Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Brilliant Broccoli soup

I was drawn to the cover of this month's Waitrose Kitchen magazine by a picture of delicious green soup.  On closer inspection it was a broccoli soup involving mint.  Sounded interesting.

I decided to make it tonight.  On even closer inspection turns out one should really read the recipe  before deciding what's for dinner since I was missing quite a few of the ingredients, so what follows is my adapted version!

For example, the recipe says to roast 1kg broccoli chopped into florets and the stem chopped into 1cm pieces.  I didn't weigh mine, I just chopped up what I had.  

Next the recipe calls for several cloves of garlic.  Oops, I've forgotten to stock up. So I dig a half  mouldy red onion out of the cupboard and chop up the decent bits of that instead.

The broccoli and garlic/red onion (!) is put into a parchment paper lined baking tray, drizzled with olive oil and scattered with almonds.

Aah, I don't have any almonds - they're on the shopping list but I haven't yet ventured out into the world to do actual proper food shopping.  Never mind, I chuck over a handful of shredded sprouts left over from earlier instead!

a bit of salt and into the oven it goes...recipe says 200C so I do 180C on fan.

I forget to time it while cooking - the recipe says about 18 minutes until the broccoli is cooked but still green in parts so I aim for that.

Meanwhile I boil up 750ml chicken stock (the recipe says 500ml veg stock but I seem to have a lot of green stuff in the oven and don't want it too thick).

When it's all cooked it gets chucked in a blender with the zest of a lemon and the juice of 1/2 a lemon plus a handful of mint leaves - this bit I do properly!  At this point I also add about a handful of ground almonds as I do have those, instead of the blanched almonds soaked overnight, which I clearly don't have.

I blend it on full power until the broccoli has stopped being bitty  - the recipe recommends a consistency similar to double cream so that's what I go for.

I am dubious about the addition of mint and lemon and not sure how the almonds will turn out.

Answer - AMAZING!

Wow, this is my new favourite soup.  The almonds make it beautifully creamy and add an almost cheese like undertone.  The lemon and mint lift it so it's not at all farty or heavy like broccoli soup can sometimes be.  It is really really satisfying, rich and yummy.

You're supposed to serve it with a few of the roasted almonds, a charred broccoli floret, a mint sprig and a drizzle of olive oil on the top...I just ate mine :)

I think the main point here, is not to be scared to fiddle about with recipes.  There's an old adage 'don't let the perfect get in the way of the good' or something similar.  I didn't have all the ingredients for this so I couldn't have followed the recipe perfectly.  But rather than not make it at all, I just adapted here and there.  The absolute worse that can happen is that it doesn't taste as nice as the original, but since I've never tried the original, I'm none the wiser. Just get stuck in and have fun and enjoy the end result I say.

Sprouty Salad

I don't know why people don't like sprouts, other than they've only ever eaten them cooked by somebody else who doesn't like them and therefore doesn't know how to cook (or not cook) them properly.

One of the best dishes I ever made for a dinner party was a sprout salad. It was delicious.

Today, on my whole-but-still-Christmassy-food mission I decided to make another sprout salad for lunch.

120g shredded raw sprouts - do not cook them!
2 handfuls chopped walnuts
abt 2 matchbox sized pieces low fat feta
1 apple cored and chopped up
1 stick celery halved length wise and chopped
handful parmesan shavings to chuck on top

and for the dressing:
1 heaped tspn dijon mustard
juice from one wedge lemon
abt 2 capfulls of white wine vinegar
tblsp ish of olive oil
tiny drizzle honey
Sea salt & black pepper
1 egg yolk - optional but makes it more creamy and increases protein content.

Normally cheese wouldn't really be considered whole food as its original ingredients have been fiddled with somewhat but both feta and parmesan are made with unpasteurised milk so I let it slip.  You could use any other cheese with a good 'bite' such as stilton too. In fact stilton is super yummy in this salad.  If you wanted some meat it goes nicely with grilled chicken or crispy bacon bits as well.

Make sure the sprouts are good and shredded...maybe give them a quick blitz in a blender to make sure.  If you have big lumps it doesn't work as well and the dressing can't coat all the little bits of spout.

