Soup for Supper

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Today I have made leek and potato soup. It is winter here in Australia and although we live in a relatively mild climate there is something appealing about a pot of homemade soup on a damp, grey day.

There are plenty of recipes on the internet for leek and potato soup but this is my version.

LEEK & POTATO SOUP

Ingredients

1 medium/large leek
3 medium/large potatoes
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon vegetable stock powder
1 teaspoon dried celery leaves
1 teaspoon rosemary salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1.5 litres water

Method

Wash and thinly slice the leek. Heat oil in a large pot and saute the leek. Stir constantly to avoid it browning. When the leek is soft, add 1 litre of water and the stock powder and other seasonings. Simmer gently.

Meanwhile, peel and dice the potato. Microwave until tender. Reserve about 1/3 of the potato cubes and add the rest to the soup and continue simmering for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and blend until smooth. I use a handheld blender for this. Roughly mash the remaining potato and stir into the soup. Add more water to create desired consistency. Check and adjust seasoning as required.

NOTES:

Be extremely careful when blending hot soup.

You may choose more, less or different seasoning to what I have used.

I make the rosemary salt by stripping the leaves from the stems, dehydrating them and then grinding to a powder which I mix 50/50 with a good quality salt.

Soup simmering.

The end result.

Breakfast Bar

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Almost every day I eat cereal for breakfast. It is always the same. 3 spoonsful of home-made gluten-free muesli and one spoonful each of chia seeds and psyllium husk. This is topped with sliced banana and orange juice.

Yesterday I realised that it was a lot of double-handling to remove the containers from the pantry, place them on the bench, spoon out what I needed and return them to the pantry. Could there be a better way?

It is quite a while since I tidied the pantry and the shelves definitely need wiping down.

Tonight I tackled just these two sections.

I swapped the various jars of flours to the higher shelf and relocated the cereal ingredients to the one at waist height. I also altered a couple of the containers. This now leaves enough room to have a workspace in front of the containers where I can access the cereal directly. The bowl and spoon are indicative of how it will be used.

It is a small change but one that I think will make the process of preparing breakfast simpler and easier.

Eggplant Everywhere

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For the past few years I have grown eggplant pretty successfully with minimal effort. In our climate it grows without supplementary watering, is generally resistant to pests and vagaries of the weather and, most importantly, the fruit mature gradually and I don’t end up with a massive glut of produce.

It is definitely a crop worth growing as they are generally $6.95/kg at our greengrocer.

I think eggplant are quite underrated. Here are some of my favourite dishes that I have made recently.

Roasted eggplant slices on a vegetarian pizza.

Ready to pop in the oven to roast.

The finished pizza.

Eggplant and Bean Curry

Sauteed eggplant and some leftover spicy chicken with a bit of tamari and served with cauliflower in cheese sauce. There is no photo of this one.

Eggplant often does not look particularly spectacular but I think it is definitely worth trying.

Baking Day

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It is over 2 weeks since my last post and I am not really sure why. It is partly because I have been occupied with personal aspects of my life which are not blog material but also I have been somewhat overwhelmed by national and global events which are out of my control.

Anyway, I am back and wanted to share a little of my day from yesterday.

As you may be aware, GMan has been the baker of bread in our house for probably close to 30 years. The breadmaker is an appliance that was a fad for some people and ended up relegated to a storage space to gather dust or the next garage sale. That was not the case here and it has been used consistently here for many years. Our current model is the second one we have owned.

Our bread needs have changed as our daughters left home and the demand for sandwiches diminished. Also, I eat a predominantly gluten-free diet, therefore, regular bread is off the menu.

In the early days GMan used various premixes, however as time has progressed so have his skills. He now makes bread in the breadmaker from scratch. This is mostly restricted to the occasional loaf of fruit loaf which he enjoys.

His main focus now is sourdough which he has researched, studied and perfected in the last 5 years. You can read about one of the earliest results here. Continuing research and a more mature starter have contributed to his current success of which he is justifiably proud.

I am still waiting for him to try a gluten-free starter. Maybe this year……..

