16 Mar 2012

Potent and Savory Petit Pois Soup with Homemade Wholewheat Bread

Lovely parsley

I can't get enough of underscoring the importance of vegetables, despite my obvious and arguably sinful attraction to meat! But, in the next few months more vegetables dishes will adorn my tables than before, not that I am giving up on meat, on the contrary. It is always fun to try something new, but it is not only a desire for the new that drives my interest in vegetables. There are at least two reasons - the first can be traced to Michael Pollan, who has written an host of books on the food culture of the West (or the lack of culture to be more precise) and his conclusion is the deceptively simple proposition: "eat food, not too much. Mostly plants." For this assertion are endless arguments and instead of reiterating them here I will rather suggest you pick up his books, for example, Omnivore's Dilemma. Another strong influence on my new emphasis on veggies is one of my favorite TV chefs and cook book authors, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, who recently published the book River Cottage Veg Every Day! (complimented by a TV series) devoted only to vegetable recipes, and where he writes on the environmental impact and ethical implications of our modern food culture.

My personal conclusion after all this reading is to eat more vegetables and then eat proper quality, even organically grown meat from humanely treated animals. This type of meat is of course more expensive but the fact that vegetables are rather cheap here in the south of Scania weighs against it. This an agricultural region after all! But the basic idea is this: meat-free Mondays, fish on Tuesdays, a nice vegetable soup once a week with homemade bread - then on the weekends the meat dishes will reign supreme! Let's see how consistently we will follow this trajectory - there is at least no harm in trying, is there?

Potent and Savory Petit Pois Soup with Homemade Wholewheat Bread

Leeks, carrots, onions and cellery on mild heat

A soup like this is tasty, refreshing and healthy. It is quite simple to boot (don't I always say this?). First of all I began by chopping a whole, white onion, few carrots, 2-3 sticks of celery, few cloves of garlic and then a whole leek. Fried the vegetables in olive oil on low heat for around 10 minutes, remember to season well. Poured in 2 liters of water, increased the heat under the pot, put the lid on and boiled for 45 minutes (in the meantime I prepared the bread - more on that below). Through this procedure you will have produced a wonderful and pungent vegetable stock! Season to taste.  

Petit pois poured into the stock

Next I added 600 gr of frozen green peas (petit pois), fresh parsley, and then a few mint leaves and boiled for another 20 minutes. I then pureed the whole lot into a beautifully green soup. Now you have to taste to see if it needs balancing, salt and pepper - I added 50 ml of cream to even the flavor of the leek which had brought with it a slightly bitter taste. Other than that nothing else really needed to be done.

The ready soup

Nothing remains but to prepare and bake a homemade loaf of bread! 

First I awakened 25 gr of yest in 600 ml of luke warm sugared water (30 gr of sugar) and allowed it to rest and infuse for 10 minutes, or until a nice cushion of froth has appeared on the surface.


Then it's time to tackle the bread dough (I lie - I had pretty much taken care of this before). Mixed together 500 gr of Graham flour, 250 gr of wholewheat flour and 250 gr of plain white flour in a bowl and added maybe 30 gr of salt and 3 tablespoons of oil. 

Making bread

I added the liquid carefully and gradually while the dough twirled around in the mixer. Sometimes you have to add flour/water depending on the texture and consistency of the dough. When the dough is beautiful, soft and elastic and if it slightly springs back from touch and doesn't stick to your fingers, then nothing further needs to be added. Just knead rigorously for 10 minutes and set the dough, covered with a tea towel or a damp cloth, in a warm, draft-free place and let it rest for 1-2 hours or until it has doubled in size. 

The bread has taken off

When it has doubled, press down on the dough to release the air, and transfer to a baking pan where the dough is formed into the shape of choice. I cut parallel incisions along the surface, then in opposite angles, for a nice diamond pattern - but this is not purely aesthetic, it also serves a practical aim since the dough will rise again, and even more so in the oven - and in this way it will retain its shape. Allow the bread dough to rise for roughly half an hour, it is then ready to be baked in the oven at 180 degrees for up to 40 minutes. 

Before and after baking

Served with butter, various kinds of cheeses, and a simple salad. Scrumptious!

Bon appetit!

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