leek

CAULIFLOWER ALMOND SOUP

CAULIFLOWER ALMOND SOUP

Cauliflower is one of the vegetables my kids have a very negative reaction to, it’s the run in a different direction kind of response. I grew up eating cauliflower prepared in various ways but now I am trying to come up with recipes that make cauliflower not taste like cauliflower as a way to trick the kids into eating it. I don’t want them to miss out on the glorious nutrition this vegetable possesses.

I think I really succeeded with this recipe. It has a very robust savoury flavour that will (or could) convince any cauliflower hater. To be perfectly safe I just keep my mouth shut in case the word cauliflower slips out. Don’t get me wrong I do, with great satisfaction, announce the truth after the plates have been left clean :)

Adding almonds and beans is a way to boost the protein and fibre content and they are the key in masking the cauliflower flavour notes. I have garnished the soup with toasted sesame seeds but any soft herbs (parsley, chives, coriander, chervil) work well too. Hemp seeds are another great topper adding the illusive omega 3 fatty acids to the soup.

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CAULIFLOWER ALMOND SOUP
4 servings

ingredients
2 tsp whole cumin seeds
3 large leeks, sliced and rinsed
1 small cauliflower (about 3 cups), divided into florets
1 tin (or 1 cup) white beans (canellini, butter)
4-5 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup ground almonds

method
  • Heat a medium/large sauce pan on the stove. Add the cumin seeds and dry toast for about 1 minute, take care not to burn them. Remove half and reserve for garnish.
  • Next add the leeks with any residual water from washing them.
  • Cook for couple minutes to soften, adding few tablespoons of water if the pan gets dry.
  • Next tumble in the cauliflower and beans adding the vegetable stock.
  • Cook for 20minutes on a medium heat.
  • Transfer the soup into a blender, add the ground almonds and puree till smooth. Add more water if the soup is too thick.
  • Return to the pan to reheat.
  • Serve the soup garnished with the cumin seeds or herbs.



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COURGETTE KUGEL

COURGETTE KUGEL

Foolishly I have trusted the weather forecast. Who wouldn’t want to trust the promise of summer’s last attempt to stick around? The reality is that the freshly washed clothes that I left (ok forgot) outside overnight got even wetter than they were from the washing machine. I guess I have to admit that the autumn has taking its rightful reign. At least last two days were mild enough to sit outside in the afternoon.

Autumn also means I will have to get myself organised for my final year of college. Exciting as it is I am also a bit nervous (understatement) about taking clients for the fist time. Last year we were the observers in the back of the classroom, this time we will be in the hot seat. My plans to revise over the summer didn't seem to materialise too well so I am trying to catch up now.

Part of the being organised is getting food prepared for the weekend so that it is easy for my husband and kids to cook a meal when I get back from college in the evening. My courgette kugel is such a recipe. You can make it ahead and just simply stick in the oven when needed.

Kugel is a traditional Jewish bake, pudding or casserole, usually made with egg noodles or potatoes, sometimes rice. It can be sweet or savoury. I like the comfort of such food. This is a vegan version of a kugel. It is creamy, rich and comforting as if made by a Jewish Grandmother.

I have also made this recipe with four courgettes instead of the 2 leek/2 courgette combo. It was as good. Nice thick tomato sauce complements the kugel perfectly. And of course salad and green veggies. This makes a big batch so any leftovers should be cooled quickly and reheated thoroughly. Enjoy!

kugel

COURGETTE KUGEL
Serves 6

ingredients
kugel
2 fat leeks
1 1/2 cup basmati rice
2 courgettes
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup cashew nuts
1 pack of silken tofu (300g, 10oz)
1 Tbs tahini
4 sun dried tomatoes
1 Tbs nutritional yeast
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt to taste

method
  1. Thinly sliced the leeks and place together with rice into a large sauce pan. Cover with water, bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.
  2. Drain the rice and leek mixture and set aside.
  3. Grate the two courgettes and mix with the rice and leeks.
  4. To make the sauce blend together the water, cashews, tofu, tahini, sun dried tomatoes and nutritional yeast. Season.
  5. Place the rice mixture into a large baking dish, add the sauce and mix well.
  6. Bake at a 180C oven for 40-50 minutes, until set and golden brown on the top.
  7. Serve with a tomato sauce, salad and some green veggies.

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VEGETABLE STOCK

VEGETABLE STOCK

In the Czech Republic, you could not imagine a Sunday meal without a starter of soup. Most of our soups were based on clear broths usually made out of beef bones but using only vegetables in not uncommon. As a girl I used to spend a large portion of my summer holidays with my step great grandmother at her farm (not a working farm). Everyday we had a soup for lunch, we would go to the garden and pick some fresh vegetables, cooked them in some water and perhaps added homemade noodles and herbs fresh from the garden.

