Monday, 28 June 2021

Curried Lentil, Tomato, and Coconut Soup

Whether you like your lentil soup with a rough texture and the lentils still holding their shape, or smooth like I do, then just blitz this soup away to your liking, and enjoy it. We used leftover coriander roots and stalks in this soup, and the earthy unique coriander flavour with the texture of chives,  along with the other aromatic ingredients make this soup memorable, and one bowl just isn't enough. It's also a cinch to make.

It was a surprisingly cold day in Cairns, in Far North Queensland,  when Shannon and I decided to make lentil soup in her kitchen. Shannon did the bulk of the preparation, Mr. HRK chopped potatoes and carrots, I stirred and hovered, took photos and generally enjoyed the experience of cooking with my wonderful daughter, wishing I could be with her more to do that. She is such a good cook, but life is so busy for young working people, and soups like this one with inexpensive ingredients on hand, are perfect to make on days off and freeze for later. Or make a double batch, half to eat now, and freeze the rest. This recipe is based on one by Yotam Ottolenghi, in his book SIMPLE. I discovered when we went to Cairns that Shannon also has a copy, so there's no need to take mine up there for visits. We added a few more vegetables to this one. It is such a versatile soup in that way.

We are just back from a holiday in Cairns, and my friends you will be hearing more about that in the future. I've come back with a sniffle,  and I'm hoping it won't eventuate into anything too debilitating, however for now, let's make some healthy, warming and delicious soup.

Ingredients:

Serves 4

150 g red lentils, rinsed and drained

1 x 400 g tin of chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon medium curry powder (or sunflower oil)

2 tablespoons Coconut Oil

25 g coriander stalks

1 onion, finely chopped (160g )

2 stalks of celery, finely chopped (optional)

4 cm piece of ginger,  peeled and finely chopped (30 g)

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes

1 x 400 ml tin of coconut milk

salt and black pepper

2 potatoes, diced

2 carrots, diced

Method:

Fry the onion and celery in the oil in a medium saucepan on a medium high heat., for 8 minutes and stir frequently until onion is soft and caramelised.

Add the spices, the curry powder, chilli flakes, garlic and ginger and continue frying this mixture for 2 minutes, stirring continuously to prevent burning.

Add the lentils, stir through the spice mixture

Add the tomatoes, the potatoes, the carrots, coriander and roots, 600 ml of water, 1 teaspoon of salt and a generous grinding of black pepper.

Take your coconut milk, pour into a bowl, and gently whisk until smooth and creamy. Take a smaller bowl, and add 4 tablespoons of your coconut milk to the bowl, this will be used later for serving.

Add all the remaining coconut milk to the soup mixture. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer gently for 25 minutes. The lentils by then should be soft but still holding their shape. 

If your soup is too thick for your tastes, add some more water, about 100-150 ml should do it. Blitz the soup if you would like it smoother in texture.

Ladle out the soup into four bowls, drizzle over the reserved coconut milk, sprinkle with coriander leaves, and serve and enjoy.

What a Winter warmer this soup is, however if it is thinned own, also very palatable on a summers evening with the lovely Middle Eastern flavours. You will also have noticed that we were missing extra coriander for garnish when we made this, and it was late Sunday afternoon, so we didn't go out shopping for some more. However if you are serving up to friends or family, I'm sure you will have some extra on hand. 

NEWS: This is probably my last cooking blog post before some changes are made to Google blogger, which my blogging friends will be aware of. Google is ceasing support of its email subscription software, Feedburner on our blogs and I have had to spend some time working with Follow It, the company through which you, my readers, will now receive your emails. Support for thee Feedburner system finishes on the 30th June, yikes two days to go, and I am still waiting for the finishing touches to my blog to ensure that you keep receiving your emails. Follow It have been very supportive. If something happens and you haven't received anything from me by the end of this week, please just search for my blog on Google and sign up again to receive your emails. 

https://happyretireeskitchen.blogspot.com

This has all been a little bit nerve wracking and I needed to do a lot of the technical work with Follow it while I was on holidays in Cairns, to ensure this deadline was met. Thankfully I took my laptop with me. I am  hoping it will all work out, but I have learned over the years that technology never stays the same and there are always lots of changes to deal with. I really value being part of a friendly blogging community for the support in dealing with these issues, and I also really value those of you, dear readers, who read my blog each time. Some of you make very kind comments which I really love, some of you who I know personally give me verbal comments,  and the statistics also show that many of you are reading my blog and enjoying the recipes and other topics I write about. You can also send me an email from the box in the side column which I would love to receive. Fingers crossed.

