JANUARY feels like a moment for taking dietary stock. Soothing soups and gentle comfort food are the ticket, and there’s something about Hot and sour soup that always feels slightly virtuous. I first made it with stock from a duck carcass, and commend that. But chicken or turkey stock are similarly good. If you like heat, then go for red chillies over green; for mild, discard the seeds.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 leek, halved and sliced
180g (6 oz) bamboo shoots
1 teaspoon each: brown sugar, salt, white pepper
1 tablespoon tom yam paste
3 kaffir lime leaves
1 lime, zest and juice
1.5 litres (3 pt) poultry stock
1 fish stock cube
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
5 sprigs thyme
1 stick lemongrass, split
180g (6 oz) shitake mushrooms
2 spring onions
450g (1 lb) raw prawns (frozen is fine)
In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Briefly fry the leek and bamboo shoots with the chillies. Mix together the sugar, salt, pepper, tom yam, lime leaves, and zest. Stir this into the pan. Quickly add the stock, fish cube, vinegar, and soy sauce.
Strip the thyme leaves into the mixture, bruise and split the lemongrass, and add in with the mushrooms. Bring everything to the boil and simmer for a few minutes.
Julienne the spring onions into strips, and stir these in along with the prawns. Give everything another five minutes at a low simmer (once the prawns are cooked), then add the lime juice, and serve.
I develop a mild addiction to those spiced Christmas flavours; so this Gingerbread Trifle helps me to cope. Depending on what you can get, Seville or blood oranges are perfect for this, and remember: a trifle needs a couple of days to mature.
225g (½ lb ginger cake)
3 tablespoons Pedro Ximenez sherry
4 tablespoons marmalade
6 clementines (or 3 large oranges)
1 tablespoon-plus ground cinnamon
450g (1 pt) custard
450ml (1 pt) whipping cream
90g (3 oz) blanched almonds
Slice the ginger cake and line the base of a large glass bowl, squishing in as required. Pour over the sherry, then spread the marmalade on top. Let this all soak and macerate. Peel and segment the oranges, then scatter on top. (Clementines are simple; for Seville, or blood, sheer off the peel and layer the flesh in slices on top of the cake.) Shake over the cinnamon.
Pour the custard on top, then cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge for 24 hours or so. Before serving, whip the cream into soft peaks and layer on top, then scatter over the almonds and chocolate strands.