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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