Sunday, December 28, 2008

Carrot, Mint and Yoghurt soup

Sunday 1.20pm

I love carrots, I always have. They are so easy going and adaptable. Put them with just about any other other ingredient to make all sorts of dishes from salads and soups (of course) to a pudding. And they are available all year round, in our house even if the fridge is pretty well bare there is usually a carrot in there somewhere. But more than anything else I think it is the colour that I like. Orange. So orange that even in the depths of a dark Scottish winter you cannot help but be cheered up by a bowl of carrot soup. My favourite colour is green, the colour of nature, healing and growth, but I often sway to orange, the colour of enthusiasim, happiness and creativity (and independance I think). My youngest's favourite colour is orange and he is all of those things.

In a soup carrot has a lovely texture, not smooth but slightly rough, sort of porridgy perhaps. This soup is oniony with a hint of mint in the background from cooking the mint in from the beginning. You could get a fresher flavour by cooking the soup and adding the mint leaves just before serving.

- Slowly cook an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced, in enough olive oil to cover the bottom of your saucepan.
- Leave to cook slowly while you peel and chop the carrots, go out to the garden for some mint, slice the mint, and then what else? Oh yes wash up all the dishes left by the sink by my two teenagers who it seems don't "do" washing up. They'll learn ;-)
- Once the onions are translucent and turning gently honey coloured add in a couple of large carrots peeled and roughly chopped and a small handfull of mint leaves sliced up, I used about twelve.
- Bring up the heat and a.dd in a pint and a quarter of vegetable stock.
- Turn the heat down to a gentle boil and cook until the carrots are just soft enough to squash against the side of the pan with a wooden spoon.
- Allow to cool for a minute or two and then blend until smoothish.
- Pour back into the now washed out pan, adding a dessertspoonful of greek yoghurt and a little salt if you think it needs it.
- Reheat gently, trying not to let it boil in case the yoghurt curdles. I struggle with this, but always eat it anyway curdled or not !

Serve with another big splodge of creamy greek yoghurt.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Cherry and Cheshire cheese salad

Sunday 7.42pm

The month before Christmas is cherry season here in Hawkes Bay. Usually quite short, this year there seem to be lots of cherries about and with temperatures reaching 30 degrees centigrade lately it is definitely salad weather.

This simple salad is a combination of sweet cherries, dry cheese and soft bitter leaves such as mizuna, rocket, watercress and radicchio. I of course used a bag of salad leaves from the market as we have eaten most of our radicchio.
Great just with some bread as in the picture it would also go with roast duck or even a spicy chicken stir fry. The cherries are just halved to remove the stones and the cheese chopped up into chunks.

The dressing is a honey mustard dressing made with 5 tablespoons of olive oil to two of white wine vinegar. Pop these into a screw topped jar and add a teaspoon of honey and one of a wholegrain mustard. Grind in some salt and black pepper, pop the lid on and shake well to mix. Pour on just as you serve it.

The bread by the way was made by Nicola and has pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries in it.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Carrot, Ginger and Star Anise soup

Thursday 4.32pm

A lovely carrot soup with an asian influence.

- Gently saute in some peanut oil, - a chopped onion, clove of garlic, and piece of grated ginger root ( a couple of teaspoonfulls. - I grate it because I keep the root in the freezer and it is easy just to finely grate it from frozen )
- Once the onion is translucent add in two or three big carrot peeled and chopped into chunks.
- Pour in a pint and a half of chicken or vegetable soup, a smallish star anise and a dessertspoonful of Nam Pla (fish sauce)
- Bring the heat up to a gentle boil and cook until the carrots are cooked, twenty minutes or so.
- Allow to cool for a minute or so then take out the star anise and liquidise until smooth.
- Reheat in the washed out saucepan and add a squeeze of lime juice and a little salt if you think it needs it.

Serve with some finely sliced spring onions and more lime halves for people to sqeeze in themselves.

Oh and I made it to the accompanyment of Morcheeba - nice chilled music for a hot, relaxing day.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Courgette and Lemon soup

Sunday 5.30pm

It may be winter in most of the populated world, but here in the southern hemisphere it is 20 degrees centigrade, bright sunshine and now after a week of showers the courgettes are growing abundently huge in the garden.
So I make no apologies this, a light summery soup that would be great served chilled. Courgettes, lemon and thyme three things made for each other.

