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Archives for Soups

12/8/05 | Split Pea Soup

[ Currently Eating: Coffee, not surprisingly ]

Split Pea SoupHomemade split pea soup is something I’ve always wanted to try to make. The comforting image of steaming bowls of the olive colored soup with chunks of ham, carrots, celery and onion floating around in it has been ingrained into my subconsciousness. And it’s all Anderson’s fault.

Anderson? Yeah, I’m talking about Anderson’s Pea Soup in Buellton off Highway 101 very close to the “Dutchtown” of Solvang. Anyone who’s ever driven on a long trip up the 5 or 101 freeways in California HAS to have seen these billboard signs seemingly in the middle of nowhere proclaiming: “Try Anderson’s Split Pea Soup, only 227 miles!”.

I don’t actually have a picture of one of the signs but I plan to take one next time I drive up north. This is some marketing genius who thought of this. There is absolutely nothing to do while driving up these long stretches of highway, but look at the scenery. So they just buy up some cheap ad billboard space in 50 mile increments or so and plop their signs down advertising how far it is to their Pea Soup Headquarters.

Anderson's Split Pea SoupI’d like to know how successful they are in getting people to think about Pea Soup… I know it’s certainly worked on me! I recently decided to make use of the extra ham and ham hock bones that are inevitably left over from Thanksgiving. I’ve never tried to make Split Pea Soup so I stopped by the market and picked up a few bags.

Helpfully, there was a recipe right on the bag. One thing about dried peas, beas, lentils… they are pretty much the same as far as I can tell. Thus, you might as well by the darned cheapest bag you can find. In this case it was the Albertson’s store brand of peas which came out at 69 cents for a 1 lb. bag.

These dried peas and beans actually expand quite a bit, so while a half pound might not seem like enough, resist the temptation to add more. They soak up an amazing amount of liquid. Also, I didn’t know that they would break down in the manner they did. I thought I might need to use a stick blender or something to get the right consistency. But all you need to do is cook it.

Green Split Pea Soup With Ham

1/2 lb of dried green split peas — $0.35
4-6 cups of water — negligible
1 Ham Hock or Ham Bone with meat still on it — free!
1 bay leaf — $0.05
1/2 white or yellow onion, chopped — $0.25
2 stalks celery, chopped — $0.20
1 carrot, chopped — $0.10
2 garlic cloves, minced — $0.05
1/2 tbsp oil — $0.05
salt, pepper to taste — negligible

Total: $1.05

Wash and drain the dried peas. Watch out for tiny ROCKS in the peas… the occur every so often and can break your teeth if left in! If you’d like to, cut off the ham from the bones, cube it and set aside. Some people leave it on and then cut it off after cooking, but cutting it off before will decrease the saltiness of the soup.

Heat up the oil in a large pot, add the onion, celery, and carrot. Cook over medium heat until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute more.

Add the water, peas, ham bones, bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Cook half covered over low heat for about 1 to 1.5 hours stirring occasionally. When you get near the end of cooking, you can add the cubed ham if you’ve reserved it. Add salt and pepper to taste. Delicious split pea soup is now ready!

Continue reading “Split Pea Soup” …

[ Currently Eating: Buckwheat Soba Noodles And Tea ]

Soba Noodles with Egg and Green OnionWe eat a lot of Japanese style noodles at our house. I have been meaning to write up a simple recipe on making soba, ramen, somen, and udon, but I just never got around to because usually I’m too hungry to sit around taking lots of pics.

So anyhow, this is going to be about Buckwheat Soba noodles which I think also have Yam in them. (For reference, the extremely thin vermicelli-like noodles are Somen noodles. Slightly thicker noodles, around size of spaghetti are Ramen noodles. The fatter thick noodles that look like fettucine that is round are called Udon noodles). Soba noodles are one of my favorites to make at home. The first thing you’ll notice is they are this weird greyish brown color which may take some getting used to (well, squid ink noodles are black so this shouldn’t be too much of a stretch). They get that werid color from the buckwheat and mountain yam paste that is in them.

The texture of the buckwheat noodles can also take some getting used to. They have a slightly gritty feel to them, even when cooked through. They most often come packages of pre-measured individual bundles, usually 3-6 in a pack.

All of these noodles can be eaten various ways, hot and cold, which is nice because you can prepare them based on the weather outside. Cold noodles in the summer are really good, as are hot soup based noodles in the winter. They can also be served outside of soup with a saltier soy based dipping sauce on the side, or in Dashi (Japanese soup stock) that is meant to be drunk along with the noodles.

The secret is in the Dashi, and what goes in it. You can make soup stock much easier and cheaper using “Hon-Dashi” dried soup stock, but the flavor of this owes much to MSG and is quite salty. But I often do it that way if I don’t have Kombu or Katsuo and it comes out fine… so if you do omit those items and just use the hon-dashi.

