Lately I have been struggling to cook. When you cannot eat the food yourself you lose that passion to cook awesome meals. It has been 10 months now since I last ate and chewed my way through an ordinary every day meal….one that you take for granted until something happens and you find yourself spending your days longing for a piece of steak, or a slow roasted leg of lamb. Pork chops done in cider with cranberry would be delicious…..as would perfectly pink duck breast served with some awesome sticky citrus sauce or some yummy quince jelly. A delicious lemon and thyme roasted chicken would hit the spot right now. But instead my days are filled, in reality, with whatever smoothie I can make with the ingredients and fruit that I have on hand, or what soup I feel like sipping….I can manage soft stuff like flaky fish, well cooked finely minced beef or lamb, soft pasta, pureed or smashed veggies….in other words stuff that doesnt require any heavy duty masticating! As in chewing people before your minds start wandering off the subject here. So with the struggle to cook comes the struggle to blog…they go hand in hand. You passionately bake or cook something that looks drool worthy on the photos and sounds delicious reading through the ingredients….you will be passionate and proud to get it up on your blog. That just hasn’t been it for me in a while. So when I DO manage to do something delicious (even if it is the dreaded soup or a smoothie) I feel a bit of that old passion returning and it gives me hope to know that the fires are not entirely ashes….that some embers are warmly flickering inside there, just needing some little bit of life breathed into them to burst into flame again. I hope those embers can withstand another 7-9 months….I sometimes feel that I cannot, but I am only just over half way through my treatment program. Next surgical procedure happens mid May. And then I feel depression settling around me like a heavy, grey, dull, asphyxiating blanket. Almost like when that very thick peasouper of a fog comes rolling in off the icy ocean to settle in the valley where I live….Above the valley the sun is shining…..2 miles out of town the sun is shining and everyone is having a wonderful day….while in the valley we feel only the damp dankness of the fog. We see no shining sun….we believe that the rest of the city is shrouded in the same wet blanket. I constantly remind myself, daily, that I will not look beyond THIS day…..
Well, on THIS day I decided to make a new soup – not new in the sense of us never having eaten it before but new in the sense that I have never made this one before. At the end of last week I was at the Food Lovers Market and they had some beautifully fresh crisp green asparagus spears there so I bought almost 1kg of them with the intention of using them in a number of different ways. Needless to say they came in very handy for the soup that I made today – a creamy delicious green asparagus soup that has left me with a warm full belly and enough passion to do a blog post immediately! YAAY! And there is enough left over for 2 more helpings! Last week I made some stunning roasted butternut, sweet potato and apple soup. So very good….and I have about 5 portions left in the freezer for when I want some. Tomorrow I am making my Cold and Flu Busting Chicken Noodle Soup because yes…….I am fighting this head cold which seems to be winning at the moment. I cannot afford to be ill right now. I am into the final run of planning for the SA Food and Wine Blogger Indaba and it is taking up all my time and energy. Can not be in bed with a thick head now with so much to do. The pressure is on and I have to get the booking open this week.
So for now……..here is my recipe….I stood with paper and pencil next to me as I worked and wrote down what I was doing so that I could put the recipe up here. And it turned out really delicious.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Cut tips from the asparagus (about 3cm from top) and reserve for garnish. Chop the remaining asparagus stalks up into 3cm pieces and set aside
Place large saucepan over medium heat, add the olive oil, butter, onion, leeks and garlic and sauté for about five minutes, stirring often, until onion is limp and translucent
Add the asparagus pieces and the thyme and saute for another 5 minutes
Pour in the hot stock and bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer, with the lid on, for about 15 minutes until the asparagus pieces are tender
Take off the heat, cool slightly
While the soup is cooling bring about 500ml water to a rolling ball in a small saucepan with a good pinch of salt
Add the reserved asparagus tips and boil for about 3 minutes just until done. Refresh immediately in some icy cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside until needed.