- Start with a small onion and a clove of garlic peeled, chopped and set to cook in some olive oil.
- Add in a big courgette and a potato chopped into chunks.
- Allow to fry for a minute or two then add a pint and a half of half strength vegetable stock ( I use Rapunzel ), and cook until soft, twenty minutes or less.
- Liquidise until very smooth.
- Reheat and add the juice and zest of half a lemon and a little salt and pepper if it needs it.
- Go carefully with the lemon zest because the flavour will intensify as the soup reheats.

Or chill, of course.

I served mine with a herb butter made with a handfull of young thyme leaves mashed into the same amount of butter with a little salt, but to be honest it didn't add anything to the soup. Next time I'll maybe add just the thyme leaves and some feta or philadelphia.

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

The best Rice Salad?

Saturday 1.52pm

Well actually I do not know because I have never made one before, but having been asked to provide one for a barbecue I had to have a go. Usually you would look up a few recipes, pick the nicest sounding ones and try them out first but it was the day of the barbecue by now and time was of the essence so I picked one of my favourite rice dishes ( a quick carrot and nut pilaff ) that I thought could be converted to a sort of Tabulleh inspired dish that would be good at room temperature.

The basic pilaff is made as follows ( for two people, I just quadrupled everything) :-

- Peel and chop an onion and a clove of garlic and set to cook gently in some olive oil
- Add in a carrot peeled and cut up into matchstick shaped pieces. You can grate it but I wanted pieces with a bit of crunch left in them after cooking.
- Add some spices, 1tsp cumin seeds, 2 tsp ground coriander seeds, 2 tsp black mustard seeds, and 4 cardammon pods.
- Let it cook through for a minute or so then add a cup of basmati rice.
- Give it another couple minutes, stirring the rice in, then add 2 cups of vegetable stock and a bayleaf.

Cook until the rice is just cooked.

If you add a cupfull of nuts, salt, pepper and some parsley, you get a lovely pilaff that is great served warm with leftover roast lamb and bread.

To make a salad I allowed the rice to cool down a bit then poured in some more olive oil, stirring until it loosened up a bit and glistened. Then added
- A cupfull of roughly chopped nuts - pistachios and almonds were nice
- And a big hand full of chopped coriander leaves (and stalks), parsley and chives
Now leave to sit so the flavours blend together and it comes to room temperature, adding more oil if neccessary if the rice gets too sticky.
And finally a squeeze of lemon juice just before serving cuts through the oil and adds a zingyness to the dish.

And the result? Well I don't know about anybody else but I liked it, and it certainly came out the way I hoped it would, spiced but not the usual curry powder and quite fresh tasting with all the herbs.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008


Sunday 10.03am

Sometimes all you need is one ingredient, cooked and served simply to allow all the nuances of the flavour to come through. Especially if you have spent the day over indulging on alcohol and snack food at a Christmas outing.

For me mushrooms does the trick. Any sort will do, sliced and fried in a little oil and butter until they just turn golden at the edges without being too soft. Served along with some lightly buttered toast the whole thing takes a few minutes to prepare and has an almost zen-like calmness and simplicity about it. Perfect.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Broad Bean and Sweet Potato Soup

Saturday 3.05pm

The broad beans are here still going strong, so how about a broad bean soup? Broad beans often have quite a floury texture when cooked and so do sweet potatoes so I have put them together in this mildly spiced soup.

- Put some olive oil on to heat gently and add in an onion, a clove of garlic and a piece of ginger root about the size of your thumb. All peeled and chopped as appropriate.
- While they cook gently peel and roughly chop half a sweet potato and pod about the same amount of beans.
- When the onions are translucent and beginning to turn golden pop in the beans, the potato and a teaspoon of ground cumin seeds.
- Stir around to mix everything, turning the heat up so that the potato begins to brown at the edges.
- Pour in a pint and a quarter of vegetable stock, lower the heat and leave to cook until the sweet potato is soft and can be squashed easily against the side of the pan with your wooden spoon.
- Liquidise it.
- Now broad beans have a sort of skin that comes off when cooked and will now be in little bits all through the soup. Whilst probably great for roughage I think best removed, so put a sieve over a bowl, pur in the soup and stir around with a wooden spoon to force the soup through leaving the bits behind.
- Add a squeeze of lemon juice and some salt and pepper if necessary, tasting it until it is right for you. (some ground black pepper never goes amiss in my book)
- Reheat and serve with lots of chopped coriander leaves.

