Archive for the 'Soups' Category

Kicking Carrot Soup

I am back, albeit only for 2 posts, before I am heading on a 4 week holiday to 4 countries. Crazy I know, but hopefully this way we’ll be able to catch up with as many relatives and friends as possible plus see some beautiful sites and eat delicious food all at once.

Since I am still in my pyjamas in the midst of the pre-holiday packing chaos,  I’ll make this short and just share a couple of recipes from my recent cooking classes. The carrot soup is simple and tasty. It gets it’s kick from the ginger and a hint of citrus from freshly squeezed orange juice. The color is magnificent and makes this soup quite appealing to small children.  

I’ll take lots of pictures on our vacation and will share some of our adventures when we get back in a month. Be well and enjoy the summer or winter, depending which side of the planet you’re on.

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Mamma Mia Minestrone

I love soups! And it is killing me that the weather is still not even turning the tiniest bit towards fall. I am trying to ignore it as best as I can and at least in my kitchen pretend that it’s time for soups, pumpkin bread pudding and other heftier fair. The pudding will need a bit more practice, although my husband commented (after having his second portion) that it’s made with too much sugar, cream and white bread, all of which we don’t really need. I wanted to strangle him, but he’s right, I have been complaining about my more and more unforgiving waistline since turning the big 40 last year. I guess I’ll be going back to whole grains, maple syrup and almond milk then, which are almost equally calorific as their white counterparts, but a lot better for the conscience.

The recipe of today, for the best Minestrone ever tasted, is nothing to worry about for all my figure conscious friends.  This soup is fantastic, very adaptable to the season you’re in (unless it’s over 30C/86F), full of good stuff and makes a great family dinner. It is a complete meal, so don’t think of this as an appetizer. No one is hungry after eating this soup, besides most will have at least two helpings anyway.

I got the recipe out of Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italy book. I changed it slightly over the years, mainly by adding more pasta and stock. I love it with zucchini and chard or kale, but it’s easily adaptable to any vegetables in season. Instead of the cannellini beans, you could use fresh broad (fava) beans, peas or borlotti beans. Great additions to the soffrito would be leek or fennel. A good quality stock is key, but that’s true for all soups. I used my homemade chicken stock, but if you want to keep it vegetarian, a vegetable stock is equally well suited.

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Chicken Tortilla Soup

I am sorry for my absence from blogging, but all of a sudden life has gotten really busy. We only have 2 weeks of the school year left, and every little box in our calendar is full with things to do. Assemblies, performances, concerts, Christmas parties and holiday preparations have taken over my life. And it’s less than 3 weeks until we leave for our annual winter holiday in Massachusetts, which can’t come soon enough, especially after last weeks 39C (103F). It was just a few degrees cooler for the company’s Thanksgiving dinner, which didn’t stop anyone from piling into a fantastic pot-luck buffet, loaded with turkeys, hams, dozens (almost!) of sweet potato casseroles and stuffings of all kinds. Not that this will prevent me from doing it all over again this Thursday, especially now that I foolishly invited some friends over. You can tell, it’s only been just over a decade since my first Thanksgiving dinner and I don’t yet have the tired look on my face like most Americans when they think of another gigantic turkey dinner and all it’s left overs. Anyway, I am getting carried away. Today’s blog is not actually about anything related to fall or winter or any holidays, but about the fabulous Chicken Tortilla Soup I made today. Something else entirely.

I have had my last cooking session for this year today. Yeah! The ladies did a marvelous job and really got to work on the tortillas. We had about 10 left over, and since they don’t really stay fresh for more than a couple of hours, I turned them into crisp tortilla strips for a Chicken-Tortilla Soup. I got to work, checking websites and blogs for inspiration, picking a few ideas here and there and combining them all in a fantastic, super-delicious soup. I used home made chicken stock from the freezer and added left over shredded chicken, slow roasted tomatoes, corn, zucchini for a little extra nutrition and a bit of left over chard. Not necessary and definitely not traditional, but handy. A sprinkle of grated cheese, some fresh coriander (cilantro) and a drizzle of lime juice rounded it all up. The spice came in form of 2 fresh red long chillies and one crumbled up dried chili. Jalapenos would work just as well, so would cayenne pepper. I am no expert on chilies and there is a total lack of variety here in Australia, so if you know your chilies, you’ll probably know which ones and how many to use. If not, start slowly. If the soup isn’t spicy enough, you can always add some more during the cooking process.

Anyway, give it a go. It’s fast, easy and totally delicious. A definite winner which I am already looking forward to cooking again.

