Archives for posts with tag: soup

A shadowIt’s funny sometimes how priorities change, stack up against each other, as if the different tasks and obligations one has are in competition with each other rather than with the time manager. This is how I feel sometimes, out of touch as everything seems to change around me, so I sit back and see what happens, see how the priorities rearrange themselves.
CauliflowerReady to roastAn eggplant
I realise, obviously, that how duties, assignments and relationships are prioritised and juggled is directed by me. There is not a universal power calling the shots telling me where to be, what to bring, who to email, who to call, what to read, what to write, how to eat well – though God, sometimes I wish there was. I’m a bit of a worry wart, an over-thinker. Some days my worries about things like climate change, recycling, the media, the food industry, the future, travel, careers, money (the list goes on) I find stimulating and motivating. But then there are days, as there have been recently, where I crave to be reckless, to be irresponsible, to live dangerously for a night – staying awake past midnight would be a good start.
ChoppedIn sunSlater like
At the moment, the best it gets is when I have to abandon everything I’m currently working on, leave the computer, put down the pen, and take care of the fruit and vegetables in my kitchen rapidly nearing the end of their life. There were peaches that needed doctoring earlier this week. Beautifully ripe, flavoursome and meaty golden queens, but with soft, brown spots dotting their velvet skins. I pan-roasted thin slices with butter, honey and cinnamon until the fruit was browned at the edges, golden of a different sort. All I had to take care of were those peaches.
LeekHalf rounds
Food – real food, good food – is my outlet, my down time. I like the quiet that settles over me when I look into the fridge or open the cupboard and know that soup can be made, a salad can be tossed and a cake can be baked. When I am in the kitchen everything else falls by the wayside and the desire to be nourished and to provide takes over – I like it most when this becomes priority number one.
RoastedGreen chilli
That is how we came to have this soup the other night, this earthy red, fiery, richly flavoured soup. With vegetables on hand I found myself there, in the kitchen, present in that moment, chopping carrots and an eggplant, de-seeding a red capsicum, dicing cauliflower florets and peeling cloves of garlic. When tossed with oil, salt, pepper and then baked, vegetables will always soften, sweeten. When soft, sweet roasted vegetables are added to a pot of spicy, lemony cooked leeks with vegetable stock and seasoning, well, there’s no going wrong.
Soup oneSoup two
Like most soups and stews, the flavours need a little time to develop. But after a day, or two, the lemon comes through and the chilli adds a heftiness, coating your mouth and stinging your lips. “Wake up!” it says. You can taste the vegetables, every one if you feel your way – the carrots are earthy and the capsicum is sweet, while the eggplant adds a smooth richness and the cauliflower is present in a “sturdy guy at the back” kind of way. The slow cooked vegetables, allowed to soften and crisp in equal measure, give the soup substance and make a hot bowlfull the right meal, the right answer to whatever is on your mind.

Spicy Roast Vegetable Soup
The inspiration for this recipe comes from one of my favourite food blogs, Food Loves Writing. Like Shanna says, it’s more method than recipe when it comes to making soup like this. My soup was on the thicker end of the soup-consistency spectrum and I thought this would be perfect to slump over some hot brown rice or other cooked grain.

Take a bunch of vegetables, chop them into roughly the same size, toss with a good glug of oil and seasoning then roast for at least an hour at 180°C until tender and golden.

While the vegetables cook take a leek or a large onion, chop into half rounds and cook in a large pot with a splash of oil and knob of butter, with chopped up chillis, garlic, ginger, lemon peel and any other spices you like. Once soften remove from heat and leave to sit.

Once the vegetables are cooked, return the onion pot to the heat and add the roasted vegetables with enough stock to just about cover and the juice of a whole lemon. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer for a few minutes then purée.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream or spiced yoghurt.

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Meet Charlie, the latest addition to our flat. With him he has brought bread recipes, plans for ice cream making and biscuit baking. This is a good place to live. Here, he kneads hazelnut and walnut bread. I’ve written about fruit bread here before. I could write about fruit bread several times over; there are many moments and words for fruit bread. But now I turn to nut bread: savoury dough wrapped around hazelnuts and walnuts. We do not want fine sprinkles of nuts here, the sort you would top icecream with, but whole nuts barely cracked under the blade of a knife or the heel of a hand so their sweet oil perfumes the bread.

Charlie and I first made this bread several months ago, well before he parked his motorbike out front and claimed the downstairs room. We thought we both have a similar approach to cooking (a sort of wing it and hope approach): we should cook together.Work schedules forced our cooking date to late afternoon. Soup, we decided, and bread, were appropriate at this hour; light and warming for an early supper. We roasted mushrooms and pumpkin, the dark wrinkly undersides of the mushrooms becoming more rich and velvet like in the oven. Charlie made a broth of stock, herbs from our garden, carrot, red onion and a half head of garlic. It was all very pleasant – a slowly simmering broth on the stove, vegetables roasting, the pumpkin almost caramelising, while Charlie and I drank coffee and talked cocktails. (Charlie is a bartender by night, at this fine establishment. He is a good person to know.)The soup was everything good soups should be, but it is the bread I wanted to share. Charlie began making the bread earlier in the day, transporting the rising loaf in a big courier bag. It’s a nut bread he said, hazelnuts and walnuts. It’s also, he confessed, an Australian Masterchef recipe. We don’t discriminate when it comes to good bread, though. He became animated as he spoke, more than he usually is. In the oven, under the baking bread, he told me, is an oven tray with a few ice cubes, and as the ice melts it creates steam so the bread gets a good crust. It should be kick-ass good is what I believe he said next.