Try serving this to someone who thinks they do not like broad beans, there are a few of them out there, then stand back and watch them change their minds!

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Minestrone soup

Friday 10.02am

Minestrone On the way back from The Round Pond yesterday we stopped to buy some strawberries and also some broad beans. the first beans to ripen in the year, you just know that Spring has properly arrived when they appear in the shops. And they are so pretty, encased as they are in their thick foamlike pods like the most precious and valuable jewellery. We were not quite sure what to do with them, especially as we were all in and out at different times tonight so Nicola suggested Minestrone soup, using whatever was in the fridge and some of the beans.

Minestrone is of course an Italian vegetable soup built upon whatever vegetables you have to hand, with a base of tomatoes and onions and thickened with pasta. The vegetables will vary but this is the version I made last night.

- Fry a large onion and a clove of garlic, both peeled and chopped slowly in some olive oil. - Meanwhile prepare the veg and add it to the pan. I used a couple of carrots, a courgette, and of course a couple of big handfulls of broad beans.
- Stir to mix it all and add a tin of tomatoes and some stock, I used chicken out of the fridge but vegetable from stock powder is fine. About a pint and a half, it will look quite thin but the pasta will soak a lot up later.
- Let the soup simmer until it is all cooked, about twenty minutes the carrots will take the longest.
- Add in a handfull of pasta, I like spaghetti (broken up).
- Let it cook until the spaghetti is tender, five/ten minutes I suppose I like Minestrone to be quite fresh tasting, so I try to cook it as little as possible and then as I reheat it to serve I add a few handfulls of fresh green herbs. this time it was a handfull of Oregano, a few soft Thyme shoots and a couple of handfulls of parsley both flat leaved and the other one (whatever it is called).

And to serve? Well parmesan of course if you want and although Nicola disagrees I think some bread with cumin seeds on top goes perfectly.

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Saturday, November 8, 2008


Saturday 11.05am

Muffins seem to have been the thing for the last few years, but having been brought up in Scotland what I like to make are scones. They are just as easy to make, can be sweet or savoury and if you started right now you could be eating warm scones in less than half an hour.

How? Well put 8oz of self raising flour in a mixing bowl along with a pinch of salt and 2oz of butter or margarine. Dip your fingertips in and rub your fingers and thumbs together, kind of smearing the butter between them mixing in the flour. Keep going until the mixture looks roughly like breadcrumbs. Now add any flavourings you fancy - a handfull of grated cheese, some nuts or chives perhaps or any type of fruit, chocolate even if that is your desire. My favourite at the moment is cheese and cumin seeds (about a teaspoonfull), the smell whilst cooking is just glorious.

Next pour in some milk and mix it all together until you get a sticky (but not runny) batter. I always use a knife for this. The amount of milk will vary with the flour, the wetness of your ingredients and the humidity at the time, so just play it by eye, adding more milk or flour as necessary. It is all pretty forgiving really.

Tip the batter onto a floured board and roll it out to half an inch or so in thickness. Now make some shapes - either one big round one scored into triangles or use a pastry cutter. Pop them into a hottish oven, 180 to 200 centigrade, and cook until pale brown on top - 10 minutes or less usually. They will not rise to the dizzy heights of a cafe scone or muffin ( but do I care? ) and will be a coarse-ish texture with a sort of dryness to them.

Bring the scones out of the oven, butter and eat them immediately. Then make some more.

Next day if there are any left - toast and butter them.

Oh and of course they go perfectly with any kind of homely soup - potato, mushroom, that sort of thing.

And talking of perfect - to my mind there is nothing more perfect than a cheese scone still warm from the oven, with butter, sliced tomato and a little salt.

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Freezer love

Sunday 5.53pm

Feeling out of sorts today and not keen to do anything, even cook which is unlike me. So lunch is some spiced pumpkin soup from the freezer along with some crunchy fresh chives from the garden and some undemanding reading.

I freeze all my leftover soup in big yogurt pots, usually in two person servings so it is easy to defrost something quickly for lunch or whatever. It is also an excellent way to transport soup to work for lunch especially if you cycle like I used to in my last job, no chance of spillage if your lunch is frozen and there is usually a bit of space in the top of the pot for any additions I fancy - cheese, chives, whatever. Unfortunately in my current job the staffroom is pretty well in the surgery and any cooking smells waft straight through, and as quiet comments have been made about the smell it is back to cheese sandwiches for me at the moment.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Cucumber soup

Sunday 8.48pm

The wind has turned southerly here and it cold, showery and blustery. Just the weather for a . . . . chilled soup. Well not actually but it was lovely and warm yesterday when the idea got stuck in my head so I'm making it anyway. I saw the recipe in a magazine a few weeks ago but cannot remember any of it except that the base was leeks and a potato (I think). The main ingredient is cucumber of course which can be eaten raw and so can be added right at the end so most of the work is in making a nice base that will set off the cucumber.

