For me, the festive period always offers up the opportunity to cook and bake dishes that only seem apt at Christmas.
In turn this means there is always too much good food in a relatively short period of time! Too many mince pies, sausage rolls, stollen, lebkuchen, Christmas cake, Christmas pudding and ham, to name but a few.
As well as devouring lots of sweet dishes I eagerly, and regularly, buy an assortment of winter veg throughout Christmastime – predominantly parsnips, cauliflower, cabbage and sprouts. But however hard I try I always seem to get to the point where I’m at a loss with what to do with the next bag of sprouts.
Today, I found the perfect solution – brussel sprout and cheddar soup.
Bear with me, I know it doesn’t sound particularly appealing and I can tell you I wasn’t entirely sure it would work, but I figured that it would work in a similar way to broccoli and stilton soup.
I’m pleased to report it worked a treat – full of flavour, a gorgeous colour and extremely satisfying.
Eating it this lunchtime, we both agreed it was the best soup I’d made all year – quite fitting on the last day of December.
It got us thinking about our year in food – which meals we’d enjoyed the most, our favourite restaurants (as well as our most disappointing eateries), the food that brought us the most joy and our food goals for 2019.
Here are mine:
- Favourite eateries: There have been many. Firstly our staple restaurant, Momiji in Harleston, Norfolk. This Japanese restaurant never disappoints, wonderful food and an even better kept pint of Adnams Ghost Ship. Once a month they offer a Sushi Week which is always our favourite time to visit. In February I enjoyed my first visit to Sudbury House Hotel in Faringdon, near Oxford. It’s Restaurant 56 offers fine dining in a wonderfully sumptuous surrounding. When a restaurant provides exceptional customer service, fabulous wine and faultless dining, what’s not to love. I left wanting to return again and talked about the experience for many months. Lastly we’ve visited the Fox and Goose in Fressingfield, Suffolk on a number of occasions this year. It imaginatively uses seasonal food in and un-fussy but refined and delightful way, I always leave inspired to cook new dishes at home.
- Worst meal out: I can definitely say that this was (disappointingly) a visit to Outlaws Restaurant at The Capital Hotel, London. We’re both a fan of seafood so visiting Nathan Outlaw’s restaurant was meant to be a real treat. I couldn’t wait to go but I can tell you I will not even give it a second glance. The food was inaccurately described on the menu (meaning my starter was cerviche, something I wouldn’t have chosen had the menu told me that), the food was rather bland (and not any better than a dish we would cook at home), the vegetables arrived ten minutes after the main dish (and only after we’d asked where they were), it was excessively overpriced for the quality of the food and experience, and to top it all, the customer service was slow and anonymous. A true disappointment.
- The dish that bought me the most joy: As you may know, this year I followed the Great British Bake Off, week-by-week challenging myself to bake the technical dishes. On week six I made Puits d’Amour (Wells of Love) – Rough puff pastry, berry compote, crème patissiere and choux pastry. They took a very long time to make but I can honestly say that the finished bake was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever eaten. I’ve never really understood it when people talk about a food tasting like heaven, but tasting this was not like tasting food, it was like holding a little bit of joy in your mouth and savouring it – that’s not meant to sound perverse at all, it’s honestly how it felt.
- What I learnt from cooking in 2018: I love to cook and bake (and eat). I’ve always loved to eat, I appreciate food and seasonal cooking but this year I really tried to develop my cookery skills. I achieved this by both taking part in the Great British Bake Off cook-along – which gave me more confidence to try new and exciting methods – but I also began to take great pleasure in cooking supper each night. I’ve always needed to know where my next meal is coming from, I suppose this is from a passion for food and also the satisfaction that food gives. This year, instead of thinking ‘what shall we have tonight’ at about 4pm, I’d try and think ahead and also try my hand at new dishes. This was achieved to some degree but I must say, pre-planning isn’t always my strength. I did try to cook to my weaknesses, to cook the things that had always scared me. I cooked more red meat, more joints and more fish. I’ve always had a tendency to overcook meat and fish and I think I’m getting better at cooking it to (almost) perfection. Going forth into 2019 I plan to develop this to attack more challenging recipes using as much home-grown produce as possible.
- My food goals for 2019: In 2019, I aim to cook more complex and varied dishes, delving deeper into my library of cookery books to become more confident in the kitchen. I have a vast number of cook books (and I’m currently trying to catalogue them – no joke!) and I want to take advantage of them. I aim to read more cookery books (it’s all too easy to just take in the recipes), try new eateries and make an adventure of my cookery journey.
Enjoy the soup!
Brussel sprout and cheddar soup
- olive oil
- 1 onion chopped
- 330 g Brussels sprouts quartered
- 2 garlic cloves chopped
- 600 ml chicken stock
- 200 ml double cream
- 100 g mature cheddar cheese grated
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat a dash of olive oil in a medium saucepan, then add the onion and fry for a few minutes, or until softened.
Meanwhile, put the quartered Brussels sprouts into a pan of boiling water and boil for 2-3 minutes, before draining well.
Add the sprouts and the garlic to the onions and fry for 1-2 minutes. Add the stock and cream and simmer for 3-4 minutes.
Use a stick blender to puree the mixture until smooth. Return to the heat and stir in the cheese and season to taste.