Category Archives: Berlin

Ham and Pea Soup

This soup has been haunting me. It has been the benchmark against which all other soups have had to prove their mettle.  The first time I had it was at Heston Blumenthal’s other Bray establishment, The Hind’s Head, which does the sort of food I imagine the pubs in Heaven to serve. I’m certain that there are pubs in Heaven. Since that day, this soup has never been far from my mind, but having been a student at the time, I could think of other things to do than make stock out of pig ankles.

This recipe will require you to make stock out of pig ankles.

It’s not as scary as it sounds and completely worth it. I love anything that is both sweet and salty, so this soup is a winner anyway, but the homemade stock gives it a lovely, earthy depth of flavour that you can’t buy at the supermarket. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a big ham hock, around 1.2 kg, so had to adapt the original recipe accordingly. The one downside of making this soup from scratch is that it does take a while, so I turned it into a two-day affair, with the ham hock cooked on the first day, and the soup put together the next.

I used to be fairly squeamish/lazy about using the ‘cheaper’ cuts of meat, but it’s actually a win:win situation. I get to feel virtuous and thrifty, while still being able to stuff my face with something delicious. Also, fun fact: In German, ham hock is called Eisbein, ‘ice-leg’, a valuable lesson is how to give foodstuff the least appealing name possible. Actually, it is possible to sound less appealing. The German name for black pudding is BlutwurstI’ll leave it to you to decide whether you want to google what that means…

This makes enough soup for around 6 portions. I’m guessing. I haven’t finished all of mine yet.

Ingredients:

for the stock

1 ham hock (mine was 1.2 kg)

3 litres of water

3 shallots, peeled

3 carrots, roughly chopped

1/2 celeriac, roughly chopped (you can use one or two sticks of celery instead, if you like)

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 leek, roughly chopped

small bunch of fresh parsley

small bunch of fresh thyme

3 bay leaves

6 black peppercorns

2 tsp salt

for the soup

50g butter

1 tbsp olive oil

200g shallots, diced

150g smoked bacon, cut into 1cm cubes

1 garlic clove, crushed

ham hock stock

750g frozen peas

salt and pepper to taste

ham hock meat

Method:

Place the ham hock in a large pan and cover with water, do not cover with a lid. Bring to the boil over medium heat. Skim the protein (read: scum) that rises to the surface off, boil for another five minutes and skim the remaining foam away. Then add the remaining ingredients and simmer until the meat is done. As my ham hock was quite large this took between 2 1/2 and 3 hours. Remove from heat, and leave to cool. Reserve the meat, and strain the stock. Discard remaining stock ingredients.

For the soup, heat the butter and oil in a large pan, then add bacon and fry for a couple of minutes. Remove half of the bacon and reserve on one side, then add shallots and garlic and fry until shallots are tender and glassy. Add stock and bring to the boil and skim off the foam, then add 550g peas and return to the boil. Remove from heat and purée. (I tried valiantly to save on washing up by doing this with a stick blender, but eventually gave up and used a proper blender) At this point you can pass the soup through a sieve, but I liked the texture, so poured it straight back into the pan. Bring back to the boil and season.

Flake the meat off the ham hock. You can quickly boil the remaining 200g of peas, but I just put them in a dish with the meat, and put an knob of butter on them and wizzed it all in the microwave. I’m not even slightly sorry. I also did the same with the remaining bacon, but you can fry it in the pan if you wish. The only important thing is to get the bacon crispy.

When everything is nice and hot, serve by placing some of the peas and ham in a bowl and ladling the soup on top. Finish with a spoonful of crispy bacon and a drizzle of the bacon fat.

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Mini Lemon Eclairs or Lovebones

Sometimes, there are those nights. The late ones. The ones that you spend in the company of good friends. The ones where you accidentally-on-purpose forget to take your make up off upon returning home. And sometimes, after a particularly late night, my brain tries to mess with me by waking me up after only a few short hours of blissful sleep. That’s the only way I can explain why I stood bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in my kitchen at 9.30 on Sunday morning, getting ready to beat some choux pastry into submission. Because my brain is a spiteful sod like that.

The German name for eclairs is Liebesknochen or ‘Lovebones’. However, considering that one batch of these will set you well on your way to a pretty severe case of Nadal-arm, it would be more accurate to say that they are a product of sweat and willpower rather than love. Still, it’s a nice word for a delicious treat.

If I’d planned ahead or had more time, I would have made some crème pâtissière and lemon curd, but as it was I quickly raided my pantry and out came a third of a jar of shop-bought lemon curd and a packet of organic pudding mix. In effect, what I’m admitting to is cutting corners (don’t judge; you’ve done it, too.) But that’s what I like about choux pastry; even though it seems like a bit more faff than a sponge cake, all of the ingredients are things that you will have at home and the fillings can be as simple or as complicated as your kitchen cupboards allow.

Ingredients:

for the pastry

125ml water

125ml milk

pinch of salt

1 tbsp sugar

75g butter

150g plain flour

4 eggs

for the filling and glaze

40g organic vanilla pudding mix (one packet) If you can’t find pudding mix, custard powder could be an alternative, although I haven’t tried this.

500ml milk

50g caster sugar

180g butter, cubed

1 tbsp Advocaat (optional)

zest of 1 lemon

120g lemon curd

120g icing sugar

juice of 1/2 lemon, approx.

Method:

Preheat your oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.

Combine the water, milk, salt, sugar, and butter in a pan and bring to the boil over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat and add the flour in one go while beating. Return to heat and continue to beat until the dough sticks together and comes away from the pan. From this point continue to ‘cook out’ the dough, to get rid of the floury taste, by beating until a white film develops on the bottom of your pan.

Remove the pan from the heat. You could transfer the dough to a bowl to help it cool down a little, but I didn’t as it would have meant more washing-up, so instead I just worked the dough a little more. Once the dough is no longer the temperature of Venus, start adding the eggs one at a time, beating the dough until each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. (Note: At this point you will probably want to save your poor left and/or right arm and just abandon the whole thing, but do persevere – it’ll be worth it.) The dough should fall off a wooden spoon in long ribbons.

Transfer dough into a piping bag fitted with a large star shaped nozzle, and pipe onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment. This recipe would yield a dozen large eclairs or 24 small ones. I went with mini eclairs, as I could then justify eating a large quantity of them. Pop the eclairs into the oven and bake for around 25 minutes or until golden brown.

While the eclairs are baking, make the filling. Combine the pudding mix and sugar with around 70ml milk, and work into a smooth paste. Combine the remaining milk with the paste in a pan and whisk until there are no lumps. Bring to the boil over medium heat while whisking constantly, then remove from heat and leave to cool.

Once the mixture has cooled down a little, add the butter and whisk until the mixture thickens and there are no more lumps of butter. If the mixture seems a little runny, you may either chill it or add a little more butter. Then add the Advocaat and lemon zest. Fill mixture into a piping bag.

Once the eclairs are baked, take them out of the oven and leave to cool. Slice the eclairs in half and pipe a strip of the cream filling onto the bottom half of each eclair. On the inside of the top half, spoon or pipe a strip of lemon curd, then fold together again.

For the glaze, combine the icing sugar with enough lemon juice to produce a pourable, but not runny, consistency and drizzle over the eclairs. Then immediately nab a cheeky mini eclair for yourself before offering them to other people. Yes – that is a vital step of the recipe!

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