world according to sam

Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first. Mark Twain

Tag: soup

Baby Star Pasta Soup

Chicken Soup …. AKA Jewish penicillin – I could not agree more, soup is warming and true comfort food, particularly when you are feeling under the weather or cold and one of my favourites is this recipe from when I was a child, a cheap supper for my sometimes cash strapped mother and one I still indulge in when Mr H is away on business, cooking for one couldn’t be simpler. A good quality chicken stock with lots of flavour or even a Knorr Chicken Stop Cube and Marigold Swiss Bouillon Vegetable stock will all give you the perfect base for your soup.


Stellete Star pasta is available online and in good Italian delis, the supermarkets sometimes have it under their own label but the de Cecco is durum wheat, which I prefer.


250g de Cecco Stellete Pasta n.75

750ml good stock chicken or vegetable stock

(if you have roasted a chicken, boil up the bones with an onion, carrot and celery to make your own stock)

Salt and Pepper to taste

A knob of butter to taste

Fresh parmesan shavings or grated to taste

Chopped flat leaf parsley (optional – to taste!!)

If you want to add a little protein, finely chop some cooked chicken once the pasta is cooked through sufficiently but ensure you heat the chicken through thoroughly


Boil the pasta in stock for 7-10 minutes, depending how well you like your pasta cooked – al dente or moosh? you choose, personally I think this works best with the pasta well done.

To serve, allow the soup to cool a little

add a knob of butter, some freshly ground black pepper and a couple of fine shavings of fresh parmesan. grind a little black pepper, finish with a little finely chopped flat leaf parsley ….. E Bob è tuo zio (and Bob’s your uncle!)








Thai-ish Soup

Quick and easy supper that is Thai-ish …. so not authentically Thai but very much “of the Orient” in flavour



Vegetable Stock – 1 litre

Fish Sauce


Lime Juice

Lemongrass, Ginger, A little chilli to taste

Kaffir Lime Leaves (if you can get to an Asian supermarket the fresh ones are far superior to the dried offering of most supermarkets and freeze really well)


Basil (Thai Basil, if you can get it as this has a more aniseed flavour, Waitrose do stock it sometimes)

Raw king prawns (and some Swedish meatballs  or chicken fillet if you want to up the protein content)

Rice Noodles or a Handful of Jasmine Rice

Pak Choi/Sugar Snap Peas/Baby Corn

Red pepper sliced thinly

Spring Onion

Optional : Coconut milk (if you want that silky, rich flavour – plus load of calories)


Using a pestle and mortar or a food processor to pound the lemongrass, ginger and kaffir lime leaves to a paste.  If you don’t want to pound the lemongrass and lime leaves you can add them to the broth and remove them later – I find lemongrass too woody to chew on and the leaves whilst fragrant are a little leathery to eat in their entirety unless mulched down!

Make a simple broth, using the stock, the paste from lemongrass, ginger and kaffir lime leaves, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, balancing sweet (sugar), sour (lime juice) and salty (fish sauce) to your taste – the more you make this the easier it will become to adjust measurements to your own personal taste but start with a tablespoon of each and work from there.  I prefer a sour taste so increase my lime quantities.    If you are going to add coconut milk this will sweeten the base but don’t add until later.  The great thing about this style of cooking is that aside from the meat and fish which needs to be cooked thoroughly, everything heats through very quickly – this is probably the quickest supper I make, (not much more than  20 minutes).

Once you have your basic broth you can add a little rice now (as this will take about 20 mins to soften) but it is much easier to drop noodles in at the end, I only offer rice as an alternative as Mr H is not a big fan of noodles slopping in his lap!!  Noodles can be dropped in at the same time as the prawns right at the end of cooking as they require very little time in the simmering broth.

Drop in your red pepper, followed by spring onions and baby corn, pak choi and sugar snap peas can go in at the very end – the idea is to make sure the vegetables are heated through thoroughly but you want them to retain both colour and crisp texture (so NO boiling to b#?!ery)

If you are adding the meatballs, now is the time to drop them in to make sure they are heated through thoroughly.  The Swedish meatballs are perfect as they are a compact texture that don’t break up in the soup.  Pork and Prawn might not seem like natural partners but actually in Asian food (Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian), they are actually a common pairing.

Finally drop in your raw tiger prawns and cook through until just turning pink – again no over boiling or they end up looking like a piece of chewed bubble gum – and have a similar texture!

If you want to add coconut milk this can go in just before the prawns …. it is delicious but does have LOTS of calories and actually the broth is delicious without it.


Pick the leaves from your coriander  and basil and place in the bottom of your noodle dish and then ladle soup over the fresh coriander leaves in the bowl – this will wilt the herbs without turning them a sludgy green.  Jamie Oliver recommends serving his Thai Broth in a glass teapot – which is great if you want to impress at a dinner party but make sure you place the prawns in your noodle dish and not in the teapot or you will get in a terrible mess.





Vitamix – You had me at Hello …..

Steps : 3459

Green Juice Drunk 0 (see below)

HIIT …. no time, too busy blogging and constantly checking my stats




On a Sunday afternoon when we should have been doing more exciting things we found ourselves once again pushing a wonky wheeled outsize trolley around the cavernous Costco warehouse in Reading, purchasing a 6 month supply of discounted high quality triple ply loo paper. Despite only two of us living at home now we still cannot resist bulk buying bathroom and kitchen paper goods from Costco as if there were still the four of us residing there and the imminent threat of  some bowel turning superbug about to do its worst hanging over us!.

