Tomato & Tortellini Soup

This is one of those dishes that is satisfying not only because it’s tasty, but because it’s so simply and easy to prepare. If you get a lot of personal satisfaction about being efficient and keeping things simple, as I do, this is a dish for you!

I’m 9 months into living on my own for 4-5 nights a week, and it’s drastically changed how I cook. I’ve detailed this elsewhere on this blog. Convenience is huge, so a meal like this ticks a lot of boxes: quick, tasty, reasonably healthy (I added fresh spinach to the top). The Kitchn describes this dish this as “weeknight comfort food in 20 minutes” and I’d say that’s a pretty accurate description.

A package of fresh tortellini would normally last me two meals but I made three out of this one. I followed the recipe very closely, adding spinach as I mentioned above. It’s a bit awkward to eat — the floppy noodles create a bit of mess with the tomato sauce — but it’s damn good.

 

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Curried Carrot and Coconut Soup

It’s hard to believe that only 2 weeks remain of the academic semester for me. The fall term always goes by so quickly. This has been a bit of a strange term for me as I navigate the post-PhD job market (a nightmare), tie up loose ends of my PhD, and plan my next research projects, all the while trying to make a living in London — difficult at the best of times.

As a lecturer one’s schedule changes each semester, which I personally don’t mind as it means variety and flexibility. However, this term’s schedule has been particularly challenging when it comes to meal planning and cooking, since the only night that I am actually able to get “into” the kitchen at a decent hour is Friday. Every other night I have to plan things carefully because either (a) I get home late (Tues, Weds, Thurs) and/or H. is teaching in our flat (Mon, Weds, Thurs), which means I can’t cook (open plan is a blessing and a curse!).

This means a lot of meal planning and advance prep. I use a number of strategies to ensure we still eat well and at a decent hour. I try to get a head start on Sundays and either pre-make Monday and/or Tuesday’s meal, or do a lot of advance prep so that they don’t require time to throw together.

This brings me onto soup. For the past couple of years I have made soups most weekends from October-April. They usually last for a weekend lunch plus one lunch or evening meal during the week. Since I usually go to the market on Saturday mornings I always have fresh vegetables on hand. This one from the NYT caught my eye recently. I always have lots of carrots and it seemed like a good combination of creamy and spicy. As with most soups, it’s easy to make. Just don’t make the mistake I did: it calls for a cup (roughly ~230mls) of coconut milk. I got a bit lazy and just dumped a whole can (400mls) in. Don’t do that. It was too creamy. Not creamy enough that I couldn’t eat it, but it wasn’t a good idea. Also, the spice in this is subtle. If you like a spicier version I’d recommend upping the cayenne. Otherwise, this gets the full stamp of approval from me.

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Cauliflower Pakoras with Tomato & Ginger Soup

Now that fall is here, sometimes you just crave a simple, healthy, fulfilling meal. That’s how I would describe this one. Both recipes come from Vij’s Indian Cuisine. The book says that they serve the two dishes together in their restaurant, so that is exactly what I decided to do as well.

We had this on a Monday and I made the soup the day before, so just had to warm it up. (This type of prep is something I am trying to do more of — I will get into it more in a future post). The soup is very gingery. It calls for 30g; I didn’t have quite that much so used around 25g. With 15-20 curry leaves, 1tbsp ground coriander, and 1 tsp cayenne as well, it’s pungent, but not offensively so. I liked it.

Onto the pakoras: I decided that pakoras for 6 would be too much, so modified the recipe to make enough for 4. Even so, I ended up with had a huge batch and was able to freeze 2/3 of them. You make them by combining chickpea flour, buttermilk, a potato (which I cut up and parboiled beforehand), cauliflower florets (most of a large cauliflower), hot peppers of your choice, ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, and salt. What I liked about making these is that they were so easy to fry — I didn’t have to worry about them falling apart. As long as the oil is hot enough (a lesson I’ve learned the hard way over the past few years!), they are remarkably stable. You can also play around with the ingredients as well. As long as the flour/buttermilk ratio is ok, I think they are fine (the recipe calls for 3.5 cups gram flour to 2.5 cups buttermilk).

