Thursday, 23 May 2013

Anyone for Seconds?

Zuppa di Verdure & Pomodoro con Sfogliatelle alla Parmigiana
Chunky Tomato & Vegetable Soup with Parmesan Pastry Rings

My second soup of the week... second day in bed with a cold... but not a meal that was second best in any way, shape or form. Although very simple, this soup was perfect for warming me up this evening and the addition of those pastry rings to dip into its savory goodness made it almost seem like it wasn't so bad having a cold after all. But I did just say "almost"...

The vegetables were the same as yesterday, the pastry was from the day before... so it was second time around for the ingredients in any case. But the result was totally different and that is always my favorite thing about cooking- making something new day in and day out of the same ingredients. That's real life, that's real cooking and that's what it's all about for me!

So once again, the main ingredients for the soup were carrot, onion, celeriac, leek and celery, cut into nice, rustic chunks and briefly sautéed in a little olive oil, with some crushed garlic and thyme to build up a little flavor base. I sprinkled in just a little flour- a teaspoon approximately, gave it a stir, let it sizzle with the vegetables for a minute or so and the deglazed the saucepan with enough boiling water to cover the vegetables.

I then added a couple of tinned plum tomatoes, plenty of chopped parsley and basil, salt, pepper, a pinch of sugar and a bay leaf and let the soup simmer away gently for the next 15 minutes. And in that time I gut busy making those yummy Parmesan puff-pastry rings...

The rings were a spontaneous idea that I suddenly had whilst I was fetching the vegetables out of the fridge. There was the open packet of puff-pastry before my eyes, with a left-over strip of around 8" in length. It wasn't really enough to use as a pie base, but I did consider using it to cover my soup with and baking it in the oven. And then I thought to myself- "how 1970's!" and also, "Ouch! That bowl is going to be too hot to handle!" and changed my mind. 

To make the rings, I simply cut the pastry into strips of about 1" and then took them two at a time, held them up, pinched two ends together and then twisted them very loosely together. Do not press them together or wind them too tightly as they will need a little room to puff up.
Once the strips were twisted together from end to end, I pinched the 2 ends together and formed them into rings, which I laid out on grease-proof paper and baked for 10-15 minutes until they began to puff up. At that point, I took them out of the oven, sprinkled them with Parmesan and then returned them for a further 5 minutes until the cheese had melted, crisped up and become a lovely golden brown. Simply but yummy!

By now the soup was done- the vegetables were tender and the flavor was lovely and rich. I scooped the vegetables out and set them into my serving bowl, then gave the broth and those canned tomatoes a whizz in my blender, giving everything a nice, smooth consistency. I poured this over the vegetables and seasoned with some coarsely ground black pepper, added some finely chopped parsley and some fresh basil as a garnish and together with the pastry rings- supper was served!

So, almost as if by magic, out of next to nothing a delicious and satisfying meal materialized before my very eyes... and that's a cool trick you may like to try for yourselves! I recommend it!

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