A very long time between posts and plenty of new content planned but I thought I’d start with something quick and easy. Both to cook and for me to write up while I get my blogging mojo back into gear.
Here in Adelaide we’re in the depths of winter. After a couple of deceptively sunny days, Mother Nature has spent this week throwing everything at us. Not only has it been cold but it’s been wet too. Great for the garden, not quite enough rain for those involved in agricultural pursuits …
My go-to winter food is soup. I love it. Unfortunately, Andy isn’t such a fan so we don’t eat quite as much of it as I’d like … but fortunately the need to very quickly dream up a meal meant that leek and potato soup, topped with tons of bacon and chives was on the menu. It’s also fortuitous that I’ve just completed a bread making course, thanks to Le Cordon Bleu (details on that to follow) so we had some potato and rosemary sourdough bread ready to go – the perfect accompaniment!
I’ve written about soups before – and this is in the same vein. It’s hardly a recipe – it’s more about the flavour combinations. If you like your soup thicker, use more potato and less water/stock. If you like it thinner … use more water/stock. I think that a good rule of thumb is to cook the soup with the water just covering the ingredients and then let it down if you want to, after you’ve blitzed.
Serve with fresh bread, or toasted bread, thickly spread with butter!
Warm the olive oil in a big pan and add the chopped onion and leek. Sweat them down until they're relatively soft, but avoid the temptation to crank up the heat, as you don't want them to pick up too much colour.
Add the chopped potato and the stock so that the vegetables are just covered and boil (covered, otherwise you'll evaporate off the liquid!) until the potatoes are cooked. The smaller you cut the potatoes, the less time this will take. Keep an eye on it as it cooks, as even with the lid on you may need to add a bit more liquid.
As the soup is cooking, cut the bacon up into small pieces (lardons, if you like) and fry them off in a separate pan. We like them nice and crispy.
Once the potatoes are soft, turn off the heat and blitz the soup until it's nice and smooth. At this point, add more stock or water if it's looking too thick for your taste. Adjust the seasoning too.
When you're ready to serve, ensure everything is hot, then ladle the soup into bowls, topping with bacon and chopped chives.
The cooking (and subsequent recipe-blogging) hiatus induced by the kitchen reno has taken a little while to sort itself out. No sooner was the kitchen vaguely finished than summer meant no one felt like eating, let alone cooking. All the while, recipes were piling up – stashed on the internet or literally, piling up as piles of paper on the new kitchen benches …
So it’s more than time to try, and write about, something new. This recipe was cut from a That’s Life and I’m guessing it was around Australia Day as it’s called ‘Chive and Cheese Aussie Damper’. I suspect that ‘Aussie Damper’ is something of an oxymoron, given that damper is uniquely Australian. For those playing along overseas, damper is basically a soda bread and/or like a gigantic savoury scone. Historically, it was made by swagmen in a campfire and these days it is made by intrepid campers in a camp oven.
Or you can just make it in an oven. Like making scones, the trick is to use a light hand and not over-mix or over-knead your dough. One problem I find with breads like this (and scones) is that raising agents (the most common being bicarb which you add to plain flour), can leave a slightly metallic after-taste. In this bread, that is reduced somewhat (but not entirely) by the addition of cheese and chives. I’ve just had a look at the SR flour I used and it has four different raising agents in it – I wonder if I would have been better off using a plain flour and adding baking powder to it …
The other thing with damper is that it really doesn’t keep that well. Think about how well scones keep – they don’t. Damper is similar – eat it straight from the oven with lashings of butter. Unlike leavened bread, it is quite dense but it’s not chewy.
We probably won’t make this again – as Andy said – there are nicer breads to be made! However, if you want a quick bread to knock up and serve to a hungry group you could do far worse. Obviously, if you’re camping it’s definitely worth giving this a go!
(Oh, and if you’re wondering, the silicone mat I use is a silpain – I love it!).