This is an approximation of how to make hot soba noodles w/ soup. I find that each time the recipe is a bit different but this is basically what I do to make a bowl of the above noodles:

Hot Soba Noodles With Soup

2 “bundles” of dried Buckwheat Noodles — $0.75
3-inch square of dried Kombu (kelp seaweed) — $0.25
1 cup of Katsuo (dried bonito flakes) — $0.30
2 green onions – $0.10
2 tbsp Mirin (sweet rice wine) – $0.25
4 tbsp Soy Sauce – $0.05
1 small piece of ginger, smashed – $0.10
salt – negligible
2 eggs (if desired for egg pancake) – $0.30
1/2 tbsp oil – $0.05
4 cups water, plus more for boiling noodles – negligible

Total: $2.10

Start boiling a large pot of water for noodles. In another medium sized pot, put the 4 cups water and the piece of Kombu over low heat. Now make the egg pancake (if you want). Beat eggs in small bowl with 1 pinch of salt. Over low heat in an omlette skillet, heat up oil for 30 seconds. Add eggs and cook for about 1 minute. Using spatula, lift up the edges of the egg cake. Now cover it and cook until the top is just barely solid. Flip it with the spatula, turn off heat and let cool in pan. Cut into slices and set aside.

When the Kombu-water boils REMOVE the Kombu. A little goes a long way, so no need to leave it in. Add Mirin, Soy Sauce, Ginger and the white ends of the two Green Onions, smashed. Cook until it boils, then reduce heat to as low as possible and keep it simmering.

When the water in the large pot boils, throw in the Buckwheat Soba. Keep a cup of cold water on hand. The Soba makes the water boil over sometimes, so if things start to get hairy, throw in some cold water. Cook until al dente, and then RINSE WELL under cold water in colander. This is opposite of what they tell you with Italian noodles, but very important. In fact, some people use ice to cool the noodles down quickly.

Now add the Katsuo (dried bonito flakes) to the dashi soup stock. You absolutely need to add this near the end for full effect. Cook for about 2-3 minutes. Strain the bonito, onion bits, and ginger out of the stock into another bowl. Put the stock back in the pot and keep it hot.

Slice up the remaining green onion into slivers. Arrange the noodles in a bowl with the sliced egg and green onion on top. Pour the soup stock on top of the noodles. Sprinkle some Japanese pepper flakes on the top if you like.

Continue reading “Buckwheat Soba Noodles” …

[ Currently Eating: Soup ]

Chinese Rice PorridgeIf you haven’t had this type of porridge before, you may be a bit confused here. When I say porridge, most people think of that as the sludge that Goldilocks ate in the Three Bears’ house – some sort of oatmeal connoction for breakfast.

The porridge I’m talking about is made with rice, and can be plain (basically just rice and water), flavored (either sweet or savory), and contain various different things like stew beef, fish, tofu, vegetables, and pickled items. I live in a community that is predominantly Asian, so I actually see this all the time on menus. Sometimes it’s called porridge, but most frequently I see it listed as “Congee” in Hong Kong style cafes.

I believe there are 3 different kinds. I think that the Taiwanese version is cooked with sweet potatoes in it and the Mandarin (mainland China) version is completely plain with just rice and water. Most of the time people eat other savory side dishes along with the porridge since it’s pretty plain. But the Cantonese (Hong Kong) style version is actually pre-flavored with chicken or fish stock and often contains cooked items in it. Don’t quote me on all this, I think there is a lot of interchange in the styles…

As far as equivalents for other nationalities go, it seems to me like a really watery version of Italian risotto. Whatever it’s called, and whoever makes it, I really like rice porridge.

Some people also call this type of porridge gruel. It’s a way to stretch out rice, wheat, or whatever cooked grain you’d like. I really don’t like the use of the word “gruel”, because besides being associated with something that is fed to starving orphans it reminds me too much of the word GRUE. (For those of you that didn’t play Zork, this is akin to a really ugly troll that will eat you.)

It also sounds an awful lot like “cruel” which it most certainly is not. It is actually quite kind on the stomach. If you are not feeling to well, this is sort of the Asian equivalent of having Chicken Soup. I put a lot of ginger in it as well, which I think is supposed to help with stomach problems.

Ok, so I’m no expert at making this, but this is my version of the Hong Kong style pre-flavored rice porridge:

Chinese Rice Porridge

1-2 cups of cooked rice — $0.15
1 can Chicken Stock — $0.50
Brown Onion (1/8 a $.50 onion) — $0.06
Cilantro or Parsley (1/8 $0.69 bunch) — $0.08
1 inch square of ginger — $0.25
Salt / pepper / water — negligible

Total: $1.04

You will have to experiment with the ratio of rice to chicken stock in order to produce the type of porridge you like. The above proportions are just guides.

Peel and mince up the ginger and slice up the onion thin. In a medium sized pot pour in chicken stock and about 1 can worth of water and add the brown onion. Bring it to a boil and then let it cook for about 3 minutes more. Add the ginger and cooked rice to the pot, breaking up the rice with a spoon. Turn heat to low and let simmer for about 10-25 minutes, stirring every so often.

The amount of time here is dependent on how “glutinous” you want your porridge to be. It also affects the amount of breakdown in the rice. Some people also chop up the rice to get it finer. Also, be carefull not to add TOO much rice or you’ll end up with a mixture that’s nearly solid. In general, put in less rice than you think you need to, since the rice expands and the released starch will thicken the mixture further.

When you’ve got it to the consistency you want, spoon the mixture into a bowl, throw in the cilantro or parsley (I don’t usually eat this but it gives it a fresh flavor, omit it if you don’t want to) and add salt/pepper to taste and serve.

Continue reading “Chinese Rice Porridge” …



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