Wednesday, 28 January 2009

in your dreams, sister...


End of Jan, rain tips down, trees drip and icy blasts fret at the gap between fashionable low cut jeans and skimpy vest... sometimes, all you want in the world is a real fire (made by man of house... 'stand aside woman, this man's work'. In your dreams, sister...) and a bowl of chilli. That's what I thought, anyway, as I staggered off the bus unladen by bags (can no longer afford shopping contained inside bags) but clutching a sad use-me-again hessian sack of mince beef and a tin of tomatoes. Man of house absent, doubtless in the Groucho club creating sparks of another kind, so use-me-again woman (just one more old bag in the recycle of life) made the fire herself, opened up a bottle of red wine and set to with the beef and tomatoes.
Now, Nigel Slater has a really good tip about mince... leave it to cook for ages in the pan until bits of it are going brown and crispy. He's right it's delicious and it also means that you can get on with other things while it's cooking - like stoking up fire, retrieving sitting room from grasp of messy teenage daughter and speaking on telephone to recently divorced friend ('No kidding.. what a bastard he turned out to be...'). Soon the mince is spitting away and the smell is divine. All that's left to do is find an onion, search around for the chilli (M&S do a really good very hot chilli), open up a tin of tomatoes and put on the rice.

feeds 6

500g mince beef
1 large onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled, crushed and chopped
1 red chilli pepper, deseeded and chopped (opt)
hot chilli powder
dash of red wine (opt)
1 tin tomatoes
tomato paste
about 500ml water or stock
handful chopped parsley

Heat some oil in a large deep pan and fry the mince til beginning to crisp and brown. Add the onions, stir round a bit and cook for five minutes or so. Add the garlic and chopped chilli, cook a bit longer (about 2 mins) until the onion is beginning to soften and turn golden. Add the chilli powder, as much or as little as you like, stir in the wine if using and let the meat mix hiss and bubble. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and as much stock or water as you think necessary. You want a thick bubbling sauce to emerge, glowing red in colour and emanating that exciting hot and musty chilli smell. Cover and leave to cook for half an hour or so (adding stock if necessary) and then put on the rice. Stir in a handful of parsley into the chilli just before end of cooking and season with salt and plenty of pepper. To serve: heap rice into bowls and spoon over the chilli, garnish with the rest of the parsley and add a dollop of sour cream on the side, if you like. Sit by fire and eat.

Solitary lunch

It's 2.30pm and in the white hot fire of creation, you've forgotten to have lunch. But now that you've thought about it, stabbing pangs of hunger start to attack. Lunch... it's got to be quick, it's got to make a nod to the five-a-day and it's got to be something you can eat while marvelling at Angela Lansbury's popping eyes on Murder She Wrote. Here's what I had.

fennel and mushrooms on toast
feeds one

half a bulb of fennel, finely chopped
7 or 8 mushrooms, chopped
olive oil
parsley or tarragon, finely chopped
parmesan cheese (opt)
tblsp cream
1 piece of bread

Heat the butter and oil in a small pan and fry the fennel til it begins to soften . Add the mushrooms and continue to cook. Put the toast in the toaster. Add the parsley or tarragon to the mushrooms, grate in some parmesan if using and stir in the cream. Season with salt and plenty of pepper and cook for a couple of minutes til bubbling. Slice the toast in half, put on a plate and spoon over the mushroom mix.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

monday night


This supper was quickly decided in sainsburys in Brixton while waiting for the bus home. Well aware that masterchef was on, any minute.

These measurements are just guesses as I can't remember how much i used, just put as much as you think looks right.
- 825g chicken (an odd weight - just one box of six pieces from tesco) - I had 3 thighs and 3 legs (sadly no 'how do you find clothes that fit' gags)
- 2 smallish onions
- 3 cloves garlic squashed with the blade of a knife
- 4/5 shriveling apples from the bottom of the fruit bowl, cored and chopped
- approx 200g celeriac, peeled and chopped into chunks
slug of calvados
3 cardamon pods (squashed to release flavour)
a pinch of fennel seeds, squashed
- half a can of cider
- 500ml vegetable stock, 1 cube

