12 November 2011

duffer and cardamom soup(...ish)

Well, our dedication to the randomness of the random recipe challenge slightly backfired this month with a boring recipe.

But do keep reading anyway, you might learn something yet. (So bossy.)

This month, the wonderful Dominic teamed up with a lady called Jac from Tinned Tomatoes, combining their challenges into "Random Recipes does No Croutons Required". Baffled yet? I'm not 100% clear so I'll quote Dom to disguise my ignorance:
Jac has been running the excellent No Crouton's Required challenge with Lisa's Kitchen, since the internet began back in the 1950's... or something like that... and it's a very successful and genius challenge, asking bloggers to create a vegetarian soup or salad with a different theme each month... and so to shake it up a bit, this month she will ask her bloggers to pick their soup or salad randomly... and i'm asking all of you to do the same...
So, Mr Macaroon and I randomly picked a book off the shelf, turned to the index and he picked a number between one and ten (the number of soup recipes it contained). The recipe in question (Spring vegetable and bean since you ask) comprises vegetables, a tin of canned beans, and stock. It's the kind of thing that any of you could make on a camping stove. In a gale. With a blindfold on and your leg in plaster. There's nothing wrong with it, it's just that as recipes go, this one's not very interesting. It's from Jamie's Ministry of Food.

We decided to call it idiot duffer soup.

We pimped it a little by using homemade duck stock from last month's random recipe challenge (defrosted, clarified and strained through a muslin). Oops to the vegetarian part of the challenge, but the stock was too good to ignore! That's about all there was to it. Celery, onions, carrots, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, beans, garlic. Healthy, hearty and undeniably tasty (although, like the solid northern Europeans that we are, we did debate whether a potato or two would have improved the texture).

Actually I must admit, it was delicious. But the whole experience lacked the general razzmatazz and pizzazz (and other words with lots of zzzzzs) required for the esteemed random recipe challenge, so I couldn't leave it at that.

I'm intrigued as to whether anyone will manage to come up with a bona fide sweet soup for the challenge. Disclaimer: what follows is NOT a bona fide sweet soup, and neither was it picked at random, but it's a dessert that some of you might not have heard of. It's not soup, but it's soup...ish.

Kheer is a sago pudding that comes in a tiny dish as part of an Indian vegetarian thali. Indeed, in my opinion, no thali is complete without kheer. While searching online some time ago for a good kheer recipe, I found lots of basmati rice pudding recipes sweetened with condensed milk. Ignore those. The kheer at our favourite cafe is much lighter than that, and sloppier, more like a gloopy sweet soup. It's so simple that after a few tweaks I think I've managed to come up with my own way of making it. And listen, as a martyr to my art I've eaten many, many bowls of kheer, so while this certainly isn't a genuine Indian recipe I promise you that it tastes pretty close. (And if anyone can give me more authentic instructions I'd be tickled squint. There's nothing I like more than recipes that start with "when my Granny used to make this..."!) 
65g pearl sago/tapioca

100ml water
1litre semi skimmed milk
6-8 cardamom pods
6-10 strands of saffron
4tbsp soft brown sugar
2tbsp raisins
2tbsp slivered almonds
ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg (a few pinches/to your own taste)
  • measure the milk into a jug. Slit the sides of the cardamom pods to expose the seeds, put the whole pods into the milk and back into the fridge for a couple of hours to infuse.
  • wash the sago thoroughly in a seive. Put the rinsed sago and 100ml water into a bowl, cover with cling film and leave for a couple of hours at room temp. The pearls should puff up.
  • once the wait is up, pour your milk (pods and all) into a pan and bring to the boil. Stir for 10 minutes or so at a rolling boil.
  • remove the cardamom pods, and add the softened sago pearls and all the other ingredients. Stir for a couple of minutes to dissolve the sugar. Switch off the heat and leave to stand.
The pearls will become translucent and thicken the milk as it cools, and the saffron will gently colour the mixture. Try to resist eating this hot though, the best temperature is when it has cooled to about the point where you know that it has been hot at some ill-defined time in the past. No? Too obscure? Luke warm isn't specific enough, and who the heck is Luke anyway.

Obviously this recipe is just my own approximation and you can apply your own bucket chemistry to it. If you don't like a starchy rice pudding texture, half the amount of sago. If you want it stronger, tinker with the flavourings and use more cardamom. More colourful? Add more saffron or add it earlier. For the crunchy element you could use pistachios, toasted pumpkin seeds, anything really. I've even seen a version with crystallised rose petals sprinkled over the top!

So that's the closest I could come to inventing a sweet soup. I'm anticipating at least one of the RR group creating something seriously sinful, sweet and soupy before the end of the month, so do check in with Belleau Kitchen around about St Andrew's day to find out. In the meantime I'm rather tempted to see if I can make kheer with less refined ingredients; freshly squeezed coconut milk rather than semi-skimmed cow, and gula melaka rather than sugar. I don't know whether it'll work as I'm sure the coconut milk will behave differently when heated, but I'm interested to give it a try.

Thanks Dom and Jac for another fun challenge - I look forward to finding out what December has in store!


  1. I am a little confused as to which is the entry, but they both look good (apart form that stock of course). I am thinking it is the second one? Thanks for your entry :)

  2. Eek - entry? That sounds competitive! Sorry, I was, true to form, just wittering on. So no, truth be told, the random recipe was actually the boring old MoF veggie soup (in which the original recipe really is vegetarian before i fiddled). It's a seriously flawed recipe title though, I'm sure the man himself wouldn't even award it any prizes. Primarily because the last time I grew tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower and celery, I clearly remember harvesting them between august and october. I mean I know my veg patch is in the north of Scotland, but I think 'Spring vegetable' is a wee bit of a stretch even in his part of Essex!

  3. Hey - way to go!!! Love your kheer. Have never heard of it but I know I would love it. I reckon it would make a very nice breakfast. I would make enough to have as pudding and then breakfast the following day. I know Steve wouldn't go for it, though and I'm not sure about the kids. Tapioca now on next week's shopping list - thanks for this. xxx

  4. look at you and your fabulous double entry (i'm taking both of them to my blog and to heck with it...) a sweet soup is a wonder to behold and to be honest I like the look of the boring one too!... thanks so much for taking part xx

  5. Oh I'd love the coconut milk in there!

    Both recipes look great to me.

  6. Oooo I'm so intrigued by the kheer – I've never heard of it before. I love rice pudding though, so if it's remotely similar, I'm sure I'd enjoy it… Only one way to find out though: attempting to make it!

    I also love your new header!

  7. Yey - glad to hear that folk like the sound of kheer (many of my family members are odd about warm milk and this would give them the shudders). PDNFTA it would be lovely for breakfast, and you might be surprised with the boys, it's nice and sweet, perfect nursery food. In fact I like putting a little pot of it in the girl's lunch box.

    BVG, I'll let you know if it works with coconut milk...

    PDNFTA & SOG - thanks for the banner appreciation. It's not quite right yet but I'm working on it!

  8. Oh, yum! Both the soup and Kheer look scrumptious.


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