Noodle soups

Yes, Scottish weather is back to normal, which is to say, cold. Which is to say, soup. Remember that chicken I wrote about, that I poach with no particular purpose in mind, and stash in the freezer in handy 500 ml containers? Here it is again.

It can be broth, chicken sandwiches, risotto, risotto soup. Or  maybe made chicken pie, or chicken and dumplings. All these things are lovely, but they are a bit…I won´t say boring, of course, but staid. Pale in colour, gentle in taste. Wonderful in every way, but about as exciting as an afternoon on a cushy sofa re-reading Georgette Heyer.

Let´s look to Asia, then. And let´s be broadminded about this, ok? Don´t beat me up on regional stuff. I´m Spanish and I add a dash of ketchup to my gazpacho, so I´m pretty sure there are things going on all over the world that would shock the recipe police.

Here´s the game. You have chicken broth, and you have poached chicken. You only need noodles to make noodle soup, and a few bits and bobs to make it interesting.
Quantities are imprecise, not because I want to be annoying but because leftovers are not an exact science. You have to wing it with what you have.

The simplest is to heat the broth, add a pinch of sugar, lots of fish sauce, lime juice (or lemon), chilies and ginger, and pour it over noodles and the chicken. A few sprigs of herbs to make it pretty and that´s it. I sometimes cook the noodles inside the broth, but that´s false economy. It really is better to boil them apart. And as for the herbs, whatever you have. I hate cilantro, so tend to use parsley, or chives, or mint, or all three. 
As far as I can tell, that puts us in or near Vietnam.

Another one I like is to heat the broth, dissolve a heaped spoonful of miso and let some wakame seaweed swell. Boil noodles (and they should be ramen noodles, but anything goes, and actually fresh spaghetti work very well) float chicken. Poach an egg, directly in the soup if you like, and serve, with some nori, a bit of chopped scallion for colour, and, if you have it, that moreish sichimi togarashi.
Would a Japanese granny approve? Who cares.

Prettiest of all is this third option, flirting with Malaysia or Thailand. Boil noodles in a pot, rice noodles for preference.Heat another  pan and fry some Thai red curry or  tom yum paste.  I add more ginger because I really, really love ginger. Add the broth and coconut milk, fish sauce, lime or lemon juice, chili, etc. Tweak and see how you like it.
At the last minute add the chicken and some frozen prawns, and when the prawns are done, so is the soup.
I like to add peanuts and fried onions (from a bag) and any pretty herb I have. In fact, it´s so hearty that even if there is no chicken it´s more than fine. And if you have little or no broth, make it less soupy and serve it over rice instead. 

The great thing about these soups is that they are just as good for any weather, so don´t feel you have to wait for the nippy winds of the North Sea to have a go.



Untitled #113, originally uploaded by Lobstersquad.

You can never tell when summer will hit Scotland, and when it does, it's best to drop everything and enjoy it while you can.
Which is to say, blogging will resume as soon as the clouds and icy winds come back. It's bound to be soon, never fear.


 This is just to say: I'm in Madrid, catching up with old friends, visiting family, ignoring my children and going to all my old haunts. This makes for bad blogging. Also, I have no scanner, so you have to suffer these terrible photos.
Still, the recommendations are good: For tapas, bar Laredo in c/Menorca, 14
For old fashioned beer and chips, bar El Doble, c/Ponzano at the corner with José Abascal.
The rooftop terrace of hotel Ada, overlooking the beautiful skyline (this is new to me, and my favourite place, ever) for coffe or whatever.


Finally, lobsters.

Six years of blogging on lobstersquad and this is the first time lobsters make an appearance. At last.

Scotland has many shortcomings in the grocery shopping department. In Aberdeen we have no market, so I miss out on all the banter, the great produce, the old ladies at the queue who can tell you how to cook anything. We have no greengrocers, so I have to buy all my vegetables and fruits encased in plastic, in a supermarket with no soul. I haven´t eaten a tomato since I arrived, two years ago. 

But on the plus side, we have parsnips, and kale, and raspberries and real strawberries, and new potatoes, and crisp apples, and sausages and gammon joints, and Marmite and hot mango sauce and chapati flour and gorgeous thick yogurt and creamy milk and cream so rich that your arteries clog just from looking at it.
So we´re ok. 
Then on top of all that there are the shellfish. In Spain they are the most highly prized, expensive, luxurious articles you can buy. Here, not so much. Boiled crabs cost about the same as smoked mackerel, far less than sole or monkfish or that ethically unsound tuna. And you can buy the crab meat, neatly picked, in a box. As for lobsters, a fat whopping thing at the fishmonger will set you back about the price of a plate of nachos and two beers in a pub. In other words, a bargain.

So when we have guests from Spain, we like to order one of these beauties for a showy first course. They are already boiled, so there are no Annie Hall antics to suffer. All we need is a bowl of mayonnaise and another one of chopped herbs and pickles, so people can mix and match their tartare as they like.
Wine, or beer, bread, salad, and away we go.

When we´ve finished, I put the lobster shells in the pressure cooker with an onion, a stick of celery and a carrot, cover it with water and give them 30 minutes under pressure. In a normal pot I guess that´s 90 minutes, but you can stop when you think it´s ready.The stock is thin and malevolently red, tastes strongly of lobster, and makes a next day risotto or fish soup a thing of beauty. Of course there are never any bits of lobster meat left (cookbook writers, what planet do you live on?) but you can throw in frozen prawns and white fish and it will be wonderful.


Risotto soup

So, still on that chicken that I poached. Risotto is a usual second stop. Lovely, velvety, just-short-of-stodgy risotto. Good stuff. 
Try to have some left over. The highest, most famous use for leftover risotto are arancine, those deep fried balls of craziness. 
Are they delicious? Yes. Are they something you want to make yourself? No. Fried foods are only really great when cooked by somebody else, somewhere other than your home. So arancini are out, because, anyway, you need tons of leftovers to make a reasonable amount. You´re going to all that trouble, you want something to show for it.

Consider, instead, risotto soup. Just bear with me here. I know it´s going to sound like the dullest, most bland concoction you can think of, but wait. You only need a couple of scoops of risotto to simmer in some broth, or water, even, for a few minutes. The rice collapses a bit more, becomes almost mushy, the broth cloudy, and the whole thing moves away from Italy and towards Asia. It´s almost congee, and as such, comfort food personified. Add little bit of parmesan, or a beaten egg stirred in to make a sort of straciatella, or even a bit of soy sauce. 
You have yourself a bowl of heaven.

The drawing has nothing to do with the soup. I like to have a jug of flowers in the kitchen, and now that my kids are happy to spend many consecutive minutes at the kitchen table, drawing, I get to do the same, and sketch the flowers, many times.