I'm away on another research trip, this time in Manchester, and I've just had the funniest dinner. I don't much like eating out alone and since I'm away for two nights I thought I'd bring dinner for the first evening with me. But then eating cold leftovers from a tupperware pot in your hotel room can be pretty soul-sapping too, so I decided to be ingenious and make something that was at least hot. Relatively healthy hot options when your only cooking device is a kettle is tricky, but I brought a packet of flavoured couscous with me which could be rehydrated with hot water, and a small pot of defrosted frozen veggies. I emptied a small ceramic pot I found in the bathroom of its freebie toiletries and used it to hold my couscous as it rehydrated with water from the kettle. I considered putting the tupperware pot of veggies directly into the kettle to at least warm up, but luckily I mentioned my idea to The Scientist last night and he cautioned against letting the pot rest on the element in the kettle (I really hope I would have thought of this before I actually melted it but am not entirely confident!). So I abandoned that, and instead cast about and lit upon a long container which was holding the tea and coffee bags in my room which I thought could serve as a bain marie for my little pot. The peas did fine - a little crunchy but I like them like that anyway. The carrots could have done with a bit more effective warming, but were perfectly acceptable. So I managed to eat a warm and healthy dinner using a variety of hotel dishes and felt like Johnny Ball at the same time. I wished I'd had my camera so I could capture my comedy dinner, but I'd left it at home, and am about the last person in the world whose mobile phone doesn't have a camera in it.
Anyway my hotel room might be poky, my dinner might be improvised, and my best beloveds might be several counties away but I do at least have internet access. And so to the soup. I should say straight away that it doesn't actually have biscuits in it. 'Bottom of the biscuit barrel' is how Granny Munchkin and her brothers used to refer to meals that were made of leftover odds and ends - based, I believe, on improvised desserts by Israel Grandma which did actually feature the crumbs at the bottom of the biscuit tin. And that exactly describes my soup, which was put together to use up some British asparagus which was past its prime, some beetroot leaves which I couldn't bring myself to bin, and some soya beans I'd found reduced at the supermarket. I left the soup brothy which is unusual for me, but I fancied getting the crunch of the whole beans. The flavour combination worked really well, although I have to admit that I can't quite remember now what herbs I added. In the spirit of the soup I think you should use whatever you have to hand. I also liked it that the soup had a distinct purple hue which must have come from the beetroot stalks. I took it to work with me, hence the weird tupperware picture (it seems this meal is linked to tonight's experience after all!). Next to the soup is a rosemary scone I made to use up more of the rosemary I was given at the Taste Festival. Of course I made too much, and some of the rest of the veggies got turned into a tagine with some couscous. After that I called it quits - bottom of the bottom of the biscuit barrel is as far as I'll go. I feel justified in posting this recipe since it's home-devised, and anyway, so vague as to be almost completely unhelpful anyway :)
Bottom of the biscuit tin soup
Makes an unhelpful two and a half portions
half an onion
leaves and stalks from one bunch of beetroot, chopped
half a bundle of asparagus, chopped small
small container of fresh soya beans
stock, to cover and then some
handful of whatever fresh herbs you have to hand - I'm pretty sure I used chives
salt, pepper and any other dried herbs, to taste (isn't that a helpful direction?)
Chop onion and sweat until soft in a little oil. Then add all the veggies and stir to soften. Add hot stock and simmer for about 20 mins, until everything is soft. Add herbs, and salt and pepper to taste.