- Start by roughly chopping a leek and setting it to cook slowly in some olive oil.
- I served mine with a salsa made with a tomato, a couple of spring onions and a green chilli all chopped smallish and stirred together in a bowl with the juice of half a lemon, If you want to do the same do so now so the flavours get a chance to mix and blend while the soup is cooking.
- Once the leek is soft, peel and chop a small potato and add it to the leeks along with a pint and a quarter of vegetable stock and leave to simmer gently.
- Oh and save a little stock and use it to soak a big handful of ground almonds in a bowl as well for later.
- Peel and roughly chop a big cucumber.
- Once the potato is soft, mine took twenty minutes, take it off the heat.
- Put the ground almonds into a liquidiser along with a couple of ladlefuls of the soup. liquidise until smooth and then add the cucumber and the rest of the soup and continue to blend until smoothish.

Now I have never actually eaten a cold soup before and I have to admit I didn't this time either but it was certainly nice served warm along with some brown bread and butter.

The forecast for tomorrow is 19 degrees - back to Spring again!

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Thinking and learning

Thursday 8.22am

Have you ever watched a cat in a new home or a kitten venturing out for the first time? There will always be one that heads straight out of the door and disappears but most will explore their immediate surroundings thoroughly before venturing further. And when doing this they will constantly return to touch base, exploring it once more to refamiliarise themselves before venturing further. This of course is a method of learning, And having thought about it, it is the way I learn. And having thought further about it, I think it is a method that will work for anybody.

If you have read a few of my recipes (here on this blog of course and also more here) you will probably have noticed that they tend to follow a pattern. This basic recipe, based upon Nadine Abensur's Carrot and Almond soup from Cranks Fast Food, is my home ground, the place where I will go exploring from and where I always return to. To know this home ground thoroughly means understanding it. You have to know why you are adding a potato or why some things go in at the beginning and others at the end. To understand things I like to think about it until I can distill out the basic components, and with soup these boil down to just three things - the main ingredient, the base and the thickening.

Now perhaps I have read the wrong books, but most authors seem to assume that you know this stuff already, so as an exercise I have written a book myself exploring and explaining these ideas. And seeing as the whole world is out there, just a mouse click away I have published it as well. It has taken while to get it right but at long last it is, - you can download the whole book as a pdf file for free (either the same as the printed version if you have a fast connection and time to wait or a version with smaller pictures that will download faster) or order the printed version for just the cost of printing and postage.

Well that's my Christmas presents sorted, what's next?

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Carrot and Potato soup

Friday 10.12pm

Another simple soup, quite plain with the main ingredients grated for a crunchier texture.

- Peel and chop an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic along with a chopped slice of bacon ( unless you are vegetarian, in which case leave out the bacon)
- Fry them gently in a little olive oil and a quarter inch slice of butter - Meanwhile peel and grate 3 carrots and two potatoes
- Put these in the pan with the onions etc and stir about a bit for a couple of minutes
- Pour over two and a quarter pints of vegetable stock
- leave to simmer gently until everything is cooked, as the ingredients are grated this will not take long, fifteen minutes or so
- check for salt and pepper and add the juice of a small lemon before serving

I cooked this for the family dinner so I made twice my usual quantity, two pints of soup will feed 4 or five people. I had mine with some chopped chives from the garden and a big splodge of philadelphia cheese. Oh . . . . and some walnut bread of course.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mushroom and Coconut Soup

Tuesday 7.28pm

Back online again, and back with one of my favourite ingredients - mushrooms. As I have mentioned before Nicola does not eat the stalks of mushrooms, so I am occasionaly left with small boxes of them in the fridge. Using up left overs is a big driving force behind my cookery style, a leftover from my upbringing I think (think of the starving Africans!). So faced with mushroom stalks, what do I do, well make mushroom soup of course. And as my favourite addition at the moment is coconut milk, some of that will go in as well.