The Vitamix sales talk is compelling, presented by one of those cheeky chappies that have fine honed their barrow-boy banter to pull in the ladies and of course their accompanying other halves (and this is where they are clever, flirting with the ladies but even more so with the men, winking knowingly, conspiratorially imparting that look that says YOU KNOW YOU WANT IT!). Onto the demonstration of first, its strength (this bad boy’s 2 litre container is made from Polycarbonate plastic, the same indestructible material used in Spaceships apparently!) The salesman theatrically smashes the container on the side of the demo counter, stands on it, bouncing away while he continues with his crowd seduction,

We stood transfixed by the salesman’s patter – this is how Adam felt when Eve tempted him with the apple – it was irresistible.  This gadget was going to revolutionise our lives.  I am gadget averse, what I mean by that is I don’t like gadgets out on display and I have little space in the cupboards to accommodate anything else.  My kitchen is traditional and without the retro styling of Kitchenaid I just aint’ interested HOWEVER I was slowly being seduced into thinking that this was worth the sacrifice and with one eye closed and head slanted at an angle the Vitamix does look a little vintage, though the styling is more akin to a 70’s TV Space series representation of the Future than my preferred 50’s look!

So as  we filled ourselves with delicious salsa, a hot Thai soup, a green kiwi smoothie, almond milk, cashew butter and  frozen berry yoghurt we stood transfixed, the sales assistant doing a metaphorical dance of the seven veils, revealing the hidden bounties of  The Total Nutrition Center. We were coaxed in closer with a tray of amuse bouche and through each reveal, a little history, a funny anecdote followed by another mouthful of deliciousness.  How to create ‘mock’ lemongrass – an apple and half a lemon whizzed up in the Viatmix with a little water.  Genius.  Then the techie stuff, the explanation of Centrifugal force..the intense spinning of the blades creates friction that imparts heat to the liquid and in less than six minutes HOT SOUP! And you don’t even have to peel the fruits and veg, could this get any better? Mesmerised we swayed to the demonstrators melodious repartee, enthralled and then STRIKE! A One Off TODAY Only Offer Madam, Sir …. blah, blah blah – the rest was irrelevant.  Mr VitaMix sales rep, you had me at Hello …..

The chatter home in the car was full of how we would wake each morning to a delicious green juice full of wholesome fibre and plentiful nutrients, perhaps a high protein snack at lunchtime of a nut-butter spread on crispbreads and then how many times per week we could now go to the gym, straight off the train at 8pm, gym by 8.15, 45 minutes in the gym and home to delicious hot soup full of goodness within 10 minutes of walking through the door. Green smoothies for breakfast, entertaining with home made salsa, soup starter and then frozen yoghurt for pudding … I will be a  Domestic Goddess worshipping at the shrine of Vitamix – and thin and healthier to boot.

Day One of the new us ….. managed to not quite get up early enough to do a green juice and besides it was Monday and there were only 2 apples, a lemon and an ageing plum left in the fruit bowl.  Not to worry, I could pop into Wholefoods in Kensington and pick up some delicious Organic vegetables for the smooth velvety soup I would be making post-gym session tonight.  So at the end of the day, feeling virtuous at starting the week I skipped through  the door with my bag of mixed root and leaf vegetables ready to create.  In they went, carrots, leeks, onions, celery, a little spinach, parsley, coriander, a little salt, pepper and garlic to flavour and cold water.  And GO! The noise of the machine is LOUD, loud enough to require lip-reading skills when in action.  Of course in a Costco Warehouse with its plane hanger dimensions this is not a problem, in my small suburban kitchen it is but we shall presse (presse, geddit?) on.

Six minutes feels too long when you are suddenly ravenous,  four or five minutes into the processing and the machine is beginning to steam and a quick touch of the polycarbonate container confirms the soup is indeed getting hot.  Poured into deep soup bowls we sit to eat our healthy, nutritious, fat free supper ….. bleurgh.  I WAS NOT expecting that …. it is VILE, throat closingly, gag inducingly VILE but HOW? I like ALL those vegetables and herbs and combined they would normally create a delicious, smooth vegetable soup with the aid of my now defunct Braun MultiQuick and 30 minutes softening in olive oil.

By now tired and emotional caused by a massive blood sugar slump I throw the last remaining carrots and coriander into the Vitamix, now everyone loves carrot and coriander soup, right? what could possibly go wrong … so six minutes later we sit down again, less enthusiastic than before but nevertheless driven by hunger, keen to bolt it down.  Well, it wasn’t inedible but frankly Covent Garden Soup Company turns out something far superior than this bitter concotion.  And the texture,  the force used seems to emulsify the liquid somewhere along the line and what is poured out has a strange viscosity that once in the mouth feels  ‘slimy’ and not unlike egg albumen.  But we ate it anyway.

Deflated we went to bed hungry and feeling a little bit like we had fallen prey to a slick sales pitch (again! we have a steam penguin, shirt flip flap folder and numerous miracle household cleansers residing in various cupboards around the house).  On reflection, I suppose when you slowly soften vegetables in oil to make soup in the conventional way, you release the vegetables natural sugars which gives a softer, sweeter taste in the mouth and a quick jooooosh in a blender affords you the texture you want rather than the cloying potage I had created.   Since then I have reverted to peeling and softening my vegetables in the traditional way and of course use my Vitamix to blend it to the texture I require.

Now I am no longer commuting to London for 5 hours a day and have rescinded my gym membership, preferring a brisk walk in the morning to keep me fit I finally have the time to watch the instruction video and read through the manual, when searching for where I had gone wrong, an online forum posted RTFM – Read The Freakin’ Manual, should have done that, I didn’t.  I am determined to master the Vitamix, but until then it is my most perfect, noisy, indestructible …… blender.

Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon

                                                                                                                                       Doug Larson

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