Roast Apple and Broccoli Soup

This sounds delicious … it’s pretty ugly but has wonderful flavour. Stay tuned to updates as I experiment with it. It’s here so I can find the recipe. 

Serves 8.

3 Granny Smith apples(each about 100g), peeled and cored
1 piece Broccoli, approx 300g
1 bunch sage, half of the leaves roughly chopped
4-5 sprigs thyme
6 cups vegetable stock
40g butter for serving
Micro herbs, edible flowers to serve

  1. Heat oven to 200 degrees C.
  2. Place apples on a paper lined tray. Be generous with the paper as the apples create like a sticky toffee. Drizzle apples with a little olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Add thyme sprigs and 1 tablespoon of the chopped sage to core, over and under apples.
  3. Trim base of broccoli and place whole in baking dish adjacent to apples. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season well with salt and pepper.
  4. Place both baking trays in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. The apples should be tender and collapsed. The broccoli will still be firm but tender. Cool slightly then roughly chop and set aside.
  5. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan. Add remaining chopped sage and cook 3-4 minutes. Now add roast apple and broccoli and cook for a further two minutes.
  6. Now add the stock, bring to the boil, turn to a low simmer and simmer for 3-4 minutes.
  7. Whiz in a blender until smooth, reheat over a medium heat and season.
  8. Meanwhile melt butter in a frypan over medium heat. Add whole sage leaves and cook 2-3minutes until butter begins to brown.
  9. Pour soup into bowls, drizzle with sage butter, top with micro herbs or edible flowers if using and season if required.

Steamed Rice

Seems simple. However, I didn’t like rice and didn’t eat it at all until I was well into my thirties. It’s difficult to cook something that you don’t enjoy eating – it just doesn’t work.  I used to struggle along trying different methods of cooking rice and the family patiently ate the various concoctions that landed on the table. One day, in desperation at yet another unsuccessful attempt, I asked my 14 year old son, Sven, for help.  This recipe reflects what he told me.  I follow his directions exactly without any deviation and the rice is almost perfect. Thank you, Sven.

Serves 3-4. Cooking Time: 20 minutes.

1 cup quality Basmati rice, I like Tilda
1.5 cups cold water
saucepan/pot that is 17.5cm wide with a tight fitting lid.

  1. Put the rice in the correct sized saucepan. Wash the rice by covering with cold water, swirling around then draining carefully (use a large sieve) without losing any of the grains. Wash the rice three times or until the water is clear when being swirled. This step can be omitted but the rice will not finish up as fluffy at the end.
  2. After draining carefully add 1.5 cups cold water to the rice in the saucepan.
  3. Cover saucepan with a tight fitting lid.  There must be no gaps else the steaming process will not work.
  4. Bring water to the boil over a rapid heat. As soon as the rice comes to the boil turn heat to the lowest setting possible and steam for EXACTLY 10 minutes. Try not to open the lid during this time. Ensure the stove is not off but just a very low heat allowing conetnts to steam without boiling too rapidly.
  5. After 10 minutes, take off the heat. If you are new at this, you can lift the lid to take a quick peak to ensure the rice is cooked and all the water has evaporated. (If the rice is hard you cooked over too high a heat and boiled the rice rather than steaming it. If there is still wate you probably had the heat off or it wasn’t boiling when you turned the heat down so it needs more time.)
  6. Now stand for 10 minutes at room temperature. DO NOT REMOVE THE LID.
  7. Fluff with a fork and eat. Perfect.

Coconut Curry Lentil Soup

A lovely vegetarian dish I adapted from ‘The Dinner Ladies’ that can be served like a dahl alongside other curries or on it’s own like a soup. I often add a portion or two of diced white fish to cook for a minute or so just before  serving to make a complete meal. It freezes well but tastes best if  you add the kale (and if you’re using it, the fish) when you reheat.  

Serves 4-6.

4-6 kale leaves, chopped
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 tablespoons concentrated tomato puree
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, chopped or grated
2 teaspoons each ground cumin and coriander, toasted
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
pinch chilli flakes
1.5 cups red lentils
1 cup coconut milk
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
For Serving: Half bunch coriander, chopped; Lemon/lime juice

  1. Saute the onions, ginger and garlic over a low heat in a little olive oil stirring frequently until soft and sweet – about 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Still stirring add tomato paste, cumin, coriander, tumeric, nutmeg, pepper and chilli flakes.
  3. Add the lentils to the onion mixture and stir through.
  4. Then cover with stock, tomatoes and coconut milk.
  5. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 20-30 minutes unil the lentils are completely cooked and have collapsed into a puree.
  6. At this stage taste for flavour. Add salt, pepper and garam masala if you wish. Now it can be frozen.
  7. Defrost and bring to the boil. Add the kale and the fish if using. Boil for one to two minutes.
  8. Just before serving add chopped coriander, some lemon or lime juice, .