- Start with a small onion and a clove of garlic gently cooked in a little olive oil until transparent
- Add in the mushroom stalks, roughly chopped (I had about three handfulls), and leave to cook until all the liquid has evaporated.
- Stir in a dessertspoonfull of flour (plain or wholemeal) and allow to cook for a couple of minutes, stirring so it does not burn
- Add in a pint of vegetable stock and simmer until the mushrooms are cooked, say fifteen or twenty minutes
- Liquidise until smooth, return to the washed out saucepan and add about a third of a tin of coconut milk (100ml), to taste really
- Reheat and check for salt and pepper, I added a little black pepper.

I served mine with some thin strips of ginger root that I quickly fried until golden in a little oil. Carefull though because they can quickly burn.

To be honest the soup was ok, marscapone cheese would have been nicer I think than the coconut. The ginger was certainly a good idea, contrasting nicely with the creamyness of the soup.

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Please, just chat amongst yourselves . . . .

Unfortunately, because of this . . . . .

My computer has died . . . .

In the meantime I shall console myself with "an earthy meal-in-a-bowl type soup" from here

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Thai spiced Pumpkin and Kumara soup

Sunday 4.45pm

While waiting for Nicola to shop recently, I went to a cafe with my youngest so that he could have hot chocolate and chocolate cake (yes I know, but it was my day off from dentistry and anyway, chocolate is good for you). On the menu was a thai spiced pumpkin soup which sounded nice, but when I had some was a bit of a disappointment. It was firey a bit coconutty, but that was it really. Thai food has a flavour all of it's own and I would never say this was authentic but it is certainly more what I was expecting that day - coriander and lime along with that sherbet lemonyness from the lemongrass, all backed up with some fire from the chilli. 

- Put some oil in a pan and gently cook the following. One onion, 3 cloves of garlic, a thumb sized piece of ginger root, a red chilli and 1/2 a teaspoon of black pepper, all peeled if neccessary and roughly chopped.
- Meanwhile peel and chop a three inch piece of squash and a golden Kumara.
- Scrape out the onions etc into a bowl, add some more oil, turn up the heat and put in the pumpkin and kumara. Let them cook until the edges start to blacken, shuffling them about a bit occasionally with a wooden spoon.
- Return the onions etc to the pan, add in a pint and a quarter of vegetable stock, a couple of lime leaves, and some lemongrass. If you have the real thing I would go for 4 stalks (peeled and sliced) but I only had some ready prepared stuff so used a dessertspoonfull.
- Turn the heat down and leave to simmer until cooked.
- Liquidise the soup along with a big handfull of coriander.
- Return it all to the washed out saucepan along with a dessertspoon of fish sauce, the juice of a lime, a tin of coconut milk and if neccessary a little salt (or more lime juice or lemongrass . . . whatever you fancy really.)

Served with some feta and more coriander it was mildly spiced, the pumpkin flavour coming through along with a flouryness from the kumara (a potato would do the same job). I like quite a fragrant flavour, hence all the coriander but as I say, you can alter the spicing to what you like.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Chicken, Spinach and Bean soup

Sunday 8.59pm

Inspired I think by our new rustic wall cabinet I decided to make a more down to earth simple soup. This was the result. Now with only a few ingredients the quality of the stock will be important, so here is where a home made stock really comes into it's own. Vegetable or chicken would work fine, I used chicken made from the roast chicken carcass that the chicken for the soup came from.

- Start with a base made from a small onion, two cloves of garlic and a stick or two of celery, all chopped quite finely and cooked gently in some olive oil until soft and transparent but not coloured.
- You'll need a handfull of chicken later, I used left over roast chicken but if you start with a raw chicken breast then bring your stock to the boil now and pop in the chicken to cook -about ten minutes.
- Once the base is ready add in a tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed.
- Stir them around so they mix with the base, but gently because tinned beans are quite delicate and you don't want them to break up.
- Add in the stock - a pint and a quarter, and bring to a gentle boil. Again you don't want to boil too fiercely or the beans will turn to mush.
- Cook gently for fifteen to twenty minutes then add a handfull of cooked chicken and continue cooking for ten minutes or so until it is heated through.
- Check the seasoning, it may need a little salt. Some black pepper is always a good idea and finally a squeeze of lemon juice.

Spinach, especially baby spinach takes very little cooking so just tear up a few leaves, put them into the soup bowls and ladle the soup over. It will cook in the heat from the soup.