Anyway, basically mix all the ingredients of the dressing, throw all the salad bits in a bowl except the nuts and parmesan.  Pour dressing over and mix up...it should just be enough to coat but no more.  Sprinkle over a pinch more sea salt and then leave for the sprouts to mellow into the dressing a bit. They can be a bit bitter otherwise.

When you're ready to serve add in the nuts and finally scatter a few parmesan shavings and some black pepper over the top.

There you have it!

The salty cheese and the tangy mustard and lemon balance the sproutiness really well and the apple, nuts and celery add different flavour combos - a bit like a waldorf really, but yummier :).

Festive spiced smoothie

Today's challenge is to eat only whole foods - which is normally not a challenge at all but a way of life.  It seems, though, that during the festive period the trend is a very different type of eating whole foods - as in stuff the whole lot in!  Last time I looked, Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, bread, milk, brandy cream, chocolates etc are neither wholesome nor unprocessed but are very definitely fiddled with quite a lot from their original state and full of all manner of chemicals and sugary naughtiness.

And whilst I do enjoy all this festive fare, I can feel it too.  Headaches and heartburn abound, the gym feels more of a struggle, sleep isn't quite so deep and various inflammations are grumbling.

So before I hit New Years Eve with aplomb tomorrow, I thought a mini clean slate might be in order first today.

First up, after the usual hot water with lemon juice, a lovely cleansing breakfast smoothie.  I make no apologies for posting so many smoothie recipes. I love smoothies, they're incredibly healthy and a really quick, easy way to cram in a load of goodness before even leaving the house. Plus there are an infinite number of different ways to make them.

Here's today's:

Blend 2 big handfuls spinach with a cup unsweetened almond milk - do this before adding the other stuff or you'll end up with bits of spinach in it instead of a nice blended consistency.

Then add in:
1 banana
1 apple (cored and sliced)
3 dates
1 dessert spoon almond butter (we use Meridian nut butters, they contain nothing but nuts and are in most supermarkets or health food shops)
1 tspn cinnamon
1 tspn maca powder (optional)
1 tpsn baobab powder (optional)
To increase the protein content add a scoop of hemp protein powder too.

Blend it all up until nice and smooth, you may need to add more liquid (almond milk or water) to get the right consistency and you'll need to blend it for quite a while to get the dates and the apple to blend down properly.


Next up, some kind of sprout or kale salad I think...watch this space.

Warming winter butternut soup

The other day I roasted some butternut - one of my favourite ways to enjoy butternut.  You can either cut it in half, scoop  out the seed area, drizzle with sea salt and olive oil and just roast for 30-40 mins, or chop into wedges and do the same.  I used to peel it but I don't bother anymore as the skin actually goes quite nice and crispy in the oven.  On this particular occasion I also drizzled over a spot of runny honey and added some black pepper before roasting. Think I did it on about 200C Fan.

Anyway, we only needed about half the butternut for that meal so the next day I decided to make a soup out of what was left.

This recipe is SO easy it's ridiculous.

Just roast up some butternut as above...you can play around with flavour combinations by maybe sprinkling over some cinnamon, cumin adding garlic, using honey or not, chilli flakes etc. But always use salt (sea salt if poss), olive oil and black pepper.

When the squash is nice and sticky and starting to brown around the edges, add it to a pan with some chicken stock...use enough to cook the squash in to begin with then you can add more depending on the consistency you like later.  Add a tspoon dried sage, tsp cumin, and some cinnamon - again vary to taste according to your own preferences.

I was going to add onion and all sorts but decided not to bother in the end and I'm glad I didn't as the resulting really rich, deep taste of butternut was delicious as it was.  Don't worry about the skin, having been roasted and then simmered away in the stock for a while it mushes up nicely and adds to the flavour and consistency.

I left it to simmer for about 20-30 minutes and then used a hand blender to whizz it up into a nice creamy consistency.  At this point you can add more water to get just the right consistency for you.

Finally, and this is totally optional but really adds to the flavour, once it was in bowls I drizzled over some truffle oil and added a few parmesan shavings as well as some more cracked black pepper.  You can get teeny little bottles of truffle oil in M&S which is what I use...sparingly!

There you have it, lovely, easy, healthy arming winter soup...and not a turkey in sight!