- In a heavy, deep frying pan, or casserole dish, brown the chicken pieces in some olive oil over a high heat. The time this takes completely depends on how much patience you have, I usually hang around until I can see satisfactory colour on the skin, then get bored and move on.
- When you have removed the chicken, turn the heat down and fry the chopped onions for a while until they are soft then throw in the garlic cloves.
- after a minute or so, add the apple and celeriac chunks and let them sizzle for about 5/6 minutes.
- return the chicken to the pot and pour in a generous slug of calvados, the crushed cardamom and fennel, chopped parsley and some salt and pepper.
- let everything simmer away until nearly all the calvados has evapourated, then add half the stock and half the cider, turn the heat down and leave it alone for a while, cooking slowly, checking every now and then that its not getting too dry, if so, add more stock and cider.
- as the chicken was cooking, I put some potatoes on to boil for mash and made a sort of beans and peas stew thing, just frozen peas, a leek and a couple of handfuls of runner beans cut into stripes, in a saucepan with butter oil and white wine.

Monday, 26 January 2009

'apocalypse wow!' cuisine


You are desperately rooting around at the back of the fridge, as if you are trying to pass through the back of it, hoping for some sort of narnia-esque cornucopia. Tragically trying to convince yourself that these cheese rinds and bottle of"burger sauce" stolen from the kebab shop can be conjoured into a fabulous meal. You are at the very end of the fridge supplies, and it may as well be the end of the world. This is the moment when the tins of stuff that have lasted beyond all other groceries, for god knows how many years, the tins that you bought almost as a joke, come into play. Pushed to the outermost realms of culinary possibility, you actually cook (in the microwave - it has come to this - you no longer have a care in the world) the steak and kidney pudding in a can. You bake some frozen chips and a lone potato waffle, languishing in the bottom drawer of the freezer, seperated from its packaging. There is a bag of 'country vegetables-cubed' suspiciously uniform in size and shape (pease, carrots and cauliflwer should never appear to be the same shape). The finishing touch come in the form of bisto gravy granules in "original best" flavour. You present this ravishing plateful of food to your audience. It is the end of the world. It is delicious!

Monday, 19 January 2009

"ill-culinary behaviour"


'Cooking for the band' proved not to be the disgusting failure that I had darkly imagined, as they invited me back to do the ceremonial closing night. An extra bottle of wine, a cake and a collective passing-out at the table due to extreme exhaustion (not food poisoning).
After a lengthy argument with an engineer about who truly is the god of all cook books, (I said Nigel Slater, he insisted Delia, "I don't want anything fancy, no pheasant or shit like that...") and whether I was displaying what he described as, 'ill-culinary behaviour' I got down to the serious task of deciding what to cook, and extracting money from the studio to pay for the ingredients.

After the success of the Alistair Hendy meal last week, I have developed a near obsession with his recipes and have been carrying his book 'Home Cook' around in my handbag, should an occasion arise in which I have to appear informed on caesar salad dressing or make a chicken pot pie.

In a new search through the pages I found a recipe for Thai green jungle curry, swiftly becoming my absolute favourite dish of all time and decided to recreate it. I ended up deviating heavily from Alistair's plan, purely out of greed - I want as many ingredients as possible at all times - and the ever-increasing number of guests ( boyfriends, father of the artist, co-producers, stray marimba players) who kept sitting down to dine. It was delicious but by no means perfect due to my tinkering, so a perfect excuse to practice by remaking it constantly.

makes enough for 8 people (or a serious party-in-my-mouth for 1)

- Fry 2 cloves of garlic and 1 blade of lemongrass (chopped) in some oil until the garlic is beginning to golden, then add 2 sachets of thai green curry paste (cheating I know but this kitchen doesn't even have non-plastic spoons let alone a pestle and mortar) and let it sizzle for a bit.
- After it has cooked for a minute or two pour in 2 cans of coconut milk, one cubes worth of chicken stock, 2 tbsp sugar and 1/2 tbsp fish sauce (pour the fish sauce in slowly and taste as you go to make sure it's not getting too salty).
- When the soup is bubbling, chuck in some raw chicken breasts (I used 3) sliced into thin discs to poach in the liquid as well as some peeled mini new potatoes and a red pepper chopped as small as you like.
- the vegetable section is really up to you, Alistair says use all greens, boiled separately and added at the end, but I added mine to stew along with the soup according to how long I thought they needed. As far as I'm concerned you must have mini potatoes, baby aubergines (if possible although unlikely) green beans and mange tout. Weirdly, cherry tomatoes can also work.
- You can cook this as long as you need or just as long as the chicken and veg takes to cook.
- At the end scatter with basil leaves and serve with coconut or sticky rice (imperative except I don't know how to do it, a lifelong goal is to make coconut rice that is even nearly as delicious and addictive as the one from Yelo the thai restaurant in Hoxton Square)
- Release dinner and album to rapturous applause (hopefully no critics present)

