‘Scottish’ Macaroons

Based on this recipe by Kristen Oliveri.

I wasn’t aware until I went to University that there was more than one type of macaroon.  When offered one and being handed a soft cakey thing sprinkled lightly with coconut I was a bit perplexed.  A macaroon should be death-by-sugar with a coconut aftertaste, smothered in chocolate, surely?  Apparently not!  I actually learned to like the ‘other’ type of macaroon and hadn’t had the kind I remembered Granny getting in wee paper pokes for years and so decided that whilst I was having a go at making various sweeties I’d have a go at this childhood favourite.

Scottish Macaroons


  • 1 small potato (~100-150g)
  • 300g cups dessicated coconut
  • 450g icing sugar
  • 180g of milk chocolate


  • Cut the potato into small pieces and cook until soft, then cool and mash up.
  • Add the potato to the icing sugar and mix until blended – far more easily done in a mixer than by hand.
  • Put the coconut on a tray in the oven at a medium-high heat until it browns.
  • Add two-thirds of the coconut to the potato-sugar mix and blend until well mixed.
  • Shape in a tray to a thickness of about 2-3 cm.
  • Melt the chocolate, pour over the shaped base and smooth.
  • Sprinkle the remaining coconut over the chocolate before it’s dry.
  • Leave until the chocolate has set, then cut into small bars or pieces.
  • Eat a piece and enjoy your sugar coma.

This wasn’t quite as horrendously sweet as the type I’d had as a child, the amount of potato probably accounts for that, but any more sweetness isn’t really needed – I had to portion them into tiny pieces or risk diabetes by the bite – I’m glad I didn’t try making some with white chocolate as tempted.  I think next time I might try making little bite-size pieces and coating them in chocolate rather than doing them as a tray bake.  In fact, the coconut mix is malleable enough to be shaped into little balls which might be nice for gifts =)

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Saturday Soup – Chicken, Asparagus and Soy Bean

This week’s recipe brought to you by a last-minute kitchen search.  Last Sunday we were in a rush for our weekly shop and I forgot to grab anything for a soup – something I only realised mid-day today.  Oops.  Luckily Andy had been out one night this week unexpectedly and I had spare asparagus and some soy beans from that day’s aborted dinner.  A quick google and I was inspired by this recipe here to make the title soup.  I figured I could jazz it up a little with some other fresh ingredients – any excuse to use up more of the overgrowing parsley ;)

Chicken, Asparagus and Soy Bean Soup


  • Knob of butter
  • 1 onion
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 potato
  • 200g frozen soy beans
  • 1l stock – half chicken, half vegetable
  • 2 medium-small chicken breasts
  • ~12 spears of asparagus
  • ~8g fresh parsley (small handful)
  • Juice of one lemon


  • Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the onions and flour and cook for 5 minutes
  • Add the potatoes, soy beans, chicken, lemon juice and stock.
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Add the parsley and asparagus, simmer for 5 more minutes.
  • Remove two to three ladelfuls, blend the remaining soup and add the chunky pieces back.

For something I put together at the last moment I’m really rather happy with how this turned out.  It was full of veg and, whilst creamy, didn’t have any excess fat in it.  For those super conscious about fat levels you could easily substitute the butter for olive oil or even just omit it if you have a good non-stick pan. It was super-easy to make, makes plenty and is a nice touch of bright flavour in the midst of what is becoming a rather dreary autumn.

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Basic Baklava

Baklava is something I’ve loved since I tasted it… even though I’ve only had it once!  Mum brought some back from holiday, I think, and I got to taste a little bit of sticky, nutty heaven.  I didn’t expect to like it so much – at the time I hated nuts – but the sugary, syrupy goodness overwhelmed any nut flavour and the divine texture won me over.  Whilst the baklava I made didn’t taste entirely the same, it’s still gooey, nutty, tasty pastry goodness.  All the more enjoyable because I actually like nuts now =)

One of the main reasons I wanted to make this is that all of the commercial baklavas I’ve been able to find here have pistachios – which Andy is allergic to.  Making it at home means using nuts he can eat.  I’ve used almonds, pecans and walnuts but you could exchange that for any nut you like – I’ve even heard of people using pine nuts, though they’re technically seeds ;)

This recipe was adapted from one here at about.com by Diana Rattray.