This soup has quite a simple taste so some bread with rosemary on top goes well along with some grated parmesan if you like.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008


Saturday 7.56pm

Sitting as I am on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, it shouldn't be a surprise really, but people in New Zealand love sushi. They eat it just as I would a bag of chips from a fish and chip shop. That is chips as in french fries not what I would call crisps or chippies here. Here sushi bars are everywhere but in Edinburgh I only remember one, on Rose street I think, and mesmerised as I was by the little conveyor belt that went round with the dishes on it I never actually ventured inside. I was a sushi virgin. But on the nineteenth of September at seven o'clock in the evening that all changed. In our family, on your birthday you get to choose what your birthday tea will be. And this year I chose sushi. Served up by Nicola and our youngest dressed in Kimonos I cannot say it was exactly a hit. As the only one in our family who actually like fish (fish fingers don't really count), this was not a complete surprise. 

So I ate most of the sushi. And it was strange and tasted of the sea. I can't say I disliked it but can't say I liked it either. But I'll be trying it again I think.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Not French onion soup

Saturday 8.20pm

Mention onion soup and French onion soup is what immediately springs to mind. Made with beef stock, wine and onions, and served with cheese on toast, it is a perfect winter soup. But I didnt want that. No, I wanted something a bit lighter, so this is my version - an onion soup but definetely not French.

- Three big onions are peeled and chopped into your favourite shape. I like to half them and then slice thinly so that I get long thin pieces in my soup.
- Set them to cook very slowly in a quarter inch slice of butter with a little bit of olive oil along with the leaves from a couple of sprigs of thyme, probably a dessertspoonfull or so. Don't forget the extractor fan as well.

This is the important step. The onions must be cooked softly and slowly until they caramelise, going soft and golden brown because this is where the flavour develops. It will take ages, at least half an hour - mine took a good three quarters, so find something else to do meantime. I browsed the internet looking for french onion soup pictures and stumbled upon this blog.

- gradually add a pint and a quarter of vegetable stock then bring to the boil and simmer gently for fifteen minutes or so until it tastes good. 

"et voila" sorry, I mean there it is, onion soup.

Rather than cheese on toast I served mine with some grated parmesan and some cashew nuts that I made into a sort of cream by liquidising a handfull with a little water, enough to make a paste. Apart than that all it needed was some black pepper, oh and brown bread of course.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

The tree of happiness

Friday 6.22pm

Nicola has tagged me with this meme - "The tree of happiness" I have to list six things that make me happy. She has also stipulated that they have to be food inspired. So, in no particular order they are . . . . 

1. Soup. Obviously. I liken it to painting, sketching really, with flavours.

2. Traditional cooking, old fasioned recipes that make the most of what you have, especially if they belong to the area you live in.

3. Seasonal ingredients. Although it is always nice to have green beans at Christmas I feel my body needs and expects certain things at certain times of the year.

4. Organic produce. We need to treat the world and the rest of its inhabitants with respect. The more organic produce I see the happier I am.

5. Cooking for other people. The whole thing, tiring as it is, from planning to preparing and serving. It is a good feeling to have fed four, five, six or more people succesfully and see them enjoying themselves. My first few Christmas and Sunday lunches I count as a big success in my life.

6. Lemon tart. My most favourite pudding ever, served with cream poured over of course.

And now I need to nominate someone to continue this . . . . Jo I think, should be interesting, might involve beer perhaps (and I am all for beer).

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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Curried Parsnip Soup

Sunday 7am

Spring has just begun here in New Zealand, traditionally the time to be eating over wintered root vegetables, Brussels sprouts, and leeks. In the UK supermarkets have killed seasonal eating of course with green beans flown in from Kenya and so on, but here in NZ, miles from anywhere food is still quite seasonal. I like that. My body does too and I find I crave diferent things at different times of the year.

Here is my recipe for a spiced parsnip soup. I find parsnips can be a bit harsh but at this time of year, having been through a few frosts they are at their best and this soup brings out their sweetness.

- Put some olive oil and a quarter inch slice of butter in a pan to melt over a low    heat.
- Peel and chop a small onion, add it and leave to cook slowly until soft and        golden brown, this will take a good ten to fifteen minutes but don't hurry it, it  is  sweetness we are after here.
- Scoop out the onions into a bowl, turn up the heat and add three peeled and chopped parsnips.
- Let them cook until they begin to brown in patches and char at the edges. This  is the sugar in them caramelising and again brings out the sweetness.
- Put the onions back in along with a pint and a quarter of half strenght vegetable  stock, turn down until gently bubbling and leave until the parsnips are cooked,  twenty minutes or so usually.
- Liquidise the soup and return to the cleaned pan to reheat.