I served them with some plain Greek yogurt mixed with a bit of garlic and salt. These are so good — and freeze really well — that I am going to be making another batch very soon since cauliflower is so plentiful at the moment.

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Pakoras, anyone?
Pakoras, anyone?

Three Winter Soups

Winter is definitely the time for soup and I have been making a lot of it ever since we came back from North America last month. The weather we’ve had recently (cold, rainy, windy) has been calling out for warming meals! I tend to make a soup every Sunday, which lasts for a couple of lunches throughout the week. I decided to combine a few of my recent favourites into one post. All of these are winners in my book and definitely ones I will be making again.

Melissa Clark’s Red Lentil Soup with Lemon
Lentils are not the most exciting ingredient but they are very dependable (and nutritious, and cheap!). I tend to buy them in bulk and am always looking for ways to use them up. This is more than just your regular ol’ lentil soup because of the amount of lemon juice (1/2 lemon + more to taste). Lemons are one of my favourite ingredients and in fact that is what attracted me to this soup. This soup will not win any prizes for sophistication but it is very hearty and warming with just the right amount of spice.
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Diana Henry’s Cauliflower, Cheddar, & Cider Soup
Aside from tom yum, cauliflower is my favourite kind of soup. I usually like it simply, with just cream (or milk) and a little grated cheddar. There is nothing more comforting to me. However, the addition of cider brings it to a whole new level — quite simply, this was the best soup I have had in a long time! Make sure to choose a dry cider — anything sweet will be too sweet I think. (Note to readers from  North America: “cider” here means alcoholic cider, not the non-alcoholic version, so make sure you’re using the right kind!). There is obviously a bit of residual sweetness from the apples but it is not overpowering. It’s hard to describe the taste of this one. It is rich and complex and really unusual, but it works.

A terrible photo of an amazing soup!
A terrible photo of an amazing soup!

Thomasina Miers’ Carrot soup with chilli and brown butter
I find that carrot soups can sometimes but a little dull, but not this one. The sweetness of the carrots really shines through and works really well with the chili, yogurt, and dill (sounds like an odd combination but it works). The ‘spiced butter’ is a luxurious addition, but I wouldn’t say 100% necessary. When I initially made this, I didn’t add it in, but the next day when heating some more up for lunch, I did try it. It does add a bit of richness but you can easily get away without it.

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Celeriac Soup with Pancetta & Hazelnuts

Celeriac. The name isn’t inviting, and neither does this odd looking vegetable particularly look it either. But pickings are a bit slim at the market this time of year, and having read a little feature on this versatile vegetable from delicious magazine (as well as pledged to myself to try new ingredients sometimes), I decided to give it, and one of their recipes, a go.

First tings first: peeling and cutting this thing isn’t easy! Allow plenty of time, because it’s awkward.

I can’t find the recipe online (although this one is quite similar). Here’s how to make my version, based on the recipe from delicious‘ January issue:

  1. Fry ~100g diced pancetta in a bit of butter and then set aside.
  2. Peel and chop a large celeriac (they say 750g, mine was bigger than this so I only used about 2/3 of it). Note that this will take some time!
  3. Dice a shallot or small onion and then add it to a pot along with a bit of butter or oil. After a few minutes, add in the chopped celeriac along with 1L chicken stock and a bay leaf.
  4. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the celeriac is tender.
  5. Meanwhile, toast a handful of hazelnuts in a pan and then chop roughly.
  6. When the soup is ready, blend until smooth, and garnish with your choice of pancetta, hazelnuts, chives, creme fraiche, and/or chives.

When I asked H. whether he liked it, he didn’t respond right away. I think he was trying to formulate a response based along these lines: this soup isn’t the best you’ll ever have, but it is economical, seasonal, and tasty.