Basic Baklava


  • 250g (~12 sheets) filo pastry
  • 200g melted butter
  • 300g nuts
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 85g honey
  • 240ml water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp orange flavouring


  • Preheat oven to 200°C
  • If using whole nuts, chop them in a food processor separately until they’re relatively small chunks but not powdery.
  • Add 100g of the sugar to the nuts, as well as the cinnamon and nutmeg.  Mix thoroughly.
  • Melt the butter
  • Grease a baking tray which is about the size of your filo sheets and around an inch or more deep.
  • Place half your filo pastry inside a piece of baking paper with a damp towel – this will stop it from drying out and crumbling  whilst you work with the first half.
  • Take one sheet of pastry, lay it into the tray and fold any edges in.  Brush butter over the sheet quickly.
  • Do this for two more sheets.
  • Add about one thirds of your nuts, sprinkled over the whole sheet.
  • Repeat until you’ve used up your pastry and nuts.
  • Take a sharp knife and cut the baklava into small pieces.
  • Put the tray into the oven and bake for around 20-30 minutes until it’s golden brown on top.
  • Whilst the pastry is cooking, make the syrup.
  • Add the rest of the sugar, honey, water, lemon juice and orange flavouring to a saucepan.
  • Bring to the boil and keep on the heat until it has thickened a little then set aside to cool.
  • Once the pastry is done, bring it out and let it cool; similarly leave the syrup to cool for around ten minutes or so.
  • Once both have cooled, pour the syrup into the baklava making sure to cover the top relatively evenly.
  • Leave to sit overnight, loosely covered, before eating.

Extra Notes

  • Many nuts have varying thickness and densities.  If you chop the whole lot at the same time you’ll end up with huge chunks of one whilst the other is almost dust.
  • I used orange flavouring as I have no access to orange water – if you can get that, you could use it instead.

As an additional note:  going on a diet when you’re on a confectionery-making kick is really a terrible idea.  I guess I’ll just have to find some willing volunteers to save me from myself and eat it before I end up snarfing the whole lot!

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Saturday Soup – Lightly Spiced Pumpkin

Ok, I know, I know – we’re barely into October and here I am eagerly grappling with pumpkins but, the truth is, I’ve never cooked much with pumpkin before and as soon as I saw the culinary ones arrive in Tesco I knew I had to do something with them.  The first something is this soup!

The recipe is adapted from one by Barney Desmazery over at BBC GoodFood.

Lightly Spiced Pumpkin Soup


  • 500g pumpkin flesh (~1 kg pumpkin, if you wish to make the base a bowl)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium onions
  • 600ml stock
  • 100ml water
  • 150ml carton of double cream
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp ground ginger


  • 2 rashers streaky bacon
  • A few fresh coriander leaves
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds (made from those in the pumpkin, if you want!)


  • Heat the oil and add the onions to it to soften.
  • After the onions have softened, add the pumpkin flesh, cumin, coriander, ginger and a little black pepper mixing well and heat through for about ten minutes.
  • Add the stock and top up with the water, bring to the boil and simmer for ten to 15 minutes – until the squash is tender.
  • At this point add the cream, mix well, and bring back to the boil.
  • Take off the heat and leave to cool for a little while, then use a hand blender to purée.
  • Whilst the soup is cooling, cook the bacon and chop up the fresh coriander if you’re going to use it.
  • Reheat the soup, slice the bacon into small strips and sprinkle it, the seeds and the coriander onto the soup.

Extra Notes

  • You can bump up the amount of spice to your own taste – the amounts given are relatively mild so as not to overwhelm the pumpkin flavour.
  • To make your own roasted seeds simply wash, shake dry, put salt, pepper and a splash of olive oil on them and stick in the oven for 30 minutes or so at a medium-high heat.
  • If you make a bowl out of the base of the pumpkin, try and get as much flesh out as you can to minimise wastage without making holes in your bowl =)

Tasty, not too thick, and filling.  I’d definitely make this soup again but I suspect that I’ll only be able to make it once or twice a year since Tesco doesn’t stock pumpkins outside of October =(

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Microwave Tablet (Fudge)

The recipe is based on Helli S in a thread full of wonderful Christmas gift foodie ideas – a great starting point for those wanting to make home-made gifts for friends and family. It’s down as ‘fudge’ in the thread and it wasn’t until it was cooling and hardening that I realised that was actually what I’d always called tablet – denser, harder and tooth-decayingly sweet.  Only the night before making this had I found out that outside of Scotland tablet was often called fudge but, sadly, didn’t even think to check on this before making it.  In the end it worked out well as I love the fact I now know how to make tablet, but it just goes to show how regional variances can really hinder online recipe usage.