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Asparagus Soup and Broad Bean & Pecorino Bruschetta

Spring time has finally arrived and with that my beloved broad (fava) beans. I dived into my thick hedge of broad beans the other day and found a handful of beans that were just big enough to be harvested. Of course, most of you will know that you need to harvest far more than a handful in order to make a meal for a family of five. So I went out and searched the markets and stores and finally got lucky. I bought 3 kilos (6.5 lbs) worth, which turned out exactly 700g (1.5 lbs) of beans. Almost the entire family was involved in the podding, which wasn’t so bad in the warm afternoon sun on the patio. Now, unfortunately, with broad beans the work isn’t exactly done with the podding. Unless the beans are very small and tender, it’s best to peel the tough skin of each bean after they have been cooked or steamed. I thought I could get away without, but decided half-way through cooking dinner, that I wouldn’t be so lucky. Never mind the little extra effort, the result more than made up for it.

The first dinner I cooked was ‘Tagliatelle with Broad Beans, Pecorino and Parma Ham’. It was good, but the recipe needs a bit more tweaking before I can post it.

However, the next evening, I still had 200g (7oz.) of podded beans left and decided to turn them into the enticing looking bruschetta I saw in the ‘Delicious’ magazine that same day. I got a loaf of panini, which I cut in slices brushed with oil, toasted and rubbed with garlic, before topping them with the broad bean mixture. They turned out magnificent, the flavors of the beans, mixed with garlic, pecorino, olive oil and rosemary exploding in my mouth. What a wonderful way to welcome springtime back into our lives. 

Yesterday was also the first day the organic asparagus grower returned to my local farmers market. Excited to see him, I invested in over a kilo of asparagus in various sizes and colors. Nursing yet another cold, I felt like soup and decided to use the beautiful asparagus to make it. A pot of chicken stock had been simmering on my stove for most of the day, after I had found some frozen chicken carcasses in the back of my freezer. I finally gave in and cleaned it in the morning, after coming to the conclusion that it looked like an igloo with more and more icy snow accumulating and leaving less and less space for all things frozen. Hence the decision to cook yet another batch of stock, especially now that I have the extra freezer space to fill. I used about 5 cups of it in my soup, which gave it the perfect base, but any vegetable stock would be good as well.

Broad Beans and Pecorino Bruschetta 

 

adapted from a recipe in the October 2010 edition of ‘delicious’ magazine

Serves 5

Ingredients

900 g (2 lbs.) fresh broad beans, podded (equalling 200-250g or 1/2 lb.)

1/3 cup olive oil

3 rosemary sprigs

3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped, plus 1 extra clove, halved

100 g (3.5 oz.) Pecorino Romano, shaved

8-10 thick slices of ciabatta or other crusty bread

Sea salt and fresh pepper

Method

Prepare an ice water bath.

Blanch broad beans in boiling water for 3 minutes, then plunge into ice water to prevent them from cooking any further. Drain and squeeze beans out of skins by giving them a slight pinch. Set aside.

Warm olive oil, garlic and rosemary in small pot over very low heat. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, careful not to brown the garlic. Stir occasionally. This will infuse the oil with the amazing aroma of garlic and rosemary.

Take out the thicker rosemary stems, leaving a few of the leaves behind. Add the broad beans, 1 tablespoon of water, 1 teaspoon of fresh sea salt and a pinch of fresh pepper. Turn the heat to medium and cook beans for a couple of minutes until bright green.

Place a wire colander over a bowl and put bean mixture into colander. Make sure you capture all the oil, which you will need for brushing the bread.

Brush the slices of bread on both sides with the bean oil, then toast or grill for a few minutes on each side. Rub with halved garlic.

Check the seasoning of the beans, before putting about a tablespoon on each toasted bread. Top with sliced cheese and serve immediately. 

Silky Asparagus Soup

 

Serves 5

Ingredients

500g (1 lb, 2 oz.) fresh asparagus, woody ends trimmed and spears cut into 3 cm (1 inch) pieces

1 large onion, diced

1 stick celery, diced

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons cream

sea salt and fresh pepper

5 cups (1.2 liters) chicken stock

Method

Sautee onion, celery and garlic on low to medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Add asparagus, leaving a few tips for decoration, and bay leaf.

Sautee for a few more minutes before adding the chicken stock. Bring to boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cook until asparagus is tender, about 10 minutes.

In the meantime, steam the asparagus tips lightly in a steamer basket. Set aside.

When the asparagus in the soups is cooked, blend the soup either by using an immersion blender, or in batches in the blender. Don’t fill the blender too much, as hot liquid will expand when blended.

