Coming back to London after more than a month at the height of summer in a swampy mid-Atlantic state was a shock to my system! While the Tube is still holding fast to the heat its tunnels retained after the couple of weeks of heat (80-85 degrees) they had in July, the temperatures are only getting up into the upper 60s during the day now. I adore it! Adore pulling out my sweaters and boots and leather. The cooler air and subtle change in the light makes me feel like nesting while simultaneously invigorating my creativity and desire to get on with things. I can only explain my unwavering Pavlovian response to this seasonal shift as having been pounded into my subconscious after years of back-to-school with its crisp lined notebooks, binders, school bags, and new shoes. Summer vacation always went on far too long for me. I could never wait to get the September issue of Seventeen Magazine and envision the fantastic school year ahead…and what I’d be wearing, of course.
The French call this season le rentree, the grand return from the summer holiday, when everyone, not just school children, are full of resolve to be better, achieve more, stick to their goals. For me, le rentree does all of that, but also signals a shift in ingredients (some of my favorites hit the market now) and even more time spent puttering around the kitchen while braises take their time in the oven and doughs rise. What are you going on about, you’re likely asking yourself at this point. Basically, it’s cool outside and I’m already looking for ways to warm myself up, and so last night came up with the most delicious hearty soup made out of bits and bobs I had sitting around the kitchen. And while it’s also likely that most of you are still sitting in stifling August heat, please just tuck this one away for that first cool evening when the air conditioning is off and Fall is lurking around the corner.
Part of my resolve for the upcoming season is to throw away less food and be much more mindful of what I’m eating. To that end, I needed to use up some Tuscan kale I had in the crisper drawer, a bit of ground chicken I had, and some chicken stock from the weekend. I’ve also had, hiding in the back of the fridge, a jar of leftover sesame tare paste that I made to use in my Bone Daddies ramen stock. It’s a rich sesame paste with a bit of heat that adds oomph to many an Asian style soup – I highly encourage anyone with a penchant for flavorsome soups to whip up a batch to have on hand for when the moment strikes. It’s a little like gold dust. Last night I was tired, not particularly hungry, and feeling chilled to the bone from the earlier thunderstorm (complete with giant hail stones). I forced myself to make this nourishing, comforting dish and am so glad I did. I hope it helps you welcome your le rentree with enthusiasm and optimism too!
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic minced
thumb-size piece of ginger, grated
1/4 pound ground chicken
1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns, crushed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed
pinch red chilli flakes
pinch each salt and pepper
3 -4 cups chicken stock
1 heaped tablespoon of sesame tare (recipe below)
2 cups of chopped Tuscan kale leaves, stems removed
4 ounces egg noodles
In a large pot heat your olive oil and then add the red onion and sautee for a minute or so. Now add the garlic and ginger and once everything is softening add the ground chicken. Cook this, incorporating the aromatics well, throw in the crushed up spices and move around until the chicken is no longer pink. Now add the stock and whisk in the sesame tare so it’s blended into the soup broth. Allow this to come to a boil and now add the ribbons of kale (you can also use chard or other types of greens) and cook this for five minutes. Meanwhile cook the egg noodles in a separate pan according to their package directions. Place the cooked noodles in the bottom of your large serving bowls and ladle the chicken and kale broth over the top.
for the sesame tare:
3/4 cup toasted white sesame seeds, ground in spice grinder until fine
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons chili oil
2 tablespoons ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 green onion, chopped
3/4 cup tahini, sesame paste
Grind all of these ingredients together in a food processor until smooth. Keep unused portion in your fridge in a tightly sealed container.