Sunday Soup – Curried Carrot

I bought carrots last week for… something and I cannot remember what so I decided to make soup from them.  I didn’t want to just make carrot and coriander and a quick search brought up this curried carrot soup recipe from Food Network.  I upped the amount of curry in it by accident (misreading teaspoon as tablespoon) but this actually gave a really nice soup, so I’ve modified my version accordingly =)

Curried Carrot Soup

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tbsp ground coriander
  • 5-600g carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 500ml veg stock
  • 1/2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions

  • Chop the carrots, celery and onion.
  • Add the oil and curry to a pan – I used mild/medium powder – and heat for a couple of minutes.
  • Add the chopped veg to the pan and mix well, letting it soften for ten minutes.
  • Add in the stock and tomato paste then boil for ten minutes.
  • Leave to cool and skim the oil from the surface, then blend.
  • Add the lemon juice, stir and serve.

Extra Notes

I often mix stock flavours unless it’s a particular flavour soup (chicken, for example).  This is a habit I learned from my mother and I’ve found that it really helps boost the flavours in some soups – lentil made with half chicken, half ham stock tastes much better to me than made with just one or other but, of course, using just one type would work and it’s all dependant on what you like!

This soup is warm.  I don’t really like ‘hot’ spicy food, but this has the kind of heat which leaves your mouth heated but not burning – perfect for me.  If you really don’t like a lot of spicyness you’ll want to tone it down a little, adding a little less powder and, conversely, if you like a little heat add hot curry powder rather than mild/medium.  A really nice soup to eat on a cool, misty autumn day.

Read More

Halloween Treats – Toffee Apple Cookies

Gone are the days when I would don silly costumes and went around taking sweeties from strangers – now I have to make my own if I want any.  I decided to make something Halloweeny for the weekend but, despite being on a pumpkin kick, didn’t want to take the ‘easy’ way out.  I wanted something which really screamed Halloween to me and I definitely found it in this BBC GoodFood recipe.  Toffee apples are Halloween for me – every year, I await the glistening, sugary and unnaturally red apples, ignoring all the ‘chocolate’ imposters.  I must have one.

Toffee Apple Cookies

Ingredients

  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 140g  caster sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 85g chewy toffees
  • 85g ready-to-eat dried apple chunks
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 2 tbsp milk

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 170°C
  • Chop the apples and toffee roughly – I cut my toffee pieces into 6 or so smaller squares.
  • Blend the sugar and butter together until creamed.
  • Add in all other ingredients and mix until combined.
  • Roll a small palmful between your hands and squish lightly before placing on a greaseproof lined / non-stick baking tray – making sure to leave plenty of room as the cookies spread.
  • Cook for ~10-12 minutes in the middle of the oven and allow to cool thoroughly before trying to pry them off any paper if you used it.  A spatula helps!

Extra Notes

Have an ice cube tray to hand and pour the egg whites into it to freeze.  Large eggs make about two ‘standard’ rectangular cubes.  Once frozen, put them in an airtight bag for later use – they don’t take too long to defrost when you need to use them =)

These are a little crumbly – maybe could have done with a little something more to hold them together – but they are also super tasty.  Who cares if your cookie is half crumbs when it tastes like toffee apple crumble? In fact, if you left out the eggs and milk it really would make a nice sticky toffee crumble top.  Probably a great base for other taste combinations – a few are suggested in the linked article’s comments.  I’d like to try something, perhaps, with the dried apricots I have leftover from another cooking experiment.

Read More

Smonday Soup – Celery, Herb and Almond

Whoops, got caught out this weekend and didn’t get my soup done in time, so for this week only (hopefully)  we have a Smonday Soup ;) Inspired by this recipe, here.

Celery is the marmite of the vegetable world – most people either love or hate it.  I’ve gone from hate to love – especially when it comes to adding it to soups – so it was a natural progression to try a soup with it as the main ingredient.  Despite that, though, this soup is only mildly celery flavoured with the odd burst of it when you crunch through an unblended stalk.

Celery, Herb & Almond Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion
  • 6 sticks of celery
  • 2 tbsps fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsps fresh marjoram
  • 2 tbsps fresh sage
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 50g almonds
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 300ml skimmed milk
  • 3 heaped tbsp low-fat natural yoghurt

Directions

  • Chop the onion and celery whilst the oil is heating in a saucepan.
  • Add the onions and celery to the oil and heat until softened.
  • Add in all other ingredients except the yoghurt.
  • Boil for around 15 to 20 minutes – the celery should be fairly soft.
  • Allow to cool slightly then blend with a hand blender.
  • Add in the yoghurt, and heat back up, stirring well.

A relatively simple, quick and tasty soup which was made quickly and used products that the garden happily provided.  I don’t often get to use marjoram, but its flavour comes through very well – you could probably leave the dill out, though, as the other herbs overshadow it.

