CARROT & TOMATO SOUP
Last week our family came home from holidays with a gastro bug, my dear husband suffering the worst of it. Overwhelmed and tired after a terrific break, but a long return journey, we were feeling rather ordinary and just so thankful to be home. Our weary hearts were made even more thankful by the countless expressions of care we received – more than one friend brought meals around for the days ahead in Vomit Land and we had countless offers to pick up milk and food for us, as well as prayers offered to our Heavenly Father on our behalf. On one hand, things like this happen pretty frequently among all sorts of people, but I’m still just struck by the fact that these kinds of everyday miracles are just how God rolls. Whether or not we realise it, he cares for us and provides what we need through the people he’s made us to be. In his letter to the scattered early church, James writes:
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James 1:7
God is good, though it’s sometimes hard for me to see. He doesn’t change, he isn’t moody and I don’t need to catch him at a good time. He gives good and perfect gifts. One of them was this flavoursome and refreshing soup provided that night by our friends Ben & Renee for my green-feeling husband. It hit the spot. Renee shared the recipe with me which has come in handy this week, cause some of us are sick again, this time with colds and flus. Oh well, that’s life. But this yummy comfort food is also just what we feel like at the moment: It’s autumn, the weather has turned crisp and the kids and I are using up some school holidays visiting family in the Snowy Mountains (check out the view!). Not a bad time and place to be sick and snuggly with soup. This recipe is freezer friendly and a great option for those with special dietary needs (just use gluten free stock and leave out the cream if need be), and cheap to cook costing less than $5 to make more than 2L. We’re having it tonight with oven-ready bread and real butter. Thanks, Ben & Renee for the soup, and much more.
- 125g butter (half a block)
- 2 large onions, finely chopped
- 2 x 400g tins crushed tomatoes
- 1 x 500g bag carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
- 8 cups chicken stock (I use powdered, reconstituted with water)
- salt, pepper and pinch of sugar
- cream for drizzling, if desired
- In a large soup pot melt butter and saute onion until golden. Add carrots and cook until soft and golden (this preliminary cooking step add lots of extra flavour to the end result).
- Add the remaining ingredients (except the cream) to the carrot, butter and onion mixture, and simmer for 45 mins.
- Blend with a stick blender in the cooking pot and serve with or without drizzled cream and crusty, buttery bread. Serves 8.
Well here in Australia, my favourite season – winter – has arrived. For me, winter is all about boots and soft socks, jackets, warm jumpers, snuggly evenings on the couch and having people over to enjoy comfort food. The downside is only that these yummy dishes are often carb-heavy and and high in fat, and well, over the course of winter, the old jeans can get a bit tight. So I thought I’d share this recipe with you cause it’s been getting a bit of a workout at our place lately and while it’s definitely a treat-like comfort food (it’s no low-calorie salad!), it is very low carb. And it’s so versatile – we use it as a side as well as a main and the whole family devours it. It’s also great for lunches made on Sunday afternoons for the working week ahead or as an easy meal to give away. This yummy, wintery dish that serves 15 people as a side, 8+ as a main, costs $28 to make if you buy your cauliflower and all the other ingredients from a supermarket (I’ve calculated this based on current Woolworth’s pricing), but almost half that if you’ve got time to swing past a fruit and veg shop. Similarly, Coles has recently released an excellently priced and packaged You’ll Love Coles cream cheese product, and streaky bacon from Aldi is always a good price. A little shopping around makes the whole meal quite affordable. Happy winter, everyone!
- 2 heads fresh cauliflower
- 250g cream cheese
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 bunch spring onions sliced finely, white stalk to mid-green length (chuck away dark green part)
- ½ cup parmesan cheese, grated finely
- 10 slices of streaky bacon (though any kind is fine), fried off and crumbled
- 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Boil the cauliflower in a large pot, drain the water completely and mash to a pulp in the pot you cooked it in.
- Mix in cream cheese, sour cream, spring onions, parmesan and ¾ of the bacon.
- Spread the mixture evenly into a large lasagne dish. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese and reserved bacon. Bake for 30-35 mins until hot and bubbly. Enjoy!
