Saturday, July 11, 2009

A bumper week

Two soups this weekend! Not a common occurrence for me at all.

Chicken Noodle Soup

This soup has been calling to me since I saw the recipe in the Herald a few weeks ago (23/6/09). Last night it came into being in our house. Not a typical soup for me it must be said. Delicious in it's own right, but delicious as a change of pace too. Interesting technique. I'd never made microwave stock before, it was easy, quick and tasty. My paste didn't really turn out particularly pasty, and I didn't put a full tablespoon of pepper in, as that seemed a bit much. Otherwise I think I followed the recipe pretty faithfully (also unusual for me). It didn't really make a large amount, three ravenous adults and a picky child all but finished it off. So with no leftovers it gave me a perfect excuse to make a second soup....

Yesterday I made Spinach and Pea Soup, from my new Country Women's Association Soups and Stews book. A rather intriguing publication. This book was published as a fundraiser for a rural postgraduate nursing scholarship, and has a sister volume called Cakes that I haven't seen yet. This book is a comilation of recipes submitted by active CWA members. One is even a Nola Treloar from Tasmania! Soup genes must be genetic.

There are certainly plenty of novel soups here. Some I'm very keen to try, and others I know I'll never try such as Sheep's Head Broth and the Oxtail Soup made with Kangaroo tail instead. Others are definitely more appealing such as the Curried Cream of Carrot which uses indian spices and coconut milk, along with some parsnips, Hearty Pea Soup made with split yellow peas, and the intriguing sounding Velvet Soup, a combination of root vegetables and cream. One of the more unusual soups is a Cream of Cheese Soup, which includes two teaspoons of Vegemite! I'm sure it would be a hit with my vegemite and cheese loving 8 year old. I make far fewer stews than I do soups, but the Lamb Stew with Pumpkin Dumplings sounds good too. Lots of interesting recipes to ponder here.

I was attracted to the Spinach and Pea Soup because of the fantastic almost iridescent green in the photo. I usually find green soups disappointing in the way their colour turns out, I generally end up with some sort of murky, drab olive dish-water green, rather than the fabulous vibrant green depicted in the food stylists photo. But no so this time! It's a very simple recipe, literally no more than frying an onion and boiling some frozen vegies, but it does give a delicious result. I didn't notice that the spinach was supposed to be thawed until I was typing the recipe here, so it works with adding frozen spinach. I of course added hot stock as you always should, as Nick Nairn taught me in Wild Harvest all those years ago. I didn't use any curry powder, but would be interested to try that some time (I'd add it at the end of the onion frying, I hate adding aromatics and not releasing the flavour, seems such a waste).

I doubled the recipe, and now have litres of fabulous green soup that I'm giving away, freezing for later, and slurping up with gusto. The first night we had it, I just did a little entree serve, it is actually a bit thick for drinking directly out of a cup, and was better tonight, with a bigger serving in a bowl, and some chunky toast with Danish butter.

Spinach and Pea Soup
Carol Clay, Pakenham Branch, Vic

2 tblsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
500g frozen spinach, thawed
500g frozen peas
1 litre chicken stock
salt, pepper and curry powder to taste

Heat oil and saute onion until clear. Add remaining ingredients and simmer til soft (about 10 minutes)

Puree soup until smooth, season again if needed, and reheat to serve.

Serves 4-6

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Red Lentil and Tomato Soup

I didn't get to making soup last week, the planets weren't aligned, or I just couldn't be bothered, or something.

For the last few weeks I've been salivating at the thought of the Chicken Noodle Soup in the Good Living a few weeks ago. I was planning to make it last weekend, but the weather has taken a definite turner for the worse, and it didn't seem quite right for the bitter cold we are experiencing. So this week I turned to a recent Sanitarium recipe from the Sunday paper. Red Lentil and Tomato Soup. It's a workable soup, ok, not fantastic I thought, and not one that will make it into my regulars. Still nice for a change.

