Soup to start…

Coco doesn't mind the cold weather.

Brrrrr!  It hasn’t been too warm recently, but that only serves to fuel my efforts in the kitchen in a bid to warm our bones and lift our spirits.  My love of soup is no secret, but with the festive season in full and jolly motion, I couldn’t possibly post a meagre soup recipe and wish you all the best.  So, I’ll begin with soup and then move onto some more substantial treats like my tasty terrine and some festive rocky road bars!  Yay!

I’m sure that if you’re a fan of soup, you’ll have your own winter favourite that springs to mind when thinking of a dark and icy evening.  My perfect winter warmer is French onion soup, but it hasn’t always been that way.

The very first time I tried French onion soup was not in France.  Sadly, no charming tale will follow of soup made by a gentleman in a small French village as the snow gently buried our broken-down car.  Instead, a chilly evening in Hong Kong (if such a thing existed), as I gingerly pushed open the door to Jimmy’s Kitchen.  The restaurant was dimly lit and the dark wood and old photographs added to the atmosphere.  I ordered the onion soup and delighted in the deep, warming flavours.  I’ve never looked back.  Winter night?  Onion soup.

Serving the soup is fun if you add a chunk of French bread and melt cheese over everything.  This time, I resisted.  The following recipe is simple and guaranteed to banish the winter chills.

French onion soup

3 red onions (sliced)

3 white/brown onions (sliced)

1 pint beef stock

1 glass red wine

butter

sea salt

pepper

Begin by gently frying the onions in a little butter on the lowest heat.  The onions should cook very gently and caramelize.  This takes a while and when done, the onions will be brown, but not burned.  If the onions begin to burn, turn the heat down and add tiny amounts of water or stock.

Next, transfer the onions to the pot that you intend to cook the soup in (if they aren’t in it already).  Pour in the stock and the wine and boil rapidly for a minute or two.  Reduce the heat and simmer gently for at least fifteen minutes (and up to thirty).  Season the soup to taste.  I sometimes add sprigs of thyme at this stage for a final flavour.  I told you it was simple!  As long as you cook the onions for long enough, you’ll have a dark soup with bags of flavour.  You can easily make it with fewer onions too.  I like a lot.  God bless the onion!

Tomorrow, festive rocky road bars (with pics, I promise)!

Twice cooked pork.

As enjoyable as a dish might be, it is rare for me to want to eat the same meal two days in a row.  It would have to be very special or pizza or both for me to consider it.  Having roasted up a treat with the jerk pork, I had the task of eating my way through quite a lot of meat.  What could I do with meat that was already cooked?  Sandwiches?  Yes, some pork with chutney or apple sauce would be good, but not for dinner.

In Szechuan cuisine, there is a dish cooked on lunar feast days called twice cooked pork in which boiled pork belly is sliced thinly and fried with vegetables to create a new dish.  The roasted pork had a lovely, firm, yet moist texture that I thought would be ideal for slicing and frying.  Before I knew it, I was quartering onions and reaching for my big bottle of Thai sweet chilli sauce.  I’m not talking about something that looks like it came from a hotel mini bar with a blue dragon on the front.  I’m talking about a big daddy bottle of the real deal.  Tonnes of garlic, beautiful chillies and a very runny texture.  All at a fraction of the price, I might add.  Once done, I made some egg fried rice and tucked in.  I’ve found a new favourite in this dish.  It’s simple and ready in five or six minutes.  If only everything in life was such.

Thin slices fry quickly.

Twice cooked pork.

Thin slices of roasted pork

2 onions quartered

Handful of fresh coriander (chopped)

2 tblspoons vegetable oil

Enough Thai sweet chilli sauce to coat the pork

Slicing the pork was fun.  I then cut it into pieces ready for frying.  I heated up the oil in a wok until it was almost smoking and then threw in the pork.  I was greeted with a satisfying hiss and lots of spitting as the water in the pork made contact.  I added the onion, tossed it together and poured in four seconds worth of chilli sauce which was enough to satisfy my craving for sweet and spicy fun and sufficiently cover the pork.  I added the chopped coriander which gave the dish nice colour and freshness.

This dish ticks all of my boxes for a quick and tasty meal.  I’ve said that I don’t like to eat the same meal on consecutive days, but I might make an exception in this case.

The flavours in this dish are really fresh.