Like most people, we are mindful of our power usage, and therefore, the oven is generally used for multiple items when it is turned on. Yesterday was a good example. I also made a loaf of gluten-free banana bread and a batch of gluten-free cheese scones. These are enjoyed by both of us. The scones are the perfect accompaniment to home-made vegetable soup and the recipe is here. I will add the recipe for the banana bread later as yesterday was the first time I had made it.

The last thing I put in the oven was a tray of eggplant slices. These were from our garden and I brush them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt before gently roasting them until soft. They were for the pizza I made for dinner last night. I do not use the oven when making pizza as I have a benchtop pizza maker.

A day in the kitchen was not only about baking but also other food prep (pineapples, bananas and tomatoes) but I will save those stories for another post.

Stocking the Pantry

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Fresh produce from the garden is wonderful but there are times when you definitely can’t eat it all at harvest time.

This basket of cucumbers was a case in point.

The recipe from a friend has clearly been passed down from an earlier generation.

I tweaked it slightly and will modify it a little more in the future.

Cucumber Pickles

3.2kg cucumbers, thinly sliced
2 large onions, thinly sliced
3/4 cup salt
Iceblocks
5 cups sugar
5 cups vinegar
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried celery leaves

Layer the cucumbers and onions. Sprinkle with salt and cover with iceblocks. Allow to stand for 3 hours then drain and rinse thoroughly twice.

Place cucumber, onion, sugar, vinegar and spices in a large pot and bring to the boil. Do not boil the mixture. Turn the heat off and fill sterilised jars. Make sure that they seal before storing.

NOTE: I increased the turmeric and altered the celery salt from the original recipe to match what I had available. Additionally, in future I would reduce the sugar and vinegar to 4 cups of each as there was more liquid than I needed.

In deference to our industrious ancestors, it only seemed right and proper to use these two mixing bowls that belonged to my grandmother and would be around 100 years old. I use them on a regular basis in my kitchen.

The end result is ready to be stored in the pantry for eating throughout the year.

Stockpot Workout

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I have a large stainless steel stockpot that lives in the back corner of the pantry on the floor. It usually gets dragged out a few times a year.

Yesterday was one of those days as I decided to make a large batch of pumpkin and celery soup. This may sound like an odd combination but I find the sharpness of homegrown celery that has been growing for several months provides a nice balance to the sweetness of our pumpkins.

I ended up with 18 serves of soup – 2 for dinner and the rest to go in the freezer.

Today I continued with my bulk food preparation by making jam with the 3kg of Davidson plums which I had picked over the past few weeks and stored in the freezer. I ended up with 3.95kg of jam. Davidson plums are a relatively rare Australian native fruit which grows on a rainforest tree in a fairly narrow distribution in northern NSW and south-east Queensland. Therefore, the jam commands a premium price. I compared 3 different brands online and found that the average price per kilo is about $81 which makes my haul worth over $320!!

I also boiled up the seeds and then strained them to make cordial. A splash in a glass of soda water makes a refreshing drink.

Finally, I raided the freezer again for some cherry tomatoes and made a batch of tomato sauce (ketchup). While nowhere near as valuable as the jam, the sauce is a whole other level beyond the commercially produced tomato sauce. The recipe is here.

While the oven was on to sterilise the jars I decided that I might as well make a batch of cheese scones. Recipe is here.

I think it is time to put the stockpot away for a couple more months.

Wrapped Up

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I have made salad wraps for our dinner tonight as we will be out of the house and between events.

Wraps are a great portable alternative to takeaway. An added bonus is that you can tailor-make them to meet individual choices and dietary requirements and there are no unknown, hidden ingredients.

In order to make this a totally waste-free option, I make my own wraps which are simple and gluten-free. The recipe is here.

Today the fillings include a spread of refried beans topped with mushroom and cucumber slices, leftover quinoa salad, grated cheese and a little mayonnaise and sweet chilli sauce.

The rolled wraps are the rolled up diagonally in greaseproof paper and can be eaten by unfolding the paper from one end.

What is your favourite portable meal or snack? Is plastic-free? Love to hear your ideas.

