Mushrooms! One of my absolute favourite ingredients to cook with. They are so versatile and there is so much that you can do with them. For the two years that I was undergoing my reconstructive surgeries I was unable to eat anything with a particular texture and mushrooms were just taboo…I did have some in bought cream of mushroom soup – most of it tasteless white stuff in a bowl or cup that I could not really identify with any mushroom….that deep earthy umami flavour was just missing and I longed for mushrooms, big brown ones stuffed with yummy delights and braaied outside over the coals, or delicious little marinated buttons that I could just pop in my mouth and taste the burst of flavour….whole baby mushrooms in a lively rich Boeuf Bourguignon or in a creamy beef stroganoff, or sliced porcinis and exotics in a delicious creamy mushroom and blue cheese risotto… ..Stir fried shiitake and exotics in an Asian Stir Fry! Oh I could go on and on! I have had my fill of mushrooms in all kinds of dishes since I have been able to eat them again these past 3 months or so and I am not tiring of them….last week, during the incredibly cold winter snap where the snow was falling on the surrounding mountains and we here at the coast were shivering in the bone biting accompanying wind and rain, I suddenly had the yearning to be holding a steaming bowl of homemade soup in my hands. I managed to get hold of my son who happened to be working locally that day and he went via the shop and bought me some fresh mushrooms and leeks and I set about picking thyme and parsley from the garden during a break in the rain. The aromas that filled the house were amazing. When hubby got back home from work he was very appreciative of the homely delicious smells that wafted out to meet him on the driveway. I put a phone pic up on facebook of my saucepan full of sauteeing mushrooms leeks, thyme and garlic and got a lot of reaction out of it with friends asking for the recipe.
Unfortunately with all the rain our telephone cables got wet, as they do, so I was without internet for the better part of the week and weekend. Today I was so excited to get onto my blog, it is a very welcome and bright sunshiny day and I have 3 loads of laundry flapping in the slight breeze! And here I am in the dashboard of my blog finally and hoping for enough time on the interwebs to be able to write up my recipe and publish it in time for Meatless Mondays…..
EASY MUSHROOM SOUP
Serves 4 as a main course or 6 as a starter
250g Fresh Portabello Mushrooms (or Portabellini) – wiped and sliced
250g Button Mushrooms – wiped and sliced (Keep 4-6 small mushrooms aside for later)
15g dried Porcini Mushrooms – roughly broken up and placed in a bowl
250ml Boiling Water – pour over the dried mushrooms and leave to soak while preparing the rest of the ingredients
4 Large Leeks – finely sliced and washed well to remove any sand
2 cloves garlic – peeled and finely sliced
10 Sprigs Fresh Thyme – leaves stripped off and twigs discarded
50ml Olive Oil
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1,5liters Chicken or Vegetable Stock
1 Cup fresh flat-leaf parsley – washed and chopped (keep 5ml for garnishing later)
1 lemon – finely grated zest and juice
Extra Virgin Olive Oil to drizzle on soup when serving
Place a large saucepan on medium heat, add the olive oil and butter, then add your leeks. Saute until leeks are limp
Add the sliced fresh mushrooms and the garlic and thyme and sauté until the liquid from the mushrooms is almost evaporated
Strain the soaking liquid from the dried porcini mushrooms, add the mushrooms to the pan and add the liquid from them to the pan as well, being careful not to add the last few drops as they usually have a bit of grit in them from the mushrooms
Add the stock and a good grinding of black pepper. Bring to the boil, cover partially and simmer gently for about 20 minutes
Remove from the heat and using a stick blender blend the soup in the saucepan until it is smooth (use a regular blender if you don’t have the stick blender)
Return soup to the heat, season to taste with salt and more pepper if needed and stir in the parsley (keep 5ml back for garnishing)
Finely grate the zest from the lemon and set aside then squeeze the juice into the soup
Stir through the mascarpone and season to taste. You want a good balance of salt, pepper, sour from the lemon, sweet creaminess from the mascarpone and the earthiness of the mushrooms
Using the last few whole mushrooms slice them thinly then add a knob of butter to a small frying pan and add the mushrooms together with a roughly bashed clove of garlic (I don’t even peel it just use as is)
Saute until the mushrooms are brown and crisp but not burnt. Discard the garlic and drain the mushroom slices on paper towel
Add 5ml finely chopped parsley and some finely grated lemon zest, black pepper and salt flakes to the mushrooms – mix together and set aside for garnishing the soup
Ladle hot soup into warmed soup bowls and sprinkle a bit of the mushroom mixture on top of the soup in each bowl
Drizzle a few drops of extra virgin olive oil onto each bowl and serve with crispy croutons or bread sticks
Soup weather! The rain pelts down in sheets, driven almost horizontal by a bitingly cold north westerly gale that howls around the eaves, battering the trees and my poor herb pots on the little patio outside. I huddle down under the blanket with my book and stare morosely out at the miserable spectacle and my thoughts turn to food. I don’t know about you but I always think of food when I am cold and then I become energized. Soup is what I need right now. I go to the kitchen and switch on the gas to boil water for a cup of warming rooibos tea and check out the contents of the fridge and vegetable basket. I come up with a head of cauliflower, garlic, onions and some delicious orange sweet potatoes that I bought the day before on a visit to a food market. Could I use them together in a soup? I pick up my smartphone and ask Mrs Google’s advice….and it turns out that yes, it has been done by many others before me. So I draw some inspiration from this one by Allyson Kramer (Manifest Vegan) that stands out from the rest because it contains Garam Masala…and I love adding spice to my food!