Sunday, 18 January 2009

The Heather Mills Memorial Sideboard


A rather astonishing thing happened this morning. Looking around for further storage space, forgotten empty cupboards etc, in which to store the increasing flotsam, I came across a sideboard lugged home from a skip by several children. It lurks in a corner of what is laughingly known as a 'dining room' but which is in fact a bicycle nursery and coat store, and exudes a faded 1920s charm; art deco in intent, but not in execution, mirrored, lacking one leg and as it turned out, housing the 2007 batch of homemade marmalade.
Coincidentally, I had just run out of marmalade, but I now remembered why the 2007 had been confined to the cupboard in the first place. A slight trouble translating kgs back into lbs, not enough sugar as a result and a serious lack of application by the youngest child charged with chopping the orange peel, had meant that it hadn't set and each jar contained runny jelly at the bottom and a layer of gigantic chunks of peel at the top. It was too depressing to eat.
Needs must where the devil drives, however. It was breakfast time and here was a stack of cheap marmalade not requiring a trip to the local Tesco. We tried it and it was strangely delicious - matured into a rich and burnished brown, though still runny, jelly, the pavement-slab sized chunks softened enough to chew and exuding the kind of taste that you look for in vain in commercial marmalade. Bliss.
Further rummaging produced the recipe from which it had been made (it takes two days, so do it over a weekend)

Seville orange marmalade
a recipe invented by a matriarchal orange grower whose orange groves lie just outside Seville
Makes about six 240g/half pound pots

750g/1.5lbs bitter seville oranges
4 pints of water
juice of one lemon
granulated or preserving sugar
6 (or more) pots with lids, sterilised

Wash the fruit and cut in half and squeeze the juice into a large bowl. Reserve all the pips from the oranges and tie them up in a muslim bag. Cut the peel into thin shreds and add to the bowl of juice with the water, the bag of pips and the lemon juice. Soak the whole lot for 24-48 hours to tenderise.
Once soaked, put it all (including the bag of pips) into a large pan and bring up to boiling point. Cook for 1-1.5 hours until the peel is soft. remove the bag of pips, squeezing it gently.
Take the pan off the heat and measure out the contents into a large bowl using a measuring jug. For every pint of liquid add 480g/1lb sugar. Stir until dissolved. Pour the mixture back into the pan and bring back to the boil. Boil rapidly until setting point is reached (setting point is when a little marmalade, spooned onto a cold plate and left to cool, wrinkles when you tip the plate). Pour the marmalade into the jars, seal and leave to cool


Garbage soup, or hangover soup

olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3 potatoes, chopped into chunks
3/4 carrots, chopped into chunks
whatever other veg you have lying around, peeled and chopped as necessary
herbs, whichever you have to hand
a dash of sherry if you are feeling rich
stock (or water if you are feeling especially poor)

Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onions and fry til translucent. Add the garlic, fry for another 5 mins or so and then add the potatoes, carrots and any other veg (setting aside any green veg, eg cabbage or courgettes, that take less time to cook). Fry for a while in the oil, turning the veg occasionally. When the mixture is begining to stick and turn brown, add the sherry (if using). Cook furiously for a couple of minutes, then pour in the stock or water (add about a pint to start with and top up as needed). Once the potatoes and carrots are soft, add the rest of the veg. Cover and cook for as long as you want. Season to taste and serve to any hungover people getting in the way in your kitchen.


Fish Pie

At half past two on a Saturday afternoon, fish pie seemed like an inspired idea for supper, epecially as the resident man of the house had evinced a desire to cook it. 'What about the white sauce?' I say. 'What about it? he replies. 'Fishpie doesn't have white sauce.' 'Have we got enough eggs?' I persevere. 'Eggs' he shrieks. 'I'm not making bloody breakfast. I am making a pie with fish in it.' 'Prawns?' I suggest. 'Not that kind of fish' he says snootily.
As I say, it seemed like a good idea.
Evening arrived and the resident man had disappeared on some ploy of his own, all thoughts of fish evaporated, replaced by an urgent desire to find out where the poet Rimbaud had lived in South London ('Yes, he bloody did, in Tulse Hill as it happens and I need to know for my book...')

