Spiced Pomodri D’Oro and Coconut Soup

They say necessity is the mother of invention and that never seems truer than when there’s nothing in the fridge. 

I’m rather pleased with this nutritious and delicious soup recipe given that the ingredients were sourced almost entirely from my cupboard (save a mere sprig of spring onion).  I tend to have a tin or two of coconut milk on standby to add to curries, use as a dairy substitute in baking and so on.  I also happened to have a tin of Sainsburys Taste the Difference pomodori d’ori- yellow plum tomatoes- that I’d been hanging on to in the hope that inspiration might strike and present me with a worthy purpose for them. 

Together, these two tins made a mighty fine spicy soup, warming from added chili and cumin while still refreshingly light- perfect for this drab summer we’ve been having.  I can’t recommend making a spicy tomato soup with coconut milk enough,  it was an absolute joy to eat and incredibly simple to prepare.  It’s also a bit of a different take on the classic, but let’s face it, rather dull, tomato soup. 

I think, sadly, that Sainsbury’s has now stopped doing tins of Pomodori d’oro, but you could always use fresh yellow tomatoes or just a tin of normal plum tomatoes, although you will of course end up with a more pink-tinged soup. 

Pomodori D’Oro and Coconut Soup

You will need:
2 fat spring onions, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp dried ginger
1/s tsp chili flakes
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tin pomodori d’oro tomatoes or 500g fresh yellow tomatoes, chopped. 
1 tin coconut milk
To serve: a wedge of lime, fresh coriander or mint leaves, flaked coconut. 

1. Fry the spring onions in the oil and add all of the spices, sauté until aromatic without catching in the pan.

2.  Add the tinned tomatoes and ‘mush’ a little with a wooden spoon.  Simmer for 5 minutes. 

3.  Add the coconut milk and simmer for a further 10-15 minutes, until thickened slightly.  You could blend the liquid at this stage, if you prefer a smoother soup. 

4.  Serve with wedges of lime, coriander or mint and flaked coconut.

Incredible Okra

I often lament the lack of proper places to go food shopping in my area (near Roman Road Market in the East End).  I’d love to have one really decent fruit and veg shop nearby, where the goods haven’t been stacked on the pavement gathering dust for weeks.  Or even a larger supermarket, just for convenience.  We do have a Ginger Pig butcher’s in Victoria Park village, which is great for a special occasion, as is the posh fruiterers, quaint deli and yummy mummy bakery… but what I really need is something more basic (and cheap) for my day-to-day needs.  A place where I can get stuff to make lunch with.  Some leaves, a couple of tomatoes and a bit of soft cheese for when I can’t be arsed to make anything else.  A loaf.  You know? 
What we do have in abundance, however, is the exotic and unusual.  Ingredients that are quotidien to many in this area, but quite difficult to find in other parts of the country or even in other parts of London.  For example, it’s a cinch, a mere two minute hop and skip, to find tapioca flour, a bottle of ayran, strands of saffron, bunches of plantain, mustard seeds (very useful for pickles and preserves- see my upcoming preserved lemons post), dragonfruit, custard apples, wholewheat bulgur, ghee and absolutely any spice under the planet.  Which, if you like to cook, means that a culinary adventure can be found, quite literally, just around the corner.    
Something I’ve been experimenting with a bit is okra.  I ate it for the first time in the beginning of the year at a curry place on Tower Bridge Road with my friend Kate.  It’s delicious and can be prepared, in my view,  in two basic ways- healthily (stewed, baked or lightly sautéed) or unhealthily (deep fried in a light and crispy batter a la Deep South… amazing).  I’ve been experimenting with the healthy version, by chopping it up and stewing it with a tomato-based, spicy sauce (see below for a recipe), but I’m sure there must be countless other ways too.  The okra lends itself very well to sauces, as it gives off this creamy, sticky goo once you chop it up and goes slightly glutinous, thickening the sauce.  Sorry, that probably didn’t sound very appetising, but I can assure you, it is delicious.  
Spicy Tomato Okra
Simple Spicy Stewed Okra
You will need:
okra- two handfuls, or a pack from your supermarket (Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s both stock okra)
1 onion, chopped finely
2 garlic cloves, mashed
1 tin chopped tomatoes (or 300ml veg stock and 3 chopped plum tomatoes)
fresh coriander
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp coriander seeds
salt, pepper
olive oil
lime juice
to serve: rice and lime yoghurt (Greek yoghurt with some lime zest grated in plus a squeeze of juice)
  1. First, ‘burn’ the spices.  This is how you will get most of the flavour for the dish.  Heat your oil until it is really, really hot (be careful).  Add your onion and garlic, chili powder, coriander seeds, salt and pepper.  Turn down the heat immediately, but keep an eye on it, stirring constantly while letting the spices combine and begin to catch, giving off a strong, smoky smell. 
  2. Chop up your okra into pieces and add this to the spice mixture, stir until completely coated in the spices.
  3. Add the chopped tomato and about 100 ml of water, leave to stew for 15-20 minutes until suitably saucy. 
  4. Serve with chopped coriander, rice and a squeeze of lime or the lime yoghurt.
Another quick and simple way to cook okra is to roast it in the oven.  Simply rinse and pat dry your okra before tossing in olive oil and roasting in a hot oven for about 10-15 minutes until tender in the middle and beginning to crisp up on the outside.  Meanwhile, grate the zest of one lemon and some about 3 tablespoons Parmesan and mix with salt and pepper.  When the okra comes out of the oven, coat it with the lemon and cheese mixture.  Makes for a gorgeous starter or a fit accompaniment to fish. 

A way with…


Instalment no. 3 (last one, I promise!)

I saved the best for last though. This chutney has an almost Christmas-like deep spiceyness (from the cinnamon and cloves) and a slightly oriental sweet&sour thing going on too (from the ginger and chili). At the same time. Somehow. I can’t get enough of it. I’m eating it with EVERYTHING!

Spicy sweet & sour pear chutney
(makes one large jar)

7 pears, chopped and cored
1 large red chili, finely chopped
5cm fresh ginger, chopped
4 garlic cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp ground cloves
100 ml sugar
100 ml cider vinegar

1. Bring pears, chili, ginger, garlic, cinnamon and cloves to a simmer, adding water if you think it’ll burn (although pears generally tend to be juicy enough for this not to happen). Simmer for at least 10 min

2. Add sugar and vinegar and let it cook for about 15 min until the sugar has dissolved and the chutney has thickened.

3. Decant into sterilised (by filling with boiling water) jar.

Eat with cheese, cold meat, pie, sausages, bacon, paté, anything and everything.

An easy dinner tip no. 1

I went to visit my friend Fliss the other evening for a catchup and to see her new abode in Clapham, which was very nice.

She made me an amazingly tasty and simple salmon and lentil combo for dinner. It involved the following:

Boil up some lentils in a pan, then add a tablespoon of curry paste and some crushed garlic, mix well and leave to simmer. Add your salmon fillets on top and put a lid on. Leave for 10 min or so for it to cook through and for the curry to permeate the salmon. Remove the salmon and stir through some spinach. Serve.

Easy as pie… Actually, stay tuned for pie.