Let's Cook with Meg and Ted

Soup of greens with wild rice

Is my blog burning?

Alberto of Il Forno proposed an excellent idea - a day when many food bloggers take a certain theme and each come up with an appropriate recipe. Much as I love deciding what to have for dinner on the train home from uni each day, in response to how I'm feeling at the time, I also really respond happily to this kind of set challenge. I feel much the same way about Christmas cooking. I'm not interested in producing a kitchenful of my family's traditional Christmas food, and I am very glad that there's no obligations so if Ted and I feel like eating toast all three meals on Christmas day, we'll do so, but I still like the sense that there's a set of seasonal, traditional recipes which many people in the community are working on at the same time, each in their own way.

So the theme for this episode (I hope there are more to come!) of the "Is my blog burning?" challenge was soup. This fitted in well with my original plans for this week anyway - Ted is away, and so I was intending to indulge my love of lentil soup (not Ted's favourite food). By when it came down to it, I just wasn't, for once, in the mood for lentils. What I wanted was a big big bowl of something lovely and velvety and green. I also wanted to have a play with wild rice, an ingredient I have occasionally eaten in restaurants, but never cooked with myself. So, I thought, a soup of green vegetables, with wild rice.... and the flavourings? Buttermilk, lemon juice and dill, for a slightly sour contrast to the sweetness of the greens and the nuttiness of the rice. And I like the results a lot!

I should add that this is not a soup to make one day and then serve at a dinner party the next - the lovely dark minty-green colour changes overnight to a not so charming khaki! It still tastes good, though.

125 g wild rice
olive oil
2 onions, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
4 cups water or light vegetable stock
250 g swiss chard, stems removed, leaves chopped
2 medium leeks, white and pale green parts only, chopped
500 g young spinach, chopped
1 small bunch (about 50 g) watercress, chopped
1 bunch (about 80 g) flat-leaf parsley, chopped
half a small bunch (maybe 10 g?) fresh dill, chopped
juice of half a small lemon
150 ml buttermilk
sea salt and finely ground black pepper

Bring a large saucepan of lighly salted water to the boil. Add the wild rice and give it a stir to prevent it sticking to the bottom. Simmer for 45-50 minutes, until the grains have popped (so you can see a little of the white interior of the grain) and they are softened but still al dente. Drain and set aside. Reserve a little of the cooked rice to one side for garnish.

Heat a little olive oil in a large saucepan, then add the onions and saute over low heat for 10-15 minutes until they are golden and mellow-tasting. Add the garlic and cook another 2 minutes, then pour in the water or vegetable stock.

Add the chard, leeks, spinach, watercress and parsley to the pot. Unless you are using a gigantic saucepan, you'll probably have to add the leaves in two lots - just let them cook down then add the rest. Simmer for 20 minutes or so, until the chard and leeks are very tender. Add the dill and stir through.

Puree the soup in a food processor in batches, then return it to the cleaned pot. Add the cooked wild rice, and bring back to a simmer. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the rice and the liquid are warmed through. Stir in the lemon juice and buttermilk, and season to taste.

Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with a little pinch of reserved wild rice in the centre of the bowl, and serve at once.

8 February 2004

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