Read More

‘Scottish’ Macaroons

Based on this recipe by Kristen Oliveri.

I wasn’t aware until I went to University that there was more than one type of macaroon.  When offered one and being handed a soft cakey thing sprinkled lightly with coconut I was a bit perplexed.  A macaroon should be death-by-sugar with a coconut aftertaste, smothered in chocolate, surely?  Apparently not!  I actually learned to like the ‘other’ type of macaroon and hadn’t had the kind I remembered Granny getting in wee paper pokes for years and so decided that whilst I was having a go at making various sweeties I’d have a go at this childhood favourite.

Scottish Macaroons

Ingredients

  • 1 small potato (~100-150g)
  • 300g cups dessicated coconut
  • 450g icing sugar
  • 180g of milk chocolate

Directions

  • Cut the potato into small pieces and cook until soft, then cool and mash up.
  • Add the potato to the icing sugar and mix until blended – far more easily done in a mixer than by hand.
  • Put the coconut on a tray in the oven at a medium-high heat until it browns.
  • Add two-thirds of the coconut to the potato-sugar mix and blend until well mixed.
  • Shape in a tray to a thickness of about 2-3 cm.
  • Melt the chocolate, pour over the shaped base and smooth.
  • Sprinkle the remaining coconut over the chocolate before it’s dry.
  • Leave until the chocolate has set, then cut into small bars or pieces.
  • Eat a piece and enjoy your sugar coma.

This wasn’t quite as horrendously sweet as the type I’d had as a child, the amount of potato probably accounts for that, but any more sweetness isn’t really needed – I had to portion them into tiny pieces or risk diabetes by the bite – I’m glad I didn’t try making some with white chocolate as tempted.  I think next time I might try making little bite-size pieces and coating them in chocolate rather than doing them as a tray bake.  In fact, the coconut mix is malleable enough to be shaped into little balls which might be nice for gifts =)

Read More

Saving Sunflower Seed

Sadly, I can’t claim to be worrying much about late summer harvests – healthy big squashes or last-minute courgettes, tomatoes that aren’t quite ripe or peppers which needs a few days in the heat of the house.  I had no luck starting my butternut squashes and courgettes, didn’t bother with tomatoes and my peppers didn’t exactly thrive.  However, I do have quite a few plants which are going to seed – the most recent of which being a rather large sunflower.  The oversized head on it was, I think, an accident.  It was snapped half off in high winds but when I set it back edge-to-edge it continued to grow but put all of its energy into the flower.   This gave me a dinner-plate-sized 8ft plant beside two 9-10ft ones with saucer-sized flowers!

However, because of a patch of rough weather I decided to chop it down a little early – when the back of the head was barely yellow – as all three sunflowers were tied together and I didn’t want the weight of the biggest to pull them all down.  I kept it in a nice cool, dry spot but, unfortunately, it seems it wasn’t dry enough as, last week, I noticed a teeny bit of mould starting in one corner.  Cue an afternoon of seed-collecting.

The rotten patch is easily visible at the bottom-right – the really pale spot.

The front pile is viable seeds, the middle is discards – hollow and overly small ones.  I had a large number to throw out, but I expected that given the early harvest and picking.  Still, I’ve been left with a decently chunky pile of seed for next year – though I have some spare if anyone wants a wee handful!

I’ve also been collecting:  marigolds, lupins, viola, lilac, hybridized (I think) spanish bluebells two types of loose salad leaf, coriander, and dill.  Seed saving was something I was definitely looking forward too – I’ve always been interested in genetics and inheritance and to know that some of next years crop may be grown from seed I saved the year before in a continuum of life which a shop-bought packet doesn’t give is rather warming.

Read More

Saturday Soup – Chicken, Asparagus and Soy Bean

This week’s recipe brought to you by a last-minute kitchen search.  Last Sunday we were in a rush for our weekly shop and I forgot to grab anything for a soup – something I only realised mid-day today.  Oops.  Luckily Andy had been out one night this week unexpectedly and I had spare asparagus and some soy beans from that day’s aborted dinner.  A quick google and I was inspired by this recipe here to make the title soup.  I figured I could jazz it up a little with some other fresh ingredients – any excuse to use up more of the overgrowing parsley ;)

Chicken, Asparagus and Soy Bean Soup

Ingredients

  • Knob of butter
  • 1 onion
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 potato
  • 200g frozen soy beans
  • 1l stock – half chicken, half vegetable
  • 2 medium-small chicken breasts
  • ~12 spears of asparagus
  • ~8g fresh parsley (small handful)
  • Juice of one lemon

Directions

  • Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the onions and flour and cook for 5 minutes
  • Add the potatoes, soy beans, chicken, lemon juice and stock.
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Add the parsley and asparagus, simmer for 5 more minutes.
  • Remove two to three ladelfuls, blend the remaining soup and add the chunky pieces back.

