leeks

CAULIFLOWER, LEEK AND BEAN SOUP

CAULIFLOWER, LEEK AND BEAN SOUP

Cauliflower season is back! It has been making appearance in my weekly veggie box for past few weeks. White, crisp and sweet, it lends itself perfectly as a base for a creamy soup. In my version I have paired this nutritious brassica with leeks and beans which further enhance its creaminess.

Last year, at Christmas, my sister-in-law cooked some cauliflower soup for a starter. As she pulled it out of the fridge to reheat it, she opened the lid of her storage container and the most awful smell wafted around the kitchen. She exclaimed it smelled like &*%£. Subsequently the whole lot was poured down the sink. Be this a lesson to you, cook and eat, do not store and especially do not take leftovers to an open plan office for lunch (unless you really don't like your colleagues) . Cauliflower and broccoli soups indeed have the ability to smell in an extremely unappetising fashion when stored.

For this recipe I used cannellini beans that were cooked from dry but you don’t have to do the same, a tin of cannellini beans (or any other white beans) will work great too. Simply drain and add at the same step. If you don’t want to use the wine (I don’t always have a bottle open in the fridge) you can achieve a similar undernote of gentle acidity by squeezing some lemon juice into the soup before serving.

I garnished my soup with lightly toasted pine nuts and fresh parsley, but this is where you can let your imagination run wild. How about home made sun-blushed tomatoes, sourdough croutons, basil leaves, homemade pesto or some smoked paprika. Now my mouth is indeed watering, I have a cauliflower in the fridge, cooked white beans in the freezer, now all I need is couple of leeks ... Today’s topping? Maybe the tomatoes that have been dehydrating since 9am and some basil. Yum.

cauliflower

CAULIFLOWER, LEEK AND BEAN SOUP
Serves 2-3

2 large leeks
2 cloves of garlic
1 small cauliflower
125ml (1/2cup) white wine
2 cups cooked cannellini beans (or 1 tin, drained)
3 cups of vegetable stock
salt and pepper to tast
lightly toasted pine nuts and parsley for garnish

cauliflower-and-bean-soup

  1. Slice the leeks (mainly the white part) and wash thoroughly. Put the leeks into a medium size stock pot or sauce pan with 60ml (1/4 cup) water. Cook till soften.
  2. Crush the garlic and add to the leeks.
  3. Next add the wine, boil for a few minutes to cook off the alcohol.
  4. In the meantime cut the cauliflower into florets. Add these to the leeks together with beans and vegetable stock.
  5. Cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes.
  6. Blend the soup in a food processor or with a stick blender until smooth. Season.
  7. Garnish with pine nuts and parsley.
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UDON NOODLES IN AN ASIAN STYLE BROTH

UDON NOODLES IN AN ASIAN STYLE BROTH

My kids love udon noodles. Every time we go the local Asian supermarket we end up with several packs of fresh ready cooked udon noodles. Together with the wonderful tofu that sits right next to them in the refrigerated counter we have a start to a delicious meal.

Kids like their noodles stir-fired with few veggies, tofu and soya sauce. That’s what they had for lunch today. I fancied something more exciting but restorative at the same time. What could be better than a fragrant Asian style broth with veggies, tofu and noodles. Perfect for rainy day, perfect to counteract any Christmas indulgences.

If you can’t find ready cook udon noodles buy them dried and cook according to the package instructions. They tend to come separated into portions, very handy. You can also use other type of noodles; ramen, soba, rice vermicelli... Conveniently any tofu will do for this recipe, if using soft or silken tofu just be careful not to break it up. Maybe best added after the noodles have softened. Feel free to add any other veggies; thinly sliced peppers, mangetout, green beans or mung bean sprouts will work great. To get the best out of the miso paste add it at the last minute, let dissolve into the broth but do not boil.

You can also make just the broth without the noodles and sip it. This is perfect if you have caught any of the wintery colds and infections, maybe add more garlic for even bigger healing punch. You can imagine your colds or infections melting away with every spoonful.

udon-broth

UDON NOODLES IN AN ASIAN STYLE BROTH
Serves 2-3

ingredients
4 cups of light vegetable stock
1 leek
1 medium carrot
1/2 inch piece of ginger
1 large clove of garlic
pinch of red chilli flakes
1/4 of Savoy cabbage
1 Tbs soya sauce
100 g of tofu
2x200g (3oz) pks of ready cook udon noodles
1 Tbs yellow miso paste
2 spring onions (scallions)
fresh coriander (cilantro) to serve

method
  1. Bring the vegetable stock to a boil in a medium sauce pan.
  2. Cut the root and the dark green leaves off the leek. Cut the leek in half widthwise (you should have 2 tubes, about 2-3inches long). Cut the leeks into long thin strips (julienne).
  3. Cut the carrot into julienne (again cut it in half widthwise, than julienne)
  4. Add the carrots and leeks into the stock, simmer.
  5. While the stock is simmering finely julienne or just finely chop the ginger and garlic. Add to the stock.
  6. Finely shred the cabbage and add to the stock.
  7. Add the soya sauce. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
  8. Cut the tofu into small dice. Add to the stock.
  9. Next, add your udon noodles and heat until they loosen up and warm through.
  10. Add the miso paste and just let dissolve. Do not boil.
  11. Last add the spring onion.
  12. Serve in large soup bowls garnished with some chopped coriander (cilantro).