Mission Accomplished

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Yesterday I showed you the boxes of jars to be filled with dry goods.

It took me 30 minutes at Simply Good to have these weighed and fill them.

Once I was home I could just put them in the pantry.

This is what I bought today. It is not an exhaustive list of everything I buy there, just today’s purchases.

Chia seeds
Psyllium husk
Kidney beans
Red lentils
Sunflower seeds
Pepitas
Arrowroot
Potato starch
Brown rice flour
Quinoa flour
Baking powder
Cinnamon
Turmeric
Smoky paprika
Mixed herbs
Cashews
Black beans
Coconut

Gourmet Gluten Free Gnocchi

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I had previously made pumpkin gnocchi a few months ago with reasonable success. Today I attempted to improve on that attempt and I think it was a success.

This was our dinner.

Here is the recipe that I used.

While the original recipe is not designed to be gluten free, I managed to modify it simply by using gluten free flour.

I made a double quantity of the mixture and find that I needed more flour than recommended in the recipe, however, that may simply be a result of the different properties of gluten free flour.

I try to handle the dough as little as possible while combining the ingredients. Portions of dough rolled, cut and spread on racks.

To cook the gnocchi:

2/3 fill a large saucepan of water, bring to a rolling boil, add a teaspoon of olive oil. Carefully add the gnocchi, cover and bring back to the boil as quickly as possible. Gently separate the gnocchi and cook for 3 – 5 minutes. Drain.

Serve immediately with sauce of your choice.

Tonight I chose onion, garlic, chilli, smoky paprika, capsicum and fresh cherry tomatoes topped with grated cheese and a dollop of sour cream.

The pumpkin puree had been frozen from the harvest of a glut of pumpkins earlier in the year. The cherry tomatoes have been picked in the past few days. We try to make use of what we grow wherever possible and this meal is a perfect example.

A Different Dinner

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Due to Covid 19 our area has been locked down for 8 days. Those restrictions ease from this afternoon so we are very grateful. I know that this nothing compared to what many people have endured and continue to do so. I understand that grocery shopping is one of the acceptable reasons to leave your home but whether we are locked down or not, I try to minimise my exposure by shopping as infrequently as possible.

Yesterday I stocked up on some grocery items and also replenished our very meagre selection of fruit and vegetables. Now the trick is to make sure that everything is used wisely and none of the perishable goods go to waste. I bought 2 bunches of broccolini and decided that 1 of them would be used in our dinner.

After canvassing several options, I decided on a Broccolini and Caramelised Onion Tart. I found a few recipes online but none that exactly matched my idea so I pulled a few different elements together and this is what I came up with. It makes use of what I had available so you can make your own adjustments or substitutions.

Broccolini and Carmelised Onion Tart

Pastry – I was looking for something that was gluten free and tried this recipe for the pastry base. I had never thought of rubbing coconut oil rather than butter into flour when making pastry. I thought it turned out reasonably well but GMan is not a fan and feels than you can taste the coconut. You can make or buy whatever pastry suits you.

This is the pastry when I placed it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Filling

2 onions
2 teaspoons mixed herbs
2 teaspoons treacle
2 tablespoons red wine
1 bunch broccolini
Olive oil
Salt
Dijon mustard
3 cloves garlic
Nutritional yeast
Sour cream
Cheddar cheese

Slice the onions, place in a pan over low heat and cook gently, stirring regularly. Add mixed herbs and treacle. Continue to cook until golden brown and soft. Add red wine to deglaze the pan. Cook for another minute and remove from heat.

Rinse broccolini and spread on baking tray, drizzle with a little olive oil, salt and slivers of garlic. Roast for about 15 minutes at 150C. Set aside until required.

Ready to go in the oven.

Line a dish or tray with your chosen pastry. Lightly spread with mustard and sprinkle with nutritional yeast. Place half of the onions in the dish then the broccolini followed by the remainder of the onions.

Add some dollops of sour cream and a little grated cheese.

Bake at 180C for 20 minutes.

I served slices of the tart with freshly-made coleslaw and cherry tomatoes.