Citrus Spiced Butternut Soup

I love my Rooibos infused butternut soup, but again, I wanted something different, and with this cold weather soup was definitely on the cards.  Just what soup was the question.  I know my husband loves butternut soup, this mixed with my small love affair I am having with butternut at the moment, we were destined to eat butternut soup while the wind howls outside and the rains fall which is causing flood warnings in our little town.

I always roast my vegetables when making a soup, I just love that roasted flavour that is added, I find that you get a different depth with your soup.  This version of my butternut soup is a slight adaptation that I would make when I worked for my father.

Citrus Spiced Butternut Soup

1kg Butternut, cubed
1bunch of spring onions, cut roughly
1 large potato peeled and cubed
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cloves garlic
thyme, a few springs
seasoning
olive oil
2 Clemengolds or 1 large orange
1 tsp mother in laws tongue masala
10 cardamon pods
2 cups stock, I used beef, but feel free to use vegetable or chicken
fresh Cream
2 tbsp Roasted pumpkin seeds

Preheat  your oven at 180° C, in a roasting try place the cubed butternut, potato and spring onions.
Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle the ground ginger and season, add the garlic and thyme and toss through to coat with the oil.
Roast for an hour.
Crush the cardamom pods in a mortar & pestal, removed the green husky outer skips and only use the black seeds inside.  Crush with the masala mix until you have a fine powder
Place the roasted butternut in a large pot over medium heat, add the clemengolds (just make sure you have removed the pips), the spices and blend with a handheld blender.
When nice and smooth, add the stock and cook out for a few minutes, finish off with 500 ml of cream and serve piping hot for these cold wintery nights we are having!

Serve with fresh bread, or why not a delicious quesadilla?

Roasted Cardamon Orange Sweet Potato & Camembert Soup

I had this idea in my head for sweet potato soup, but I didn’t want to do the norm, I wanted to really test the flavours one can work with when you have sweet potato.

Growing up, sweet potato was baked in the oven and served with garlic parsley butter, or mashed sweet potatoes that have been beautifully caramelized in brown sugar and butter.  Then I started with sweet potato chips, which I absolutely die for, and sweet potato & pearled barley curry, now, I wanted to take it one step further and make soup with these beautiful sweet potatoes I had in my possession.

Seeing what I had laying around, I wanted to make a sweet potato and goats cheese soup, but being somewhat indecisive, and of course a true chef where I know something just doesn’t feel right, it struck me…camembert.  We had camembert soup on our honeymoon, I was very intrigued by this and now was my opportunity to use the lovely camembert I got at Fairview.

I needed something fresh in there, something that would compliment the sweet potato and enhance the flavours, so I brought out one of my all time favourit spices to work with…cardamon. And together with all these goodness, I made my Roasted Cardamon Orange Sweet Potato & Camembert Soup.  So here is the recipe…enjoy it!

Roasted Cardamon Orange Sweet Potato & Camembert Soup
serves 3 – 4

+- 1.5kg Orange Sweet potatoes
6-7 Cardamon pods crushed
1 clove crushed
Salt
Pepper
Olive Oil
2 carrots, diced
2 leeks, diced
garlic
about 1L of vegetable stock (depending on how thick you want your soup)
½  wheel of good quality of camembert, cut into chunks and remove outer mould
2 tots ginger liqueur

Pre heat your oven at 180°C

Cut your sweet potatoes in half and place on roasting tray
Drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and crushed cardamom & crushed clove
Roast sweet potato for an hour and a half
Once the sweet potatoes are roasted, put aside.
In a pot, sauté your carrots and leeks, add the garlic and deglaze with 1 tot of ginger liqueur and let simmer for a minute or two.
Peel the sweet potatoes and add to the pot, add your vegetable stock, blitz with a hand blender and let cook out on a low heat for about 5 – 8 minutes.
Add your camembert to the soup and let melt.
Once melted, your soup is ready!

Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper Soup and some Chia Seeds

This is my contribution to international soup day which recently just passed.

Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper Soup

1 kg tomatoes
2 biggish red peppers (deseeded)
1 onion
1 tsp garlic
½ spring fresh rosemary, chopped
1 cup beef / vegetable stock
2 tots sherry
1 tin tomato paste
olive Oil
salt
pepper
sugar
fresh basil

Cut a cross into the top of the tomatoes, with the peppers place onto a roasting tray, sprinkle salt, pepper olive oil and rosemary. Roast at 200°C for 45 minutes.

Chop onions and fry off in a little olive oil and a sprinkle of sugar until nicely caramelized, deglaze the pot with 1 tot of sherry, add garlic and tomato paste, fry until the oils starts slowly splitting from the tomato paste, deglaze the pot once more with the 2nd tot of sherry.

Add your roasted tomatoes and peppers and cook off for 10 minutes.  Add  salt & pepper and blitz up.  Add the fresh basil and blitz more until smooth.  Your soup at this stage will be really thick.

Add 1 cup of stock of choice and cook over a low heat for about 3 hours.  If your soup thickens up to much, just add a little more stock and cook out more.  You want the end result to be thick but not to chunky.

Add desired seasoning to taste and enjoy with fresh bread.

I roasted 2 or 3 cloves of garlic and just rubbed my ciabatta with it, with some fresh goats cheese, and it complimented the soup wonderfully.

I like to add Chia seeds to my soup.  I had done a little post about Chia seeds before, but here is a some more that I learnt and a slight update on how I am using it.

After further research on chia seeds, I have learnt the more nutritional way to use them.  Take 1/3 cup of chia seeds to 2 cups of water, mix and place in the fridge.  You are looking for a gel type substance that can last in your fridge for 3 weeks.  That is the substance you add to your smoothies or soups to really get the full punch of the chia seeds.  The gel that is formed is ready to eat in 10 minutes, however the longer the chia seeds stand in a liquid (water, juice smoothies etc) the more you will benefit from the nutritional value of it. Just an update on how chia seeds improve your lifestyle:
Provides energy
Boosts strength
Bolsters endurance
Levels blood sugar
Induces weight loss
Aids intestinal regularity

So I am going to start with a new challenge I have set myself this winter.  I am going to start with having chia seeds 3 times a day, eat healthy and properly, and slowly bring in basic exercise again, and of course, take my yoga seriously again.  Time for a change of life, maybe that will motivate me again!

Get yourself some!

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Soup & Sandwich, if you know me well enough, you will know that I absolutely love this concept.  I have slightly adapted it to something even better…in my opinion.

With the cooler weather that is surrounding us, we tend to crave warmth and comfort in our food, and why not just add a little “pazaaz” to our boring old winter food.

Soup & Quesadillas

I used my Rooibos infused  Butternut Soup recipe that you can find here. With that, I made the quesadillas. Now you can go wild and crazy with what fillings you wish desire, be creative and mix some flavours.  My quesadillas consisted of bacon, feta, cheddar and fresh basil, and let me tell you, the creamy freshness complimented the butternut soup beautifully.

What you will need to make your quesadillas…as easy as this…

Tortilla wraps
Your desired fillings

Heat a pan and place the tortilla wrap in the pan to heat, turn over as if flipping a pancake, place your filling on the one side and close the tortilla in half.  Let the bottom heat up and crisp a little before flipping over again.  You want the filling to be warm and the cheese all gooey and stringy, with the crispness on the outside…makes for that perfect bite!

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This is such a great light lunch, or the perfect easy quick dinner.  And so versatile, use your favourite soup and choose whatever filling you wish!  Tortilla wraps are a great substitute for bread, it is perfect for gluten intolerant people, and of course for anyone who is watching their weight.

Right now, I am busy cooking a delicious meat soup…recipe to follow soon!

Bread 101 – Your basic bread loaf

Doing some more research on this bread making business, I found a site with lessons available, so I thought…wait wait wait….back this up a little, let me return to the very basics first…So reading up on lesson one, I made this basic bread load – I assume this would be bread making 101 in a culinary course. However, I was a little out of my comfort zone as I was always taught bread needs some kind of fat, be it oil, shorting or butter…this one calls for no fat, and no sugar. Now I know the only real reason sugar is used is to “feed” the yeast and for colour in the baking process, so I can comfortably omit the sugar, however the fat part…I omitted anyway, so lets see how it comes out.