There are many ways of making fish pie but this is the one I used on this occasion because it happens in stages and I foolishly imagined the cook might return in time to put together the finished project. If you don't have a helpful nearby fishmonger, Sainsburys do a fish pie mix on their fresh fish counter

serves 6

1lb (or more) fish pie mix, or a mix of any white fish, smoked fish, salmon, monk fish etc
a few prawns
3 eggs, hardboiled and sliced
4 or 5 large potatoes, boiled and mashed

For the sauce
to make 600ml, or expand as necessary
45g butter
45g plain flour
600ml milk
bay leaf
salt and pepper

To make the sauce: Melt the butter in a pan, stir in the flour to form a roux and add the milk, a little at a time, stirring constantly, until the sauce is smooth and silky (don't stop stirring whatever you do, as it will go into intractable lumps and never recover), adding milk as you want. When the sauce starts to bubble, it's done. Take it off the heat and leave to cool, when it will thicken up slightly.
Preheat the oven to 180c. Put the fish into another pan, add milk to cover and heat over a medium heat. When the fish is beginning to be cooked, flake the larger pieces and remove from pan and stir (and as much of the cooking milk as you want) into the sauce. Add the sliced boiled eggs and some chopped parsley and stir slightly (don't break up the fish too much). Season totate. Put the mixture into an oven proof casserole and spread on the mashed potato. Cook in the oven until the sauce is bubbling up underneath and the potato is turning a crispy brown. Peas go very well with this.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

come dine with me


Desperate to host having watched about 600 hours of the afore-mentioned greatest television programme ever made, and wanting to cook something more exciting and challenging than casual slop for myself, I decided to create a dinner party menu and just hope that people would turn up. (Actually a pretty safe bet in our house)
After putting in some research - ie spreading out all the cookery books on the floor and reading them all very slowly ( lot of spare time on my hands) - I decided to follow a recipe of Alistair Hendy's, whose book, Home Cook I have come to worship and adore but whose author photo makes me want to kick him in the shins. My usual culinary impulse is to put as many ingredients as possible in, not unlike my sentence-writing, but in this case I decided to trust the book, only deviating slightly quantity-wise to suit the imagined 2 guests I would be receiving. As it turned out, about 12 people turned up to eat this tiny supper so next time I will be following to the letter...

Hendy's Hungarian Goulash

1kg braising steak -cubed
3 tbsp flour
3 tbsp olive oil
2 red peppers sliced
2 onions sliced
2 fat cloves garlic chopped
2 big tbsp paprika
2 cans chopped tomatoes
bunch of parsley, bay and thyme
750ml Beef stock
soured cream and flat leaf parsley for end

"Toss the meat with some seasoned flour, brown all over in hot fat in a casserole until it looks dark, then lift it out. Do this in batches so as not to sweat the meat, and hang on to the remaining flour.
Next lightly blister the peppers by flash frying them in the leftover fat, then remove and keep to one side.
Add the onion and garlic to the remaining fat in the pan and fry until well softened and touched with brown, then sprinkle over the paprika.
Add the saved flour, stir through and cook for a few minutes more, stirring occasionally to stop it catching.
Add the tomatoes, stir and let it bubble, then tip in the meat, the herbs and enough stock so that the meat is covered and bring to a bubble again.
Put into a 150c or gas mark 2 oven and gently braise for 2 hours, stirring in the peppers halfway through cooking time.
When you take it out, stir in some soured cream and scatter with parsley. Serve with loads of rice. (I also sprinkled a bit of saffron into the rice before serving - mostly out of panic that i had so many people to feed - but it was a nice addition.)

for pudding I made my favourite pudding to cook and to eat, which is exactly how it's introduced in the book that I learnt it from. It's a great one to do as it seems terribly impressive to any guests assembled, who, on this occasion, included; a representative from the gay patisserie, an ad exec once mistaken for the ghost of Andy Warhol, a cosmology student and two drunken lotharios home from the pub. In fact it is relatively easy and cheap to make, although the one moment of pure fear during caramelisation is heart-stopping enough to convince you that what you have produced is a HUGE achievement.

