Saturday, April 30, 2011
With autumn finally creeping in here, I've been feeling the urge to start cooking warm comfort food once more. For a minute there, as the droplets of sweat ran down my back for yet another day, it felt like the intense heat of summer was never going to end. Family and friends back home kept talking of the cold autumn days they are having, bloggers over on the east coast have been posting wonderful warming soup recipes for what feels like ages, all the while, I've sat here in this unrelenting heat that is Perth, sucking on iceblocks and drinking cold water. Aren't us human beings strange creatures? You'd think we'd be happy when it's hot and sunny all the time, god knows we moan enough about it being cold and rainy all winter! But I guess that's the beauty of the seasons, just as you get over one, along comes the next to take it's place...
This week there has been a cool, even cold tinge in the air. Leaves are finally falling, like they were meant to months ago, it's rained (only the second times in 8 weeks) and the crisp morning air has us reaching for socks and jumpers with a sense of urgency we are unaccustomed too.
Something else changed this week. I've been sharing recipes over on a NZ website called Foodie.co.nz for a wee while now, but was aked if I would like to be a contributing "celebrity" blogger on their site. I gave out a little squeal of excitement as I read Antony's email, being place next to so many of my NZ food hero's is something I could have only dreamed of. Don't get me wrong, I am by no means a celebrity like the rest of them, I have no cookbooks or cooking shows on telly and I don't cook at any top restaurants. But what I do hope, is that my gluten-free take on food will help to educate and excite people as much as their food does. Hope is such a wonderful thing.
Foodie.co.nz is where I first read about Leanne Kitchens new cookbook Turkey, recipes and tales from the road. I am yet to buy myself a copy of the book (my Amazon wish list is way out of hand these days, and we really need to buy a car, damn it!), but when I came across her recipe for red lentil soup with minted eggplant posted on foodie, I jotted it down straight away and went out to buy the ingredients. If this recipe is anything to go by, the rest of the book will be amazing. I've added grated carrot to the original red lentil soup recipe, for added nutritional value and colour and just a few other minor adjustments. It really is amazing how much flavour you can get from something so simple as onions, carrot and red lentils cooked in a lovely homemade vegetable stock. I found it hard to restrain myself from adding a few cumin seeds, as this is what I usually add to carrot and red lentil soup. I have a tendancy to add cumin seeds to anything even remotely lentily. But I'm glad I didn't. I'd eat this soup, just as is. But top it with the minted paprika-stained eggplant and you have yourself the perfect little bowl of love right there. Huddle up and get warm people Xx ~emm
P.s Just a few little house keeping notes:
- In case you were not aware, I finally gave in to the twitter madness. I swore I'd never do it. But hey, sometimes I just plain change my mind. You can follow my blog posts and other random ramblings here.
- I am also now posting regular photos over on my flickr site here.
- Lastly thank you for all the hundreds of voters over on babble.com I am humbled and utterly grateful for each and every vote. When I was first nominated I was thinking it would be great to get say; 100 votes. But over 900! You guys are too choice. Xx
carrot & red lentil soup with minted eggplant
I find the easiest way to rinse lentils is to place them into a fine mesh sieve, hold them under running cold water until the water runs clear. Have a quick pick through also, to make sure there are no small rocks, which have a habit of creeping in there too. The carrot and red lentil soup freezes well, but I would leave the minted eggplant to make the day you plan to eat.
- 1/4 cup (120ml) extra virgin olive oil + 2 tablespoons (30ml) extra
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 2 1/4 cups (375g) red lentils, rinsed under running cold water
- 2 small carrots, grated
- 10 cups homemade vegetable stock *
- the juice of 1/2 lemon, or to taste
- 1 large eggplant (about 500g), trimmed and cut into 1cm dice
- 2 tablespoons fine sea salt
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 3 teaspoons dried mint
- 2 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring for 6-7 minutes or until softened. Add red lentils, carrots and stock then bring to the boil. Skim any scum from the surface with a ladle and reduce heat to low. Cook for 40-50 minutes or until the lentils are super soft and the carrots almost dissolved. Add the lemon juice, to taste and season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
While the lentils are cooking, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of salt over the diced eggplant in a colander. Set aside for 20 minutes on a plate or in the sink, to catch any juices that run out of the eggplant. Rinse eggplant well under running water, drain and dry thoroughly on paper towels. Heat the 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring often, for 5-6 minutes, or until golden and beautifully soft. Add the garlic and cook for a further few minutes. Add mint and paprika and cook until fragrant.
To serve, divide soup among bowls, top each with generous spoonfuls of the minted eggplant and it's fragrant paprika-stained oil.
basic homemade vegetable stock recipe *
This is a basic vegetable stock recipe that I like to use. If I know I'll need it for more Asian flavoured dishes, I tend to leave out the parsley stalks and bay leaves, adding a few cloves of garlic and slices of ginger instead. I left out the bay leaves when I made stock for this soup recipe above, as I didn't have any, and didn't really want that flavour in my soup anyway. I don't bother peeling my onions as I like the flavour and colour they add, feel free to peel them if you prefer.
Makes approx 3 litres (12 cups).
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large brown onions, un-peeled, halved and roughly chopped
- 3 carrots, roughly chopped
- 5-6 celery sticks (I like to add a few of the tender inner leaves too), roughly chopped
- 4 litres (16 cups) cold water
- 6 fresh parsley stalks
- 15 whole black peppercorns
- 3-4 bay leaves, fresh or dried (optional)
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes or until they start to soften slightly. Add carrots and celery and cook, stirring for 6-7 minutes until starting to colour and soften. Unless you want a lovely clear white stock to use for say; a risotto, I like to get a little colour on my vegetables as I find it adds such a lovely depth of flavour to the end product. Add the cold water, parsley stalks, peppercorns and bay leaves and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 45 minutes.
After 45 minutes all the flavour should have been leached out of those vegetables and herbs so if you want to use the stock straight away; strain it carefully through a fine metal sieve and discard the solids. If you don't plan on using it straight away, what I tend to do once it's cooked, is simply turn it off, and leave it to cool completely. It is then much easier and safer to strain and either use or store for later use.
Stock can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days or frozen for 3-4 months.
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