What’s Cooking – Fresh Tomato Soup with Crispy Pork Bits and Wild Rice

Fresh Tomato Soup with Crispy Pork Bits and Wild Rice

I love tomatoes, especially the home grow kind – fresh, sweet, full of aroma… There are so many dishes they can be used for and Fresh Tomato Soup is one of the meals I enjoy the most.

There is however a huge difference between home grown tomatoes and the ones you can buy in a supermarket. If you want to make a truly tasty tomato soup you simply can’t buy the cheap range ingredients. Don’t get me wrong I am not trying to suggest that value or so called salad tomatoes aren’t good for anything, but they aren’t for sure good enough for a tomato soup. In order to get the flavours you need to splash on a higher end of veggie section, or even better hunt your local farmer down (yes, I know this might not be so easy at this time of the year… My apologies, it took my ages to get around to actually writing this recipe down and the tomato season is over).

So, let’s start with the ingredients:

  • 500g of chicken – we used chicken thighs, which are actually perfect for the soup
  • 300g of smoked pork belly
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 parsnips
  • 1 large leek
  • ½ large celery; the root end (so called ugly part), not the nice stalks
  • 1kg of ripe, good quality tomatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • Good handful of chopped basil
  • 1tbs of pepper corns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 100g of wild rice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil for frying

Method:

Wash and peel all root vegetables – carrots, parsnips, celery and leeks – place them into a large cooking pot, add chicken, pork belly and a pinch of salt, pepper corns and bay leaves then fill with water about 2-3cm lower than a rim of the pot.

2. Fresh Tomato Soup with Crispy Pork Bits and Wild Rice

Fire-up the cooker and let it cook for at least a couple of hours.

In a second pot start cooking your rice. The rice doesn’t have to be hot when your soup is served so it can be cooked well in advance. Make sure that your rice isn’t overcooked in fact it is better slightly undercooked. You really don’t want to have sticky rice in your soup. Oh, and don’t forget to add a bit of salt to your water.

Now would be a good time to start working on our tomatoes. Wash them well and place in a large bowl. Boil a kettle of water and pour hot water over your tomatoes and let stand for 30sec or so, this will allow you to remove the skins without any problems. Skin the tomatoes and chop into 1cm cubes.

3. Fresh Tomato Soup with Crispy Pork Bits and Wild Rice

Chop the onion and prepare a good handful of fresh basil.

Take a large frying pan; add a bit of olive oil and start with frying your onions. Fry them until soft but still light in colour (don’t let them change the colour). Add the tomatoes and basil and fry on a low heat for around 10 minutes.

4. Fresh Tomato Soup with Crispy Pork Bits and Wild Rice

Once done, pop all of the mixture into your soup. Let it all boil again and cook for further 30 minutes.

Now is a messy part. We have to remove all the meat from our soup and all other large chunks. You can use a sieve to do it or just use spoon with holes and fish out all the necessary ingredients.

Put the pork belly aside for the moment.

De-skin, peel and chop your chicken meat.

Cut all the root vegetables you want back in your soup into smaller chunks. (You can chop the veggies up at the start of the cook but I use big size veggies as sometimes I have to discard some of them like the celery in order for family members to actually try the soup, and I don’t want to lose any of the flavours by missing them out completely).

5. Fresh Tomato Soup with Crispy Pork Bits and Wild Rice

Pop your veggies and chicken back to the pot and use a food blender to turn your soup into a cream.

Add fresh ground pepper and stir well.

Chop your pork belly up into small bite sized cubes.

My Fresh Tomato Soup with Crispy Pork Bits and Wild RiceFresh Tomato Soup with Crispy Pork Bits and Wild Rice.

Serve the soup in a bowl with the small pork belly chunks and a spoonful of the earlier cooked rice.

Enjoy!

my Fresh Tomato Soup with Crispy Pork Bits and Wild Rice.Fresh Tomato Soup with Crispy Pork Bits, Basil  and Wild Rice

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What’s Cooking – BBQ Basics – Pork Belly Kebabs

#MorrisonsMum BBQ Basics  Pork Belly Kebabs.

This is one of those cheap and cheerful recipes, which can be adapted to suit your taste.

Pork belly is a cheap cut, which a lot of people will skip over while making dinner plans. You can pick them up when on the special offer for around £5 per kilo; and it is perfect BBQ meat. The fatty parts will reduce and baste the meat while on the BBQ leaving you with a tasty, juicy on the inside and crisp on the outside meat pieces.

The ingredients list in not set in stone so you can mix and match depending on your fridge and cupboard contents. If you are not a huge fan of peppers replace them with a baby corn or maybe a lovely chunk of courgette. You can always add more veggies into the mix… the more the merrier.

