Saturday, 1 August 2015

Pasta e Fagioli with Crispy Prosciutto

I'm having a bit of a soup obsession lately. I think it could be that all I feel like doing when I get home from work is curling up on the couch with a big bowl of steaming soup. Growing up my mum didn't make many soups, mainly because my dad has never been a fan of them. Why? I don't understand because I can't get enough of them this winter.

I made Pasta e Fagioli with Crispy Prosciutto from Ashley Rodriguez's new cookbook 'Date night in' last Tuesday night and it only scraps the surface of whats in this cookbook. This book is full of inspirational menus bursting with ideas, the chapter introductions give you an insight into her home and kitchen and the date nights she shares are just special. Some of the menu's have a cocktail to start the chapter, which is her husbands forte but most of the menu's have entree, main and dessert. Flicking through the pages makes me wish date night was every night but I don't know if I could mentally cope with the amount of washing up after each night if we were to have three courses each night. I am envious of all dishwasher owners.

Pasta e Fagioli with Crispy Prosciutto from Date Night In | Dani Elis | salt sugar and i

She has make-ahead tips and tricks throughout the whole book which could also work for dinner parties if you doubled recipes. It makes me want to rent a bigger apartment to fit a bigger dining table with more chairs so I can host dinner parties each week. I didn't make the whole kit and caboodle for dinner on Tuesday night, just the main which I originally thought was a pasta recipe by looking at the photo but boy was I wrong. I was in for a delicious pasta and bean soup with a crispy piece of prosciutto on top. Perfect for a cold night in watching 'House of Cards' on Netflix (I am completely obsessed with this show right now).

The soup itself was relatively easy but didn't compensate on flavour. Ashley gives you a make-ahead tip so you can reheat a couple of days later but to make sure you cook the pasta just before serving and not beforehand so it keeps it's al dente bite. I of course double the amount of pasta which meant I had to also double the liquid too... I couldn't help myself... I love pasta and it did mean there was sufficient leftover for greedy guts me and Tris for work the next day but I agree with Ashley on the make-ahead tip. If you are making this the day before don't add the pasta until you want to serve it. The pasta soaks up all the liquid and it turns into more of a past with sauce rather than a pasta soup.

Pasta e Fagioli with Crispy Prosciutto from Date Night In | Dani Elis | salt sugar and i

Now don't be scared of double carbing here. Beans and pasta you say...hmmm. I say... it's amazing! It gives the soup a creaminess without having to actually add cream. It allows the soup to keep all the fresh flavours of the herbs and tomatoes which cream can sometimes dull down. I also really loved the prosciutto which was fried till crispy and served on the side so you could break it up into your soup. It intensified the flavour of it and now and again you found a salt bit of crunch. yum. Am thinking Braised Pork Chilaquiles with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa and Pickled Red onions next and maybe a Aperol Spritz or two.

Pasta e Fagioli with Crispy Prosciutto from Date Night In | Dani Elis | salt sugar and i

Pasta e Fagioli with Crispy Prosciutto

Recipe by Ashley Rodriguez from her cookbook 'Date Night In'.
(adapted ever so slightly by me)
Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small brown onion
2 celery stalks
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
4 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 x 400g can cannellini beans, drained
1 x 400g can diced tomatoes
140g orecchiette pasta (I used shells)
4 slices prosciutto
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan

- Heat olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat and saute the onion, celery, garlic, salt, oregano and thyme for about 8 to 10 minutes until fragrant and the onions are translucent.

- Add the chicken stock, beans and tomatoes and bring everything to a boil. Reduce to a gentle simmer and cook for about 10 minutes- If you are making the soup in advance, stop here and store in the fridge for up to 2 days.

- When you are ready to serve dinner, bring the soup back to the boil and add the pasta and cook according to packet instructions or until pasta is al dente, about 10 - 12 minutes.

- Meanwhile, crisp the prosciutto in a non-stick frying pan or skillet over medium-high heat until it shrivels and the fat has rendered, about 1 - 2 minutes on each side. Transfer it onto some paper towel. Once the prosciutto cools it will turn crispy.

- Once the pasta is cooked, stir in the parsley, taste and adjust seasoning (keep in mind that the prosciutto and parmesan are salty) and serve with grated parmesan and a piece of crispy prosciutto on top.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Corn, chile, and potato soup from Bon Appetempt, A Coming-of-Age Story (with recipes!).