Hoping to hear from you soon,

Best wishes,

 Pauline







Friday, 11 June 2021

In My Kitchen, June 2021

It's Winter, we're loving the change of season, and hot delicious beef pies are always popular here in tropical North Queensland when the weather turns so chilly. It's been down to 5 degrees the last two mornings, however the days are sunny and sublime but still cool. I made a dozen Beef Pot Pies last week, it was an easy way to feed 11 people, with one left for us for lunch the following day. Tennis players are hungry people. It's a pleasure to be in the kitchen right now, however I am torn, as the garden is also calling me for attention, and the beautiful sunshine outside is demanding to be enjoyed. This post is part of the monthly In My Kitchen series, a global event,  hosted by the lovely Sherry from Sherry's Pickings. I hope you enjoy it.

I used my Aussie Beef  Saltbush Stew recipe to  make the these  Beef Pot Pies. I kilo of beef chuck steak cooked up beautifully in the slow cooker, and was the perfect amount for 12 pies. I topped the meat up with some separately sauteed mushrooms, and they were delicious. The red wine I added just might have helped as well. Luckily I have 12 matching white ceramic dishes, so I  spooned the beef filling into the dishes, and then used bought puff pastry to cover them. Normally I would make my own shortcrust pastry, but I had a sticky date pudding to cook as well so I took a shortcut with the pastry. They were delicious. I used an egg wash of beaten egg and a little bit  of milk, so that they browned up as required. Here's the link to the Beef Stew recipe if you missed it before. I posted about my Sticky date pudding quite a few years ago when I was new to blogging, and that post needs updating, however I use that recipe all the time, it's delicious. Here's the Sticky Date Pudding link.

These are the photos of the Beef Pot Pies being cooked and assembled.

Ready for cooking in the Slow Cooker


Waiting for the Puff Pastry

 In my last post about my Greek Inspired Cauliflower, I mentioned a Speed Peeler, and asked if anyone had one or had heard of it. The reason was that Jamie Oliver mentioned one in his Cauliflower recipe that I had based my recipe on. No-one seems to have heard of it. Well no surprises that when I googled it, a speed peeler is one of Jamie's kitchenware products, available on sale at Woolworths here in Australia, probably in the UK and other countries too.  I'm not rushing out to buy one as I think my vegetable peelers do a great job, and I think I might have bought one like this before during my long culinary vegetable peeler purchasing history, which has since broken as they all eventually seem to do, for me anyway.

Here is the link to the infamous 3 in one Speed Peeler if you want to take a look.

Jamie Oliver 3 In 1 Speed Peeler Each | Woolworths. Mystery solved.

I've also been doing a little bit of online shopping, and bought a 12 cup Mini Bundt Pan from Kitchen Warehouse. I  still have to try this tray out, but I have a nice little bundt cake recipe in mind which I was so excited about when I first saw it. It might have to wait in the queue though until after the holidays.



Red Rosellas, also known as native Hibiscus are fruiting well up here in the North. Friends P & J left for holidays a couple of weeks ago, and as a parting gesture suggested that I pick the rosellas from their bush and make jam or whatever I wish with them. They've been picked, this is them in the photos below, so perhaps this weekend they will transform into Jam, if not, they will be deseeded and frozen until I have more time. However, if you have any ideas about what else I can do with them, I would love to hear from you.  Rosella jelly is also an option. Rosella Jam is one of my favourite jams, delicious with hot scones and cream, and lots of it.