Rowley Leigh's Tarte Tatin
2 lemons
2 kg cox's apples
125g butter
125g Caster sugar
200g puff pastry
A proper pan - v heavy with straight or almost straight sides, about 24cm diameter, that fits in your oven, finding this pan is about two thirds of the trouble of making this...

- Peel and quarter the apples, remove their cores and roll them in the juice of the lemons in a bowl to stop them browning.
- Smear the softened butter v generously all over the base and sides of a pan and pour the sugar on top, shaking the pan to make sure that it is evenly distributed.
- drain the apples of juice and arrange them in the pan in concentric circles on their sides as tightly as possible, embedding them in the butter/sugar mix.
- Put the pan on the fiercest heat you have.
- While keeping a beady eye on the pan on the heat, roll out the puff pastry into a disc about 2cm wider than the rim of the pan and leave to rest on a sheet of greaseproof paper in the fridge.
- watch the sides of the pan very closely. You are looking for a good, rich caramel colour. Move the pan around on the heat so that it caramelises evenly. (this is the terror part. when the phone will never stop ringing but you can't answer it because of the shrieking panic in your head and the caramel doom feeling.) This whole process will take between 10-20 minutes depending on your pan and heat. When it is done take off the heat.
- when the pan has cooled down a bit, drop the pastry disc onto the apples, letting the edges hang over the sides of the pan.
- Bake in the oven (220c gas mark 7) for 15 minutes (I always forget)
- when it's done take it out of the oven and let it rest. Then perform the great plate trick.
place an inverted plate bigger than the pan, over the top. grip v firmly, deep breath and flip over, thus, one hopes, moving tart to plate in one quick, pain-free motion. so unlikely.but delicious.

food bribery

maudie -

In an attempt to persuade my brother to stay at home with me a little bit longer, (watching endless re-runs of friends will make you feel a bit lonely) I offered to cook him lunch before he headed off to work at the "We saw you coming" shop.
It takes the inclusion of a selection of certain favourite ingredients before he is really on board with the situation, namely: coco pops, mushrooms, bacon, watermelon and macaroni. Having run out of the latter and point-blank refusing to include the former I settled on the following meal, which successfully enticed him to stay through the whole of 'the one where chandler and monica get married"...

grilled portobello mushrooms:
- in a pestle and mortar crush together a largeish clove of garlic, a handful of flat leaf parsley leaves and stalks, a good pinch of sea salt, a squeeze of lemon juice, and as much butter as you think, enough to combine the ingredients together, and create a paste.
- spread this mixture over the tops of the mushrooms. I go around the stalk but you can cut it off altogether, ( even chop it up and stir it into the mix) if you prefer.
- stick under a preheated grill for about 6 or 7 minutes or until it gives in when you poke it.

fried potatoes and bacon:
- fry one smallish onion, finely chopped in butter and a bit of olive oil, with a clove of garlic. when the onion is beginning to turn translucent and soft, add some chopped smoked bacon
- slice new potatoes into disc roughly as thick as a pound coin and add them to the pan.
- fry on a medium heat until everything is cooked, try not to let anything stick to the bottom of the pan, you could deglaze the pan with a little sherry and throw in a handful of chopped parsley at the end.
- serve with a bit of salad if you have any as a desultory nod to healthy living.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

cooking for the band


Being reminded several times throughout any supermarket shop, that we are on the tightest of budgets, is no fun at the best of times but, cooking dinner for the band? Standing in the frozen veg aisle, considering frost-covered bags of spinach is not what I've come to expect from pop stardom.
We had been summonsed to create a delicious meal for eight at the recording studio as a reward for all their hard work on an album that so far has the working title, "no guitars! instruments are for gays!"
Having met the 'artist's' requests for "fish" and "bar snacks", and filled in the gaps in the shopping list at the wine counter, we trudged home and proceeded to cook in a very stressful manner in a kitchen with only 2 saucepans; crushed, buttery new potatoes, roast garlic and cherry tomatoes, broccoli, beans, peas, salmon fillets for 7 and some chicken drumsticks for the anti-pescatarian (seriously?). It was a sumptuous feast fit for serious minded, budget conscious music producers... who promptly sent a lackey out for more wine.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

bubble and squeak


Apparently Gordon Brown is a fan of rumblethumps, the Scottish version of bubble and squeak. And just as well he's reminded us of its existence; this famously noisy mix of left over cabbage and mashed potato, sauteed in a pan, will soon be the only thing any of us can afford to cook. This is a slightly fancier, new labour? version of the original