Of course, as usual I can't help myself but to tinker at the edges of the recipe. It didn't look particularly red in the early stages of cooking so I added a sachet of tomato paste to help it along. And I just discovered we have a whole stack of feta (High Valley Tomato Feta from a recent trip to Mudgee) that needs to be used up in the next week, so I put some feta on top. Of course you can't eat soup without bread, this weeks bread was some we hadn't tried before- Pane Toscano Panini from Coles. A big hit with the junior bread critic. "Can we have these every time?"

My effort

The food styled version

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Cream of Fennel and Leek Soup

A bit of a disapointing soup to kick off this blog. But, it's what I made this week. I bought the book that this recipe came from a week or so ago. A $10 book from Big W. It has some recipes that have appeared in other books, but enough new recipes for me to buy it. It doesn't take much for me to buy a new soup book of course. I have managed to buy one soup book three times now....

Last week I made the Caramelized Onion and Parsnip Soup (p153), and this week the Cream of Fennel and Leek Soup. I don't eat fennel all that often, and had never cooked with it at home, so I'm not sure why I was so keen to try this soup, but it was definitely calling me. I had to make it.

Fennel can be a bit tricky to use when you haven't used it before. Half way through chopping 4 bulbs of fennel I became vaguely anxious about which bits I should be using. Google came to my aid of course. There are lots of interesting fennel pages, seems I'm not alone in my minor fennel anxiety. I looked at a couple of pages and decided due to my fennel inexperience to not use the green stalks or fronds. I was also planning to have my 8 year old eat this creation, he's pretty good with soup, but had never been exposed to fennel and I thought it best to go easy. I do of course bribe him with nice bread and Danish butter every week, but you never know.

I was somewhat worried that this was going to be inedible when it was partially cooked. This soup has a very odd method, where the leek and fennel are briefly cooked (only 2-3 minutes according to the recipe) and the stock is simmered separately with some aromatics. I was worried about this method, but true to form I only read the recipe after I'd started in on making it, and already had bought up big to make a double batch. I had leeks and fennel bulbs everywhere. No turning back.

Cream of Fennel and Leek Soup
Serves 6

30g (1oz) butter
2 large fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
2 leeks, thinly sliced
1 litre hot vegetable or chicken stock
2 rosemary sprigs
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
80g (1/3 cup) sour cream
25g (1/4 cup) finely grated parmesan cheese
1tblsp oil
1 leek, extra, cut in half lengthways, and cut into 4 cm lengths
grated parmesan cheese, extra, to garnish
sour cream, extra to garnish

1 Heat the butter in a large heavy-based saucepan and add the sliced fennel and leek. Cook, covered, over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2 Put the hot stock, rosemary sprigs and nutmeg in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes, then remove the rosemary sprigs and add the fennel and leek mixture to the pan.

3. Transfer the soup to a blender or food processor and blend in batches until smooth. Return to the pan and stir in the sour cream and parmesan. Reheat over medium heat until hot. Season to taste and keep warm.

4. Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the extra leek for 2-3 minutes, or until soft but not browned.

5. Top with the fried leek and garnish with the extra parmesan and sour cream. Serve immediately.

My variations.
I am incapable of making a recipe without modifying it. I presume that most people are.
I of course used freshly grated nutmeg, as the preground stuff shouldn't be used.
Because I was making a double mix I had to put the leek and fennel into my large soup pot. It took much longer than 2-3 minutes to cook. I then had to tip the stock into the vegetable mixture.
I usually use an immersion blender for my soups, but had to fire the real blender up for this one. I think because the vegetables weren't really well cooked as they normally would be in a soup, the immersion blender just wasn't up to the job, and the texture wasn't pleasing at all.
I didn't use extra sour cream as garnish. Just the cooked leek, extra parmesan, and a sprinkling of nutmeg as suggested by the photo in the book, but not included in the recipe.
My son adores cheese, he loved sprinkling on parmesan (his current favourite cheese) and needed extra parmesan half way through his bowl.

My version

How a food stylist and professional photographer made it look in the book