Add the chopped parsley, zest and juice of the lemon to the slightly cooled soup and blend until smooth with a stick blender or food processor
Return to the saucepan, add the cream or crème fraiche (if using) and the parmesan cheese. Season to taste and stir over heat just until heated through
Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a few asparagus tips and some extra parmesan cheese
Later this week I will be my making my families favourite broccoli and feta soup (YUM!) and then my Spicy Carrot Honey and Ginger Soup will follow….also fabulously warming and healing. I DO love the cooler weather!
Have a great new week everyone. Its a short one again for us in South Africa….and another short one next week too. Brownieboy is taking a day or two off in between and has a about a week or so off work. He needs it badly as he is suffering with a bit of stress and exhaustion, so the time off is going to be good for him!
Soup! That magical stuff that happens when you throw a whole lot of ingredients into one large saucepan and let it bubble away for a while. Soup….that warming mug of magic that steams up your glasses when you take a sip and puts some sunshine back into a cold blustery wet winters day. Soup….that sustaining love meal that fills up hungry bellies of homeless people all over the world. I love soup, fortunate that….seeing as I have been pretty much living on it for the past 6 weeks, and fortunate too that some bitterly cold weather has decided to make an appearance! I have made soup in so many flavours lately….butternut and orange, creamy roasted tomato and basil, leek and potato, biltong and white bean (tooooo yummy!!! Will post that one too soon), veggie, pea and ham, bean and smoked bacon….the list is endless. And then there is my very favourite….Broccoli, Parmesan and Feta Soup which I am choosing to share with you here today. This soup is quite forgiving and the last lot that I made a couple of days ago I also added a little pack of small zucchini that was sitting in the crisper in my fridge waiting patiently for me to do something with. Some members of my family don’t really enjoy soup as much as I do….my hubby eats some of it with decidedly looooong teeth, especially the vegetable soup with lentils and dried beans, barley etc in it I also have a sister in law who calls that missile soup…or is it bullet soup now???? I think I inherited my love for the beautiful stuff from my mom who thought a bowl of soup a meal fit for a queen!! But I have to say…..after 6 weeks of a liquid diet I am starting to feel the strong desire for a beautiful piece of medium to rare barbecued steak…*sigh* I guess the day will come eventually! The plus side to this enforced way of eating is that I have shrunk ever so slightly….I guess that, if I didnt include the jelly and custard every night, I would shrink a bit more…LOL! So here then is my version of broccoli soup….I’m sure you will keep coming back for more…it also freezes well (without the feta) and I have little ziploc baggies with single portions in one whole section of my freezer!!
BROCCOLI PARMESAN AND FETA SOUP
Serves 4 as a main meal or 6 as starters
30ml Olive Oil
750g Broccoli – rinsed then broken into florets (use the stems too)
2 Medium Onions – roughly chopped
2 Granny Smith Apples – peeled, cored and chopped
3 Garlic cloves – finely sliced
Few sprigs of Thyme – leaves only
1 ½ liters Boiling Water
30ml NoMU Chicken Fond (use veg stock for a vegetarian option)
60ml Dry Sherry (optional)
5ml Freshly grated Nutmeg
Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to taste
20g Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
200 g Feta Cheese – crumbled
Finely chopped fresh Parsley
1. Melt butter and oil together in large deep heavy bottomed saucepan
2. Saute the onion and thyme gently until glazed and transparent
3. Stir in the broccoli, apple and garlic so that all is coated with the butter
4. Cover, lower the heat and steam for about 10 minutes
5. Add the stock, milk, nutmeg and pepper
6. Bring to the boil, reduce heat, cover with the lid at an angle and simmer for about 20-30 minutes
7. Remove from heat, liquidize with a hand held stick blender in the saucepan (or cool down slightly and use a food blender)
8. Return to heat, add parmesan cheese and sherry (if using) and heat through well but don’t boil
9. Serve with crumbled feta cheese, croutons and a sprinkling of parsley on top
browniegirl tip: An Italian friend taught me never to throw away the leftover rind (heel) of the parmesan cheese when you cannot grate anymore off. Pop into freezer bags and freeze until needed. When making soup pop one intop the saucepan with the stock. It adds a wonderful flavor to the soup. Discard the parmesan heel before blending.
I do not add salt to this soup while cooking as the feta is quite salty. Rather season once you have tasted your soup with the feta added.
Have a great week everyone,