The other week while the Antarctic Vortex tried to freeze us all in our sleep I made a soup which reminded me summer does still exists somewhere out there. This soup looks summery, tasted fresh but also warmed my belly which was just what I think we all needed. As much as I wanted it to snow in the Sydney area I live in, it didn't. It just got bitter cold and with no heating in our apartment (except for the oven which works surprising well on occasion) it was fun for all of about 10 minutes.

Corn, chile, and potato soup | salt sugar and i

I made Amelia Morris' corn, chile and potato soup from her book 'Bon Appetempt - A Coming-of-age story (with recipes!)' - which is a great memoir by the way. This isn't just another potato soup or corn chowder. This is topped with corn chips, avocado and grated cheese. Yes you read right.... corn chips, avocado and grated cheese. Um yum! The corn chips on top give the soup crunch while the avocado which is covered in zesty lime juice cuts through the sweetness of the corn kernels and smoky-ness of the chipotle chillies.

This is a great winter recipe when you are a little sick of the heavy winter stews and soups and crave for something with a freshness to it but that is still going to warm you up.  It would also make a great mid-summer soup to have when we start getting cooler nights because it's like the can equally enjoy it in winter as much as you can in summer.

I am completely smitten with this recipe. Have you ever made soup and topped it with corn chips, avocado and grated cheese?? I know I certainly haven't until now but if you have, please share the recipe with me at once!

Corn, chile, and potato soup | salt sugar and i

Corn, Chile, and Potato Soup

Recipe by Amelia Morris from her memoir 'Bon Appetempt, A Coming-of-Age Story (with recipes!)'
Serves 3-4

900g potatoes, peeled and chopped into 2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1 to 2 canned chipotle chiles in abode sauce, minced
2 avocados
juice of 1 to 2 limes, (reserve 3-4 wedges)
450g frozen corn (not thawed)
Tortilla chips
shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

- Heat oil in a large heavy based saucepan over a medium heat and add onion, ad a few pinches or salt and some pepper. Cook until the onion softens, about 4 to 5 minutes.

- Add potatoes, chicken broth, water and another pinch of salt and bring to a boil and add the minced chipotle chile. Bring it to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15-17 minutes.

- Meanwhile, slice the avocados into strips and place into a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cover with half of the lime juice.

- Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes right in the soup until coarsely broken up. Add the frozen corn and simmer for about 2 minutes more, until heated through. Turn the heat off and add the juice of lime. Give it a good stir and taste to see if you need to add more salt and pepper.

- Serve and top with broken up tortilla chips, sliced avocado, grated cheese and a wedge of lime on the side.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

'Let my eggplant go free!' with spaghetti from Food52's Genius Recipes cookbook.

If you remember my post from 2 weeks ago about my struggle and failure to cook for one and you decide to keep reading this, you'll find out I still haven't mastered it. BUT what I have done is found a delicious pasta sauce recipe with a rich eggplant and sun-dried tomato sauce which a pretty funky name... 'Let my Eggplant go free'. Yep that the name of the recipe.

'Let my eggplant go free!' with spaghetti | Salt Sugar and I

While Tristan was away this time I made a conscious decision to not let me self get into a frump about cooking for one. However I made enough dinner to feed about 4 people but only me to eat it. It meant lunches for the next couple of days so I wasn't complaining and it also meant I got to pig out on a huge bowl of spaghetti while watching 'Married at First Sight'.

This recipe has been around for a few years now but it's been recently re-published in the Food52 Genius Recipes cookbook by Kristen Miglore. It is another recipe I first saw on Luisa's blog The Wednesday Chef and then put two and two together while flicking through the cookbook, it's not like you come across a recipe name like that every day. So when I saw it on her blog and in Food52's book I just had to make it.

I'm not sure mushed the eggplant enough as mine looked a little different. I also didn't have dried tomatoes or basil so I used sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil and parsley since our parsley plant has gone bonkers. I've been putting parsley in everything lately... a bit of neglect and tough love and it's thriving!