DILL & SMOKED SALMON FRITTATAS
The warmer weather has well and truly arrived and as usually happens, I find myself craving lighter meals such as these delightful Dill and Smoked Salmon Frittatas. The basic recipe for these was given to me by my friend Kara who makes them as finger food, baked in mini muffin tins and topped with a small piece of salmon and dot of sour cream. And if you’re looking for a yummy and easy finger food option, I heartily recommend making them that way. But seeing as this blog is all about easy hospitality, I tried making these a little less labour intensive and with a view to serving as a main. The recipe that follows is Kara’s basic frittata recipe, but with a slightly different methodology. Make these ahead of time and freeze for quick lunches at home or for 6 people coming over for lunch – simply thaw gently and warm a little in a low set oven. Serve with a side salad and some crusty bread. The good thing about these little babies is they are the perfect thing to serve those on a sugar free and carb free diet (minus the side of bread) and they’re also gluten free. Making 12 regular muffin sized frittatas or 48 mini muffin sized hors d oeuvres, this easy, do-the-whole-thing-in-the-food-processor recipe will cost around $13, though less if you purchase the herbs at a green-grocer rather than the supermarket, and the ricotta from the deli rather than the fridge section.
- 8 eggs
- 3 tablespoons dill
- 3 tablespoons chives
- 1/3 cup cream
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- salt and pepper
- 1 x 415g can smoked salmon, drained with the majority of skin and bone removed.
- In a food processor, put in dill and chives and process until finely chopped.
- Add ricotta, eggs and cream and process again.
- Exchange the chopping for the grating blade and grate half a cups worth of parmesan onto the top of the mixture. Season the mixture with salt and pepper.
- Grease muffin trays well with spray oil and pour mixture in until 2/3 filled.
- Distribute salmon in chunks over the portions and top each with the remaining parmesan cheese.
- Bake at 160 degrees for 20 mins if using mini muffin tins. If using regular sized muffin tins, bake at same temperature for 20 mins, plus a further 5 with the oven cranked up as far as it can go. This cooks the frittatas further and allows them the brown on top.
ROASTED PUMPKIN SOUP
My super cool aunt, Jacqueline, gave me this pumpkin soup recipe years ago and since then it’s the only one I’ve used. I’m not a fan of lumpy pumpkin soup and I like mine to taste rich and pumpkiny. The roasting of the pumpkin produces this result with beautiful smoothness. Chop and roast the pumpkin days in advance and simply refrigerate until you want to blend the ingredients together. You can peel the skin off before hand or remove it after roasting – whichever you find easiest, though I think there’s a little more wastage of the pumpkin when you roast with skin on. I purchase my pumpkin from my local cheap-as-chips grocer and can usually pick up a 3kg for around $5. The other ingredients are incidental, especially if you, like me, use powdered stock. Serves 6-8.
- 3kg pumpkin, chopped into smallish pieces and roasted for around 1 hour.
- minimum of 7 cups chicken or vegetable stock (I used powdered. Increase until you have desired consistency)
- 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons honey
- salt and pepper to taste
- Combine roasted pumpkin, stock, mustard and honey in a large stock pot.
- Process using a stick blender until ingredients are combined.
- Heat through, stirring regularly and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with drizzled cream and fresh bread. Enjoy!
THAI CHICKEN & CORN BALLS
I made this modified Ainslie Harriott recipe for the first time last night and everyone loved it. The kids devoured these yummy Thai chicken and corn cakes and I loved them not just for taste but also for simplicity: everything just goes in the food processor for blitzing. And it was so affordable: the total cost being less than $10 (and it made 20 rissole sized cakes which is two dinners worth in this house). Next time I make hot finger food I’m going to roll them into little balls to dip in its sauce using a toothpick for a yummy starter. These Thai chicken and corn cakes are freezer friendly, which makes this recipe my new favourite.
- 3 skinless chicken breasts or 5 thighs (approximately 750g)
- 1 egg
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
- 50g breadcrumbs
- 1 x 400g tin corn kernels, drained
- half bunch fresh coriander leaves
- 4 spring onions, sliced
- 2 tbsp sesame or peanut oil
sweet chilli sauce
- 4 tabs sweet chilli sauce
- 1 teasp soy sauce
- 1 teasp fish sauce
- 5cm piece cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
- Roughly chop the chicken breasts and put all ingredients (minus the oil and sauce ingredients) together in the bowl of a food processor. Process until combined evenly, though ingredients should still be visibly distinct to the eye.