For something I put together at the last moment I’m really rather happy with how this turned out.  It was full of veg and, whilst creamy, didn’t have any excess fat in it.  For those super conscious about fat levels you could easily substitute the butter for olive oil or even just omit it if you have a good non-stick pan. It was super-easy to make, makes plenty and is a nice touch of bright flavour in the midst of what is becoming a rather dreary autumn.

Read More

Basic Baklava

Baklava is something I’ve loved since I tasted it… even though I’ve only had it once!  Mum brought some back from holiday, I think, and I got to taste a little bit of sticky, nutty heaven.  I didn’t expect to like it so much – at the time I hated nuts – but the sugary, syrupy goodness overwhelmed any nut flavour and the divine texture won me over.  Whilst the baklava I made didn’t taste entirely the same, it’s still gooey, nutty, tasty pastry goodness.  All the more enjoyable because I actually like nuts now =)

One of the main reasons I wanted to make this is that all of the commercial baklavas I’ve been able to find here have pistachios – which Andy is allergic to.  Making it at home means using nuts he can eat.  I’ve used almonds, pecans and walnuts but you could exchange that for any nut you like – I’ve even heard of people using pine nuts, though they’re technically seeds ;)

This recipe was adapted from one here at about.com by Diana Rattray.

Basic Baklava

Ingredients

  • 250g (~12 sheets) filo pastry
  • 200g melted butter
  • 300g nuts
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 85g honey
  • 240ml water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp orange flavouring

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 200°C
  • If using whole nuts, chop them in a food processor separately until they’re relatively small chunks but not powdery.
  • Add 100g of the sugar to the nuts, as well as the cinnamon and nutmeg.  Mix thoroughly.
  • Melt the butter
  • Grease a baking tray which is about the size of your filo sheets and around an inch or more deep.
  • Place half your filo pastry inside a piece of baking paper with a damp towel – this will stop it from drying out and crumbling  whilst you work with the first half.
  • Take one sheet of pastry, lay it into the tray and fold any edges in.  Brush butter over the sheet quickly.
  • Do this for two more sheets.
  • Add about one thirds of your nuts, sprinkled over the whole sheet.
  • Repeat until you’ve used up your pastry and nuts.
  • Take a sharp knife and cut the baklava into small pieces.
  • Put the tray into the oven and bake for around 20-30 minutes until it’s golden brown on top.
  • Whilst the pastry is cooking, make the syrup.
  • Add the rest of the sugar, honey, water, lemon juice and orange flavouring to a saucepan.
  • Bring to the boil and keep on the heat until it has thickened a little then set aside to cool.
  • Once the pastry is done, bring it out and let it cool; similarly leave the syrup to cool for around ten minutes or so.
  • Once both have cooled, pour the syrup into the baklava making sure to cover the top relatively evenly.
  • Leave to sit overnight, loosely covered, before eating.

Extra Notes

  • Many nuts have varying thickness and densities.  If you chop the whole lot at the same time you’ll end up with huge chunks of one whilst the other is almost dust.
  • I used orange flavouring as I have no access to orange water – if you can get that, you could use it instead.


As an additional note:  going on a diet when you’re on a confectionery-making kick is really a terrible idea.  I guess I’ll just have to find some willing volunteers to save me from myself and eat it before I end up snarfing the whole lot!

Read More

New Bed

I’m already starting to get ready for next year’s gardening – and it’s not just winter veggies.  Our garden is not exactly overwhelmed with space – I have about 6m2 of ground (in a long, thin strip) to plant any crops in which need space and then the rest has to make do with containers and borders; therefore, I’ve been looking for ways to expand my growing space.  One particular spot I’ve had my eye on is the side of the ‘drying green’ – it’s a spot which gets a great deal of sunshine all day in summer and winter and which I also have trouble mowing, because it’s a slight dip and I can’t get the mower right into the fence.  The birds and beasties loved playing around in the long grass, but it looked a little untidy and it seemed a little sad to leave such a prime growing spot to weedy scrub  – I can leave that on the other side, which gets less sun!

So, I decided to started a bed on the side there and, since it’s impossible to dig into the soil later in the year, figured I’d have a go at getting it settled in before winter hits.  Doing it this early also gives the soil a little time to recuperate before the frost starts and also plenty of time to settle.

I’ve covered it in black overlay in the hopes of killing off any extra grass, but I have a feeling I’ll need to go out with some snips soon to get the little bits of grass clinging to the edge of the fence.  I didn’t want to dig too close to it, so some survived when I overturned the rest.  It’s not a huge bed, but it should, hopefully, give me a decent spot to grow some more tender veg next year and, thus, more room for flowers elsewhere.  I really am coming to appreciate flowers – the highlight of the garden for me this year was the marigolds and their bright, sunny flowers just bursting with colour and cheerfulness so I’d like to give over a little more room to ‘pretty things’ next year – for preference pretty things which are also useful ;)

Read More