Microwave Tablet


  • 125g butter
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 397g condensed milk (one standard tin of Carnation brand)
  • 1 tsp vanilla flavouring


  • Prepare a glass / ceramic tray by greasing it well with butter.
  • Sift the icing sugar into the largest pyrex bowl which will fit into your microwave (a see-through non-glass dish which is microwave-safe might do – you want to be able to monitor the sugar’s level without taking it out of the microwave).
  • Melt the butter until soft and add it, with the condensed milk, to the icing sugar and mix well.
  • Set the microwave to 18 minutes on high heat.
  • After around 4-5 minutes you’ll notice the mixture beginning to boil and rise – take it out with care and stir it with a wooden spoon.
  • Place back in the microwave and continue to take it out and stir when you see it begin to rise.
  • Until around 8-10 minutes remaining you’ll probably need to take it out only every 2 minutes or so, until 5 maybe every minute and thereafter it might be as much as every 30 seconds.
  • When you get to 5 minutes remaining on the timer add the vanilla flavouring and stir in well.
  • When ready, the mixture should be thicker and darker than when it started.

Safety Tips

  • I recommend having your oven mitts handy and something to set your spoon on between stirrings.
  • Use a wooden spoon – many plastic ones will melt!
  • Do not be tempted to lick the spoon after you’ve poured the mix into the bowl – it’ll remain hot for quite some time.

My microwave is 750w rating so you may have to adjust the times a little for a higher powered one and expect the times between stirring to come more frequently.  I thought it was fudge, so I used quite a small tray (10 1/2 x 7 x 2 inches) and my pieces ended up around 4cm cubed.  This is waaay too much sugar in one bite and it’d be best if you can find a largeish tray or two medium ones to set the tablet in.

I’d tried making tablet before, over a stove, and it was terrible – too hard, gritty, ick.  Doing it that way requires the knack of it, an even heat, infinite patience for stirring and it was acknowledged by those I asked at the time that it usually took two or three tries before someone even began to produce ‘decent’ tablet.  This, though, was smooth, buttery, and melt-in-the-mouth first time.  Isn’t technology wonderful? ;)  A very excellent recipe and something I wouldn’t be ashamed to send to even the members of my family who’ve been able to make it on a hob for years!

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Copying and Copyright in Food Blogging

I was browsing some pages about card-making the other day and it sparked some thoughts on food blogging.  I know, kinda random, right?  Someone had posted a card which they’d made, linking back to the almost identical card which they’d copied.  Now, normally this might have tweaked my plagiarism sensibilities but, in this case, it was ‘ok’ because they were following instructions given on how to make the card – the ‘recipe’ for it had been shared.

You can see where this is headed, right?

I’ve never posted recipes for things I’ve made on this site  and only mention where I’ve considerably changed something.  I link back to the original recipe and have always felt that was what I should do.  In looking at the card maker’s site I realised that I’ve brought certain biases from my background to my blog and let them run around without truly examining the nature of their effects.  It has always me vaguely uncomfortable to see someone repost a recipe and instructions – even in their own words and it’s only when I scrutinise this fact that I realise why I feel that way and, perhaps, why I shouldn’t feel that way.

When I was at University I studied history.  Plagiarism and its effects were usually a core part of most courses’ introductory lessons and plagiarism in even one essay would lead people to lose the ability to finish their degree.  It was harsh, in some ways, but right.  There was no reason not to include other opinions, thoughts and inspiration so long as they were properly credited – copying word for word, though, is plain and simple cheating.   History, in part, relies on making sure you know and include a wide range of opinions of others who’ve written about the same subject as you (historiography) and it is almost necessary to quote, in part, sections of another’s writing.  Claiming another’s original work on your own, though, is illegal and morally wrong.

