Well, OK, soup made mostly with frozen ingredients – not actually frozen soup.
I was waffling, the other day, about Sainsbury’s frozen soup and casserole veggies and, since I’ve bought some, this seems like a good day – I’m absolutely wiped out – to put them to the test.
In the freezer I have a 700g bag of Sainsbury’s Finely Chopped Vegetables, frozen beans (I know I have soya beans, might be some pinto beans too**), frozen, cooked, streaky bacon, chopped into shards so it can be tossed straight in, frozen stock – soya bean, so that probably decides the bean choice if I use it. I also have frozen green beans and baby spinach.
**Or, as it turned out, just lots of soya beans! High in protein, though. I decided to keep the soya bean stock for another day.
To that I’ll add some shallots, to complement the onion in the veg mix, and some passata. Stock, as usual, will be a mix of Kallo and, maybe, Marigold (so if you want a veggie version, just leave out the bacon), and there’ll be a few herbs from the cupboard.
But, harking back to the bacon for a moment, I fried that on the induction hob, which needs a different technique to frying on the cooker’s hob.
As you can’t put an empty pan on the induction hob to heat up, it meant I had to put a little oil and the bacon in a cold pan, set the temperature to 100C, and wait. Only a few minutes, but the amount of spitting and crackling that happened was unexpected and startling. Ignore it – it settles quickly, and after that fries very quietly and without fuss. It’s also, after the initial outburst, remarkably clean – the same bacon fried on the cooker spits fat everywhere the whole time.
The reason for that is the electric hotplate’s temperature fluctuates as it heats up and cools and heats again – maintaining an average temperature. The induction hob, once it comes up to the set temp, holds it there at the actual temperature. Makes a big difference.
And on that note I shall leave you and, workbook in hand, go and cobble up the recipe and scribble it down. If you’re working up a new recipe, no matter how simple it might be, a workbook is invaluable. Not only does it give you a record of what you’ve done, reducing the possibility that you might forget something vital, it might also – if it all goes wrong – allow you to figure out just where and why. It’s a good habit to get into no mater how experienced – or not – you might be.
And I’m back…
350g frozen Sainsbury’s Finely Chopped Vegetables
680g frozen precooked soya beans, defrosted
50g frozen precooked and chopped dry-cure streaky bacon
3 fat Echalion shallots
2 rounded teaspoons dried basil
1 rounded teaspoon dried thyme
200g frozen green beans. Mine were whole beans that had just been topped and tailed, so I cut them into spoon-sized pieces for convenience**
100g frozen baby spinach, chopped
3 Kallo organic veg stock cubes
1 scant tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic granules
2 x 500g Napolina passata
1 good teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil, or the fat from frying the bacon, if you have it, or whatever oil/fat you prefer. Butter is fine, clarified butter is better.
Maldon sea salt and Schwartz fine black pepper, to taste
Marigold Bouillon Powder, if needed, to taste
**I also put them in a small bowl, poured half a pint of boiling water over them and let them soak for 10 minutes as I find, when adding them straight to the pot, that the flavour tends to dominate. Discard the water. Or if that doesn’t bother you, just toss them in frozen.
Note: Times given are approximate as I used my induction hob. Checking your green beans for doneness is the best indicator.
You’ll see that only the soya beans are defrosted. That’s because the rest will thaw very quickly in the pot. Actually, the beans won’t take forever, either so if you forget it’s not the end of the world.
As the veggies are very finely chopped I decided everything except the passata, and spinach could do into the pot at the start as the beans and bacon were cooked and the rest wouldn’t take long. That rather goes against the grain, as I prefer slow-cooked soup – it tastes better – but as the aim of this is to reduce work, and time spent standing, to a minimum, I’ll have to compromise. That, too, isn’t the end of the world!
I held back the passata, as always, because tomato drastically impairs the cooking of root vegetables, and the spinach because that cooks quickly.
So, sweat off the shallots in the fat/oil until soft, add the vegetables (don’t bother trying to sweat those, they’re too wet along with everything else except the passata and spinach. Add sufficient hot water to cover (in my 4-litre pot this was about half full), bring to the boil, cover, reduce to simmering and leave them alone for half an hour.
Check the green beans – they should be getting soft. If they are, add the spinach, bring back to the boil, then simmer for another 15 minutes, before adding the passata.
Allow that to cook out for 30 minutes at a simmer – you don’t want the tang of half-cooked tomato (if you want a more intense tomato flavour stir in a tablespoon of tomato purée and allow it to cook out).
And you’re done.
Let it cool for a while, then check and adjust the seasoning, if necessary (and stir in a little Marigold if you feel it needs a boost – it’ll cook out when you reheat it), and let it go cold. Refrigerate overnight to let the various flavours do their thing, mingle, and smooth out – all soups and stews benefit from this.
Definitely a tremendous saving in time and effort, and a huge reduction in time spent on my feet, and thus in pain. Won’t know until tomorrow how the soup has turned out but I see no reason why it shouldn’t be absolutely fine.
As for Sainsbury’s frozen chopped veggies, they were the only unknown ingredient, the rest I’ve used many times before, but I have to say if they taste as good as the smelled, they’ll be fine. And I let it gently simmer for longer than was strictly necessary, to allow the flavours time to develop. The veg might be a tad overcooked, but in soup I don’t think that matters much.
I’d be inclined to serve it with grated cheese – Parmesan if you have it, a strong Cheddar if not – and some really good bread.