'Let my eggplant go free!' with spaghetti | Salt Sugar and I

First I started off salting the eggplant slices which is something most recipes tell you to do when cooking eggplant but I've always skipped this step and never done it. I did however do it this time. I salted my eggplant then jumped in the shower and by the time I was out and dressed again it has been about 20 minutes and the chopping board was full of water. So there is a purpose to this madness of salting. Next I diced it and through it in to the pan with what looked like a huge amount of extra virgin oil but within seconds all the oil was soaked up and the cubes of eggplant looks like they were dry frying.

Sometimes I don't understand the next step in a recipe if I haven't made it before until I see it happening. I have to trust the recipe which can be daunting to see what happens. Fry the eggplant until translucent huh? but it's eggplant. After not too long I knew what the recipe meant... sometimes you have to have faith but I have had experiences where I have screamed at books doing exactly what it said and ended up with a lumpy burnt mess. So it's a little hit and miss making something for the first time but theres nothing like a little adventure in the kitchen!

'Let my eggplant go free!' with spaghetti | Salt Sugar and I

After adding some water to the eggplant and letting it simmer away until there was almost no liquid left I mushed it up using a potato masher and the back of a spoon, added the parsley and sun-dried tomatoes. I served it with a pretty decent serving of parmesan I sat down to some trashy tv and a huge bowl of pasta on the couch while the cat snored next to me.

This sauce is rich without looking rich. When you start fill your fork with a huge mouthful of spaghetti and try and get a bit of everything on it, all the extra virgin olive oil you put in the pan first is still there in the silky eggplant sauce and coats your lips like a good lip gloss. The herbs thrown in at the end give it a really fresh vibe which I think it needs, maybe even a squirt of lemon juice on top next time. It's not the prettiest but its definitely a winner if you love eggplant, just keep in mind this serves 4 people not 1 person alone with their cat.

'let my eggplant go free!' with spaghetti

Recipe by Francis Lam from Food52's Genius Recipes cookbook. - with my variations below.
Serves 4
450g eggplant, cut into ½ inch slices
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
2 springs thyme or oregano, chopped - I used 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 cup chicken stock or water
2 tablespoons sun-dried or oven-dried tomatoes, minced - I used ones which were kept in olive oil
6 leaves basil, sliced thinly - I used a handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
450g spaghetti
- Lightly salt the slices of eggplant and stack them back together. Let sit for about 20 minutes or so.
- Put the olive oil in a heavy saucepan, add the garlic cloves, and set over low heat. 
- Dry off the eggplant, cut it into chunks. When you start hearing the garlic sizzle a little and can smell it, drop in your eggplant and stir to coat it all with oil (this is where your oil will look like it has disappeared). Turn up the heat a little bit to medium high and add the thyme or oregano and stir. 
- Cook until the eggplant started to turn translucent and softens. Add the water/stock and let it come to a boil then turn it back down to medium-low. Let it bubble for a bit and cover it, leaving a crack for steam to escape. Stir once in a while so that the bottom doesn’t stick. If it does start to stick add a splash more water/stock.
- After about 20 minutes or so, the liquid in the eggplant pan should be mostly evaporated and the eggplant should be soft and melting. Mash it with a fork or spoon (I used a potato masher), and adjust the seasoning to taste.
- Meanwhile get the water on a boil for your pasta and cook the spaghetti until al dente. Make sure your spaghetti doesn't sit around waiting for you sauce to cook so try and time it according to the packet instructions to give you an idea of when to put it in the boiling water but always taste to check when cooked.
5. Toss the eggplant mush with the al dente spaghetti. Stir in the minced tomatoes and basil (or parsley). Drizzle with a little more olive oil if you dare and serve with some finely grated parmesan cheese and extra cracked pepper.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Turkey meatballs with a simple tomato sauce.

We recently added a new member to our kitchen family. A microwave. It's actually very exciting even though it is one of those appliances which is a stock standard for some people. It was refreshing for a while not having one  - I felt like a bit of a rebel and I was determined it was better without... you know more bench space and... and... Ok lets face it, I was brought up with a microwave and I have missed the luxury and convenience of having one.

I can now soften butter for baking, defrost frozen meat in 10 minutes rather than 24 hours, warm milk up for a coffee in the actual mug (saving washing a pot up) and reheating leftovers are so much easier now for snacking! But the defrosting meat in minutes feels like such a revelation. The possibilities which are open to me as an unorganised cook during the week are now endless if I have a well stocked freezer and pantry. To say I'm excited is an understatement!

