Saturday, January 25, 2014

Cold comfort soup II

The Polar Vortex returned this week, so I hunkered down over a few pots of soup. It took me a while to come around on soup as a meal unto itself; the idea of drinking your dinner lacked the appeal of something more toothsome. But I've come around, especially on those days where the wind rattles the windows and dashes snow across the lake.
Aside from its comforting properties, soup makes for quality leftovers, a definite boon when you're cooking for one. A single batch of soup can yield three or four lunches or dinners, a great advantage when your imagination or energy levels flag.

This is a soup that D. introduced me to, a rich and spicy concoction with a great complexity of flavour. Making the spice paste from scratch is essential, if not the entire point, but there's considerable room for improvisation when it comes to what goes in after: it's a great way to use up leftover roast chicken, for example.

Spicy noodle soup
For the spice paste
3 inch piece of lemon grass, chopped
2 Thai chilis, chopped or 2 tsp chili paste
½ inch piece of galangal, grated
½ inch piece of ginger, grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
¼ tsp tumeric
2 tsp fish sauce

Everything else
3 tbsp vegetable oil
½ pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed.*
1 thinly sliced red pepper**
3 cups chicken stock
2 cups coconut milk
4 or 5 kafir lime leaves***
A bunch of egg noodles or thin rice vermicelli,

Prepare and combine all the spice paste ingredients and whiz them together using a food processor or hand blender to form a coarse, thick paste.

Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add spice paste and fry for a minute or two until fragrant and no longer “raw”.

Add the peppers and story fry for five minutes, then add chicken and fry for another five minutes until golden.

Add the stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and kafir lime leaves and simmer for another five minutes. Check the taste, adding salt, lime juice, fish sauce or hot sauce for balance if needed.

Meanwhile, prepare noodles in a separate pot of water according to package instructions. Drain and rinse under cold water. Drain again and divide among serving bowls and top with the curry.

*sub extra firm tofu in place of the chicken
** you can use any manner of vegetables in this. I used peppers and tossed in some leftover roasted butternut squash at the end.
***available at specialty or Asian grocery stores. If you can’t find them, they are optional, but I’d suggest adding a big squeeze of lime juice to the mix.

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