burnt toast

Category: Soup

Saffron and Kale Soup with Chipotle Buttered Toast

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Almost four weeks ago, I got on a plane with two very heavy suitcases, two packets of tissues and a heart full of excitement. After six absolutely wonderful  years in Australia, I returned to Switzerland, my other home. It’s great to be back. This time round it’s a little easier getting used to my “new” home, because everything is familiar. Yet there are so many subtle differences I’m having to accustom myself to, such as not adding a “how are you?” after the initial “hello” when speaking to a stranger, having to look up when waiting for a green light when crossing the street because it doesn’t make a clicking noise when it’s okay to go and remembering that most of the shops are definitely not open on Sundays. And at the same time I can’t help but miss the smell of eucalyptus, the friendly cats everywhere, the affordable restaurant food, the lovely friends left behind. Sigh.

Before I get all mopey and nostalgic, let me share with you a recipe I used to make about once a week back in the Melbourne era. It’s not really a recipe per se, more an assembly of ingredients, one I’d fall back onto when my five a day count was near non-existent, when I felt that I needed to give myself and my suffering immune system some pampering. It’s a simple vegetable soup, with the addition of saffron, for a little special hint of sunny warmth. You can add pulses, pasta and any herb you like, but I usually like to keep it simple and stick to the veggies in my fridge. The actual star of this dish is the chipotle butter, which I used to have on toast, now on fresh, crunchy, chewy bread (gasp!). It’s spicy and wonderful and very very morish, so be sure to make more than you think you’ll need.

To cold days, to winter, to warm hugs and memories.

 

Saffron and Kale Soup with Chipotle Buttered Toast

Serves 4

 

olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, sliced thinly

2 tomatoes, sliced thinly

1/6 celeriac, finely chopped

2 carrots, quartered, finely chopped

3 medium potatoes, cut into small cubes

4-5 kale leaves, very thinly sliced

1.5 litres of vegetable stock

1 big pinch saffron threads

a dash of soy sauce

a few drops of lemon juice

salt, pepper

In a large saucepan, fry the onion in the oil until translucent. Add the garlic, stir for a minute or two, then add the tomatoes. Once the tomatoes are soft, add the rest of the vegetables, the stock and the saffron. Bring to the boil and simmer gently until all vegetables are cooked through. Brighten the soup with the lemon (you don’t need much) juice, add the soy sauce for a boost of umami, and season to taste. Serve with crusty bread or toast and chipotle butter (below).

 

Chipotle Butter

100g butter, softened

2 tsp chipotle chilli powder

salt

a tiny squeeze of lemon juice

In a bowl, beat the butter with a fork to loosen it up. Add one teaspoon of chipotle and a few pinches of salt, as well as the lemon. Give it a good stir. Have a taste, then add more or the rest of the chipotle. It will seem quite spicy at first, however it will soften as it rests.

If you really don’t like spicy, I suggest you only use ¼ tsp of chipotle and replace the rest with smoked paprika powder.

Vegetarian Harira with Date and Almond Couscous

harira

I feel like it’s high time I give you guys something sweet for you to sink your teeth into, but for some reason it’s the savouries that have captured me and taken me on a trip to enthusiasmville, and I must say I quite like it.

Up next is a soup I had forgotten about for more than two years, which is bordering on criminal because it truly is a beautiful soup. Harira is one of those exotically seductive yet immensely comforting soups, flashy enough to serve as a special dinner but also perfect for a midweek meal. To make up for the lack of lamb in this vego version, I’ve added a few chopped up dried porcini mushrooms. I’ve also replaced celery, not because I have split feelings about it, but because I think that parsley stalks have an incredibly complex flavour, which cooked along in the soup do a fabulous job at adding that dynamic that usually le celery is responsible for. The medley of spices work spiffingly with the vibrant tomatoey broth, and is made even better by the accompaniment of the sweet buttery almond-flecked couscous. The soup will taste better the next day, as most soups do. But even a few hours after you’ve cooked it will do if that’s all the time you’ve got.

And yes I have a thing for shooting food in tiny (blue) dishes. And no, that is not a serving size I would ever dare to serve someone, let alone myself.

Vegetarian Harira with Date and Almond Couscous

Serves 4

4 slices dried porcini mushroom, very finely shopped

3-4 Tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cinnamon quill

1 tsp each of ground turmeric, ginger, cumin and paprika

1 pinch saffron

the stalks of half a bunch of parsley, tied in a knot

1 large red capsicum, finely chopped

400g tin chopped tomatoes

800ml stock

1 can chickpeas, half of them crushed with a fork

splash of soy sauce, salt

¼ tsp chilli flakes

half a bunch parsley, leaves finely chopped

half a bunch coriander, leaves picked

Place the chopped porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil and add the onion and carrot. Fry until softened. Add the garlic and the spices, and stir until fragrant. Add the soaked mushrooms with their liquid, the capsicum, parsley stalks, capsicum, chopped tomatoes and the stock, and bring to the boil. Let it cook until all of the vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes. Add the chickpeas and soy sauce and season to taste with the salt and chilli flakes. When ready to serve, ladle into bowls and top with the parsley and coriander. Serve with the couscous (below).

almond and date couscous

Almond and Date Couscous

Serves 4

1 big nob of butter

1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped

1 cup / 190g couscous

1/2 tsp cinnamon, plus more to serve

1 cup /250ml boiling vegetable stock

10 dates, chopped into tiny cubes

1/3 cup /40g slivered almonds, toasted

In a small pan, melt the butter and add the garlic. Once it starts to go golden, remove from the heat and stir in the couscous and cinnamon. Pour over the boiling veggie stock and cover for about 5 minutes until completely absorbed. Fluff with a fork and stir through the chopped dates. Divide the couscous amongst serving dishes and top with the toasted almonds.