Another side to my background is that I’m an artist.  I feel awkward saying even that much, because I’m only a dabbler, but I’ve always been part of the community.  Within the online art community plagiarism and copying is a major problem.  Both outright stealing images someone else has done to claim as their own but also copying an image – taking, say, a picture of a cat on a window and copying or tracing the composition but changing the colours and media used.  It’s this last bit which is probably most contentious as whilst people feel their hard work has been violated, the work is derivative and some others feel that most artists find it necessary to copy at some stage whilst learning to get better at certain techniques.  Even amongst that group, though, many don’t believe that ‘copies made for practice’ should be displayed as your own work – especially when you don’t make a reference to the original.

So, food blogging.

My slight squeamishness on posting recipe lists and re-doing instructions comes from my history and art background, where directly derivative / partially copied works are sometimes seen as a form of plagiarism – especially where not credited.   Now, most food bloggers I know credit the original source when re-posting a recipe and use their own words when it comes to describing ‘how to’ – so why do I still feel weirded out by it?  In part, I think, it’s the issue that, unlike other art forms, cooking does not have as strict laws concerning its propagation unlike art and history:

1. The literal text of a recipe is automatically protected by copyright, as are photographs.

2. One can protect the name of a dish, like a brand name, as long as it is not simply descriptive, like ravioli aperti.

3. One can protect (part of) a procedure to prepare foodstuffs, if original, by patenting it. This may be done by industries using special machines, etc.¹

The list of ingredients could be protected by copyright through the surrounding rights that is as a compilation or table. The list will have to conform with the requirements of originality, that is the author or copyright owner must show that she exerted “labour, skill and effort” and that the recipe is not merely: “automatic and only requires painstaking accuracy”. However, the originality criterion would be very difficult to surpass, this is particularly the case in the EU were arguably the standard of originality is much higher than that in the UK.²

So, you can protect your personal text and images but not ingredients lists unless you can really prove there’s a high degree of originality and even then, not likely.

This is where I start to see a big divide, though, between amateur cooks and restaurant chefs – especially those at the ‘forefront’ of food preparation and design.   For one chef to take a recipe from another and present it as their own, especially where there is a great amount of ingenuity and imagination in having created the dish is bad form but it does happen as mentioned in this article where a young chef took very original ideas from those he worked for and directly copied them, profiting from such behaviour in terms of awards and fame.  Not many people would condone that sort of behaviour, but how often do you see other food in restaurants credited to their creators?  Although some original artists will be lost to the sands of time, others are well known but the recipe and techniques associated therewith are considered common property.

There’s a difference, though, between amateurs and chefs or even between innovating chefs and less innovative chefs.  But, mainly, I’m concentrating on the former since that’s where I reside in terms of interest in the subject.  Amateur chefs often have no monetary incentive to keep a recipe to themselves.  There’s the odd person who won’t pass on their amazing apple pie recipe but, for the most part, people love sharing.   Amongst amateurs sharing seems to be seen as the norm – very few people are stingy with their recipes in the online era and, in fact, many people are positively profuse about sharing their recipes.  Innovation comes from the sharing and blending of ideas amongst the community – not from being forced to innovate through necessity to create one’s own version of certain flavours and looks.   The reason the community is so big and flourishing is, in part, because everyone can grab a recipe and do it themselves, then proliferate the recipe via links or word of mouth.

In the end it really comes down to a moral question:  is linking back to a recipe ‘enough’ credit to the person who originally made the recipe.  Often, if I find the right recipe, I don’t go down the link trail right back to the original progenitor.  By posting a recipe, even in my own words, with my own pictures and my own trials and tribulations alongside, would I be affecting how much traffic went to them or, so long as I’m linking back to them, is my link keeping their version higher ranked within the mysterious land of google search?   How different is it from page scraping sites which repost the text of an article?    Some would argue a lot, and certainly there’s more originality involved in writing it ‘in your own words’ but both have the same effect of taking site views away from the original source.