Freshly picked rosellas

Rosellas still on the bush

We always eat salmon at least once a week, and this is generally a simple meal with vegetables, or I might bake it in alfoil with fresh grated ginger, soy sauce and vegetables.  However this time I was excited that I could add some of our home grown radishes to our plate, which were very crisp and mild flavoured, and sprinkled with delicious home grown dill. It's impossible to grow this herb here in the tropics in Summer as the humidity results in a white mildew forming all over the plant. I have three dill plants growing so well at the moment so I'll be using dill as often as I can in the kitchen during Winter. I just love the flavour. Notice the salmon skin will peeled off, and that is a treat for Locky our dog.




Last Wednesday night was the first match in the State of Origin Rugby League football season, where Queensland and New South Wales battle it out on the football field for supremacy. It's an historical competition, where players are selected according to the State they grew up in, either Queensland or New South Wales, not the team they play for so there is a lot of passion involved.  Townsville, also in tropical North Queensland scored the sought after location for the first match last night as Covid ruined the chances of the usual southern City rivals hosting the match. This was the first ever match held outside an Australian  capital city and Townsville and Queenslanders were on a high. So was Mr. HRK who has a very strong inherited football gene running through his veins. So he cooked dinner from scratch, and I have called his pizza, Make It Like a Man Pizza. He did very well and it was delicious.






He made the dough from scratch, cooked the pizza on a granite block in the BBQ of course, as that's what a man does. He used the Turkish flatbread recipe we used a few weeks ago for our Turkish Feast dinner and it was crispy and delicious and much quicker than the traditional pizza dough recipes we have used before. He halved the Turkish flatbread recipe as we only needed two pizzas,

Firstly the Cooks note: This recipe makes 4 large flatbreads, however if you prefer them smaller like pita bread,  cut the dough into 8 portions. 

If you can't find Greek style yoghurt, use regular yoghurt and reduce the water  in the recipe to 1 1/4 cups.

The flatbreads also make crispy and delicious bases for pizza. The smaller ones are excellent as pita or pocket breads.

Use plenty of plain flour when you are rolling out the flatbreads to prevent them sticking to the bench, and use a floured rolling pin

Ingredients:

(No oil needed to cook)

4 cups Plain Flour 

1 sachet (7 grams or .25 ounce) active dry yeast 

1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C, if you are pedantic, we're not)

1/2 cup Greek-style yoghurt

1 tablespoon white sugar

1/2 tablespoon salt (the original recipe used 1 tablespoon but we thought it was slightly too salty, up to you)

Method:

1. Dissolve the yeast, sugar and salt in a small bowl with the warm water. Add the water and the yoghurt to the flour and mix well. The dough will be nice and soft but not sticky. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured bench and shape it into a ball. 

Now cover the dough with a damp cloth and allow it to rise at room temperature for 3 hours. ( We place ours in the warm laundry, where our hot water system happens to be, and close the door, and it sure did rise!)

2. Cut the dough into four triangular portions. Shape the dough into rounds and flatten each round on a well floured bench as though you are making pizza dough. We flattened ours out further with a floured rolling pin so that it was a larger and thinner flatbread and it was perfect.

3. To cook your flatbread, choose either the BBQ or a cast iron skillet. As Mr. HRK was cooking, he chose to use a pizza stone in the BBQ, which worked like a dream. Preheat the BBQ or stove to a medium-heat. Place one round of dough on the BBQ or skillet and bake until the brown spots on the bottom, about 1 minute. Flip the bread and bake for another minute. Remove the bread and wrap it up in a clean tea towel to keep warm. We separated them with baking paper like you do with pancakes in case they stuck together with humidity around, but it really wasn't necessary.

For the whole Turkish Feast backstory about these pizza bases you can find it by clicking on this link:

Oh did I forget to give you the score from the game on Wednesday? Well it was an annihilation by New South Wales over Queensland, however the food in our kitchen was great. Better luck for the next match hopefully, always optimistic.