As soon as there was a slight break in the rain I rushed outside with my kitchen scissors and picked a handful of thyme and Italian parsley and headed to the kitchen to cook! Using Allyson’s basic recipe as inspiration I pimped to my heart’s content and came up with one of the most delicious soups I have made in a while. Roasting the cauliflower and sweet potato brings out a wonderful depth of flavour and mellows out the garlic, sweetening it in the process. This soup was totally sublime and my other half, who eats soup mostly with long teeth and trepidation, declared it a winner and said he would definitely eat it over and over again. Sweet soupy words to my ears because I love soup and will eat it at every opportunity. Being able to add another to the short list of his favourites is a grand thing for me!
Before I give you the recipe for this delicious soup let me give you one *tip that I always use….I read this somewhere years ago and I have used it so many times since then. Don’t ever throw out those rindy end bits of parmesan cheese when you can no longer grate any more cheese off them, you know that hard pale rind that has parmigiano reggiano stamped on it, rather put them into a ziploc baggie and freeze instead. When you are making soup pop one into your pot of soup and fish it out at the end of the cooking time before blending or serving. You don’t actually eat the rind. All it is doing is imparting the most wonderful flavour to the food. I have been known to do this when I roast a whole chicken as well, popping the “heel” into the cavity along with half a lemon and some fresh parsley or thyme sprigs and removing it before carving. You don’t need any more flavouring than that to give you a royal meal.
ROASTED SWEET POTATO AND CAULIFLOWER SOUP
(Serves 4 as a main meal or 6 – 8 as a starter)
1 large head cauliflower rinsed and cut into florets
4 large sweet potatoes – peeled and cut into 2,5cm cubes (mine were orange)
1 Head of Garlic – just the top sliced off
1 large onion – peeled and chopped
2 litres Vegetable Stock
Few sprigs of Fresh Thyme – leaves picked off and sprigs discarded
15ml Garam Masala (or use a bit less if you prefer)
2,5ml Nutmeg – finely grated
1 frozen Parmesan heel (see *tip above)
30ml Olive Oil (plus an extra 10ml for later use)
250ml Milk (I use 2% or low fat)
Handful Italian Parsley sprigs – finely chopped (makes about 30ml)
Parmesan shavings or Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese for serving
• Preheat oven to 200oC
• Place cauliflower florets in a single layer on one half of a large baking tray and the sweet potato cubes in one layer on the other half of the baking tray. Tuck the head of garlic in the middle somewhere
• Sprinkle the vegetables liberally with the Garam Masala and the nutmeg and then drizzle with the Olive Oil
• Roast uncovered for about 20 minutes until the edges of the sweet potato begin to caramelize slightly
• Meanwhile place the onion and thyme in a large saucepan, drizzle over a bit more olive oil (or add a knob of butter) then sauté over high heat for a minute or two until the onion is glazed and limp
• Remove the roasting tray from oven after the 20 minutes and scoop the sweet potato into the saucepan. Stir and continue sautéing it with the onions over a low heat.