Basic Bread

3 cups Whole Wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp instant yeast
1 1/2 cups tepid water

Flour and salt into the kitchen aid with the dough hook attachment, until the salt is mixed through properly. Add the yeast, mix through. Add the water (must be hottest out of the tap).
Another method to follow is adding your yeast to your tepid water, let that stand to “activate” for about 5 minutes, add that to your flour and salt. This is the most common method used, however this lesson called for mixing it all together

Form a ball, and continue to knead for about 10 minutes. If you find your dough is a little dry, add more water (be careful to not make the dough to wet)
Set aside covered to rise and double in size, this will take about 45mins to an hour.

I check if my dough is ready when doubled in size, I push my finger into it, if the imprint of the shape stays, then you know you are good to go.

Next step is knocking back and shaping. You can obviously make any shape you wish. Just remember certain shapes take long to bake than others. I went for a rustic looking shape (as my main goal out of all this is artisan breads), but feel free to make little buns, or a loaf.

Once you have shaped your dough, you must leave it to rise a second time, looking for it to double in size once again, will take another good hour or so. (Don’t poke the bread after this rise, you are just looking for double in size)

Another important part of baking your loaf is the scoring part. The reason for this step is not only for the decorative quality it adds to your bread, but the other reason for scoring your loaf is to release the built up gasses which stops your loaf from tearing open while baking. You need to make the scores with something really sharp, you don’t want to massacre the dough, just simply want clean smooth cuts over the surface.

Note – My scoring is not smooth. The season for this was I did not cover the shaped dough with a wet kitchen towel. It is very important that your dough stays moist otherwise it will form a little hard crust. Which mine did.

Baking you bread. Now I am fortunate enough to have a Rational Oven at work, which is amazing…it’s the one piece of equipment that without a doubt, makes life easier in the kitchen. So I bake my bread on the bake & steam setting, however a normal oven obviously works just as well. I bake at 200۫ C for 20 minutes, I like a crunch to my crust, and the softness on the inside.

Very important! – Your oven must be preheated, don’t put your bread into a cold oven.

Once you take your bread out, let it cool to about room temperature before you cut it. Don’t cut straight away, I find it better to cool slightly, you want it still warm enough for when you spread your fresh farm butter on, the butter melts slightly.

Now, the problems you could run into:
Dough is to dry will result in a tight heavy loaf.
Dough is to wet will result in irregular holes and not a nice rise.
If you choose to add sugar, you will have a nice golden colour once baked
The salt is for taste; however, it stumps the yeast and helps with the fermentation, too much yeast will result in a beer like flavour, too little yeast and your bread wont rise.

Please note: This is by no means an amazing loaf of bread, this is just very basic bread, like one you would buy from you local store. What this lesson is all about is feeling your dough, getting to know your dough, and finding out what reactions you want, and don’t want. However if you have the time, this is a great way to always have fresh bread in your house if you don’t have a bread machine!

If you do this, let me know how you tweaked it! I have put lesson 1 & 2 together in a way. Lesson two was just about adding things to the bread to enhance flavour. Add some olives and fresh rosemary, or feta and peppadews and fried bacon…play with it. Once you have the basic down, you can go ahead and really experiment with the dough. Don’t be afraid!

Sunday Lunch at Hankey Hotel

I don’t often write about a place I have eaten at, unless I am completely blown away, or I am horribly disappointed. In this case, The Hankey Hotel just blew me away…I don’t often get the chance to go off the beaten track, so when I do, I grasp it with both hands.

The Hankey Hotel is in the little town of Hankey, in the Eastern Cape, not far from where I currently live. Having heard so much about the Sunday Lunch Buffet that gets served at this establishment, and all the praise it gets, I was determined to experience it for myself. Let me tell you, it’s such a gem.