Easy Summer Pea Soup

I have just been discharged from a few days in hospital. Like airlines, the food has improved!!! I so enjoyed the 200ml of soup that came with every meal that I have decided to start making a few light fresh soups that freeze so I can have a cup with each meal at home. This pea soup is an old favourite that I adapted from Robert Carrier many years ago. The ingredients are always to hand, its easy to prepare and tastes delicious. 

250g(1 cup) frozen peas
1 large potato, peeled and sliced
1/2 spanish onion, sliced
4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock for vegetarian version)
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup cream

  1. Put peas, potato and onion into a saucepan with 1 cup stock and simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Cool slightly and blend with 1/2 cup of water till smooth.
  3. Beat egg yolks lightly with cream and add to the pureed mixture.
  4. Heat the remaining stock and add the puree. Stir continuously over a low heat until the soup is smooth and thick. DO NOT BRING TO THE BOIL to prevent the egg yolks curdling.
  5. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Note: The puree can be frozen before adding the egg yolks, cream and extra stock. I divide the puree into 3 portions to freeze. To serve, add frozen or thawed puree portion to 1 cup chicken stock and heat. Add 3 tablespoons cream to a lightly beaten egg yolk. Mix a few tablespoons  of the hot ‘pea’ mixture into the egg mixture then add to the soup.  Stir over low heat till thick. Remove from heat before coming to the boil.

Roast Potatoes with Paprika and Lemon

These potatoes are incredibly moreish and you can never make enough. Serve with anything – its great with grilled chicken or fish but goes just as well with steak or a roast. Do yourself a favour and try making it just once.

1.5kg (3lb) chat or other baby potatoes
1.5 Tablespoons olive oil
30g (2oz) Butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C.
  2. Combine the salt, lemon rind and paprika in a small bowl.
  3. Cook potatoes in a saucepan of boiling water for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain.
  4. Place the oil and butter in a large roasting pan. Place in the oven for 3 minutes or until the butter melts.
  5. Add the potatoes and toss to coat. Use a potato masher to lightly crush the potatoes.
  6. Roast for 10 minutes or until the potatoes start to brown.
  7. Sprinkle the salt mixture over the potatoes. Roast for a further 15 minutes or until golden.
  8. Delicious with EVERYTHING.

Crostata – a Taste of Italy

On a recent visit to Italy we explored the countryside of Umbria with it’s authentic renaissance towns in perfect condition still occupied by locals with hardly a tourist in site. We stayed at a romantic AirBNB, Magic Winds, with welcoming hosts who produced the best peaches I have ever tasted from their parent’s farm, heavenly jam made according to Papa’s secret recipe and, for breakfast, Bernadetta and Sylvio produced this delicious Crostata. It’s not particularly sweet and the pastry is bread-like and keeps a few days. We love it for breakfast, afternoon tea or even dessert. We don’t have homemade jam but it’s important to use a quality product like Hanks Apricot Jam or perhaps the Harris Farm Market Blueberry Jam(add a handful of blueberries and some lemon zest to make it extra special). I also think it would be delicious using a good marmelade.

3 eggs
200g butter
150g white sugar
475g flour
1/2 cake fresh yeast or 1.5x7g sachet dry yeast (you need 10g)
2 cups jam(Hanks apricot or Harris Farm Blueberry + fresh Blueberries – optional) or marmelade.

  1. Break eggs and mix yolk and egg whites lightly with a fork in the Kenwood mixing bowl.
  2. Add sugar and beat in Kenwood Mixer with the ‘K’ hook until mixture forms a thick white cream and forms an ‘S’.
  3. Cut the butter into small cubes. Whilst continuing to mix the egg mixture, add the butter to the egg mixture a cube at a time.
  4. Then add flour and yeast slowly, mixing all the time.
  5. Now knead until you reach a homogenous mixture. I use the kneading hook on the Kenwood mixer for a while then finish off by hand.
  6. Place dough in the Fridge at least 30 minutes.
  7. Pull and stretch the dough then place 80% of it in 28cm round baking tin or a 24x34cm rectangular tin. Retain the rest of the dough to make strips for the top. This size pan will result in a bread like consistency. Use a slightly larger pan if you prefer a crispier base.
  8. Spread the jam on the dough in the tin leaving a ½ cm border around the edge free.
  9. Now make strips with remaining dough and layer across in a criss cross fashion.
  10. Bake at 170 degrees C for approximately 30-35 minutes.Buoni appetito!!!

NOTE:  If the base is thin it will have be more crispy like a pastry consistency and if it is thicker it will be more bread like.  Both are nice – it depends on what you are trying to achieve.

Pork with Walnuts

We didn’t often eat pork – mainly cause I didn’t know how to cook it without it tasting dry. One day I discovered this recipe which leaves the meat moist and fall off the bone with a rich delicious sauce. It’s a great winter dish suitable for a dinner party or a delicious treat for the family.

Serves 6-8.

