Entry 10: The Challenge!

Eeeeh, What's up, Doc?

Eeeeh, What’s up, Doc?

Hey Koala fans!

Late again, I’m afraid. It’s been something of a rough week, one way and another but I will try to update at least one day a week where I can, even if it’s a little delayed. Sowwy.

This week, I was chatting with a friend of mine at work about the various recipes that I’d been making and she mentioned that a lot of the bits and pieces I’d made were rather high calorie. “I want you to try something different this week. I want you to make a dish that doesn’t have any chocolate in it….”

Okay, I can handle this…

“…or cheese.”

…crap.

While fairly confident I could find something, I’m pretty sure the Koala would lynch me if I made another salad and I wasn’t really up for trying a quiche again. Then inspiration struck.

I think I may have mentioned before on here that I work in a hospital. Most days I often end up getting something from the canteen here – while it’s pretty good, it’s also rather expensive as well. So…why not make my own lunch and bring it in each day? They do a pretty amazing range of fresh made soups here, so I figured I’d try my own take on it.

A few minutes of flicking through my usual recipe sites gave me this one:

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1608/hearty-mushroom-soup

After reading through some of the comments, I found something interesting. Some folks found it absolutely delicious and others found it vile. The difference – porcini mushrooms. These magical ingredients often live in the dried goods section/herbs section of your supermarket, rather than with the rest of the vegetables. They are dried and are best kept in a sealed tub because they have a very pungent aroma, even for someone with a poor sense of smell, like me. With the addition of a little hot water, porcini mushrooms soften up and create a liquid with an incredible taste. It’s fantastic for making pasta sauces…and soups. Without them, this recipe simply will not work!

So, we gathered all the vegetables and mushrooms together for the photo shoot:

A "sooper" collection of ingredients.

A “sooper” collection of ingredients.

I promise that’s the only time I’ll make that awful pun on here.

First step is getting all the ingredients prepared. I decided to start with the pearl barley, as this needed the longest preparation of all the bits. Although it comes in a sealed packet, you need to wash the barley as well. When you first put the barley in the water, it turns very cloudy, which I suspect doesn’t do much good for the delicate flavours you want for your soup:

Initial wash of the barley.

Initial wash of the barley.

So after gently rubbing the barley under the water, you then drain the cloudy water away and refill it. After about 2 or 3 washes, you wind up with this:

A clear improvement.

A clear improvement.

I then left the barley to its own devices for the next 30 minutes or so while I prepared the other ingredients. The extra time softening up in the water means less time in the saucepan at the end. So while the barley enjoys a cool bath, I set things up for the porcini mushrooms:

Porcini mushrooms getting into hot water.

Porcini mushrooms enjoying a hot tub experience.

Now both of the dried ingredients were soaking away, it was time to dice up the carrots:

2d6 diced carrots. Those of you that know your D&D should be laughing now.

2d6 diced carrots. Those of you that know your D&D should be laughing now.

….with the onions and garlic following swiftly behind:

I'm not entirely sure why the garlic deserved its own special bag.

I’m not entirely sure why the garlic deserved its own special bag.

All of this went into the frying pan for about 10 minutes or so to soften up. Being root vegetables, they were quite tough initially, which is why they needed a little longer than the mushrooms.

Very colourful, but there's something missing...

Very colourful, but there’s something missing…

Having enjoyed their hot tub, the porcini mushrooms were then lifted out of the bowl and the mushroom liqueur was ready to add to the soup:

I usually prefer a massage after a hot tub, rather than a knife-wield koala.

I usually prefer a massage after a hot tub, rather than a knife-wield koala.

Finally, the vegetable stock was brought to the boil, ready for everything else:

It's a party in a pan and everyone's invited. Except the pearl barley.

It’s a party in a pan and everyone’s invited. Except the pearl barley.

30 minutes on a low heat later and the soup was ready:

The finished soup.

The finished soup.

 It was, in a word, divine. I used some red wine instead of sherry but the soup was none the worse for it. It had a wonderful mixture of flavours, with none of them being particularly overpowering. I really liked the pearl barley as well – it has a wonderful texture and I can easily see it replacing pasta in some of my future dishes.

Next week’s recipe will probably be a little late I’m afraid – as I mentioned at the start of this entry, things have been a little manic for me lately, so I’ll have to come to the Kitchen when things settle down a bit. =)

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