Creamy soups are around for a long time. They were invented based on the famous “balsamella” sauce that is also known as “béchamel”.
Originally, the well-known sauces “balsamella” (or “besciamella” and alternatively “salsa colla” or “salsa colletta”) were used in the Middle Ages in Tuscany in Italy. The sauce was definitely known to the chefs of Catherina de’ Medici in the 1530s. Food historians suggest that it was imported to France by the chefs of Marie de’ Medici, the second wife of King Henry IV. Thus, the flour-based butter & milk sauce was added to the French cuisine. The original name “balsamella” was then translated as “béchamel”, which later became famous all over the world. Also, skilful cooks and housewives turned the sauce into different creamy soups by diluting it and adding different vegetables to it, including mushrooms.
In the United States, the creamy mushroom soup appeared as a canned product in 1934 by the Campbell Soup Company. Ever since, it is one of the most popular canned soups in America.
My favourite creamy mushroom soup is easy to make and it only uses butter, not flour. The below recipe from Channel 4 is so delicious that I even made it for a Christmas dinner once. I made some slight alterations to the original recipe based on the fact that some ingredients were just not available in my area. I think it is perfect and I would recommend making the soup based on this slightly modified recipe. It is perfect for occasions, too as it easily lends itself for professionalpresentation!
Cannelloni is a typical Italian dish, which can be made with minced beef, cheese and/or vegetables. Cannelloni is typically made with a cylindrical type of pasta or with fresh lasagne sheets that are rolled over around the filling. Cannelloni is typically sitting on tomato sauce and sometimes either tomato or béchamel sauce is used on the top of the dish. Most of the time, cheese is sprinkled on its top and then the dish is baked so that the flavours mingle and the topping turns brown and slightly crispy.
There is little to know about the origins of cannelloni. Probably it originates from the 19th or early 20th Century and it is associated with the name of Nicola Federico, an Italian chef. It is thought that he created the cannelloniin a small restaurant in Naples. From the little restaurant, the cannelloni spread all over the world. It became very popular; so much that probably most Italian restaurants offer it on their menu.
I often make cannelloni based on the below vegetarian recipe that I found on BBC Good Food. It is very healthy and nutritious as it uses spinach and tofu for filling. The dish is sitting on a bed of tomato sauce and tomato sauce is used on its top, too. Instead of cheese, nuts and breadcrumbs are used to achieve the crispy finish.
The dish contains ample amount of vitamins and nutrients. Thanks to the spinach, vitamin K, A, B2, B6, E, manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, copper and calcium are included in the dish, amongst other nutrients. The tofu mostly contributes calcium, manganese, copper, selenium and protein and also includes other minerals and vitamins to a lesser extent. Nuts and the ample amount of tomato sauce used in this dish provide additional valuable nutritional content.
This spinach & tofu cannelloni serves 4 people. Serve it with steamed or stir-fried French beans, broccoli or okra or mix them all up for a lovely side dish. Try it today and enjoy both the health benefits and the lovely taste of this dish!
50 grams of pine nuts or walnuts (roughly chopped)
400 gram bag of frozen spinach (defrosted)
350 gram pack of silken tofu
300 gram pack of fresh lasagne sheets
4 tablespoons of fresh breadcrumbs
Salt (according to taste)
Pepper (according to taste)
Basil or oregano or Italian mixed herbs (according to taste)
Pinch of grated nutmeg
Sweat the onion in half of the oil in a saucepan. Add one-third of the garlic and fry until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes, season with salt, pepper and basil / oregano / Italian mixed herbs. Bring the sauce to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 Celsius.
Heat half the oil in a saucepan and fry one-third of the garlic for 1 minute. Add half the pine nuts / walnuts and the spinach. Wilt the spinach and tip out the excess liquid.
Whizz tofu in a food processor until smooth. Add it to the spinach & nut mixture. Add the nutmeg and some pepper. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Pour half of the tomato sauce into a 20 cm x 30 cm ovenproof dish. Divide the spinach, nut & tofu mixture between the lasagne sheets. Roll the lasagne sheets up and lay them on top of the tomato sauce in the ovenproof dish.
Pour half of the tomato sauce over the lasagne sheets, cover with aluminium foil and bake the dish for 30 minutes.