It's been a busy week's cooking with the pie dinner last Friday night, then Mahjong was on Tuesday afternoon at my place so I made one of my favourite cakes. A generous neighbour gave me some lovely, juicy limes from their backyard tree, so I baked my Lime Syrup and Coconut Cake, you can click on this link for the recipe. Always a favourite, served with yoghurt,

Delicious and tangy Lime Syrup and Coconut Cake


Cooking the lime syrup


Grating the lime zest


My Apple and Sour Cream Cake Slice is always a great stand by when I'm in a rush and need to make a slice quickly. So as well as the Lime Coconut Cake I also made this slice on the morning that my afternoon bookclub were meeting at my place. We all take turns at hosting book club so it only comes around once or twice a year. While our Mahjong group traditionally eat just cake with coffee , the Book Club ladies always put on quite a spread for afternoon tea, so I know that a cake, a slice and a nice cheese platter will all be eaten, particularly in this cooler weather. It's always a lovely afternoon, with lots of interesting discussion. The book we read for yesterday's meeting was Bruny by Heather Rose. Yes as in Bruny Island in Tasmania. It's a work of fiction, but really gets you thinking about a lot of controversial and very relevant topics currently. A great read.

Phew, I've been chopping and dicing a whole large cabbage all morning, 2 1/2 kilos of it in fact, as this is the perfect amount to fill my new Davis & Waddell Sauerkraut crock. It was a birthday present from good friends back in February, and now that we have some cold weather, it's the perfect time to use it. Hopefully the fermentation will progress well, and I can bottle some sauerkraut in a few days. This is my Green Cabbage Sauerkraut Recipe if you feel inclined to start fermenting as well.


 
Now that the weather is so cold, Locky needed a new coat to keep him warm. He was a real head turner in the pet shop and no wonder as he looks so cute in his orange coat. We suspect he likes it.




That's all for now folks. 

Hope you have something very enjoyable planned for this weekend.

Warm wishes,
 Pauline





Thursday, 3 June 2021

Greek-Inspired Cauliflower Stew

Cauliflower you say, for a main meal dish? Yes, this Cauliflower vegetarian dish really earns it's stripes on flavour. It can also reflect the seasons, which is one of the things I love about vegetarian food. This dish is a riff on Jamie Oliver's Cauliflower stew. Because it is all vegetables, depending on what is in season, add quick cooking greens such as spinach, asparagus, and tender broccoli when you add the peas or broad beans. The garnish can also change each time you make it, pomegranate? Why not. The only limit to your imagination is the availability of produce. I had hoped to present you with this recipe for a Meat free Monday meal this week. We ate it on Monday, however things got busy here and I didn't reach ,my self imposed deadline, so here we are, enjoying the simple life, and not worried too much about deadlines, but appointments do need to be made on time and we've had a few of those. I'll try and do better next week though. 

It was beautiful weather here on the weekend, quite balmy, so we took Locky for a walk in the afternoon on the beach, where the dogs are allowed to run leash free. A walk on the beach is such a wonderful pick me up and we are so lucky to be able to do it here whenever we wish. Bucasia beach only 10 minutes from our home by car is a beautiful and interesting beach, and when the tide is out, which it was, there is plenty of sand to explore, channels of little creeks to wade though which Locky loves, and lots of room for everyone.  I'm so glad we took the opportunity to do that as the weather turned very wintry here the following day, overcast and showery, and down to a minimum of 12 degrees. That is how this cauliflower stew evolved, on a cold wintry day. However, it would still be very palatable in Summer.

Look at me, I'm so humble, so perfect, and so versatile

I really enjoy watching Jamie Oliver present his cooking shows on television, so entertaining, and I admire what he has achieved in the cooking world. However sometimes he forgets to emphasize some of the finer details, and also in his VEG cooking book, such as with this recipe, check that your cooking pot which goes from stove top to oven,  will also fit the cauliflower you have chosen,  and also all of the extra vegetables in this recipe. A large pot is needed, or a small 800 g or less cauliflower. You can make that choice. However you could commit a food sin, and just cut your cauliflower in half if it is too big so that it fits, the end result will be the same. I'm sure that Jamie won't be reading my blog, so no harm done. He also suggested using a speed-peeler to strip the lemon zest into the casserole pan. I just used my normal vegetable peeler, is that what he means, or do you have a speed peeler? I'd love to know.

