Wednesday, March 22, 2017

FRENCH ONION SOUP

On a night out my husband ordered the French onion Soup. His comment was, "Why don't you make this anymore, I really like it."
What he said was very true, I used to make it, quite regularly but couldn't quite remember the last time I had put it on the table. It was obviously some time ago.

So like the good wife I am I decided to make it for him returning from a business trip. He had been out of town all week so this would make hime feel glad to be back.

No sooner had I started to prepare it than the reason that it wasn't on the menu quite so often soon became apparent. The onion chopping! Once that was over it wasn't so bad. However, I made one big error which was silly, obviously not thinking as I coloured the onions I added salt. Wrong thing to do! So instead of colouring nicely they sweated and stayed pale. Salt just draws the water out. Still it would still taste good just not a deep brown colour I was after.


I had no beef stock so I used a Knorr gel stock cube. I would rather have my own stock but I knew this would work ok. Soon the onions and garlic had sweated down, pale but soft. I added the stock and some white wine, with a bit of seasoning it was well on the way to being a tasty supper.

I decided to make croutons for the top instead go using a slice of bread. I think this makes it a bit more manageable to eat. So the croutons toasted in the oven as the soup cooked. I cook the soup very slowly to let flavours develop. I leave it for a good hour on a very low heat. Once ready and seasoning tested I add a splash of brandy to it. This really ramps up the flavour.
So once in the bowls, topped with croutons and grated gruyere and grilled it was ready to go.


I had forgotten just how much I liked it and I will be making it again soon. Back on the menu.

RECIPE
750g onions sliced
2 tsps olive oil, 50g butter
2 crushed garlic garlic cloves
1/2 tsp sugar
1.5 litres beef stock
275 mls white wine
salt and pepper

CROUTONS
cubes of bread coated in olive oil and toasted in the oven until crisp

Fry onions, garlic and sugar in oil/butter mix over a low heat until softened, around 30 minutes. Don't worry if they brown and catch at the edges, this will add flavour.
Once softened add stock and white wine and seasoning then stir until you have all the bits scraped from the pan. Bring up to a simmer then turn down and cover and cook on a low heat for around 1 hour. At this stage it is ready to be put into bowls. You can if you wish add a glut of brandy to the pan. Add croutons and grated gruyere cheese and sit under a hot grill until melted.

So going forward I will need to make sure I don't let this soup fall off the favourites list, and maybe I should bring out food processor to help with the onion slicing, although, on reflection it wasn't that bad. Not worth giving up the recipe for.




Tuesday, March 14, 2017

COOKING CLASSES

If you read my blog regularly then you will know a lot of my life in Shanghai is spent in the company of food! With regular breakfast, coffee and lunch groups, add to that dinner invitations and just the general lure of all the fantastic food on offer here it's not really surprising that this is the case.

With my love of not only sampling all that's on offer, but also of shopping for ingredients, which sometimes can be a bit of a challenge, but something that has got much easier here during my almost five years in Shanghai.

Online shopping allows you to buy almost anything you want but something I resist. I don't think you can beat actually seeing the produce before you buy, and by shopping online, which some ex pats do almost exclusively, I think you miss out on a lot of interesting produce. Also I'm not sure how organic the produce sold online here is, it doesn't have the strict rules applied to it as they have in other countries. So for now local wet markets and stores with trips to more international stores is how I shop.

I also love to cook, and actually I do cook most week nights, contrary to popular belief. I cook everything from Chinese to Indian with Thai/Asian Italian with of course good old home cooking in the mix.
When I saw a Thai cooking class I thought I'd go along. A couple of girls I knew joined me and it was all the more fun as there was no clearing up afterwards. I have cooked Thai and didn't really learn anything I didn't know but really that wasn't the main reason for going along. It's always nice to meet new people and this was an interesting group of beginners to people who could cook. One lady was only there so she could teach her maid how to do it! Not sure why she didn't just send the maid along.


Payal, the teacher was a lovely friendly Indian lady. She obviously enjoys passing on her skills, not only in Indian cooking, but also Thai cooking. For beginners she was very informative and made it all very simple. Everyone went away with the knowledge and confidence to try it themselves. Sometimes cooking classes are good for the experienced cook, assuming you have a level of knowledge, others are condescending but Payal hit the mark just right keeping everyone involved at whatever level they were comfortable with.



Above shows my friend Ros preparing the papaya salad and being given lots of helpful advice from someone who I believe was a non cook at the start of the class. As well as the salad we were shown how to make a lemon chicken and flatbreads. I love papaya salad and this was a good one. The chicken and flatbreads were delicious too. 


I have just taken some chicken from the freezer and plan to make this tomorrow. 
I am so pleased I went along as it was such a nice group of ladies and of course we were all there for the same reason, our love of food.

Payal had the most beautiful pestle and mortar I've ever seen. It was a large, very large, wooden one. She had bought it in Thailand but apparently it is available online, so I have to search it out. She served the papaya salad in it on  the table. It looked great. Want One!


I'm sure you cooks out there will agree it is a thing of beauty. I look forward to adding one to my kitchen soon.