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LEEK AND RED LENTIL SOUP

LEEK AND RED LENTIL SOUP

“You are not wearing lentils”; I said to my daughter today (and yes both kids exploded with laughter). I was meant to say sandals but had lentils on my mind. Looking at the rain outside it was definitely not a day for sandals but it sure was a day for a warming lentil soup.

Dr Joel Fuhrman posted on his facebook page recently the fact that the longest lived societies eat beans almost everyday. I am sure this includes other legumes like the wonderful lentils.

Pulses (or legumes) have a bad reputation for being hard to cook, needing to be soaked and cooked for long periods of time. While this is true for beans to some extent (but still worth the effort), lentils require no soaking and much less preparation time. Especially the wonderful red lentils.

Few years back I watched a documentary about the Khan family of India, whose 5 (out of 7) children had the horrible genetic condition progeria. Children with progeria age rapidly, with the average life expectancy being only 13 years. Two of the Khan children were still alive age 22 and 23, and another died aged 24 (two at 13 and 17). This kind of longevity is not very common in progeria sufferers and most die of heart failure. The two surviving Khan boys were full of life and their heart damage was much less than most of their Western counterparts. The doctors were amazed and attributed this to the Khan’s family poverty which meant their diet was extremely heart healthy based on vegetables and lentils (or dal as they call lentils in India).

Lentils are the perfect food, delivering great amount of protein, iron, folate, zinc, copper, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, thiamin, B6 and of course fiber. All this while being very low fat and free of cholesterol. They are delicious and satisfying melting into soups and stews or as a base for veggie loafs or burgers.

Today I used them in a very quick soup for lunch together with leaks, tomatoes and potatoes. Chopping and blending included, this soup should take about 30min to make. Make a double batch because it freezes extremely well.

lentilleeksoup


LEEK AND RED LENTIL SOUP

Serves 4-6

ingredients
4 leeks, white parts only
200g (1 cup) split red lentils
1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 l of vegetable stock
2 medium potatoes, cut onto 1cm dice
2 Tbs of chopped fresh coriander

method
  1. First slice the leeks and wash them thoroughly to remove any grit.
  2. Add all the ingredients (except for the coriander) into a large sauce pan.
  3. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat. Simmer for 20min or until the lentils and potatoes are soft.
  4. Puree with a stick blender (or in a large blender - take care when blending hot soup).
  5. Stir in the coriander and serve.



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CHICKPEA AND CAULIFLOWER SOUP

CHICKPEA AND CAULIFLOWER SOUP

Couple days ago I finished reading The Food Revolution by John Robbins. It is one of those books everybody should read, one of those books that can change the way you live your life. I admire John Robbins immensely, not just because he has been able to walk away from life of luxury his father’s business was offering (Baskin and Robbins) but mainly because by doing so he has been able to live according to his admirable principles and thus changing lives of many people.

When I watch John’s talks and interviews I can’t help but feel the love he exudes. He is so passionate about a better more compassionate way of living that it would be hard not to be influenced by his thoughts and ideas. There are many very important topics covered in The Food Revolution. I admit to going through many different emotions while reading this book. John’s exposure of the American meat and dairy industries, their inhumane practices made me weep. Biotech companies and their money grabbing ways without any regard for the disaster in their hands left me speechless and angry. This book also brings hope, renews a belief in the good that is in people. I
loved The Pig Farmer chapter, it made a point of how we should never judge a book by its cover. When shown a different path, people have the power to change their way, and in small steps change the world.

One chapter was very personal to me, in My Friend Mike, John talks about his friend’s unhealthy lifestyle and his consequent battle with cancer that he ultimately lost. John described how angry he felt over what happened to his friend: “Inside I was angry and hurt. Angry at Mike for not taking better care for himself, angry at God for letting this happen, and angry at myself for not having been able to prevent it.” If John only new how I needed to hear these words, I went through the same emotions when we lost my amazing father-in-law to cancer last summer, together with the immense grief and loss, I was angry at him for the same reasons John was angry at Mike, I was also angry at myself for not being able to make him listen to my advice and angry at myself for feeling angry. Anger felt so inappropriate. I could not be sure at all whether my dietary advice would have helped him at all, but that was all I had. John validated for me that it was ok, it was natural to feel that way.

If you haven’t done so yet please read this book, it may just change your life. Let me finish with a quote from The Food Revolution:
“Your life does matter. It always matters whether you reach out in friendship or lash out in anger. It always matters whether you live with compassion and awareness or whether you succumb to distractions and trivia. It always matters how you treat other people, how you treat animals, and how you treat yourself. It always matters what you do. It always matters what you say. And it always matters what you eat.”


caulichickpeasoup

CHICKPEA AND CAULIFLOWER SOUP
This is a very easy soup. You can even omit the step of pureeing part of the soup. It is worth it though, as it thickens the soup and gives it a fuller flavour. You can also puree the soup completely if you so wish.

3 leeks, washed and sliced
1 stick of celery, strings removed and sliced
3 medium potatoes, cut bite size pieces
1 small cauliflower, separated into small florets
1 tin of chickpeas, drained
1l of vegetable stock
plenty of black pepper

  1. In a large sauce pan combine all the ingredients (except the black pepper).
  2. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for about 20min.
  3. Put 3 ladles of soup into a blender and puree till smooth. (I removed all my chickpeas out of the liquid destined for the blender, simply because I wanted as many whole chickpeas in my soup as possible)
  4. Returned the smooth puree into you soup, heat up.
  5. Season with black pepper and serve.

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