- With wet hands, pat mixture into 20 rissole sized cakes and pan fry on each side for 3-5 minutes, in a very hot fry pan using sesame or peanut oil.
- If desired, combine sauce ingredients in a dish (though sweet chilli sauce straight from the bottle is great with this dish too.
- Serve with mashed potato and steamed vegetables or a salad of asian greens. Makes 20 cakes, and serves 6+ adults.
TANDACO SOUTHERN FRIED CHICKEN PIECES
Though it’s true I’m not the biggest fan of packet mixes (they aren’t that cheap really, and often don’t taste that great), this Southern Fried Chicken coating mix is simply awesome. It doesn’t have that hideous packet mix ‘fake’ flavour, it goes a surprisingly long way and best of all, it’s one of the fastest ways get a decent dinner done at the drop of a hat. I tend to keep multiple packets of this in reserve for when the day ends much more crazily than was first planned or when the opportunity to have people over arises out of the blue. Use this shaker chicken mix on any type of chicken you like – drumsticks for affordability – wings for hot finger food that pleases a crowd – or thighs and breasts for a quick meat and three veg dinner. Simply coat chicken pieces in the mixture and roast in a very hot oven in a roasting dish splashed with olive oil and/or butter, at around 200-220 degrees, making sure you turn them before they burn. The chicken should develop a lovely brown stickiness all over. 1 packet of this Southern Fried Chicken coating does a bit more than 1kg chicken. Enjoy!
RED LENTIL SOUP
Yesterday was a cold, wintery day and it made me crave a warm, hearty red soup. I googled for a recipe and found this one on the blog goodygoodyyumyum.blogspot.com. It was dead easy to make and cost me no more than $6. This recipe serves 6 and can easily be doubled to go further. Enjoy!
2 carrots, diced
1 onion, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon oil
2 beef stock cubes (boullion cubes)
250g smoked bacon bones
250g red lentils
400g tin tomatoes
1 litre water (4 cups)
cracked black pepper
Cook onion, carrot, and celery in oil and butter over medium heat until onion is translucent. Add bacon bones, lentils, tomatoes, water, stock cubes and bring to boil. Simmer for no less than 60 minutes (longer is fine). Remove bacon bones, cut the meat off and return the meat to the soup, discarding the bones. Season with pepper and serve.
My recent soup craze began on Sunday as the weather well and truly turned cold. I had a go at making this recipe, originally from Delicious Magazine and I really couldn’t believe how easy it was. To make it go further, I doubled the recipe and in total, it cost less than $7 to make. My non-soup loving husband confessed (with a smile) that even though serving him cauliflower soup was “pushing it”, he actually quite liked it! The quantities in this recipe serves 6.
- 1/4 cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
- 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 potatoes (about 400g), chopped
- 8 cups chicken stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 large (about 1kg) cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1/2 cup (125ml) thickened cream
- 1 cup (80g) finely grated parmesan
- 3 bacon rashers, chopped
- 4 bread rolls
- Grated nutmeg and finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve
- Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line 2 baking trays with foil.
- Heat 2 tbs oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add celery, onion and garlic, then cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes until softened. Add the potato, chicken stock, bay leaf and three-quarters of the cauliflower, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 12-15 minutes or until cauliflower and potatoes are tender.
- Remove from heat, cool slightly, then transfer to a blender and blend until smooth. Stir through the cream and 1/2 cup (40g) parmesan. Season to taste.
- Meanwhile, place the bacon and remaining cauliflower on one of the lined baking trays. Season with pepper, then drizzle with remaining 1 tbs oil and sprinkle with 2 tbs parmesan. Roast for 10-12 minutes or until crisp. Put the bread rolls on a separate tray, sprinkle with remaining 1/3 cup (25g) parmesan and bake for 2 minutes or until golden.
- Divide soup among 4 bowls, then top with crispy cauliflower and bacon. Sprinkle with nutmeg and parsley, drizzle with oil and serve with bread rolls.