Monday, 17 October 2011

Cheffactor Competition

I can't remember the last time I entered a competition. Actually that's an outright lie. I do remember the last time I entered a competition because I won and it was a momentous occasion. I was about eight and I created a masterpiece of colouring in which won me a very snazzy red walkman. It was in a cheezy Americanesque style diner that I believe was called Wolfman Jack's in Rathmines. Anyone else remember that place? I loved it and all it's kitsch 50's Americana. And I loved it even more because it gave me my only winning experience to date. Sad but true. So now the time has come to throw my hat in the ring once more and see what happens. It's kind of a cooking competition (I say kind of because the winner is decided on votes of a picture not their cooking skills) and the prize is awesome. A three month cookery course in Ballymaloe House, all expenses paid. Food mecca for many, lifelong dream for me. So,  it comes down to this. I need your help. And your friend's help, and their friend's help...etc....I need to get as many people as possible to like my photo on the Cully and Sully website as possible to be in with a chance. Apologies for the shameless marketing campaign and the incessant nagging and reminding which will no doubt be coming your way over the next four weeks (voting closes on the 17th Nov), I'll try and keep it to a targeted minimum. But remember folks, vote often. 

Here's my entry for the competition. You can vote here. Please and thanks so much.

The dish is a Tuscan bean soup with some delicious sourdough bread to mop it all up. It's really really tasty. I'll include the recipe below for any of you who would like to make it. It's from a delicious cookbook from Kate Caldesi called the Italian Cookery Course, and it's just that, a lesson in Italian cooking. It's a really brilliant book and is full of lots of tips on how to butcher meat, bread making, pasta making and sauce making. If it's Italian it's in there. You Londoners out there might be familiar with Cafe Caldesi in Marylebone. It was one of those special places we liked to go to in college for coffee and dream of the day we could afford to sit down to eat. Some days we'd treat ourselves to a desert but that was as far as it ever went.  They did the best hot chocolate I ever had and we would go and crowd around a mug watching all the well to dos enjoying their delicious lunches, breathing in the stunning aromas as they wafted past. If you're in the area, drop in, you won't regret it. Anyway, the book is great, go buy it.

What a makeshift tripod eh?
For the entry you had to post a picture with your dish, you and the words Cully and Sully in it. See above for cheesy arrangement of said picture. You've no idea how difficult this was to put together with no spare pair of hands and no tripod. Thank god for timer buttons on cameras is all I'll say. And thank god my camera didn't fall off my oh so stable tripod and smash all over the floor. So the picture's not perfect but it's the best I could do given the circumstances!

Please please please go check out the link and vote for my picture. I'll bake you lots of cookies if you do!

Here's the recipe:

Firstly you need to make the base of the soup. It's called a soffrito and is the base for endless Italian soups, stews and sauces. 


150g carrot
150g celery
150g onion
150ml olive oil
2 garlic cloves (optional)
bay (the herbs you use are up to you, you don't have to use them all)

  1. Finely chop all the vegetables.
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy based saucepan. Add the garlic if using and fry for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and fry for 15-20 mins, stirring occasionally.
  4. That's it. It can be frozen in portions to use in soups and stews or used straight away.

The holy trinity - onion, celery + carrot

Bean Soup

1 quantity of soffrito (I used about a third of the above recipe above and it was enough for two people)
700ml of stock (the recipe called for 700ml of stock to serve 4 people, I used that much for 2 servings but I think I enjoy a slightly thinner bean soup than most!)
400g of tinned beans (cannelini or haricot) drained (the recipe called for 800g to serve 4 people)
  1. Warm up the soffrito in a saucepan.
  2. Add the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for ten minutes.
  3. Add the beans and cook until warmed through.
  4. Serve with bread.

I told you it was simple. The trick is to get a really good soffrito. You need to use really fresh vegetables, a good amount of oil (I didn't quite use 150ml because it seemed like a lot but I did use more than I usually would) and you need to give it a good length of time to soften slowly and for the flavours to develop. I dislike celery greatly but I have to admit that it is what makes recipes like this. It gives an extra depth of flavour that would ruin the dish if left out. And thankfully it doesn't taste like celery in the finished dish. 

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