For the spicing most recipes add a teaspoonfull of curry powder but I prefer to choose my own spices and add them whole in a method I have seen for finishing off a dahl.

- put a little oil and some butter to melt melt ans sizzle in a fying pan.
- once the sizzling dies down add half a cinnamon stick, a couple of cardamom  pods and a teaspoonfull each of fennel seeds and cumin seeds.
- Fry them gently, taking them off the heat instantly as soon as they start to pop  and brown.
- Stir in a spoonful of ground coriander the add it all to the soup, or swirl it into individual bowls as you serve  

The spicing should be mild and not at all overpowering. I like the way that the seeds stay whole and you can crunch them as you eat releasing that fennel or cumin flavour in a burst. If your guests would be traumatised by the sight of all that butter being poured in you could of course toast the spices in a dry frying pan and serve them in a bowl at the table for everybody to scatter over their soup themselves.

Parsnip soup, perfect for a frosty winters day.

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Monday, September 1, 2008

Mushroom and Walnut soup

Sunday 8.30am

This is a soup that I have been thinking of for a long time but for some reason have never got round to making. Shame really because it is quite delicious. Walnuts can be quite strongly flavoured but when cooked on top of bread are much milder, so I have roasted them this way first for my soup. - Put the oven on to heat, say 190 centigrade.If you are making bread as well you'll need it on anyway.

- roughly chop a small onion and a celery stalk and put them on to cook slowly in some oil and butter, enough to cover the bottom of the pan.
- make up some vegetable stock - a pint and a quarter.

- put a handfull of walnuts on a baking tray, pour on some olive oil and roll them around a bit until coated. Put them in the oven to toast.

- while everything is cooking, chop up a good couple of handfuls of mushrooms say eight ounces.

- keep an eye on the walnuts because they burn very quickly, take them out as soon as they start to change colour and go golden brown.

- once the onions and celery are translucent and golden coloured as well, add the mushrooms and stir about a bit to mix and let them cook gently until all the liquid that come out has just about disappeared.

- meanwhile put the walnuts in a ziplock bag and whack them with a rolling pin until well crushed and then put them in a bowl covered with some vegetable stock ( half strength rapunzel as usual )

- the rest of the stock goes into the pan and left to simmer gently until the mushrooms are cooked, not long say ten minutes.

- now for the messy bit. Put the walnuts and stock into a liquidiser and whizz them up a bit. Gradually add the rest of the soup from the pan and continue until it is all as smooth as you like.

- and thats it, just return the soup to the now washed out saucepan to reheat.

Mine did not need any salt or pepper but you'll try yours to check.
At first the soup tasted quite mushroomy so I roasted another handfull of walnuts and whizzed the whole lot in the liquidiser again. Now it tasted quite walnuty so I suppose you could vary things using anywhere from 2 to 4 ounces of walnuts depending on what you fancy.

I had mine with some bread to which I had added a teaspoonfull of garam masala. It had quite a weird flavour, a bit like hot cross buns but went well with the soup. Some of Nicola's sundried tomato bread would have been great as well.

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Sunday, August 31, 2008

About me

Welcome, my name is Peter Coulter and as you have no doubt realised I write about food, soup mostly. My credentials for doing this? Well I am not a renowned food critic. I have never run my own restaurant or been food writer for Vogue. But I do like to eat. And because I eat I also cook. You can often find me cooking for an ordinary family of five in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.

Oh, and whilst cooking I also think, and these thoughts get written down. You are reading some of them now. So explore the recipes, play with them, comment if like, but most of all  . . . enjoy yourself.

Ps - If you do enjoy my writing you might enjoy my book - it explores further my theory that soup can me made from a combination of three elements or building blocks - the main ingredient, the base and the thickening agent. You can read it online or download it here, it is entirely free and I am happy for you to print any of it out, email it, pass it onto your friends or whatever. And although you are under no obligation to do so, it would be nice if you credit me or link back to here.

A recent reader has commented -

" awesome book (and blog)! the recipes are simple and easy to learn and follow.
thanks so much for sharing! "


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When I'm bored I make soup - the book

Sunday 7.42am

When I'm bored I make soup - the book

There are two main themes that run through my life. One is simplicity, the second is an intense curiosity. About everything.

