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King of the Comfort Food

12:52 pm

“You work such unsociable hours!!”
I’m sure that’s a statement that 90% of chefs have heard. I’d expect it from my wife or children referring to the times I spend in a professional kitchen, however, I wasn’t expecting to be told it from my Head Chef referring to my 9-5 job at Nisbets!
Apparently my job is “getting in the way” of our social time. It means I can’t play snooker between lunch and dinner service and I can’t join in the weekly bruising game of football against the front of house staff. (Not that I think for one minute my inclusion would make any difference to the result!)
For many chefs, winter brings a cooler working environment and the longer drawn out nights make little difference to them, as they work late into the night even in the summer months.
For the 9-5ers winter can mean going to work in the dark, coming home in the dark and cold evenings in front of the telly  so although said in jest, maybe Chef has a point and it’s the kitchen brigade that work the more social hours! (Though I think the 60 hour weeks that some work may put pay to that theory!)
Winter brings with it the awakening of an entire new offer of food. The phrase “comfort food” is only really heard throughout the colder months. (You never hear of a Caesar salad being described as “comfortable!”)
The crown for King of “comfort” food, must be given to “the soup”. This, after all, has almost medicinal properties, as any child would know when being fed it during time off school, ill.  
It comforts, warms, soothes and replenishes you.
Winter brings with it wonderful seasonal root vegetables. Swedes, turnips and parsnips all offer huge flavours and make incredible homemade soups. In his new book  “Dining through the seasons” Former pub of year winner, Justin Brown, shows the home cook how to choose seasonal produce to make stunning dishes for dinner parties. And what’s the first recipe in the winter section? Soup!
Justin has kindly allowed us to share his recipe for Cauliflower Soup with Onion Bhaji with you below.
Soup is a great way to use up ingredients in the kitchen and many will hold extremely well when placed in the correct equipment.
Most Soup Kettles use the Bain Marie system for hot holding so its important to get the water level correct inside. Too much water in the bottom and you don’t generate steam so you will waste energy and make the equipment work hard. Too little water and the soup at the bottom of the container may start sticking.
However, if you keep the water between the min and max lines, you can hold the soup hot for hours.
It’s also important to know that most soup kettles are designed to keep hot soup hot. You should cook the soup initially either in on a stove or steamer and use the soup kettle to hold the soup once it’s to the correct temperature.
They are however, fantastically easy to use and allows you to free up your stove and your not having to constantly heat soup to order. They also save you time as the soup is ready to go as soon as an order is called, whilst the classic exterior look allows many operators to use them as a self serve option by the customer themselves.
Nisbets sell the Buffalo soup kettle (L715) which holds your soup at premium temperature for hours. It’s a fantastic price point which includes the kettle, a removable soup pot and a stainless steel hinged lid.
Soup kettles, however, can offer so much more than just a holding container for soup. Many operators use is for holding other wet products such as chilli, curry, stew, and even mulled wine!
I think if soup is the King of comfort food then the soup kettle is most definitely a more than suitable throne!
 The Buffalo soup kettle is available through Nisbets Buffalo Black Soup Kettle
Buffalo Soup Kettle


Spices are becoming more and more popular in British Cuisine, I think the light spicing in my Onion Bhaji goes great with the creamy soup and it’s a great alternative to just serving it with bread.
Serves 6-8

For the Soup
2 Large Cauliflowers
1 Large White Onion
4 Cloves of Garlic
50g Butter
Olive Oil
250ml Double Cream
Water or Light Chicken Stock to Cover
For the Onion Bhaji
3 White Onions
100g Plain Flour
Sea Salt and Black Pepper
½ Teaspoon Turmeric
1 Tablespoon of Mild Curry Powder
2 Cloves of Finely Chopped Garlic
1 Whole Egg
10g melted butter
½ Bunch Chopped Coriander
Vegetable Oil for Frying, Approx 100ml

For the soup peel and dice the onion and garlic, place into a heavy based saucepan with the butter and a drizzle of olive oil and gently cook for a few minutes without colour. Meanwhile remove the bottom of the cauliflower stalk and the outer leafs and discard. Cut off the florets and finely chop the inside stalk, it also has great flavour so it should be used. Add the florets and stalk to the pan and cover with water or chicken stock, season with some sea salt and pepper and boil for 15 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender. Once tender add the double cream then carefully with a ladle transfer the soup to a blender and puree until smooth or place a stick blender in the pan and puree. Once smooth return to the pan, adjust the seasoning and simmer on the stove until you have a beautifully thick and creamy soup.
 I am no expert at making onion Bhaji’s and there are thousands of different ways to make them, this is a recipe that I think works and tastes really good and the light spicing goes really well with the creamy soup. Peel and finely slice the white onions and add them to a bowl, then to this add the plain flour, turmeric, curry powder, chopped garlic, coriander, egg, melted butter, sea salt and black pepper, mix everything together with your hands and you will be left with a slightly wet sticky Bhaji mix. In a shallow frying pan cover the bottom of the pan 1cm thick in vegetable oil over a medium heat. Take little handfuls of the Bhaji mix out the bowl and mould them into patties in your hand, carefully place them in the oil one by one and gently fry for 3 minutes until golden, once golden turn them over and fry for a further 3 minutes until golden. A gentle fry is fine you do not need the temperature of the stove to high so if they begin to fry to quickly turn down the heat. Once cooked carefully remove the Bhaji’s and place on kitchen cloth to remove any excess oil. Do this a few Bhaji’s at a time until all the mix is used.
 To Serve
If you have made the Bhaji’s in advance warm them gently under a grill on a tray. Spoon the soup into your serving bowls and place the Onion Bhaji’s in the centre of the table, drizzle some good quality olive oil over the soup and serve.
Justin’s Cauliflower soup with an onion Bhaji recipe taken from his new cookbook “Dining through the seasons” reproduced with thanks to Meze Publishing.  Justin’s cook book is available though his website justinbrownchef.com


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