Turkey Meatballs with a simple tomato sauce by Salt Sugar and I

Early in the week I defrosted (still a novelty!) some turkey mince which had been floating around our freezer for a while as I never was quite organised to take it out the night before and I didn't feel like tackling a huge turkey ice cube in a frying pan to make some sort of sauce. I knew there were two recipes I have been wanting to try and it all depended what other ingredients I needed and had to which one I was going to make. Unfortunately I didn't have most of the ingredients for either recipe but with my now defrosted turkey mince and turkey meatball on the mind I thought stuff it. I can do this without a recipe.

Starting with a simple tomato sauce I fried off an onion and some crushed garlic in olive oil until soft then adding a splash of red wine which we didn't finish from the weekend and a can of chopped tomatoes brought it to a simmer. Adding a pinch of salt, pepper and half a teaspoon of sugar, I let it bubble away while I got on with the turkey-balls.

Turkey Meatballs with a simple tomato sauce by Salt Sugar and I

I placed a small brown onion, a couple of garlic cloves, a big handful of home grown parsley - stalks and all, a generous squeeze of lemon juice and a good splash of extra virgin olive oil into a small food processor and blitzed until it was a rough paste. Emptied it into a mixing bowl then used the same food processor (no need to wash it) and threw in some stale bread that had also been floating around my freezer and gave it a whizz to get some rough breadcrumbs. I then put the bread crumbs into the mixing bowl along with the (defrosted!) turkey mince, an egg and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Mixed it all together then rolled them into golf ball sized balls ready for frying.

I panfried these in some olive oil on a medium heat for about 15-20 minutes until they were dark golden all over and cooked through. I always have to open one up to make sure (I have a fear of serving raw meat) but I never mind because it also means you get to have a quick taste - a little reward for the cook. I served these with pasta and a good snowing of parmesan cheese but these would be great with some fresh crusty bread if you don't want another pot to wash up. They didn't take very long to cook, in fact the washing up took longer I think so if your blessed with a dishwasher I envy you :) ... the next appliance on my wish list... just need a bigger kitchen/apartment first!

Turkey Meatballs with a simple tomato sauce by Salt Sugar and I

Turkey meatballs with a simple tomato sauce.

Serves 4 (approx. 20 balls)

Turkey meatballs:
1 small brown onion, peeled and quartered
2 garlic cloves, peeled
a hefty handful of parsley, stalks and all
juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3-4 slices of stake crusty bread
500g turkey mince
1 egg
a good pinch each of salt and pepper
3 tablespoons regular olive oil (or vegetable oil), for frying

Simple tomato sauce:
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 brown onion, finely diced
2 clove garlic, crushed
a good splash of red wine - optional
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
salt and pepper

Pasta or fresh crusty bread
and parmesan cheese, to serve

- Start with your simple tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan then add your onion and garlic and fry until onions are translucent. Add your splash (or two) of wine, let it bubble then add your canned tomatoes and sugar. Bring to a simmer and let cook away wile your prepare the turkey-balls. Season with salt and pepper.

- In a small food processor put the onion, garlic, parsley, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil and give it a good whizz until it becomes a rough paste. Empty into a mixing bowl. Next add your stale bread to the food processor (no need to wash the food processor) and whizz until it becomes rough bread crumbs. Pour that into the mixing bowl along with the turkey mince, egg and salt and pepper. Give everything a good mix using a fork making sure you don't have clumps of any ingredients anywhere.

- Form mince mixture into golf ball sized balls. This will make about 20.

- Heat a large frying pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add your turkey-balls, turning regularly so they cook even and until golden on all over and cooked through.

- Serve them along side the simple tomato sauce with pasta or some fresh crusty bread, a sprinkling of parsley and a generous snowing of parmesan cheese.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

chilli mussels in a rich tomato sauce - a dinner worth sharing.

For the past two weeks during the weeknights Tristan has been away doing courses near Newcastle. This has meant it's been just Arthur and me. The first week I managed to have dinner at someones house nearly every night which was great except that Arthur was pretty pooy at me for never being home on time to feel him dinner.

The second week I had planned to be home some nights and did a small grocery shop so I wouldn't be tempted to get takeaway. I bought Tofu with the idea that Tristan doesn't like it so this was my chance to eat what I wanted without having someone complain there was no meat in it. I was a little excited on Monday but you know what it's not all it is cracked up to be.