Having got to here you probably share this curiosity, so let me explain further. Like most people I like to eat, and because I like to eat I also like to cook. Now I learnt to cook the usual amateur way, from my mother when little and then from various recipes after I left home. But have you ever wondered why certain recipes work and others don't? Why different foods are prepared in certain ways? Why some things go together better than others? I certainly have and for me making soup has become a way of exploring these themes, an artists sketch book if you like, of ideas.

And then one day it occurred to me that to make soup you only have to consider three things, three basic elements or building blocks that depending on what you use can make any soup at all. This was quite a revelation to me and has enabled me to break away from recipes and cook creatively, from scratch. The three elements are - the main ingredient, the base and the thickening. Thats it, everything flows from here.

An exploration of these three things, along with some recipes forms my book (it also explains why my recipes are written as they are). The recipes are all already on one of my blogs somewhere but the method is not. It is so simple that a beginner can quickly understand what they are doing and create something delicious and yet allows endless variation and exploration if you can already cook. You can read it online or download it here, it is entirely free and I am happy for you to print any of it out, email it, pass it onto your friends or whatever. And although you are under no obligation to do so, it would be nice if you credit me or link back to here.

Alternatively, if ebooks are not for you or you would just like a hard copy instead you can purchase one here.

As I write my book is a featured document on scribed - one that the editors consider to be of "high quality and to have added significant value to their collection of documents."

A recent reader has commented -

" awesome book (and blog)! the recipes are simple and easy to learn and follow.
thanks so much for sharing! "


Have a look, enjoy.


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Saturday, August 30, 2008

An explanation

Friday 10.00pm

The last post is from the inside front cover of my book and explains my love of soup. But there is more to it than that . . .

So you want to make something to eat. You're standing there knife in hand, gazing thoughtfully at your chopping board and a pile of interesting vegetables and anything else you might have found in the fridge. What are you going to do? Well you could make something from memory, something that you've made before, but that's a bit boring. Today you want something new. You could go and look through your cookery books, find something that catches your eye and that matches your ingredients and make that. But of course you never have exactly the right things needed for that recipe that sounded so good when you read it. You will have to go shopping, but you only have a couple of hours before the children need picking up from school and anyway you want to cook right now, not shop. And if you did shop then there would be no time to eat before collecting the children, and it's not really a teatime dish for everybody, so you'll have to cook again. The lovely dish will just end up in the back of the fridge only to be discovered by archeologists years later.

Or perhaps you are a student, in your kitchen confronted by a couple of potatoes, what you think might be a carrot and some spices. You don't have any money to shop or what little you do have you want to keep to go out tonight. Yet you do want to eat, and actually thinking about it, if you could cook something interesting that would feed several people then your friends would come round to visit bringing alcohol with them, and your meagre resources would stretch even further. But you do not know the first thing about cookery. Hmmm . . . . what to do?

Well how about this for an idea? Using a set of basic principles you have learned, look at your ingredients and create something new from what you have right in front of you. Something that will be ready in an hour or less, is stress free and enjoyable to make, is healthy and good for you, and satisfies your creative urges.

It occurred to me a little while ago that this is exactly how I make soup. Exploring this further my ideas developed into a book, which is almost ready for publication - click on the link and you can download a short excerpt if you are curious. Following on from this I thought that if, using these principles, we are going to develop new recipes then why not share them. And hence this blog, a place for sharing ideas. So if you have an idea to share just leave a comment or email it to me and I'll post it.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008


Thursday 9.19pm

Soup is surely the ultimate food. From the poorest of the poor standing in the street beside a soup kitchen to the richest of the rich at a posh dinner party, we can all eat soup. Be it a hot Mediterranean summers day or a cold wet Scottish autumn one there is a soup that is just right. It will match your mood – from comforting and warm to spicy and exotic, full of unknown promise like a first date. Feeling alone and miserable? Just cuddle up to a bowl of soup by the fire, watch the telly and stuff the world out there. Or have friends round for lunch and put a panfull of soup on the table surrounded by bread, cheese and beer and let everybody help themselves. In a hurry? Make it instantly from a packet all glutinous and full of strange plasticky vegetables. Or take your time, like I will today and make a big pan full of velvety pumpkin soup for the family tonight. It will bubble away quietly while I get on with other things and if anybody is late, no worries, it only gets better whilst sitting keeping warm.

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