Pork belly kebabs is a simple and fairly quick to make recipe; and it is extra tasty too 😉 It will serve well as a self standing meal or make a perfect addition to a party platter.

Ingredients:

  • 350g pork belly
  • 350g cherry tomatoes (£0.95 at Morrisons)
  • 150g button mushrooms (£0.65 at Morissons)
  • 2 large peppers
  • Handful of small onions or shallots
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Wash your pork belly, remove the skin it and cut into chunks.

Wash all the veggies.

Cut your mushrooms in half (or 4 if you got a biggie).

Cut onions and peppers into large chunks (make sure you don’t over cut onions as they might fell to pieces later on; they need to stay fairly big – we just cut one in 4).

Take the skewer and start placing your ingredients. Important tip: do not place them to tight together. They need to be close but not rammed one on top of each other.

Use salt and pepper to add some flavouring… or if you feeling adventurous add some chilli flakes or a hot paprika into the mix; garlic powder will work well too.

Now that your kebabs are all ready it is time to cook.

#MorrisonsMum BBQ Basics  Pork Belly Kebabs#MorrisonsMum BBQ Basics Pork Belly Kebabs

We used our Primo BBQ / smoker for making our pork belly kebabs but any BBQ should do the job as well.

If you are going to grill it directly on the BBQ shelves you might want to oil them a bit just to avoid any food sticking into it…

BBQ them for about 20 minutes and do not forget about turning them over every 5 minutes or so… you will see when they are ready… they will “speak” to you when the time is up 😉

Serve hot… or not…

#MorrisonsMum BBQ Basicsmy my Pork Belly Kebabs

They go very well together with our Baby Potato Salad with Onion and Mint I shared with you earlier.

#MorrisonsMum BBQ Basics Pork Belly Kebabs.

Enjoy if you are going to try them out… and if not… why not?

Don’t you love a good BBQ?

*“This post is an entry for the #MorrisonsMum Summer Recipe eBook Challenge sponsored by Morrisons, which has recently cut prices on over a thousand every day products. Find out more here price checker tool”.

Cooking with Villa Plus – Afelia – Cyprus Special #VPeats

Afelia – one dish four ways
Afelia – one dish four ways

I had been challenged!

Oh, ok, not only me… 10 of us, UK bloggers were challenged by Villa Plus to recreate dishes from all over the world. Chosen destinations included: Corfu, Lanzarote, Majorca, Algarve and my favourite Cyprus.

I’ve never visited Cyprus, so I thought it will be a great opportunity to learn a little bit about this country, especially its food 🙂. From what I’ve read it is a beautiful and “tasty” place.

afelia recipeMy dish for the challenge is Afelia. For everyone who doesn’t know what it is – Afelia is a traditional Cypriot food – slowly cooked pork marinated in red wine and coriander.

Like with every meal, sourcing the ingredients is key, especially when you are on holiday and you try to recreate this authentic local taste – please do not rush to shop at the superstore, go for a wonder… have an adventure and I am sure you will find a local market on your travels, who sell locally sourced products.

Me, I visited my local butcher, in order to procure a nice piece of happy meat…

Trip to my local butcher

… and my local farm shop to stock up on the greens.

HillFoot Farm Shop

But let’s start from the beginning…

Afelia Ingredients

Step one – ingredients list!

  • 1kg pork belly, cubed
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 1 glass of dry red wine
  • Half a glass of olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds, crushed
  • Half a teaspoon of cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper

As you can see from the ingredients list this is a very simple recipe.

It doesn’t require a lot of ingredients and it is budget friendly. I’ve paid £10.70 for just over 1kg of pork belly (yes, I know that supermarket has much lower prices but we would rather eat less but good quality food… shopping at our local butcher gives us full confidence that our meat is as good as it can get). Cost of wine £5.50, onions £0.30, olive oil £0.50… Total spend £17. I have not taken into account with all my calculations all the other bits as we already had them. This meal will feed 8, so price per head is just over £2, but… on the plus side you already have an almost full bottle of wine to go with your dinner, so no need worrying about drinks 😉

Depending how organized you are and how long you want meat to marinate, the dish will take anything from 4 hours up to 24+ hours to prepare from start to finish.

It is a very easy recipe so you do not require a lot of “tools” in order to make it. All you need is an oven, frying pan, and a casserole dish… a knife, cutting board and few bowls and plates… oh and a fridge, so your meat has a nice cool place for marinating.

So where do you start?

Preparing the meat

Preparing the meat

Once you are the lucky owner of a nice piece of pork belly it is time to cut it to shape.

If you bought your meat with skin, I would suggest removing it and if, like Mark, you are a huge fan of pork crackling cook it separate; if not just discard it.

Wash your meat and cut it into cubes.

Size is up to you. We went for two bites size, so our cubes might look a bit big to some but this is just the way we like it.

Preparing the marinade

Preparing the marinade

The marinade is very easy, really… it couldn’t be any easier. You will need a glass of wine – dry red ideally, 2 bay leaves and 2 tablespoons of crushed coriander seeds.

Mix all ingredients and job jobbed, you‘ve just created a perfect Afelia marinade.

Marinating process

Marinating process

Now when your meat is cut into your desired size and the marinade is waiting beside you, it is time to mix these two together.

Place your meat in an air tight container – a bowl, plastic tab or a sealable (food safe) bag – and add the marinade. Give it a good stir/shake to make sure that it is evenly spread out and fully coated in the marinade.

Place in the fridge and do not forget to stir/shake it from time to time.

The longer you leave it, the better the results. Minimum marinating time is around 3 hours, but it will be best if left in the fridge over night.

Searing the meat stage

Searing the meat stage

Once the marinating time is up, it is a good moment to start cooking.

Turn the oven on to around the 160°C (325°F) area.

You will need a large frying pan and some olive oil (or, if like us, you cooked the pork skin in order to have some homemade crackling, you can use the drippings, which dripped out from it).

Heat up the oil, drain the meat but save the marinade and fry your pork cubes for few minutes on each side to brown them.

You want them to be seared, golden brown but not yet cooked completely through.

Once done place your meat in the casserole dish you will use in the final stage of cooking.

Apparently this dish should be cooked in a clay oven or at least clay pot but regular oven and regular casserole dish will work as well, so do not worry about this too much.

Preparing the onions

Preparing the onions

You will need two large sliced onions that will need to be fried a bit, until soft and translucent.

We fried them using the same frying pan and remaining fat left over after searing the meat.

Once done, place them in your casserole dish.

Finishing touches

Finishing touches

At this stage almost everything is ready… all is left it to bring all the ingredients together. We have meat and onions already in our casserole dish, so what we need to add now is the cinnamon, salt, pepper and of course our marinade. Once the other ingredients have been added mix it nicely and put into the earlier pre-heated oven at 160°C (325°F) for about 1 hour.

And this is all she wrote.

Now, all you have to do is wait… remember, you still have some remaining wine, so pour yourself a glass and relax while dinner is bubbling away in the oven or use this time and decide what to have it with…

Our serving suggestions

Afelia with rice and salad

Afelia with rice and salad

Afelia with couscous and fried vegetables

Afelia with couscous and fried vegetables

Afelia with pita bread* and salad

Afelia with homemade pita bread and salad

Afelia with vegetable kebab and toasted garlic bread

Afelia with veggie kebab and toasted garlic bread

So, what do you think?

Sounds tempting or not for you?

*This pita bread was cooked on top of the hob in the frying pan used to fry / sear meat and veggies. No oven or pizza stone were involved this time, hence less puffiness and more colour.

** I was reimbursed the cost of the ingredients for this challenge.

What’s cooking – Quick and Easy Stir Fry

Stir Fry

Stir fry is an easy, fairy cheap, healthy and very tasty dinner option.

Shopping list:

–          2 basic packs of stir fry from your chosen supermarket

–          1 red pepper

–          Few mushrooms

–          1 onion

–          1 pack of stir fry sauce of your liking, we used Szechuan

–          1 pack of noodles

–          500g of meat, we used pork belly

I did my shopping at Morrisons and all ingredients come to £8.46 (pork belly was on some sort of special offer, that is why it won in race over chicken breast and turkey). This dinner will feed 4 people. Not counting meat cooking time, it will take me about 15 min from start to finish.

Pre heat your oven into 200 degrees, so it is ready for meat to be cook. Cut your pork belly into small bite sized cubes and cook in a casserole dish with lid for about 45mins and then remove the lid for another 45mins. If you decided to use chicken or turkey instead, they can be fried just before you are ready to cook your stir fry so no earlier cooking necessary. Meat like pork belly can be cooked in advance, so it is ready whenever you are.

Just before dinner time, chop the pepper, mushrooms and onion so they are ready to go when their time comes.

Once your meat is cooked and all additional vegetables chopped you are ready to start with your stir fry.

Make sure that your wok is sizzling hot.

Start with your main stir-fry base from 2 packs you bought earlier, add all other vegetables you chopped and stir constantly. After few minutes of cooking, add the noodles. After an additional few minutes, add the meat and sauce. Once everything is hot and it looks nicely done, serve and enjoy. Be careful not to overcook everything otherwise it will turn into a mush, it will still taste nice but your eyes will not be happy!

Enjoy!