• Give the cauliflower a quick shake and then return it (and the head of garlic) to the oven and reduce the oven temp to 180oC. Roast for another 10 minutes until the florets are nicely browned but still a bit crunchy. Remove from oven then squeeze the garlic cloves out of the skins into the saucepan with the onion. Discard the skins. Cover the cauliflower loosely with foil and set aside until needed
• Add the vegetable stock and the parmesan heel (rind) to the saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat then reduce heat, cover the saucepan with a lid at a slight angle and allow to boil gently for about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring now and again, until the veggies are soft and the parmesan has imparted its delicious flavour to the pot
• Remove the parmesan heel and discard then add half the cauliflower florets to the saucepan and blend the soup until velvety smooth. I use a stick blender in the saucepan but use any blender you have
• Return to the heat and stir through 250ml low fat or 2% milk and the remainder of the roasted cauliflower
• Stir through the finely chopped Italian parsley and add salt and pepper to taste
Serve with crusty nutty low GI bread and a little sprinkling of finely grated sharp mature cheddar or parmesan cheese shavings
I also like to stir a dollop of Greek Yoghurt through mine before serving
Despite the magnificent summery day in the Western Cape some parts of the country are starting to shiver and I have a few friends complaining of the symptoms of wintery chills, aching all over, sore throat, fever and the sniffles. Obviously time to haul out the old saucepan and make some delicious chicken soup. Do try a steaming bowl of this delicious comforting and warming soup, good for the body, good for the soul……it is packed with immune boosting ingredients and really does help to make you feel better.
According to university studies home made chicken soup reduces congestion and inflammation by limiting the movement of white blood cells that produce infection-related mucus. I do hope this will help you all over the upcoming winter months – it also works for those awful summer flu bouts too!
Browniegirl’s Cold & Flu Busting Chicken Soup
1 chicken breast or 4 drum sticks (skin on and bone in)
2 Large Onions – 1 skin on (washed well) cut in 1/4’s the other peeled & finely chopped
4 stalks Celery- washed and roughly chopped (with leaves too)
4 large Carrots – 3 roughly cup up 1 finely chopped
1 Turnip – peeled & roughly chopped
1 Large Parsnip – peeled & roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves – give 4 a thump to break slightly then peel & finely grate the other 2
Thumb sized piece of fresh Ginger – thumped to break slightly
1 tsp whole Black Peppercorns
1 tsp Whole Cloves
Few sprigs fresh Thyme
2 Bay Leaves
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 Chillies – seeded and finely chopped (use more if you can take the heat – it is good for the dreaded lurgy)
2 medium Tomatoes, peeled seeded and chopped
½ Lemon – juice and finely grated zest
Handful fresh Parsley – finely chopped
Handful fine pasta – alphabet pasta is good or use angel hair pasta broken up into little bits
Salt and pepper, to taste
Place chicken, unpeeled onion quarters, celery, 4 bruised garlic cloves, roughly cut carrots, turnip, parsnip, bay leaves, whole cloves, peppercorns, ginger & thyme into a large saucepan.
Fill with about 4 litres cold water. Bring to boil over high heat, then cover and reduce heat to medium. Simmer 1 hour until the chicken falls off the bone and the broth has reduced by about a quarter.
Strain through a sieve, keep the chicken and broth, discard all vegetables and herbs. Keep the broth or stock aside – skim off any fat that might gather on top
Place olive oil, finely sliced onions, carrots, chilli, minced garlic and some more sprigs of thyme into a large saucepan. Saute gently until the onion is limp
Add the reserved broth and tomatoes. Bring to rolling boil then reduce heat to medium. Cook until carrots are tender, about 20 minutes.
Remove skin and bones from chicken. Shred meat into bite-size pieces.
Add chicken & pasta to soup. Boil another 5 minutes until noodles are soft
Stir through the chopped parsley & lemon then turn off heat
Stir through 5ml Raw Honey
Season to taste and serve piping hot.
Stay in bed, keep yourself well hydrated and drink this soup a couple times a day.
Get better soon,
So it was national Soup Day in South Africa…well, if I look at the time that would be yesterday HAHA! Life is seriously fully taken up with the SA Food and Wine Blogger Indaba right now so I seem to be a little bit late with everything. Forgive me. Seeing as I am a soup fundi I thought that I would participate in the soup blogging thing but by the time I got here it was already midnight and the boat had slightly sailed out into the……. well…………..soup! But I thought I would share with you anyway, especially seeing as soup is what I have been existing on for the past year or so……. this one is especially good so hang in there!
