I would prefer to call this Poor Man’s Dinner but the truth is that I have countless meals which go by the same name! For me, a Poor Man’s Dinner is anything that is made from bits and pieces in the fridge and pantry, or which are made from really simple and cheap ingredients.
Last night’s dinner was a Potato, Carrot & Celery Soup, simply made by sautéeing 4 small potatoes, 2 small carrots and 3 celery stalks – all coarsely chopped – in some butter, and then adding about 1.5 litres of chicken stock, letting everything simmer away gently for about 30 minutes before blitzing the contents into a smooth soup. Hardly a fancy recipe but it sure is a good way to clean out the vegetable tray in the fridge!
Usually, I don’t find soup to be very filling on its own for dinner. If we’re talking about Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup (Pho) or Malaysian Laksa where you have large bowls of noodles filled with an aromatic broth and an array of pungent herbs and spices, that’s a different story! But for your simple vegetable soups, I like to make some bread to serve alongside.
I more or less grew up in a bakery as a child, and the smell of fresh bread from the oven is something that will always make me want to rip greedily into a whole loaf of bread. In fact, I grew up thinking that the “baker’s dozen” was to accommodate my insistence on tasting something from each batch! Despite a childhood of having freshly baked bread every morning, I rarely bake any bread myself. Actually, I try to avoid any recipe which includes yeast and multiple sessions of proving the dough, which in essence require you to get up in the wee hours of the morning in order for your efforts to be ready for consumption by a reasonable hour. The only exception I make is once a year when I indulge in my tradition of making Hot Cross Buns. Maybe one day I will have a proper foray into the world of bread baking … I guess I was spoilt as a child in that regard!
But for now, I am quite content to be baking bread of a different kind. I was recently introduced to the fabulous Irish soda bread by some foodie friends and have been wowed by how amazingly easy it is to have a warm, comforting loaf of bread at the table in about 30 minutes.
I first tried Rachel Allen’s recipe for Soda Bread from Home Cooking not long ago. Made from ingredients you are likely to have at home (flour, baking soda, sugar, salt and buttermilk or soured milk), the recipe produces a lovely, white loaf of bread which is similar in texture and taste to a scone or damper bread. The recipe instructs you to work the dough only enough to bring all of the ingredients together, thus meaning that you are hardly doing anything and the dough is in the oven after a mere 5 minutes or less of prep time. And 30 minutes later, voilà
Last night, I made a slight variation to the recipe by adding 40g of grated parmesan cheese to the dry ingredients, mostly inspired by wanting to use up the cheese before its best-by-date. The parmesan added a lovely savoury flavour to the bread and which went perfectly with the soup.
While the soup and bread alone would have made for a lovely dinner, we had some Bulgarian sausage in the fridge which was given to us by our lovely neighbours.This particular sausage is cured and tastes much like salami, though infused with a wonderful hint of cumin. This was not the first time our neighbours had given us some Bulgarian sausage; our neighbour happens to be a vegetarian and his partner mentioned that she needed help to finish all of the sausages that had accumulated from family members visiting from Bulgaria. As a good neighbour, it seemed only right to help her out on this task