof dish mix the spinach mix with the gnocchi and broccoli and smooth down. Season with the salt and black pepper.

* Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and the rest of the Parmesan evenly over the top. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden.