Archive for the ‘soup’ Category

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A paean to the pea

July 6, 2010

Regular visitors to this blog will know that I am an avid fan of the legume (see here, here, here and here, just for a few examples).

And those of us who love the legume have good reason. The Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition points out here that a diet high in legumes, indeed, is “the most protective dietary predictor of survival amongst the elderly, regardless of their ethnicity.”

This same study goes on to report that:

“the significance of legumes persisted even after controlling for age at enrolment (in 5-year intervals), gender, and smoking. Legumes have been associated with long-lived food cultures such as the Japanese (soy, tofu, natto, miso), the Swedes (brown beans, peas), and the Mediterranean people (lentils, chickpeas, white beans).”

Given all this and the fact that my (cough) birthday is around the corner, I think the time is right to declare my adoration for the humble frozen pea.

What’s not to love about this little green baby? It’s virtually instant food, packed with nutritional goodness (unlike soggy, sodden canned ones – ugh), and so versatile. Chuck half a cupful into soups and curries, mash them up with a little with olive oil and prawns in linguine,  puree with roasted garlic to serve under pan-fried fish, mix steamed peas with chopped bacon or pancetta,  mash peas with some pecorino and olive oil (and broad beans!) and pepper to serve on toast.

I know you legume-lovers must have your own ideas of pea perfection, so do share … Meanwhile, here is a very simple minted pea and lettuce soup I made on the weekend. The flavour is sweet and fresh, the texture velvety, the colour is gorgeous and (perhaps because the pea, I believe, is a complex carbohydrate?)  this soup is surprisingly filling.

Minted pea soup

Serves 4-6

  • olive oil
  • 1 leek, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 baby cos lettuce, thoroughly washed & roughly chopped
  • 400-500g frozen peas
  • pinch sugar
  • 1½ cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
  • ½ bunch mint
  • salt & pepper
  • dash cream, to serve
  1. Sauté leek &  garlic till soft.
  2. Add shredded lettuce & peas to the pan with sugar and a little of the stock.
  3. When lettuce and peas are soft, remove to a food processor and puree till smooth, adding mint and as much stock as needed for a smooth mixture.
  4. Return mixture to pan and gradually add the remainder of the stock until the soup is the thickness you like (as water if still too thick) and season to taste.
  5. To serve, add a spoonful of cream to the base of each bowl, then add the soup and swirl cream through.

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A fine kettle of fish

May 23, 2010

Sunday lunch in winter is a very fine thing, and a big pot of shellfish stew has gotta be up there as one of the easiest ways to make it happen. I don’t think I’ve ever made a proper bouillabaisse according to a recipe, but over the years various versions of this fishy number have made their way to our table.

Great for a crowd or just few, as we discovered today it must also be one of the easiest meals to take to someone else’s place – just make the stock base at home, stick it in a container, then throw it in a pot with the seafood five minutes before you’re ready to eat. The prawn stock is the important bit. This quantity makes a hefty bowl for four.

Ingredients

  • 12 large prawns
  • 1 small fennel bulb, roughly chopped
  • 1 leek, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 stick celery, chopped
  • splosh white wine
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 3 strips orange peel
  • few threads saffron
  • pinch dried chilli flakes
  • ½ kg black mussels, cleaned
  • ½ kg perch or other firm white fish, cut into 4cm chunks
  • 1 blue swimmer crab, cleaned & quartered
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  1. Peel & devein prawns, leaving tails on and setting aside the shells & heads.
  2. Heat oil & toss in shells & heads, stirring over high heat till pink, then add leek, fennel, garlic & celery and stir till softened & starting to caramelise.
  3. Deglaze with the wine, then add stock.
  4. Remove as much of the prawn shells & heads as much as you can using tongs – but if a bit of leg or shell remains, what’s a smidge of crunchy crustacean between friends?
  5. Add tomatoes, saffron, orange peel & chilli flakes. Bring to the boil and simmer for around 30 minutes.
  6. A few minutes before you’re ready to eat, add the fish and cleaned seafood and turn the heat to low or even off.
  7. Check for seasoning, serve in big bowls with a drizzle of olive oil.

Make sure you have some great bread for dunking. Today our family from the beachside burbs provided some incredibly good sourdough baguette from Iggy’s Bread in Bronte – I’d never heard of this guy before today, but he’s obviously the business.

And if you have any other fishy stewy recommendations or ideas for giving this version some extra zing (a la a splash of Pernod), I’m all ears…

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Reducing your waste line

June 21, 2009

foodwasteAustralians, I am told, throw away three million tonnes of food each year, averaging 145kg of discarded food for every man, woman and child.

And Sydneysiders are apparently the worst offenders – half of our weekly domestic garbage is food. While so many people in the world have no food at all, we throw half of ours away. Obscene. And not just because of the sheer wastefulness of it, but the environmental impact – disastrous levels of methane, a damaging greenhouse gas, arise from all this organic matter going into landfill.

I must admit I’ve been less watchful of this than I should be, and have used the fact that we have a worm farm rather too nonchalantly when it comes to disposal of unused food.

Senor, on the other hand, has always been a vigilante in this area, using my regular Monday evening absence from home to act as a kind of weekly fridge bottom-feeder, eating leftovers and concocting some often rather unusual dinners for one (corn cobs and curry sauce with a mayonnaise & raspberry coulis chaser? Mmm-mm! Just another instance of the usefulness of his iron-clad stomach).

But I hereby declare a personal war on food waste. Last night, having spied a very weary eggplant in the bottom of the crisper, I rang the Empress for a tip or two, then made baba ganoush for the first time ever.  It was easy, pretty quick, and extremely good. And a perfectly usable whole eggplant was saved from the worms.

For other fridge scraps, I invoke the memory of my Aunty Pat, who stayed with me for a month or so many years ago. I worked near home, and would pop home for lunch. Every day there was some incredibly delicious soup she’d made from what I had seen as highly dubious scraps and nubs of past-it veg in the crisper. Occasionally it didn’t do to think of what some of that veg had looked like, but the soup was always amazing.

So, how do you reduce food waste?

There are a few websites devoted to this issue, containing lots of tips and tricks for preventing waste, but I have to say that anyone with half a brain could figure out a good proportion of them (‘freeze leftovers and reheat later’ and ‘keep vegetables in bags to keep fresh longer’ – ingenious!) And the Australian one is rather depressingly skewed towards the use of Tupperware, its major sponsor (no mention of the greenhouse gases produced by manufacture of plastic, of course). And lots of reader tips involve that apparently very popular practice of popping leftovers of all kinds into ice cube trays [“too much bouillabaisse? just pop excess into an ice cube tray for use as needed“], which I have always found amusing. How many ice cube trays does a person have??

The main advice, of course, is not to buy too much perishable food in the first place – sounds crazy, but apparently it works! And secondly, don’t cook too much food.

At the very least, get yourself a worm farm, if not a proper compost bin, so that unusable food scraps don’t go into landfill. We have a spanking new worm farm with two thousand head of worm, ready to chomp. We had to set our old worms free when the building work began, so are hoping our new batch are as ravenous as the old ones. All the advice is that worms won’t eat onions & garlic, but our old lot chowed down on them with relish, so fingers crossed that the newbies are similarly omnivorous.

Anyhoo, check out these sites; some of the readers’ tips are not bad, and quite a few are good for a laugh. However, I reckon we could get a much more interesting list going here.

1. Using up carrots: My first contribution will be ol’ Guillaume’s carrot puree, used to thicken his BB – I made too much, but have used it twice since, in thickening a chicken cacciatore and a lamb and pea mixture for a pie. Wherever a recipe calls for thickening with flour, chuck in your puree. You could even pop it into an ice cube tray to create easy-to-use individual portions!

2. Grow your own herbs: which means only using what you need. I’m forever throwing out half-bunches of parsley or thyme (I know, I should be freezing them into damn ice-cubes – but growing them is more pleasurable and aesthetically pleasing to boot).

Okay, now your turn. What do you do to reduce food waste?