I struggled.

I didn't enjoy anything I made and the tofu is still in the fridge, untouched. The idea of eating alone in front of the tv felt lonely.  I was completely unmotivated when there wasn't someone to cook for or share a meal with.

There was hopeful ideas for a few posts about cooking for one but I'm sorry to say I don't have any helpful hints or insightful knowledge on this subject. I don't really know how to do it myself so how can I tell all of you how to do it. So instead I will share this recipe for Chilli Mussels, which Tristan made last weekend when he was home that you can share with a partner, a friend, or a crowd around a table. It's a fun, full of flavour, finger-licking messy dinner which reminds me that cooking is all about sharing a meal with people who make you laugh and let you be you. What more can anyone ask for?

chilli mussels in a rich tomato sauce by salt sugar and i

chilli mussels in a rich tomato sauce.

serves 2 greedy people (or 4 with sides)

(Note: this can easily be double for a group, just increase the cooking times a little bit and obviously the size of your pot... don't do what I normally do and cram it all in a tiny pot then transfer it at the last minute and have two pots to wash up in the end.)

2 table spoons extra virgin olive oil
1 brown onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, finely diced
1 - 2 red chilli's, finely diced (depending on how spicy you like it)
2 table spoons tomato paste
1 lemon, juice and zest finely grated
1 cup white wine
800g can crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons sugar
Cracked pepper, to taste
1kg pot ready mussels
1 bunch parsley, stalks finely sliced and leave roughly chopped
Crusty bread and salty butter, to serve

- In a large pot heat the olive oil on medium heat and add the onion, garlic, chilli and parsley stalks. Cook for about 5 minutes until onions have softened.

- Next add the tomato paste and lemon juice. When the tomato paste starts to stick to the bottom of the pot (but not burn) add your wine and scrape all the tomato paste that has stuck to the bottom off. This is a flavour hit!

- Add the crushed tomatoes, 1/2 cup water and the sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Taste and season with a pinch of pepper. You won't want to add any salt yet as the mussels let out salty water when they open as they cook.

- Once your sauce has simmered, add your pot ready mussels, cover with a lid and cook for about 2-4 minutes (if you have whopper mussels you will need to judge by eye). Check and see if they have all opened. If they haven't then cook for a further 2 minutes or sometimes all you need to do is leave the lid on with the heat off for an extra couple of minutes and they steam inside without over cooking.

- Stir through the parsley, take the pot to the table with plenty of napkins and dig in with a friend or two. Enjoy.

Note: any mussels that don't open in the cooking process (still jammed shut!) discard.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Anya von Bremzen's Potato Soup with Fried Almonds.

Anya von Bremzen's Potato Soup with Fried Almonds by Salt Sugar and I

Since it started to get chilly here I have been completely obsessed with soup. Yes soup.

Growing up there was a few soups we got the choice of; pumpkin soup with a swirl of cream on top, chunky beef with vegetable and lentils that always tasted better the next day and parsnip soup which was only ever made when Mum was hosting a dinner party and she made extra for my dinner as well.

Anya von Bremzen's Potato Soup with Fried Almonds by Salt Sugar and I

The first soup I made was Nigella Lawson’s Minestrone soup from ‘How to Eat’ and it was about 7 years ago. I remember this soup being a huge deal. I searched for a perfect minestrone recipe for days and when I found Nigella's I had to have the exact amount of everything and chopped exactly as it was written in the book. I even insisted on making homemade bread from 'How to be a Domestic Goddess' to go with it which turned out like a large rock that just crumbled. My intentions were good and all I wanted to do was serve a homey meal and use the huge stock pot in the back of the cupboard but we ended up eating dinner at 10 o’clock at night and I’m pretty sure I yelled at one or two family members who attempted to enter the kitchen to see how dinner was coming along.

Anya von Bremzen's Potato Soup with Fried Almonds by Salt Sugar and I

Had I cut the vegetables in the right sizes? What if mine were bigger than Nigella’s? What if they wouldn’t cook perfcetly? or what if they were smaller and they turned to mush? These were my worries when I made my first soup.

