I woke up early this morning to start my brown bread and kale soup before the day got away from me, as it often does for all of us. First off I yanked out several bunches of kale from the vegetable garden and submerged them in a sink full of cold water in the hopes that a few bugs might abandon ship before the leaves were chopped up for soup. Meanwhile I started chopping the obligatory soup onion, to sizzle up in the hot melted butter with my chopped potatoes. Things moved along nicely with my goal to finish all my cooking before 9am so I could photograph my food, play with my vacation photos and get in some exercise before noon. I even made focaccia dough for tomorrow, a very productive morning in the kitchen. I like to cook everyday, preferably beginning in the morning, whenever possible. This morning while chopping my onions I thought about the first ‘real job’ I had in college, not counting jobs like babysitting. My first real job, with an actual paycheck, was in a small hamburger joint in Isla Vista, California. Between taking orders, making milkshakes and filling cups of soda, I peeled and sliced onions for the burgers. Now I’m really going to date myself, my starting pay was $1.35 an hour. After 3 months my pay went up to $1.65. Which I guess was big bucks compared to 50 cents to a dollar an hour for the babysitting I did in high school! I also remember we made a killer pineapple milkshake and had several loyal customers who came in for the shake. This very green and Irish looking Kale Soup is pretty good too, although I admit it’s not a pineapple milkshake. I found recipes which I adapted in Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen for the Kale Soup and the Brown Bread. I highly recommend the King Arthurs Flour Irish Style Whole Meal Flour for the brown bread. The idea to use toasted walnuts in the Brown Bread came from a lovely restaurant in Killarney, where we stayed and played golf. The only day the sun came out on the golf course for us during our trip to Scotland and Ireland was at Dooks Golf Course in Kerry. I will always be thankful for the warmth of the sun and the good time we shared that day. I’m also thankful that I only had to chop one onion for the soup this morning because it’s really not one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen.
Ingredients and Directions for Kale Soup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 small medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 quart chicken stock
6 cups baby kale, lightly packed, chopped with thick stems removed
6 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream for garnish
Wee baby kale leaves for garnish
Melt the butter in a heavy soup pan, I used my dutch oven. Add the onions and potatoes to the hot foamy butter, sprinkle on salt and pepper to taste. Stir and cook for several minutes, add the stock and gently simmer with the lid on for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Add the baby kale and cook with the lid off to retain the pretty green color, for about 2-3 minutes or until tender. Ladle the soup into a blender and pulverize. Don’t forget to take the middle piece off the lid and cover with a towel when you start the blender. The soup becomes a bright green after a few minutes. At the point I strained my soup because I didn’t remove all the stems. The baby kale is tender but the stems are still woody and need to be removed from the soup. Adjust the seasoning and ladle into bowls, garnish with the creme fraiche and baby kale leaves.
Ingredients and Directions for Brown Bread with Toasted Walnuts
Makes 1 loaf
3 & 1/2 cups Irish style whole meal flour from King Arthurs Flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon molasses
1 & 2/3 cup warm water
2 teaspoons Rapid Rise yeast
1 cup lightly toasted walnuts, chopped
Preheat the oven to 425F
Grease a 5×8″ loaf pan
Mix the flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl. In a small bowl mix the molasses with 1/2 cup of the warm water and sprinkle on the yeast. Let stand for a few minutes until foamy. Add the rest of the warm water to the yeast mixture and pour it all in the flour/salt mixture, stir until combined. Stir in the walnuts. The mixture will be too wet to knead. Place the dough directly into the prepared loaf pan. Cover the loaf pan with a kitchen towel and place it in a warm draft free place. Let the dough rise for about 35 minutes, until it almost comes to the top of the pan. Place the pan in the oven, bake for 20 minutes, reduce the oven to 375F and continue to bake for about 25 minutes. The bread should be nicely browned and hollow sounding when tapped. Remove the bread from the oven, slide the loaf out of the pan and put it back in the oven for 10 minutes to crisp the exterior. If you prefer a softer crust skip this last step. Don’t forget to generously spread your sliced brown bread with Kerrygold butter before enjoying.