Fancy Bubble and Squeak
serves 2-3

as many potatoes as you want, boiled til tender, or any left over mash
1 small savoy cabbage, cut into quarters and boiled til tender, or leftover cabbage, chopped into strips
a handful of leftover cooked sprouts, or boiled til tender with the spuds
1 small onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
olive oil
2oz butter
5-6 rashers of bacon

Heat the oven to 180c. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion until translucent. Add the crushed garlic. Drain the potatoes and sprouts (if boiling them) and crush with the butter. Add the crushed potato and sprouts and the cabbage to the onion and garlic and fry briefly in the pan. Season with salt and pepper. When the mixture is well amalgamated and beginning to sizzle transfer it to an oven-proof dish, cover with the rashers of bacon and cook in the oven for 30-40mins, or until the bacon is crispy and the potato is browning and golden.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

chicken in a pot

chicken in a pot

The small chicken destined to feed three for Sunday lunch eventually had to feed nine for sunday night supper (no one had got up in time for lunch). This is the Spanish Inquisition style of cooking - stretching one small ingredient to satisfy the hunger of many. On this particular occasion, those optimistically assembling in the kitchen included left over members from band practice, a furious divorcee and a hungry man (not related). The chicken grew smaller by the minute, until I thought of putting it into a pot with the remains of the 2008 vegetable rack. The resulting broth plus hacked up chicken and various veg fed all of us, including a bass guitarist whose father had forgotten to pick him up.
Here's how it went

serves up to 9 people

1 chicken
3 bay leaves
a handful of peppercorns, black or green
a few sprigs of thyme or parsley, or both
3 potatoes
as much left over veg as you can muster in any combination, but must include potatoes and, preferably, carrots. Other veg possibles are chicory, parsnips, celeriac, sprouts, leeks, fennel
fennel seeds (opt)
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed
grated rind and juice of one lemon
sea salt
ground pepper

Put the water into a pan large enough to take the chicken and all the veg (water should cover chicken). Bring to the boil and add the three potatoes, peppercorns, thyme and bay leaves. When it returns to the boil add the chicken, cover and simmer for 25-30mins. Add the rest of the veg plus the grated lemon rind and juice and the garlic and continue to simmer for another 30-40mins, until the chicken is cooked and the veg is thoroughly tender. Remove the chicken to chop into pieces, crush a few of the potatoes into the broth and check seasoning. To serve: ladle the broth with generous quantities of veg into bowls and lay the chopped up pieces of chicken on top. Hunks of wholemeal bread are useful to mop up the broth.

unemployed soup ('murder she wrote' on in the background)


Having no job really makes me want to cook more. Anything to provide me with a project, no matter how short term, that will drown out the sound of my own brain flat-lining. Even today, as 4 casseroles were delivered to the door - ready made! - I refused to acknowledge them and made a lovely nourishing soup for as long as I could possibly drag the process out. It's cheap too.

1\2 butternut squash (peeled and diced)
3 small parsnips (sightly past their best, not that that's a requirement, just a sad fact in our kitchen) (peeled and diced)
1 leek (chopped)
1 onion (chopped)
1 clove garlic (squashed with knife)
4 v. small salad potatoes ( peeled and diced)
some leftover chicken stock about 3/4 pint
nutmeg, sage, vermouth, salt and pepper, pinch of sugar

Fry onions leeks and garlic on a medium heat with a large knob of butter and some oil until soft and translucent.
Add the squash, parsnip and potato cubes, turn the heat up a little and let them sizzle together for a few minutes, making sure they don't stick to the bottom of the pan.
stare blankly out of the window.
when you feel you might be losing control over the situation, slosh in some vermouth and add some chopped sage leaves, and a pinch each of salt, pepper, nutmeg and sugar.
ladle in the chicken stock and bring slowly to the boil.
Let it bubble away for a bit then turn the heat down, put the lid on and leave it alone for about 15/20 minutes or until everything's tender.
whether you have it smooth or chunky is up to you, but if you wish to avoid the intense brain-taxing question of 'fork or spoon?' that arises with a chunky soup, get the blender out. We had ours with some toast and pate and crab apple jelly.
There was enough for 4 serious bowls.