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Winged victory – chicken brodo

June 18, 2009

brodoI have never been a big fan of chicken wings – too fiddly, greasy, just annoying, and for what?

But Ms Karen Martini (I only just thought recently what a killer name this is. How I would love to be called Charlotte Martini) has changed my mind, and found an excellent use for the delights of these tender moist little bits of flesh without the finger-licking tedium. Or at least, the tedious bit is only the cook’s job, not the diners’.

Here is Ms M’s chicken & vegetable brodo faithfully reproduced by some other braver recipe-sharing blogger  (the original is from KM’s second book Cooking at Home – buy it, it’s brilliant apart from way too many arty personal kitchen and/or new baby photos – why do people do that??), and below is my slightly altered version, replacing a few ingredients with whatever we had in the fridge. But the big debt is to KM.

Getting the flesh off the chook bones is the fiddliest bit, but from start to finish it took a bit over an hour, and was sooo delicious – was feeling a little off-colour with burgeoning headcold (swine flu?) yesterday arvo, but after a bowl of this stuff was bounding with good health.

I urge you to make this at least once in the next week – I promise it’ll cure what ails you!

Chicken & vegetable brodo, with thanks to KM

  • 1kg chicken wings (mine were organic from woolies, and cost six bucks. Bargain.)
  • 2 litres chicken stock
  • 1 leek, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, ditto
  • 1 small red chilli, split
  • 3 fronds silverbeet or cavolo nero – stems diced, leaf roughly chopped
  • 1 celery stick, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • ½ chorizo sausage, finely sliced (optional, can leave out)
  • ½ cup arborio rice
  • Small handful spaghetti, broken into 5cm sticks ( I acidentally used tube spag, but it was still fine)
  • 2 zucchini, sliced
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • Chopped parsley
  • Grated parmesan, to serve Read the rest of this entry ?
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Pancetta with a pulse: beany soupy stew

May 11, 2009

pancettaAs the Empress is fond of saying, “there’s nothing in life that can’t be improved by bacon”.  

I nominate pancetta as one of life’s essential ingredients – toss a few scraps through everything from steamed beans & peas, brussels sprouts, boiled taties. Throw it into pasta sauces of all kinds, wrap a chicken breast in it, throw a bit into stuffings of any kind (like the zucchini flowers), wrap a bit of salmon or a sardine in it, or go stuff a quail with it if you wanna get fancy. 

Tonight I made a beany stew adapted from Karen Martini’s delicious looking “Northern Italian olive mill soup” in yesterday’s Sunday Life mag. Hers was made with dried borlotti beans but I took the usual open-a-can route, and hers included radicchio and cavolo nero, whereas I just chucked in some silverbeet instead. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Pharmacy in a bowl – lentil soup

April 17, 2009

soup2

So, I have had a vile cold all week. And for three days I ate this, noon and night. And now I’m better. Only thing is, I think it needs a little zing at the end – some pistou, maybe? a round or two of grilled chorizo? Any other suggestions for good soup bling? (Hamish, where are you …)

Ingredients

Olive oil
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 small red chillies, finely chopped
1 brown onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
1 leek, finely chopped
¼ white cabbage, finely chopped
1 red capsicum, roughly chopped
3 carrots, roughly chopped
3 litres chicken stock
1 head broccoli, roughly chopped
1 can tomatoes in juice
1 cup French-style (‘blue’) lentils
Salt & pepper
Parmesan cheese, grated

Method
1. Fry the garlic, onion, chilli, celery, leek, cabbage, capsicum and carrots in batches until well browned.
2. Put the chicken stock in a big pot on the stove and bring to the boil, tossing in all the sautéed ingredients.
3. Add broccoli and tomatoes, and simmer till all vegetables are tender.
4. Retaining stock, remove vegetables with a slotted spoon and puree in a food processor or blender until smooth (or roughly blended, depending on how rustic you like your texture).
5. Return pureed vegetables to stock and add lentils. Simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes or until lentils are tender (more if you want them falling apart). Season well with salt and pepper.
6. Serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Or other bling…