The owner, Mario, welcomes you shows you through to the bar for a pre lunch drink, the doors to the hall where the food is served only opens at 12:30 on the dot, there is only one sitting, so you arrive a little early and you enjoy a drink in the real small town type bar. The bar is so quaint, with 2L bottles as opposed to the 330ml cans we are so use to, and beer in cans ( I can honestly not remember the last time I saw a beer in a can.) Mario then comes around to each table and tells us that they are ready and we may go through.

The dinning room is exactly that…a large dinning hall, the type that would remind you of your assembly’s in primary school. In the one corner there is a grand piano, and a gentleman on a guitar who gets your foot tapping happily along to the classics. You are then once again welcomed by Mario, who proceeds to explain the way the buffet works. You typical course for course, but all set out in buffet style, with the mismatched plates and service gear…I have to admit, it was absolutely charming.

Starters consist of choices of either minestrone soup or fish soup, served with rosterkook, or a choice of brown or white farmstyle bread.
Mario and his lovely wife do all the cleaning of the tables, they cook and serve, and are just gracious hosts! They know everyone by their first name and make you feel so welcome.

Then comes your fish course with your salads, on offer were a garden salad, curried pineapples, smoked snoek, mussels in half shell with a creamy sauce or crumbed, pickled fish, snoek kookies, fish nuggets, deep fried calamari, deep fried fish, potato salad, beetroot and an arrangements of little sauces.

After your fish course, you are encouraged to the hot mains. Mario knew that my father in law wanted “afval” and therefore brought him a small portion, it is not always available, but he knew we were coming so he made a plan. Other than the afval, which is on my list of “no no’s” there was so much on offer. Creamed spinach, cinnamon pumpkin, cauliflower, green beans, sweet carrots, rice, roast chicken, roast pork, beef stirfry, brisket and roast potatoes, which Mario refers to as His Roast Potatoes, and were delicious!

In the middle of mains, Mario too a break from clearing tables and climbed on the grand piano and proceeded to entertain us with his musical ways accompanied by the gentleman with his guitar, the atmosphere was so friendly, so family orientated, took me back to the days when I grew up in Vryburg and our Sunday lunches which was also such a large affair, with all the food and family. The home cooked meal vibe took me far back into my childhood, my grandparents and how, at the age of 8 I would sit and watch my father cook like this.

Dessert, which is not really my forte, but I had to go and try because of the peppermint fridge tart which I have been told about, consisted of another large selection. Along with the peppermint tart, there was a lemon meringue, marshmallow and pineapple tart, banana tart, fruit salad, sago pudding, jelly and custard and last but not least, poached pears.

This spread of home cooked food sets you back R100 per person. I can say, very well worth it! I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it. If you are in the area on a Sunday, I would recommend a visit! Contact Mario +27 (0) 42 284 0325

Challah

When I lived in the USA, I worked for a beautiful orthodox Jewish family, and one thing that I loved doing was baking the Challah for Friday night Sabbath. Keeping in mind that with bread you can go wild with your creativity. This is a very basic Challah recipe which you can get really creative with.

1 cup tepid water
4.5 tsp yeast
1.5 tsp salt
2 tbs castor sugar
4.5 cups flour
¼ cup margarine (softened)
4 eggs

I use a kitchen aid to knead…she kneads all my bread doughs so beautifully, but feel free to knead this by hand.

Preheat your oven 200C
Place half the water in the kitchen aid bowl
add yeast and mix until dissolved
add the rest of the water
add the salt, sugar and margarine and mix well
add 2 cups of flour and knead until all the lumps are out
add 3 of the eggs plus the white only of the 4th egg
add some of the flour until you have a soft dough. You want it to be workable, yet soft, it should have pulled away from the sides of the bowl.

Knead in machine until all the lumps are gone, and the dough is slightly elastic.
Leave to rest for about an hour, you want you dough to double in size.
Once doubled in size, knock down, cut dough into 3 equal sizes, roll out, plate the tree pieces together and set aside to prove again. You looking for it to double in size again. Do not place anywhere near a draft, you want a slight warm place.
Bake at 200 C for about 20 – 30 minutes

NOTE: This is not my photo…I had to borrow a picture due to the fact that I didn’t get a chance to take one.