I’m feeling like a soup-pro these days and my soup making skills have come a long way since I was 19 and cooking in my mother kitchen. The chicken soup a made a few weeks ago was a revelation. I was amazed that I could create a chicken soup in less than an hour and that is had all the flavour locked in it still. The vegetable soup with a dollop of pesto on top is always a winner in our apartment but now I wanted to try Anya von Bremzen's Potato Soup with Fried Almonds from Food 52's Genius Recipes. And by golly it's a winner!

I’ve been wanting to make something out of this cookbook for a couple of weeks now but haven’t gotten around to it until recently.

Anya von Bremzen's Potato Soup with Fried Almonds by Salt Sugar and I

I made it for a couple of girlfriends who came over for dinner and I’ll be honest I was hesitant to make it...I mean potato soup isn’t the most appealing sounding dinner is it? But I trusted the reviews of the recipe and the fact that it was in a cookbook call ‘Genius Recipes’ and let me tell you it didn’t disappoint. I loved it! It was easy to make, ready within the hour and really freakin’ delicious.

You can easily double the recipe to feed more people like I did, (I made one and a half recipes) as I have nightmares of having people over for dinner and them leaving hungry…

I’m not really sure how else to explain this soup but Luisa from the blog ‘The Wednesday Chef’ (one of my favourite blogs) made this soup a few years ago and called the soup 'sexy'. I guess it kind of is but I don’t have a way with words like she does and can’t quite explain why. Just make it!

Anya von Bremzen's Potato Soup with Fried Almonds by Salt Sugar and I

Anya von Bremzen's Potato Soup with Fried Almonds

(Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 for dinner)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup whole blanched almonds
6 large garlic cloves
55g finely diced prosciutto 
680g Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled & cut into irregular 1 1/2-inch chunks (I used ordinary 'washed' potatoes)
4 cups chicken stock
1 pinch saffron, crushed (I forgot to crush it...)
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar (I used verjuice as I didn't have any sherry vinegar)
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Crusty bread & Salty butter, for serving

- Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the almonds and garlic and cook, stirring, until golden, 4 to 5 minutes, adjusting the heat so the oil doesn't burn. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the almonds and garlic to a bowl to cool slightly. 

- Add the prosciutto to the pan and stir for 1 minute. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring, for another minute. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the soup.

- Meanwhile, place the almond and garlic mixture in a food processor and grind it. Add all but about 2 tablespoons to the soup. 

- Steep the saffron in a few tablespoons of the soup broth for 2 minutes, then add it to the soup. Simmer the soup, partially covered, until about half the potatoes have disintegrated, about 35 minutes. Continue to skim the soup as it cooks, and add a little more stock if the soup seems too thick.

- When ready to serve, break up some of the potatoes using a fork. Add the vinegar (verjuice) to the reserved ground almond mixture and stir it into the soup. Add the parsley and cook for a minute. Season with salt and pepper and taste, adding a little more vinegar (verjuice) according to taste. 

- Serve with bread smothered in salty butter.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Chickpea, tomato and bread soup from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi.

The first time I made this soup I was vegetarian for the second time around.


Chickpea, tomato and bread soup from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. salt sugar and i food blog.

Let me explain...I've gone through fazes. It's often when I feel I've needed a little control in my life and it's the one thing you can control, what you eat. The first time I was in high school and one day I just declared I was a vegetarian and so many people told me I wasn't  that I had to prove them wrong. So from that day onwards I didn't eat meat... I ate the occasional can of tuna so guess i was never really vegetarian but that was it. It lasted about 6 months and drove my mother insane having to cater for a fussy 16 year old.

Chickpea, tomato and bread soup from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. salt sugar and i food blog.
The second time was only 2 years ago and that lasted about 8 months. It was Tristan's worst nightmare... but this time I was sneakier than the last when I told people, as I do most of the cooking I just started not cooking meat then announced one day that I hadn't eaten meat in 2 week and I was vegetarian again (still ate fish so again not really vego). 

Veggies are still probably one of my favourite food groups, there is so many things you can do with them and just so many of them too, but the thing I did miss was real bolognese sauce. I also dreamt about osso bucco a couple of times. But what turned me back to eating meat I am ashamed to say was when I came down with the flu and Tristan came home with chicken burgers... chicken burgers of all thing!!! ... my barriers were down and I was vulnerable. 