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Broccoli & Spinach Soup with Tahini-Lemon Sauce

A good soup is so satisfying, and this is definitely one of them. I was very impressed with the way this turned out. Easy to make, healthy, and really tasty — really lifted by the tahini sauce. I followed the instructions very closely, although I completely forgot to add in the zaatar/pine nut combination at the end! Despite this, the soup was excellent, and I think would appeal to even those who don’t like broccoli. It’s definitely one I will be adding to my regular repertoire.

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“Intense” Carrot & Ginger Soup

I recently realized that I haven’t been posting many soups lately. The majority of my soup posts (see here) are 2+ years old. I think the reason for that is because although I still make a lot of soup, especially at this time of year, there are quite a few repeats — either that or I don’t think they’re “substantial” enough to warrant a post on their own. I thought I’d change that (especially as we’re now deep into soup season) with this carrot & ginger soup from Canadian chef Craig Flinn. This recipe comes from his book Fresh and Local.

I love making soups because usually you just throw a number of ingredients into a pot, wait a bit, and enjoy! This one has an added step– roasting the carrots — but it’s worth it.

Carrot & Ginger Soup
Adapted from Craig Flinn’s recipe
Serves 2-4.

  • Preheat oven to 200°C.
  • Mix 3 cups peeled & chopped carrots wtih 1/2 cup diced onions (adjust as desired!), 2 gloves garlic, a dash of olive oil, 1 tbsp powdered ginger, and salt and pepper to taste. Roast in oven ~25 minutes.
  • When roasted, dump the vegetables in a heavy pot along with 3 cups/1.5L chicken stock, 1/2 cup orange juice, 1/2 cup heavy cream, and 1/4 cup freshly chopped ginger.*
  • Simmer soup for 45 minutes-1 hour. Puree. If the soup is too thick for your liking, add a bit of water, stock, or orange juice as desired.

*You may of course adjust the ginger depending on preferences.

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Soups for Fall (roundup)

Now that the clocks have changed (at least here) and fall is truly upon us, I thought I’d share some of my favourite soups to make.

Senegalese peanut soup
This is quite simply delicious. It is one of H. & I’s all-time favourites, especially good over couscous or brown rice. Let sit for a bit if you can.

Spicy bean & lentil
This one doesn’t sound all that appealing but I promise you it tastes much better than it sounds. It’s the perfect combination of smoke, spice, and comfort, and pretty healthy too.

Cauliflower
I am a sucker for a simple cream of cauliflower. Done well, and topped with a bit of cheese, they are so good. I particularly like the British Larder’s version.

Broccoli, lemon & Parmesan
Another one that’s let down by its name. This soup is easy to make, very tasty, and a quick way to use up a head of broccoli that might have been sitting in the fridge a day or two too long!

And, these aren’t really fall soups per se, but the corn and coconut done with frozen corn I think works just as well, and can add some brightness to a dull day. Similarly, roasted red pepper is another favourite (and much easier if you can find the peppers in a jar).

Fall in Nuremberg, Germany (5 years ago!)
Fall in Nuremberg, Germany (5 years ago!)

Back on the job

I can’t believe there has been a nearly 3 week gap between my last post and this one. I don’t think that’s ever happened on this blog other than planned breaks! The 3-year anniversary of MwL even came and went on the 10th without my acknowledgement – tsk, tsk. Needless to say it’s been very busy on this end with lots of PhD-stuff going on and a 5-day trip to Poland squeezed in there. Another part of why I haven’t posted is because I’ve felt that why I’ve been trying a few new things in the kitchen, not a lot of them are groundbreaking or interesting enough to warrant a post. With that in mind, I’ve decided to play catch-up by combining a few different dishes into one post.