Return blended soup to pot over low heat. Add 2 tablespoons of cream, 1 teaspoon fresh sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Stir and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Ladle soup into bowls and top with a few asparagus tips.

Stir-Fry with Soba Noodles

Ever since eating at Wagamama in London in the mid-90s, I love soba noodles. The texture and hint of buckwheat make them perfect in soups and stir-fries. Ideally I’d buy the 100% buckwheat ones, but being prized around AU$10 (US$ 8) for 250g, I gladly stick to the ones containing mainly whole wheat and only a small amount of buckwheat. They’re not gluten-free and will therefore not be perfect for everyone, but for now and for us, they’ll do.

Almost any vegetables in any quantities and combination work well in this dish, so whatever you like and is in season is good. It’s a great way to get rid of bits and pieces stuck to the bottom of you fridge. If I use pumpkin, I usually peel and dice it, toss it in oil and roast for 20 minutes or until tender. I then add it to the remaining vegetables just before serving; this way the pumpkin won’t turn to mush. I do the same with the tofu, cutting it into small cubes, seasoning it with toasted sesame oil, soy sauce, salt and pepper, before spreading it out on a roasting pan and baking it for 15 minutes. When slightly browned and firmed up, I add it to the other vegetables. I like to add a little vegetable broth or miso for extra slurpiness and dulse flakes for their nutritional value, but neither is essential.

As you’ll notice below, I use natural and toasted sesame oil. The toasted one has a strong taste and I like to use it as a seasoning rather than for frying. If you want to buy only one of the two, by the natural one, you can use it for most asian-inspired dishes. If you have neither at hand, canola or peanut oil work as well.

If I have home made vegetable or chicken stock at hand, I frequently turn this dish into a soup. I first put the cooked noodles in individual bowls, top them with vegetables and tofu, pour some broth over it and sprinkle with coriander. Yum!

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 1/2 9.5 oz packages Soba noodles

1 inch ginger, peeled and finely chopped

3 medium cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1 small broccoli, cut into florets

1/3 cauliflower, cut into florets

2 small zucchini, cut lengthwise and the into 1.5 cm (1/2 inch) half moons

2 carrots, peeled and cut into dice

2 hand fulls snow peas, trimmed and cut in half

1 punnet mushrooms, trimmed and halved or quartered

1/4 pumpkin, peeled and diced

2 packages firm tofu, drained

1 bunch coriander (cilantro), leaves and thin stems only, chopped

4 spring onions, cut into small rings

1 tablespoon dulse flakes

1-2 cups vegetable or miso broth

low-sodium soy sauce

sesame oil, natural and toasted

sea salt and pepper

Method

Preheat oven to 180 C (350F). Toss pumpkin pieces with natural sesame oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread on baking tray and roast until done (approx 20 min). Cut tofu into 1 cm (1/2″) dice, toss with toasted sesame oil, a few glugs of soy sauce, salt and pepper and bake in oven for 15 minutes until lightly browned and crisp on the outside.

While pumpkin and tofu are baking, heat water in large pasta pot to cook soba noodles. Try and time it so that your noodles are ready approximately at the same time as your vegetables. The noodles only need a couple of minutes to cook (100% soba noodles need a little longer) and stick together quite vehemently if you drain them and leave them sitting in the pot. I add a bit of broth and sesame oil to the noodles as soon as they are done and divide them into large bowls as quickly as possible.

While your noodle water is getting ready, heat up vegetable broth or water for miso.

At the same time, heat 2 tablespoons of natural sesame oil (canola works as well) in a deep fry pan or wok, add ginger and garlic and fry for about a minute. Be careful it will burn quickly. Add remaining vegetables and fry, stirring frequently, until vegetables are done, but still have a nice bite to them. You can add a bit of water to the vegetables, if they don’t release enough moisture. When the texture is just right for you, add roast pumpkin, tofu, spring onions and dulse flakes, season with salt and pepper and mix gently. Pour some broth over it, carefully not turning it into soup (unless that’s what you’re going for, see above), and garnish with chopped coriander.