Chickpea, tomato and bread soup from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. salt sugar and i food blog.
This Chickpea, tomato and bread soup was a recipe I made when all I had was vegetables in the fridge and I was lost with what to make. Having only one vegetarian cookbook at the time 'Plenty' by Yotom Ottolenghi, I used this book like my vegetarian bible. The other night when I looked into the fridge and saw endless vegetables and my basil plant looking a little sorry for itself I knew exactly what to make to warm us up. 

Firstly this is not a frumpy vegetable soup. I absolutely love fennel and can't help but pick one up nearly every time I see them in the supermarket, the fennel flavour in this is what makes this soup amazing and not the frumpy vegetable soup you might think this looks like. The herbs in this soup weren't as easy to find as the vegetables sitting in my fridge were so I used some dried and some fresh (I have listed what I used in the recipe below). A spoonful of home-made pesto on top gives it a hit of freshness, a last taste of summer but the bread in the soup is what warms your belly. I've always thought bread in soup would be unpleasant, a texture thing really but the bread in the soup gives it body and goes well against the textures of the vegetables and chickpeas.  

Chickpea, tomato and bread soup from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. salt sugar and i food blog.

If you also make the pesto recipe it's a good item to have in the fridge to hold onto a little bit of summer throughout these cooler months as we all long for decent tomatoes to come back in season.

I hope I haven't offended any vegetarians out there with this post but that I have given my readers, vegetarians and meat eaters, another dinner idea this week when they look aimlessly in their fridge hoping that it will miraculously make the dinner and also do the dishes for them.

Chickpea, tomato and bread soup from Plenty.

Recipe by Yotom Ottolenghi (adapted ever so slightly)
(Serves 4-6)

1 large onion, sliced
1 medium fennel bulb, sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large carrot, peeled, and sliced
3 celery sticks, sliced
1 tablespoon tomato purée
250ml white wine
400g can chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped oregano (I used 1/2 teaspoon dried and 1 teaspoon fresh)
2 tablespoon chopped parsley 
1 tablespoon thyme leaves (I used 1/2 teaspoon of dried)
2 bay leaves (dried)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 litre vegetable stock
160g stale sourdough bread
400g can chickpeas
4 tbsp basil pesto (bought or freshly made; see recipe below)
handful of shredded basil leaves to serve (optional)
salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C or 400 F. Place the olive oil, onion and fennel in a large saucepan and cook on a medium heat for about 4 minutes. Add the carrot and celery and continue cooking until the vegetables soften.

- Stir in the tomato purée and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and let it bubble making sure you scrap all the goodness of the bottom of the pan.

- Next, add the canned tomatoes with their juices, the herbs, sugar, vegetable stock and some salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, cover and leave to simmer gently for about 30 minutes.

- Meanwhile, place you bread in the oven to dry out for about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool then break up into chunks.

-If you are making your own pesto start this now so it's ready to go; Place all dry ingredients into a small food processor and blitz until a paste. Add the olive oil slowly (or in intervals) and blitz again.

- About 5 minutes before you want to serve the soup, add the chickpeas to the soup and leave to simmer. Next add the toasted bread, stir well and cook for about 2 more minutes. 

- Taste the soup and season salt and a generous amount of freshly cracked pepper.

- Ladle the hot soup into bowls and add a spoonful of pesto in the centre and finish with a generous amount of freshly shredded basil (I didn't have any or I would have) and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

(Note: this soup freezes really well)

Pesto - when you have no pine nuts in the cupboard.

Recipe adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
Makes quite a bit - good to keep in the fridge/freezer.

30g fresh basil, washed and leaves picked
20g fresh parsley, washed and leaves picked
65g roasted almonds, chopped roughly
60g parmesan, grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
good pinch of salt and pepper
200mL extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar

- Place basil, parsley, almonds, parmesan, garlic, salt and pepper into a small food processor and blitz well until it forms a paste. 

- Next add the olive oil slowly (or in batched of three) and blitz until well combined then add the vinegar and give it one last blitz. Taste and season if you think it needs it.

- If you want it thinner just add a little more olive oil.

Note: This can be stored in the fridge for about 2 weeks if you keep it covered with olive oil or in the freezer for about 1-2 months. The garlic looses it's punchiness but it's still delicious.