On the other hand – would I be doing a disservice to the ‘consumer’, the person looking for a recipe, by making them wade through six sites just to find the recipe they want?  Is honesty and linking back enough credit for re-doing a recipe?  After all, that person probably based their recipe on a technique or base they learned somewhere else – so where do you stop?  I am beginning to think that it’s not such an odd thing to post ingredient lists and rewritten recipes on your own blog – so long as they are properly and clearly credited – as it widens the range of a recipe, bolsters creativity and increases the shared lot of the ‘community’.  The other point that Andy brought up when I asked his thoughts on the subject was the fact that, unlike printed books, many blogs eventually go down – especially self-hosted ones.  By having the recipes on multiple sites you are preserving these recipes from disappearing entirely or becoming too obscure for casual searches to be able to find them.


¹ http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/letters/letter–how-to-protect-a-recipe-food-copyright-not-original-1360450.html

² http://www.lawdit.co.uk/reading_room/room/view_article.asp?name=../articles/20-APR-%282%29-recipes.htm

Further Sources / Reading



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Saturday Soup – Shallot Soup with Watercress Purée

This soup was plagued with difficulties in the making, which I admit may have somewhat biased me a little against it.  A litany of niggles turned ‘trying out a new soup’ into a severe annoyance – used up the cream I needed for something else, 1/3 of the shallots I bought turned out to be rotten, conflicting recipe instructions and so forth.  I also hate peeling and cutting shallots, even large ones: it just takes forever.

The watercress purée seemed a little superfluous – it had an almost identical flavour to the soup, albeit a litter stronger and with a green note, but there didn’t seem much reason to have it as a topper – you might as well have just added it into the soup… which I think I may do with the leftovers.

All that said, the soup did turn out rather tasty.  It was relatively mild, with mainly a stocky-garlicky taste to it, and very filling for a thin soup.  Making it again, I think I’d just go for onions and cut down a bit on the stock as well as, possibly, adding the watercress directly to the soup just before blending.

A beautiful soup, tasty, but not worth the frustration in making it this time around.  I might try it again another time ;)

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Saturday Soup – Judy’s White Bean Soup with Chilli Oil

You’re beginning to see a pattern as to where I get my soup ideas, right?  Of course, this week’s one is another BBC GoodFood one – it’ll take a while to plumb the depths of their soup selection even with a few ‘repeat’ recipes.  Still, if anyone wants to throw a suggestion from another site my way I’d totally appreciate it!

This recipe uses butterbeans.  Dried butterbeans: which you soak overnight and then must peel before using in the soup.  To say this is a tedious task is not even the half of it.  However, I looked to the other commenters, who said that it was worth it and, dubious, watched tv whilst popping beans out of their flimsy shells.  All said, it took me nearly an hour – though I wasn’t going at any great speed, if I’m honest.  Still, it was an impressive pile of discards at the end:

At least I have a compost heap to throw them on, too.  Maybe next year I can grow some of my own from that self-same compost =)

The soup itself is thick, tasty, and not over-seasoned.  If you’re used to salt-and-peppering most soups vigorously I’d strongly suggest holding off on this one – it’s got a superb subtle flavour, especially with the chilli oil, which would, I think, be overwhelmed by too much seasoning – especially salt.  It was, as the commenters on the recipe had said, totally worth the effort to make.  A beautiful soup and none too skimpy a portion.  I’m not sure how often I’d make the effort, but it’s certainly a soup I’d make again.  It’s an impressive soup, in looks as well as taste, and one I wouldn’t hesitate to serve up to guests.

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Green Pea & Pesto Soup with Fish Finger Croutons

Peas.  I’ve not been that lucky with my peas this year in the garden, so I couldn’t pull off a pea soup from my own stocks, but I was determined to try this soup (courtesy of my usual go-to site for recipes, BBC GoodFood) anyway.  The topping of fish finger croutons is simply a wonderful extravagance that turns a lunch into dinner.

Unfortunately, this weekend Andy is away to London and has taken our camera with him.  I dragged out my old Kodak EasyShare which was a pretty decent camera for me, back in the days; simple and easy to use…. but slow.  I’m so used to my shiny little Casio Exilim which is pretty speedy, much smaller and less bulky, lighter and has a wider range of features (like decent shake correction for my wobbly hands).  Neither are super-amazing cameras compared to the big shiny DSLR’s that everyone and their auntie has these days, but they’ve both served me well over the years.

Anyway, the upshot of using my old camera was that something weird went on and I didn’t get pictures of the first bowl of soup so I had to have a second – which is why my Saturday Soup post is on a Sunday this week.  As much as I liked the soup, it was way too filling for seconds just to take more pictures!

The one thing I really loved about this soup was being introduced to the idea of part-blending.  I like chunky soups, but I also like ‘thick’, blended soups.  By blending two-thirds of the ingredients and keeping one third aside to add back later, I can have chunky pieces in a blended soup.  Souperb! (ba-dum tsh)

Pesto goes surprisingly well with peas, and gave the soup the necessary oomph.  I added, as the recipe suggested, a bit of fresh (well, frozen) parmesan to increase the flavour of the jarred pesto and was also pretty generous with the black pepper which I felt was needed to bring out some of the flavour of the soup.

This soup is really easy to make, and I think I could happily add it to my repertoire – it’s cheap, filling, makes a decent amount because you don’t need a tonne of it to fill you up, and it’s got a nice flavour which I think would do well in summer or winter.  Potatoes and frozen peas are something I always have around and there’s usually a jar of pesto in the cupboard or fridge – the fish fingers are nice, but totally not a necessity.  If I was making it for an actual dinner, I might serve a small bowl of soup beside a breaded fish fillet and some bread rather than fish fingers, or even do home-made fish fingers but either way it’s a damn nice dish.

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Super Saturday Soups

I love soup – I have it about 2-3 times a week for lunch or sometimes a light dinner.  Until about a year or so ago, most soups I’d tried to make turned into a thick, often grey, gloop – edible enough, so long as you don’t actually look at it… Since those experimental days of University, I’ve learned to make a passable lentil soup based on a recipe from my mum – it’s very much a vague recipe, with nothing measured out – but makes a super-tasty soup every time.  Lentil gets boring though – especially when you can only make it in 8-10 person quantities!

I’ve especially become fond of the carton-soups Tesco makes as they do a wide range, they’re fresh, and some are seasonal.  Given the price of them, and the waste of packaging, as well as the urge to improve my kitchen skills, it seemed like learning to make more of my own soups would be totally worthwhile.  So, I’ve decided to set myself a mini challenge of sorts: a weekly soup!

The one recipe which really set me on this particular trail was parsley soup, from a site by the same name.  I had been looking for something to do with the rather large, and growing, pile of parsley from the garden which was taking up space in the freezer and this recipe fit the bill.  It was rather unusual to me as I’d never have thought of making a soup based on parsley!  It was surprisingly tasty, savoury but still light – a very nice summer soup.

The picture at the top of the post is of the soup I made yesterday: Sweetcorn and chilli soup from my usual recipe source – BBC GoodFood.  It was really light and creamy and tasty. The combination of green chilli and coriander was one which worked well with the sweetcorn and I was surprised by how much one small green chilli came through in the flavour – especially because ‘tesco green chillies’ are not exactly super-flavoursome chillies compared to home-grown or named variety chillies.  The recipe also uses a huge amount of coriander – I was beginning to wonder, whilst crushing seeds, chopping stems and leaf, if this wasn’t some sort of ruse to make a sneaky coriander soup by another name.  However, despite using cheap frozen sweetcorn (because I forgot to get actual corn when I was at the shops, d’oh!) the flavour of the corn really did come through – I can only imagine how it would have tasted with fresh kernels in it.  It was an amazingly tasty soup!

I did have a few gripes with the recipe, though: mostly the portions.  It’s a recipe which is supposed to feed four but I found that once it was blended (zhszed, as I call it) and strained to create the smooth soup the recipe intended there really was barely enough for two people.  Add to that the fact that there was so much ‘waste’  from straining and I’m not sure I could really bring myself to make it again.  Perhaps fresher kernels, with softer skins, would have left less waste – but given I re-blenderised it after straining the first time, I’m not sure how much that would change the proportions of ‘leftovers’.

So, super-tasty but wasteful.  It’s a shame, as I love sweetcorn and, despite the fact Andy doesn’t, he liked this soup!  I think I need to figure out how to minimise the waste and up the quantities.

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