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
Autumn means comfort food. After all the salads and light meals throughout the hot summer our thoughts turn to casseroles, big bowls of pasta, thick velvety soups, risottos. I love this time of year. Finally, that blustery south easterly wind is blowing autumn to our shores. The nights are lengthening and the days are getting shorter. I would say this is definitely my favourite of the four seasons. I am not so keen on the rainy, windy, dark winter months but this time of year when the mornings and evenings are clear and crisp with just a hint of moisture in the air and the intense heat of the summer has disappeared to be replaced by deliciously cooler days filled with sunshine and blue skies is the time that I come into my own. I feel a renewed energy and my kitchen once again beckons me into it’s warmth and I create magic, comforting meals, steam rising in a delicious aromatic fog from the pots to envelope me. When my husband comes in from work in the evening he breathes deeply and appreciatively and settles down to tell me about his work day and ask about mine, our hands wrapped around a glass of red wine, the difficulties of the day slipping away while we chat or sit in companionable silence, sipping on our wine and enjoying the delicious meal that I prepared a bit earlier. I love a creamy risotto and could enjoy it often if I weren’t watching my carb intake but sometimes it just makes the perfect meal. Recently we have been able to purchase the most gorgeous exotic mushrooms here in South Africa and, after almost two years of not being able to eat them, I am loving them! These little babies come onto the shelves of our food stores courtesy of Nouvelle Mushrooms and are fabulous!
A couple of years ago I really got into cooking my own risottos and at the same time I also became rather keen on mild blue cheese after tasting some at a Simonsberg tasting. So, a few weeks ago, I decided to combine these wonderful ingredients and made the most deliciously creamy exotic mushroom and blue cheese risotto. I promised that I would post the recipe but then my computer started playing silly buggers and I had to wait. Anyway, my carnivore hubby asked again last night if I would make the risotto as we had picked up more mushrooms but unfortunately I did not have any arborio rice left….so instead it became a fantastic Meatless Monday meal.
CREAMY EXOTIC MUSHROOM AND BLUE CHEESE RISOTTO WITH WALNUTS
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Serves : 4
30ml Olive Oil
200g Exotic Mushrooms, wiped clean and the bigger ones chopped up
200g Baby Button Mushrooms wiped clean and thinly sliced
2 Medium sized Onions – peeled and finely chopped
2 Cloves of Garlic – peeled and finely chopped or grated
4 or 5 sprigs fresh Thyme – leaves only
500g Arborio Rice
180ml Dry White Wine
1 ½ Liters Chicken or Vegetable Stock *
30g Finely Grated Parmesan Cheese
150g Simonzola or other Blue Cheese
Freshly ground Black Pepper
15ml chopped fresh parsley
20g Walnuts – dry roasted in a pan and set aside, chop roughly when cool
*I love making my own stocks at home but if I don’t have any and time is short I only use my fave NoMU Fond product in Lamb, Beef, Chicken and Vegetable Flavours – this fabulous concentrated liquid stock product contains no artificial colourants, flavor enhancers or preservatives and are gluten-free!* WINNER!
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,