A good stock is a great thing to have lurking around. There are some great vegetable stocks on the market but I do like to make my own on occasion. That way I know it is virtually fat free and I can control the salt content. Homemade vegetable stock is a great way to use up some surplus or tired looking veggies. It is nearly magical how the pile of vegetables gets cooked down into flavoursome golden liquid.

Onions are a must in any good stock. I leave the brown skins on, just remove the very outside layer, make sure you wash the root, or just cut it off. The skins will add to the stock’s colour. My grandma used to use brown onion skins as a dye.

Root veggies add sweetness to your stock, back at home we would always use carrots and celeriac. Don’t forget to use the leaves of celeriac or celery, they are a fantastic flavourful ingredient. Another classic ingredient is parsley use mainly the stalks and keep the leaves for garnish. Thyme and bay leaves add wonderful fragrance of the stock. So does the allspice, which may not be a traditional ingredient in stock making but I love the flavour it adds.

There are so many uses for a home made stock. Soups are the obvious choice, but you can use it for cooking your grains or legumes. I love cooking my brown rice in a vegetable stock, it gives it a lovely colour and of course adds lots flavour. Since I don’t salt my stock it is fantastic for cooking legumes from raw as they should not be cooked with salt. Vegetable stock is also a great base for stews and sauces.

Don’t feel you have to religiously stick the the ingredients below, use what you have in your vegetable drawer add outer lettuce leaves, broccoli or cauliflower stalks, mushrooms, fresh or dried (for a dark savoury broth), few garlic cloves, fennel, rosemary and other herbs. The possibilities are endless.

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VEGETABLE STOCK
The resulting stock will have a gorgeous light golden colour.

Yields about 2,5l (10cups) of stock

ingredients
5 celery stalks, including any leaves, trimmed and cleaned
3 leeks, half lengthways and wash thoroughly between the layers
1 large onion, washed, unpeeled and quartered
1 celeriac, peeled (cut off the nobbly skin with a knife) and roughly cut up
5 carrots, scrubbed, each cut into 3 pieces
2 medium tomatoes, quartered
15 peppercorns
3 all spice berries
2 bay leaves
parsley, mainly stalks
2 large sprigs of thyme
3 litres (12 cups) of water

method
  1. Place all the ingredients in a large stock pot.
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for an hour.
  3. Strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl large enough to hold it. Let it cool down completely.
  4. Discard the cooked vegetables ( I keep the carrots to put into my dogs’ dinner)
  5. When cooled place the stock into freezer safe bags or containers. Freeze or keep for 3 days in a fridge.

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EASY SWISS CHARD SOUP

EASY SWISS CHARD SOUP

It must be quite obvious by now that I love my greens and it is not just for their amazing nutritional properties. I love the taste! They are so versatile and can sneak their way into so many different dishes.

Today my green star is Swiss Chard. Contrary to its name, this mighty green comes from the Mediterranean. The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote about chard in the 4 century B.C. The Romans honoured chard’s medicinal properties, and to this day it is an incredibly popular vegetable in Italy.

Unlike other greens, Swiss chard gives you two textures in one. In a mature plant, you get the thick sturdy white stalk, and the green leafy part. Stalks of kale, spring greens or even older (large leaf) spinach are too tough to eat and usually just thrown away. The Swiss chard stalks are perfectly edible and very delicious. Usually the stalk and leaves are separated, and the stalk starts its cooking first, requiring couple minutes more than the leaves. The Italians sometimes cook them completely separately, treated as 2 separate vegetables. Baby chard on the other hand is cooked in the same manner as baby spinach.

My Swiss chard recipe is for a very quick and easy soup. This is a very easy way to cook Swiss chard, no need to separate stalk from leaves. Give it the right name and it will become kid friendly, I am thinking Shrek Soup or Swamp Soup. Wouldn’t it be great for Halloween with a spiderweb made from cashew cream? I will keep it in mind.

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EASY SWISS CHARD SOUP

If you can’t find Swiss chard, just use spinach, it will work great in this recipe too.

Serves 4

ingredients
1 litre of vegetable stock
2 leeks
3 medium potatoes
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch of mature Swiss chard (mine was 250g, just over 1/2lb)
freshly ground black pepper

method
  1. In a large sauce pan start heating the vegetable stock.
    2 Slice the leeks, and wash out all the grit. Add to the stock.
    3 Peel and dice the potatoes, add to the stock together with the garlic and caraway seeds.
    4 Cook on medium heat for 10 min.
    5 Slice up the Swiss chard, wash thoroughly and add to the soup.
    6 Cook for about 8 minutes.
    7 In a blender (or using a stick blender) puree the soup, season with lots of black pepper.

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