Mix breadcrumbs with one-third of the garlic and half of the pine nuts / walnuts. Sprinkle this mixture over the dish, drizzle with a little oil and bake for 10 minutes uncovered until the crumbs and nuts are golden.
Across time and cultures, the consumption of stew has been very common. For example, there are references to stew-type meat-based dishes from the era of Herodotus, who recorded that Scythians consumed such dishes from the 8th to the 4th Century BC. Historians also suggest that Amazonian tribes made stews 8000 years ago. In the Roman Empire, fish and lamb stews were consumed and the Hungarian goulash is also known since the 9th Century.
The English cuisine also used stews of various ingredients as staple. However, the term “stew” did not appear commonly until the 14th Century as a verb, referring to the preparation method or “vessel for cooking” of stews. The term “stew” as a noun only appeared in 1756 in Devil’s Drive by Byron, in which he mentioned an “Irish stew”.
Over centuries, the dish was mostly referred to as “pottage”, “stewpan” and “hotpot” in England. Nevertheless, the dish was common and mostly it was eaten by necessity, by the poor. They mixed up vegetables and grains and cooked them slowly in liquid to allow flavours to mingle and to achieve a homogenous consistency and a gravy-style sauce. In better times, the vegetables in the dish were supplemented with fish or meat. Wealthier households added spices, almonds and sometimes wine to add variety and flavour to the dish.
When “English stew” is mentioned in gastronomic history, the term tends to refer to a beef-based dish, which includes onions, root vegetables and potatoes. Normally, it is simmered in water or stockslowly and sometimes red wine or beer is added to it.
I found a vegetarian English stew designed by Nigel Slater on BBC Food, which is perfect for vegetarians who want to enjoy typical English flavourswithout the beef or any other meat component. The dish is rustic and hearty and it is perfect for a substantial, nutrient-rich lunch or dinner. Let’s see how to make it!
The French term, “pommes boulangere” simply means “potatoes from the baker”. It is a lovely baked potato-based dish with a little story behind it. Centuries ago, when homes in rural France were not equipped with ovens, women still wanted to presentbaked dishes to their families. For Sunday lunches, they prepared potato-based casseroles in their homes. On their way to church, along with a piece of lamb they took their casseroles to the local baker’s. While they attended the service, the meal was baking in the shop’s oven. When the service was over, they just picked up their dishes and soon enough, they could serve roast lamb surrounded with “pommes boulangere” to their families for a Sunday treat.
It is important that “pommes boulangere” is made of very thinly sliced potatoes and onions. If it is prepared this way, the top layer of the potatoes will be crispand slightlybrown, while the lower layers will become thick and moist.
Non-vegetarians can enjoy this dish in the traditional way, served with roast meat. For vegetarians, it can be served with steamed or stir-fried French beans or mixed vegetables. Alternatively, it can be offered with a lovely salad. In my view, fresh spinach works particularly well with this dish.
I found the following recipe for 6 portions on the website of Forks over Knives. It was designed by an American chef, Ramses Bravo. In my opinion, it is lovely when it is freshly-baked, but perhaps the next day it is even better as the flavours get absorbed into the potatoes and the tastes mature a bit. Now, let’s see the recipe!
5 litre low-sodium vegetable broth (preferably home-made or if you used packaged, use organic vegetable stock)
9 medium potatoes (peeled and very thinly sliced)
1 tablespoon chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley, or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
Preheat the oven to 180 Celsius. Place the leek, onion, celery, shallots, and garlic in a large dry saucepan over low to medium heat and cook until the onion starts to brown (approximately 5 minutes). Stir occasionally to avoid the ingredients sticking to the pan.
Stir in the granulated garlic and granulated onion and cook for further 2 minutes. Stir in the broth, increase the heat to medium-high, and simmer. Cook until the liquid reduces to half.
Add the potatoes and stir the ingredients until well combined. Decrease the heat to low and cook until the potatoes are translucent, about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid the potatoes sticking together.
Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley and thyme. Transfer to large baking dish (approximately 33 cm x 22 cm) and bake uncovered for about 25 minutes. The potatoes should turn tender in the dish and the top layer of them should brown slightly.