On another note entirely, the beloved and I were invited tonight to share in the winter menu launch at one of my favourite venues. Remember that we went to the launch of the Harbour House Restaurant at the V&A Restaurant in November last year? Well they have done it again with the launch of their winter menu….you could not wish for a better venue, the food was superb and we had a fabulous evening in the company of some fabulous people and a roaring wood fire. I will be sharing about that in a future post but just wanted to say that this is the reason for this post being late….well partially that! I will blame the rest on Indaba and leave it at that……
So on to the soup of the day. I have been incredibly blessed since I started on this seemingly never ending journey of reconstructive oral surgery. I have wonderful neighbours…..and sometimes, when I have been unable to socialize with them, that is when I have been most blessed. I will suddenly get a text message on my mobile phone alerting me that a container of soup has been left at the garden gate. So out I go and collect the container and bring it in, opening it up to reveal a real labour of love. A couple of bowls of soup, made and given selflessly, in the true spirit of love and neighbourlyness. Is that a word??? If not, I just made it up. So I reiterate, I have wonderful neighbours. A while ago my one neighbour Mo dropped off a container of this soup for me. It was so sublime that I just had to wangle the recipe out of her. This recipe is hers, excepting for the chickpeas and smoked paprika which I added to it when I tested the soup for myself. Full of body and flavour this is a wonderfully fresh and filling soup. I have made it a couple of times since then and enjoy it more every time. I hope you try it for yourself. I am loving the cooler weather and so enjoying the soups that I am making at the moment. Not too much longer and I will be able to enjoy delicious chewy food once again. Just two more surgical procedures for this gal and then the foodie world is once again her oyster!!
TOMATO LENTIL AND CHICKPEA SOUP WITH BASIL AND PARMESAN
15ml Olive Oil
1 Onion – peeled and chopped
2 Cloves Garlic – peeled and crushed
125g Red Lentils
500g Roasted Tomatoes (I cut in half, drizzle with Olive oil, honey and Balsamic, fresh thyme or rosemary, black pepper and salt then roast for about 30 minutes at 200degC)
1 Can Chick Peas – drained and rinsed
900ml Vegetable Stock (I am personally very fond of NoMU Fonds )
50g Parmesan Cheese finely grated
Small handful of fresh basil leaves
Salt Flakes and Black Pepper for seasoning
Smoked Paprika for serving
Creme Fraiche and Olive Oil for serving
Heat oil in large saucepan and saute onions over medium low heat for about five minutes until they are soft and glazed
Add the garlic and saute another minute or so
Stir in the washed drained lentils
Roughly chop the roasted tomatoes and add to the saucepan. At this point I must add that you can use a tin of whole tinned tomatoes that you roughly chop if so desired
Add the boiling stock and bring back to a boil.. lower the heat and simmer for about 25 minutes until the lentils are soft and pale.
Add the drained rinsed chickpeas and simmer for a further 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and liquidize soup with a hand held blender
Return to heat to heat through, stir in half of the cheese and tear in the basil, reserving one or two sprigs for each plate
Add the salt and pepper to taste.
Ladle into soup bowls, add a drizzle of olive oil, some basil leaves, a sprinkling of smoked paprika and a bit of parmesan cheese
Serve with a swirl of creme fraiche (I personally serve it with a big dollop of Pesto Princess Basil Pesto for extra zingy yumminess!!)
This soup freezes well but before you add the basil leaves and parmesan cheese.
Have a wonderful weekend.
PS The countdown to FBI2012 has begun. Excitement is in the air and things are hotting up on the Indaba front. Keep your eyes peeled for some exciting happenings and competitions in the last couple of weeks before the conference. I have some incredible sponsors lined up, the goodie bags will be filled to capacity. My home is starting to look, yet again, like a warehouse and I love it! If you are in Cape Town and you have not booked for the Food and Wine Blogger Indaba on June 24 you will be missing out, big time. :) Rumour has it that something beautiful, desirable, shiny and red will be one of the giveaways this year….something that all home chefs and foodies aspire to….maybe even dream about! I wonder what it could be?
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!