Anti-vampire (aka garlic) soup (from Lottie & Doof, recipe here)
As a lover of garlic I have always wanted to try making garlic soup. This one seemed the perfect antidote to the crappy weather we’ve had all winter. It was also great because I wanted to use some of the sage that my friend A. brought back from Turkey for me as a gift! Unfortunately, unbeknownst to me at the time, there are two types of sage. One is much stronger, and guess which one I was using? I left it in the entire time the soup was simmering (~20 minutes) and as soon as I’d taken the first sip I knew: it was horribly and disgustingly bitter! Once we’d removed all the sage it was palatable but still unfortunately not probably as good as it could have been. What made it better was fresh bread & the poached egg, which were both lovely.

Get outta my soup, sage.
Get outta my soup, sage.

Quiche
After stating for years that I wasn’t a fan of quiche (due to a very unfortunate bad association with rotten quiche on a plane as a child), I discovered over Christmas that I actually love it! My aunt J2 made a delicious lobster quiche for Christmas morning brunch and since then I’ve made it three times (although admittedly with the less luxurious and more humble mushroom). This recipe, with the addition of green onion, is my favourite so far.

Quiche & Sunday morning sun
Quiche & Sunday morning sun

Breakfast hash
I am a sweet potato fiend and so this brunch dish immediately caught my eye. It did not disappoint! Other than slightly overcooking the eggs (baked eggs are such a precise science!), this was perfect. Unlike the recipe I did make it the day of and was chopping potatoes at 9am, but it was worth it.

Sausage, egg, & bacon hash
YUM

Lunches part 3

Part 3 in my lunch series has been a long time coming — it’s been almost a year (!) since I posted Part 2 (Part 1 here). To give a quick summary, this series is about lunch items that can be prepared quickly and that take the dullness out of what is often for a lot of people a ‘throwaway’ meal.

7. Leftover vegetarian chili
Yes, it may seem a bit odd to includes leftovers in this feature, but this really makes the best lunch, especially on a winter’s day. You can make the chili the night before or even freeze it in advance (it’s easy to throw together and once assembled you can leave to simmer for as long as you like). The way I make it would perhaps be considered by some as a ‘loose’ version of chili, but I’ll share my method regardless: sautee garlic (and onion, if you wish) in a bit of olive oil. Add 2 (400g) cans of chopped tomatoes, followed by whatever veg you like (I like carrots, peppers, and some tomatoes). Add 2 cans of red kidney beans, + spices (I used a little cumin, ground coriander, garam masala, and my personal favourite to add to a chili, a little cinnamon). Simmer (the longer the better). Best with a bit of grated cheddar, chopped fresh coriander, & a dollop of sour cream on top! This makes enough for 2 meals for 2; adjust as necessary.

8. Cheat’s tomato soup
I’m calling this a cheat’s soup because it’s not made with fresh ingredients which for some reason to me feels like cheating! However I’ve made this loads of times and enjoyed it each and every one. What is imperative for this recipe is the tomatoes — find ones that are good quality. I cannot stress this enough. To make, simply sautee a little garlic and/or onions in some oil, add 2 cans of diced tomatoes along with salt and pepper, and simmer for anywhere between 10-20 minutes. Then puree the soup and add in a dollop of cream or creme fraiche (you do not need a lot to create a bit of a ‘creamy’ feeling). My favourite garnish herb for this soup is dill, but lots of others would work too. Best served with crusty bread!

9. A version of Ottolenghi’s conchiglioni
I am even surprising myself that I’ve included an Ottolenghi dish in this series, however this is a great-tasting pasta and has to be one of the easier dishes in his repertoire! It’s also, in Ottolenghi’s words, comfort food at its finest. The recipe is from Jerusalem. I have made it several times with many substitutions and variations. The basic ingredients you need are pasta, plain Greek yogurt*, feta cheese, basil, chili flakes, and nuts. *When I first told H. that I was making pasta with yogurt he had a confused and disgusted look on his face. I promise that it works though! To make it, simply prepare the pasta as directed, and once cooked combine with a large dollop of yogurt, some basil leaves, chili flakes, feta, and nuts as desired (pine nuts work the best in my experience). You can also mix spinach leaves in which I’ve found to work really well.

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