Curried Winter Squash Soup

Another cooking class favourite! Even the pickiest of eaters will love the combination of sweet, tart and spice in this soup. Roasting the squash will bring out it’s lovely sweet flavour. You can substitute the apple juice with apple sauce or add another apple.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced, peeled fresh ginger root
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 large winter squash (about 2 1/2 pounds), such as butternut, cut in half length wise and seeds taken out
  • 1 apple, peeled and diced
  • Sea salt and fresh pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons almond meal to thicken (optional)

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C). Brush both squash halves with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place on baking tray, cut side up. Cover squash with baking paper, followed by aluminium foil, wrapping both around sides of squash. Roast for about 40 minutes or until tender. Remove from oven and let cool.
  2. Scoop flesh out of squash halves and place in a separate bowl.
  3. In the meantime, place large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the oil and onion and sauté for 10 minutes until onion has softened. Stir in ginger and curry powder and sauté for another minute. Add the broth, apple juice, lemon juice, squash and apple.  Bring soup to boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in almond meal if soup needs a little thickening
  5. Use immersion blender to blend soup until smooth. Alternately, transfer soup in batches to blender and process.
  6. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Chickpea, Tomato, Zucchini and Spelt Soup

I found this recipe on the ‘whole living’ website and was very excited about another soup recipe that is perfect for an easy weeknight dinner. The soup is packed with lots of goodness;  it’s got protein, whole grains, lot’s of vegetables and tastes great. Spelt grain is nutty and a nice change, but it could easily be substituted with brown rice or barley. If zucchinis are out of season, substitute with cauliflower, chard or kale or use more carrots.

Ingredients

Serves 4 (makes 6 cups)

  • 1 cup spelt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch lengths
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Basil stalks, shopped
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Place spelt in a medium bowl and cover with cold water. Let soak for 1 hour; drain.
  2. Bring 4 cups of water to boil. Add spelt and cook for 30 minutes or until spelt is tender, but still has a little bite to it.
  3. In a 5-quart Dutch oven or large soup pot, heat oil over medium. Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in zucchini, bay leaves, paprika, cumin and cook for another 5 minutes. Add broth, tomatoes and wine. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Add cooked spelt and chickpeas and warm through (5 min). Season with salt and pepper. Discard bay leaves. Sprinkle with chopped basil and serve with grated cheese.

Making Soups and Salads

After a 2-week-break, my 6 faithful students returned for the “Soups + Salads” class. The first thing on our itinerary was to make a beautiful chicken stock. More than half the group had never done this before and were curious observers.  They were amazed by how easy and versatile it is and hopefully encouraged to try it out at home. After the stock was bubbling on the stove, they split into 3 groups of 2 again and every pair choose a recipe to prepare. On the menu were 3 different salads (Warm Lentil with Rocket and Goats Cheese, Pumpkin and Chickpeawith Sun Dried Tomato Dressing and Quinoa with Apples, Almonds, Fennel and Celery) and 2 soups (Curried Winter Squash and Chickpea, Zucchini, Tomato and Spelt). It was a busy morning, to say the least. However, by lunchtime we were finally able to reap in the rewards and oh my, it was a feast! Give it a try yourselves and let me know how it went…

Chicken Stock

I love to make stock. Anytime I have chicken bones left over, I chuck them in a pot, alongside any vegetables and fresh herbs in can dig out of my fridge. I use it mainly as a base for soups and risottos of all grains and colours. Even, if you have only a few small bones left, add a bay leaf, some parsley sprigs, an onion or spring onions, a clove of garlic, a stick of celery, a tomato, a carrot and you’re good to go. You don’t have all of the above? Substitute with some other herb or vegetable, it will still be better than what you get in a tetra pack at the store. Fill the pot with a litre (4-6 cups) of water, depending on the amount of veggies, and follow the instructions below.

Ingredients

  • Bones of 1 large chicken, cooked or raw
  • 1 leek
  • 3 carrots
  • 3 stalks celery with leaves
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 large onion, not peeled
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 6 sprigs of parsley, washed
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 2 bay leafs
  • 4 litres of water

Directions

1. wash leeks, carrots and celery and cut them into large chunks

2. wash onion and cut into wedges with skin on

3. cut tomato into wedges

4. smash garlic cloves

5. rinse chicken bones (if raw) and place into large soup pot

6. add vegetables, parsley, thyme, bay leafs, peppercorns and water

7. put lid on pot, bring stock to a boil, reduce heat to low and let simmer for at least 2 hours. I like to simmer mine for 4-5 hours.

8. Let stock cool I pot. Place fine meshed colander ever large bowl in sink. Pour stock into colander and squeeze ingredients as hard as you can. That way you will get all of the lovely juices in your stock.

9. Place bowl with stock in the fridge for at least 4 hours. This way the fat in the stock with solidify and float on the top. It’s easy to scoop it out with a slotted spoon or small mesh strainer.

10. Stir stock before filling into containers for freezing.