As it turned out, this bread needed a bit more tweaking. But there were good things going on here: it’s sweet and salty and when the nuts are still warm from the oven they are silky and smooth. The wholemeal flour is nubbly and more satisfying than regular white, something to sink your teeth in to.

The bread is perfect for soup as the nuts add a richness that negates the need for butter. Though, as a lover of butter, I slathered some on for good measure. This bread is versatile and easy enough for butter and jam, perhaps toasted and dunked in coffee. It could hold more oil and be rubbed in dukkah. It would make a fine sandwich, pehaps with hot mustards and smoky cured meats.Last week we made this bread again, determined to get it right this time. We did. It rose perfectly in the way that yeasted dough does – with a slight spring beneath your teeth and the tiniest of air pockets, but there remains a density. (Maybe Charlie would like to explore sourdough starters…?) The nuts spread throughout and when sliced, slivers of walnuts and cross-cuts of round hazelnuts form strata in the bread. And the crust really was kick-ass good.

Hazelnut and Walnut Bread

Adapted from here. One hour before baking pre-heat oven to 220°C.

200 grams wholemeal flour
200 grams plain flour
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons dried active yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
335ml lukewarm water
75 grams hazelnuts, lightly crushed
75 grams walnuts, lightly crushed

Mix the flours and salt in a large bowl. Fill a small bowl with 100ml of the lukewarm water and stir in the sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and leave in a warm place for 10-15 minutes or until frothy. Make a well in the centre of the flours then add the yeast mixture and the remaining lukewarm water. Mix well with your hands until a dough forms. Add more water, a teaspoon at a time, if mixture is too dry or more flour if too wet. Clean the bowl with the dough then turn dough onto a floured surface.

Knead dough for 5-10 minutes or until dough is smooth and the ‘skin’ begins to tear. Push dough into a large rectangle and sprinkle with the nuts. Roll together and knead a few more times until the nuts are spread throughout the dough.

Place dough back in the bowl and leave, covered, in a warm place for 1 hour. Every 20 minutes knock back the dough by rolling it away from you with 5 to 6 strokes. After an hour knead the dough again for a few minutes and shape into a loaf. Place loaf on a greased and lined baking tray. Cover the baking tray and leave in warm place for 1 to 1.5 hours until doubled in bulk. Pre-heat the oven to 220°C at this stage.

Once doubled in bulk make 3 slashes in the top of the loaf with a sharp or serrated knife and place in the oven. Throw a half dozen ice cubes in an oven tray and quickly place underneath the bread or at the bottom of the oven. Immediately turn oven down to 200°C and bake for 25 minutes. Set oven door ajar with a wooden spoon and bake for another 5 minutes to dry the bread out.

A vegetable drawer clean out prompted this soup; a stray spring onion, a half leek, spinach just shy of becoming limp. It was late when I began cooking, nearly 9 o’clock, and the slow steaming of leek and onions sounded so appealing. My soups very rarely follow a recipe. I go by ingredients on hand and a desire for texture and consistency; thick and creamy, or more of a thin broth.

This soup is of the broth variety with sweet cubes of kumara* and thick strips of spinach. The leek, spring onion and brown onion were cooked slowly to retain their soft green colour and gentle flavour. Red and golden kumara were simmered with the onions and chicken stock until just cooked and slightly toothsome. I tossed in half a bay leaf and a few sprigs of thyme, adding a depth of flavour to the chicken stock. A final grating of ginger cut through the richness of the stock. This very subtle heat sits snugly at the back of your mouth, a reminder that there is goodness here.

For a an extra flourish I made a yoghurt sauce with a squeeze of lemon juice, ground cumin and parsley. This could add a finishing touch to so many dishes – curries and vegetable stews, baked potatoes, a dipping sauce for vegetable crudités, even other soups of the classical sort. A swirl of this fresh yoghurt through pumpkin or roasted mushroom soup would be refreshing. Feel free to change the herb, or the spice for something more mellow, or more upbeat.

Not bad for a fridge raid supper.

Sweet Onion, Kumara and Spinach Soup
Soups are such a lovely thing to make; once you have the basic formula you can change the ingredients and quantities as you please. I like a soup that seems to stradle the lines between soup and stew but you could puree it once cooked for something most definitely in the soup camp. Like I said, I don’t really follow a recipe so the words below are more of a general guide.

Oh and, * kumara is sweet potato for all non-kiwi readers.

a knob of butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium brown onion
1-2 spring onions
3 cloves garlic
1/2 to a whole leek
3-5 kumara, red, golden or brown
chicken or vegetable stock, 500-750ml, heated
thyme sprigs, bay leaf
a thumb sized piece of ginger
a large handful or two of spinach

In a large pot heat the butter and oil over low-medium heat. Slice the leek and the onions into half rounds then into thin strips. Add to butter and oil and stir to coat. Slice the spring onion into thin rounds and add to pot. Finely dice the garlic and add to onions. Cook slowly until soft.

Dice kumara into 1-2cm cubes and add to the onions. Cover the pot and cook the kumara for a few minutes. Add the stock until barely covering the vegetables. Throw in the herbs and grate half the ginger into the soup. Place the rest of the ginger whole into the pot. Bring to the boil and simmer until the kumara is just cooked. (This will depend how finely diced the kumara is so keep checking, maybe 10-15 minutes.) Roughly chop the spinach and stir through the soup until just wilted. Remove from heat.

For the yoghurt sauce mix 4 tablespoons yoghurt, a few leaves of finely chopped parsley, a squeeze of lemon juice, a couple of pinches salt and a half teaspoon of cumin. Stir well.

Dollop a generous spoonful on top of the soup and serve with crusty bread.