Miso Tom Yum

miso tom yum

It’s time to talk about soup, kittens. Melbourne’s weather has once again turned into a European winter, just minus the snow and the fantastic European insulation.

 

Tom yum and I go way back. Oh yeah. As a wee kid my mum would joke that my love for the hot and sour soup started in her belly, when she regularly succumbed to her cravings by meandering down to China Town in Sydney for a steaming bowl of hot Thai goodness. Tom yum is my number one thing I will order at a Thai restaurant, but more often than not I’ll end up throwing one together at home when I can’t bother making something too lengthy and extravagant for myself. I’ve got a minor crush going for this soup, not only because it’s easy, but because it’s so versatile. Add some baby sweet corn or a few sliced snap peas,or if you’re feeling a bit mild, replace some of the water with coconut milk to make a tom ka.

 

Now you may have noticed that I omit the “goong” at the end of tom yum. Goong translated means prawns. And I hate them dearly. Often you can get chicken instead, or tofu if you ask nicely. I go vego all the way, mainly because I don’t tend to have a chicken waiting for me in the fridge. To make up for the missing prawn or chicken flavour, I add shitake mushrooms and a spoonful of miso.  Umami all the way darling. Chuck in some noodles at the beginning of the cooking time, or have it with rice.

 

Miso Tom Yum

 

Makes 1 serving

 

1 Tbsp sliced dried shitake mushrooms

1 garlic clove, sliced thinly

1 spring onion, sliced thinly

5 cm lemongrass, bashed with the back of a knife

2 kaffir lime leaves, bruised

3 cherry tomatoes, sliced thinly

3 thin slices galangal, or ginger if you cant find it, bruised

2 coriander roots including stalks, bruised (if you don’t have roots, just use a small bunch of stalks)

1 small red chilli, sliced finely

½ lime, halved

½ tsp vegetable stock powder

 

50g fried tofu, diced

1 Tbsp light miso paste

dash of soy sauce

small handful fresh coriander leaves

 

rice, to serve

 

Place the shitake mushroom slices in a small bowl and add a dash of hot water to soften. Alternatively, slice 2 button mushrooms very thinly and use in the next step.

 

Combine the soaked and softened mushrooms with their liquid, the garlic, spring onion, lemongrass, lime leaves, cherry tomatoes, galangal, and coriander roots to a small saucepan and cover with 300ml hot water from a recently boiled kettle. Bring to the boil and let it simmer for about 4 minutes, or until the tomatoes are mushy. While the soup is simmering away, you can decide how much chilli you want to add. Start with a few rings, you can always add more. Add the juice of ¼ lime and the vegetable stock powder. We only add this much because the miso is going to be quite salty. Now, once the cherry tomatoes are how they should be, add the tofu and bring to the boil again, until everything is heated through. Remove from the flame and add the miso. I usually mix it with a bit of the soup in a small bowl so it doesn’t go lumpy. Now, have a taste. Does it need more salt? Add a dash of soy sauce. Maybe some more acidity? Add the rest of the lime. Pour into a bowl and top with the coriander leaves.

 

Yay! Your tom yum is done! Serve with rice or whatever starchy accompaniment you feel is right.

 

Remember you can’t really eat the kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, coriander roots, or galangal. You’re welcome to give it a try but I doubt it would be very enjoyable.

Tomato Soup

So you know how you tend to be a bit crazy about something for a while? Usually it’s a lifelong addiction to chocolate, ain’t it ladies? Or you have some sort of lolly you can’t live without. Or a specific chilli sauce. My current such pleasure is somewhat ridiculous, but hey, we all are to some extent. Truffle oil. I could drink that stuff from a shot glass. I want it on everything. Especially on tomato soup. That beautiful savoury garlicky umami character of the oil compliments the sweet creamy tanginess of the soup perfectly. This is rich stuff. This is gourmet comfort food. It is anything and everything I could ever want from a soupe de tomate.

It is also perfect for cold, grey Swiss days. Yes, the weather here in Bern is shite, but you know what? It’s so good to be back. I’ve missed you beautiful people. And the cheese. And the chocolate. I could go on but I know you’re hungry. Now go make this soup and think of me.

The Best Tomato Soup (with Truffle Oil)

Makes 1 Litre, serving 4 as an entrée, or two greedy people as a main.

1 tsp butter

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 celery stalk, finely chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely sliced

2 pinches cinnamon

2 pinches ground cumin

2 pinches chilli

4 parsley stalks, knotted together, plus extra, to serve

2 cans chopped tomatoes

300ml water

2 tsp chicken stock granules

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp honey

4 Tbsp crème fraîche, plus extra for serving

2 tsp truffle oil, plus more for drizzling

cracked black pepper

melt the butter with the oil in a saucepan and add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic, and sweat on low heat until soft. Add the spices, parsley, chopped tomatoes, water and stock powder. Let it simmer for about half an hour. Remove from heat, remove the parsley, and give it a whizz with a hand held blender, until it’s all smooth and creamy. Now add the soy, honey, crème fraîche and truffle oil, and give it another whirl. If you’re being all fancy you can pass it through a fine sieve, but that would be a waste of healthy fibre, would it not. Reheat if necessary, add some more seasoning if need be, then pour into bowls, swirl in some of the extra crème fraîche, drizzle over some more of that delicious oil and add a sprinkling of parsley. I love parsley with tomato soup. It’s old fashioned, but good. Crack some pepper over the whole beautiful mess and treat yourself to a bowlful.

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