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Cooking with newspaper: soupe au pistou and picked cucumber

In my ideal world, I'd adhere to the maxim of owning nothing that I know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

However, in my kitchen, I have a stash of cookbooks from which I have only cooked a handful of the recipes they contain. Similarly, I regularly tear recipes out of magazines or print them off from websites. I've even been known to photograph recipes from a friend's recipe books on my phone for later use. In short, I'm a sucker for picking up an interesting or well turned out recipe, stashing it and promptly ignoring it.

All this has resulted in slabs of paper building up in my kitchen, bookended by folders spewing out tasty morsels of recipe.

Alas, most of these recipes I don't know if they're either useful or beautiful as I've never got around to cooking.

This dead tree madness must stop! I've decided to battle my way through the European cooking mountain: join me, friendly reader, as I tackle my fulsome stash of recipes.

This week's challenge has been making my way through all those recipes I've half-inched from the newspapers.

First up, Lindsay Bareham in The Times. (Bareham writes a recipe a day during the week. I would link back to her original recipe online, but it's somewhere behind a paywall.)

The recipe was for a Soupe au pistou, a French soup that bares a simiarlity to minestrone with a bit of pesto on top.

Bareham's recipe involved a lot of fresh veggies (onion, celery, courgette, potatoes, tomatoes and beans), canned beans (haricot or flagolet) and some pasta, topped with the pistou - a basil and pine nut sauce which you'll not be surprised to hear bears a passing resemblance to pesto. (There was parmesan in the original recipe, which I replaced it with a mix of nutritional yeast and that vegan Parmazano stuff).

Despite the promising list of ingredients, the end result tasted of bugger all: not surprising really when the only flavour – the pistou – was served as garnish, rather than a part of the dish.

Pistou aside, there was no herbs or garlic to pep things up and the recipe called for water not stock, leaving the soup a sadly flavourless, watery pot.

Verdict: one fewer recipe for my stash. Sorry, soupe au pistou, you don't make the cut. (Although left for a day and with some bouillon powder and a pound of parsley added, it served fine as a packed lunch).

Next up on my quest to thin down my recipe collection, a recipe from The Telegraph, and this time one I can link to: The new vegetarian: crisp spiced tofu with cucumber pickle recipe.


Not being an avid Telegraph reader (or indeed a Telegraph reader at all - it's a shite paper), I hadn't come across the New Vegetarian column (which by the looks of it is now defunct).

Based on the pickled cucumber (above) recipe, it's a column worth checking out.

I've made the original recipe a couple of times - it's sparky and refreshing and a proper winner. I've also tried swapping the red onion the recipe calls for for a few spring onion and omitting the water used, and it comes out even better.

Next time you've got something Thai or Vietnamese for tea, do yourself a favour and make some pickled cucumber.

Verdict: this recipe's a keeper. Despite coming from The Telegraph, this recipe's appeared in my house - and stomach - several times since I first made it. Maybe I"ll get around to that crisp spiced tofu too one day. Still, no rush, eh? I've only had that recipe for a couple of months.


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