Let's Cook:

 Ingredients:

Serves 4, 1 hour 25 minutes

1 head of cauliflower, ideally with leaves, about 800 g

200 g fresh or frozen peas or broad beans

10 large ripe plum tomatoes or equivalent

1 lemon

olive oil

1 whole bulb of garlic

10 black olives (with stones in)

300 g new potatoes

 2 red onions

500 ml water

Chopped Parsley for garnish

Serves 4 / Time: 1 hour and 25 minutes

Method:

Preheat your oven to 200 deg. C, or 400 deg. F. or gas 6.

Place a large casserole pan on a medium heat on your stove top.  Peel the lemon rind into strips into the casserole pan,  then add 2 tablespoons of oil and the garlic bulb. Peel and quarter the onions, separate into petals, press down on the olives with a large spoon and remove the seeds, and slice the potatoes to 1 cm thick. Add onions, olives and potatoes to the pan.

Pluck in the oregano leaves, and cook the vegetables for 5 minutes. When the mixture is just starting to soften and colour up, quarter and add the tomatoes, then season to your taste with sea salt and black pepper.

Pour 500 ml of water into the pan and bring to the boil, keep stirring well and scrape the sticky bits off the bottom of the pot as you go. That's where a lot of the flavour lives.

Wash your lovely cauliflower and dry it. Remove any of the really tatty outside leaves, then cut across the stalk and push the cauliflower, stalk side down, to the bottom  of the pan. 

Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil, cove with a tight fitting lid, then place the pot in the oven for 1 hour, or until golden and caramelized, basting occasionally and removing the lid halfway through the cooking time.

Remove the cauliflower onto a large serving platter.

Pick out the garlic bulb sections with tongs, then place the pot back over a a medium heat on the stove top. 

Stir in the peas or broad beans, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Very carefully, squeeze out all of the garlic out of the skins and stir back into the pan. 

Check the seasoning and add more if needed. Pour the contents of the pot over the cauliflower and finish the dish with a good squeeze of lemon juice to really bring the dish to life.

Serve this dish with brown rice, lentils, or bread to mop up the juices.

Here's Locky below, wishin' and hopin', please let there be something in that pot she's cooking, for me. He probably would have eaten it, but he ate some leftover mashed pumpkin instead, with his dog food. He seems to love it.

I cooked this stew just for Mr. HRK and myself and well there was enough for another two days of eating it as a side dish. However for some variation on the first night I topped it with grilled cheese and placed it under the grill, delicious, and still vegetarian.

Then the third night, I added some chopped cooked bacon, not so vegetarian, but really tasty, and more grated parmesan cheese, placed it under the grill and oh my, what a taste sensation that was. I am lucky that Mr. HRK doesn't mind eating the same dish three nights running, with variations. I thought it might be a bit much, but my man insisted, so bacon and cheese Cauliflower stew it was. My dietician friend would have been so proud of me.

After eating so many vegetables this week, I went shopping this morning for some stewing steak, chuck or gravy beef, didn't matter. What I found was ridiculous. Chuck steak at the supermarket is $18.00 a kilo, the butcher next door was charging $19.99 a kilo, and there was no reduction for buying a large piece. Does anyone know why meat is so expensive now, is it all being exported, or is this the consequence of our drought? Anyway I bought a kilo to support the farmers. A beef stew used to be a budget meal in our house in the 1960s. Now eating meat is an extravagance and the butcher predicts the price is going to rise further. It's another good reason to balance out our food budget with a few vegetarian meals each week, and save the planet as well.

As I write this, Mr. HRK, is working on a new desk and sewing table for me. As a result of our recent retiling and renovations, our living area and dining area has been reorganised and the large sideboard which we removed is now being recycled. It is made of lovely silky oak timber from the North Queensland rainforests we think, which is where his sister bought the sideboard when she lived in Cairns, but apparently it wasn't very well constructed at all according to my craftsman in the garage, so he has pulled it to bits and it is being rebuilt. He sanded the wood back to the original silky oak timber and the wood is beautiful. So no doubt it will be my new office desk with a difference and it remains to be seem if it will double as a sewing table as well. When it's all finished, I'll show you some before and after photos. Have a wonderful weekend.

Take care everyone,

Pauline