8 lean pork loin chops with the rind removed
2 large onions, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1.5 cups canned pineapple juice
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
3 Tablespoons vinegar
2 Tablespoons soya sauce
1.5 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon curry powder
3-4 strips lemon zest – approx from half a lemon
1 cup chopped walnuts
parsley or chopped sultanas to serve with rice (optional)

  1. Dust chops with flour and brown in a little olive oil. Remove.
  2. Brown sliced onions and garlic over low heat until onions are very brown and add remaining ingredients excluding the walnuts. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
  3. Place pork chops in a casserole dish in a single layer. If using a Le Creuset casserole dish, use the same dish you used for browning to save on the washing up.
  4. Pour onion mixture over top of pork chops.
  5. Cover casserole dish and bake for an hour in a moderate over at 180 C (350 F).
  6. Serve with rice sprinkled with parsley and/or sultanas and extra chopped walnuts.

Fresh Fig and Cardamom Chutney

In autumn when figs are in season it’s time to indulge and make this all natural delicious chutney. You can serve it with anything – its as great with vanilla ice cream as it is with grilled chicken or fish. Do yourself a favour and try making it just once.

Makes about two 500g(1lb) Jars.

1kg (2lb) very ripe figs, stem removed
4 Tablespoons Rice Syrup
1/2 cup brown rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons umeboshi vinegar
1 Tablespoon mirin
seeds from 10 cardamom pods – ground in a mortar and pestle
1/4 cup raisins – optional

  1. Put all ingredients in saucepan and bring to the boil.
  2. Remove lid and cook on low/medium heat for 20-30 minutes until liquid has been absorbed.
  3. Check seasoning and serve or store.
  4. Delicious with EVERYTHING.

Baked Mushrooms

I recently discovered baking mushrooms maintains the earthy taste and deep flavours of mushrooms far better than any other cooking method. This dish is simple, quick, versatile and tastes – oh so good.

Brown, Swiss or Portobello Mushrooms have the most flavour
30g butter
fresh herbs

  1. Heat oven to 220 C.
  2. Tear mushrooms and place in 20cm diameter metal baking dish.
  3. Sprinkle with salt, black pepper, and fresh herbs of your choice. I like thyme or continental parsley.
  4. Dot with a few little knobs of butter – you need very little.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes.
  6. Serve as is as an innovative and healthy snack or starter. Alternatively makes a great breakfast or lunch dish if you spread sourdough toast with goats cheese and serve mushrooms on top of the goats cheese with a few extra herbs sprinkled on top.

Granny Panzera’s Shortbread from Ruby

RubyRuby is back with another recipe. This time a recipe inherited from her grandmother.  It’s another christmas favourite, Shortbread. These are beautiful. Thank you Ruby. 

Makes approx 40 Shortbread Fingers.

4 1/2 cups cake flour
1 cup maizena (cornflour)
1/2 cup castor sugar
2/3 cup icing sugar
pinch salt
500g(1 lb) butter, very very soft

  1. Heat oven to 150°C(300°F).
  2. Beat sugar and butter till creamy.
  3. Stir in the maizena  (cornflour).
  4. Then quickly work in the flour and pinch of salt.
  5. I use my processor. – do not over beat
  6. Put into a 40cm x 25cm(15″ x  10″)  or equivalent baking tray about 2″ deep. Flatten mixture evenly. Poke holes in the mixture about every 5cm (2″) apart. Neaten the edges.
  7. Place in the middle of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes.
  8. Turn baking tray around to ensure even baking. Then turn the oven down to 140°C(275°F) for the next 40 minutes. The shortbread colour should remain cream – or maybe a deeper shade of cream – NOT brown.
  9. Remove from oven and slice into fingers whilst still hot. Leave in the baking tray until it is cool.

Squid en Papillote

A tasty poached squid casserole in a package that I discovered when trying to conform to a 250 calorie meal on the 5 2 Fasting diet. This dish is approximately 250 calories per portion and you can freeze portions so they are always at the ready and there is no excuse not to have a low cal meal on hand. Plus it’s delicious !!! If you are not dieting serve with crusty french bread, or baby boiled potatoes which you can dunk into the broth. Another option is to add a handful of warmed cannellini beans to the broth when u serve it.

For each serving:

125g baby squid cut into 5mm rings
35g red capsicum, sliced into matchstick strips
35g yellow capsicum, sliced into matchstick strips
35g zucchini, sliced into thick matchstick strips
35g baby eggplant,finely diced
40g cherry tomatoes (approx 6)
30g semi dried tomatoes
tomato concentrate, water and lemon juice to make sauce
20ml kalamata olives
1 small clove garlic, crushed
salt & pepper to taste
basil, parsley, oregano and chives to taste
lemon zest and lemon juice

  1. Make a greaseproof paper or foil package.
  2. Add all ingredients starting with squid. Drizzle top with a little olive oil.
  3. Close and seal package. Freeze at this stage.
  4. When ready to eat, defrost and bake in oven at 180C for 13-15 minutes till cooked. If you do not defrost, add an additional 10-12 minutes cooking time.

%d bloggers like this: