This started off as a way to use up the remains of our Easter Sunday roast lamb.
The problem was, the lamb on its own wouldn’t be enough to build a meal around.
A tricky little conundrum, and no mistake.
Not a lot to say about this dish, really.
In the same way you might stand on a busy street corner in a new city, before pointing in a boldly go manner and confidently exclaiming to your significant others “I think the hotel’s over there somewhere..” I was aiming for a vaguely “Mediterranean” feel here.
This was another meal who’s starting point was a case of “tail wags dog“, and one that was put together by the “cooking by the seat of your pants” method.
The impetus for this dish was in fact the side. For about a week or so now, we’d been looking for an excuse to use some seaweed “noodles” we’d bought.
Once again I was left to my own devices food-wise, with my womenfolk out and about taking care of “any other business”.
As so often is the case, when I’m cooking for myself alone, I like to keep things as simple as possible. I had a good cargo of mushrooms going begging, spinach leaf in the freezer, and tinned tomatoes in the cupboard.
I also had a new batch of curry powder to play with. This particular curry powder had made its way to our home in Southern Sweden all the way from Durban, in South Africa, via a colleague of Mrs. Paleovirtus in Copenhagen.
I have to confess, I have a thing about leftovers, and food going to waste.
This attitude is a product of what I like to refer to as an Orthodox Northern English Working Class upbringing.
Wastage of precious food was simply not an option in our household, and would not have been tolerated.
My parents grew up during the Great Depression, and witnessed first-hand real, grinding, poverty, of the kids-going-hungry-to-school-with-no-shoes-on-in-January kind, not some variant 21st. Century faux-poverté, defined as not being able to afford the latest X-Box accessory, or a new flat-screen TV.
They were lucky, both my grandfathers worked, so they themselves were never stalked by the spectre of hunger, but what they saw during those times shaped their future attitudes, and in turn, mine.
Which brings us to this delightful little lunch I cobbled together just the other day.
Mid-day was approaching, my supplies of fruit were running perilously low, and my belly was making it known quite clearly that it expected a cargo of fuel to be deposited in the engine room, and soon.
Luckily for me the fridge contained not only a cup or so’s worth of sauce leftover from the previous day’s Country Captain curry, but also a good couple of handfuls of mushrooms.
The mushrooms were and still are a bit of a mystery, as for the life of me I cannot fathom out who actually bought them or what indeed they were bought for!
They were still looking good to go, however, so after a quick wipe and a trim they were thrown into a frying pan with the leftover sauce and a little extra water, stirred well, and simmered until tender.
I ate the resulting curry with some roasted sweet potato wedges.
Some pennies saved, and a little precious fridge-shelf real estate reclaimed. Result.
It occurred to me the other afternoon when I was planning my evening meal that I hadn’t had a bowl of my hot and sour soup for some time.
Determined to right this terrible wrong, I quickly hopped on to my trusty cycle, and pedaled off into town.
My destination was Möllevångstorg, a square in the city centre that has next to or somewhere near it a store catering to (**badoom tish**) just about every type of national or regional cuisine you could shake a wooden spoon at.
None of them, however, had the “facing heaven” dried chilli peppers I needed, but playing a hunch I cycled on a bit further to “Indo-Pak”, another of my favourite stores, who, as the name suggests, specialise in Indian / Pakistani produce, but also cater to a lesser extent to the wider Asian and even African markets.
As luck would have it, they did indeed have some dried chillies in stock that even if they were not true “facing heaven” chillies, were a very close relative to them.
While I was there, I also took the opportunity to stock up on some Indian bits and pieces that I needed, such as dried fenugreek leaves, as I planned to cook up a batch of curry sauce later on in the week.
The soup I ultimately made had closed cap mushrooms, sliced white cabbage, and broccoli as it’s principle ingredients, and very nice it was, too.
I enjoyed my soup by candlelight* with a pot of green tea, Chinese folk music playing in the background, and the smell of lavender incense filling the room. Perfect.
Just in case you missed it earlier, my recipe for hot and sour soup can be found here.
*Hence the less than brilliant photograph above. My camera is not exactly brilliant, and I do not count anything even vaguely approaching competence as a photographer amongst my skill-set.
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Real food for the lazy(ish) by Emily Butler.
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