Happy Halloween! Spicy Pumpkin Soup

Happy Halloween Everyone!

Every year, 31st October, carved pumpkins are put out on porches and doorsteps in the United States, but also other parts of the world. The practice of decorating “jack-o’-lanterns” originated in Ireland, where large turnips and potatoes served as an early canvas. The name comes from an Irish folktale about a man called Stingy Jack. Irish immigrants brought the tradition to America, home of the pumpkin, and it became an integral part of Halloween tradition.

Pumpkin

Pumpkin is a low-calorie (26kcal per 100g), low-fat vegetable, and contains 91.6% water (raw). It is also a great source of Vitamin A (8513 IU per 100g).

Pumpkin Coconut Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 can coconut milk (400 ml)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 4 cups peeled and diced pumpkin
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 small red chili, diced
  • Chopped stalks from a bunch of fresh coriander (about 2 tbsp, perfect for using up those tasty bits)
  • 2 tsp turmeric powder)
  • Some lemongrass
  • 2 large garlic clove, chopped
  • Peel from half of fresh lime
  • Juice from half of fresh lime

Instructions

  1. Put the oven on 200C. Cut a lid off the pumpkin and carve out the seeds. Fill the pumpkin with 3 tbsp of water and put the lid over. Roast the pumpkin seeds at the same time. Leave in the oven for 20 minutes until the pumpkin is soft enough to dig out the meat.
  2. Sautee onion, chili, coriander stalks, galangal and turmeric in coconut oil for a couple of minutes. Add pumpkin, garlic, lime peel, water and coconut milk and bring to boil. Simmer on low heat for about 10-15 minutes.
  3. Transfer the rest of the mixture to a food processor or a blender. Puree until smooth, then add coconut cream and lime juice. Blend until incorporated. You can use a hand-held blender/soup mixer as well. Serve with fresh coriander leaves on top.

Preparation time: 10 minutes, cooking time: 15 minutes, number of servings: 4

Enjoy!   . ★

Resources

http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3188?fg=&man=&lfacet=&format=&count=&max=25&offset=&sort=&qlookup=pumpkin

http://www.history.com/topics/jack-olantern-history

Squash, chipotle and bean bonanza chili

Recipe of the Day

chili

I defy all bean haters to dislike this chili. Likewise you squash haters out there. And those few and far between pessimists with no faith in meatless chili. But maybe that’s my bias as a lover of these foods? Maybe you have to like all vegetables in order to love vegetarian chili? As far as I know my little brother only ate one vegetable–and no others–until his mid-20′s (it was broccoli). Would he have set down his steakums and ramen for a bowl of my chili?

Make this spicy. 1) Because spicy is good and if you don’t like spice, build up to it. You will be richly rewarded. 2) You want it spicy because the squash, corn and cilantro cool it down a little, as does the rice and greek yogurt.

chili 2

You can add whatever vegetables you want, such as carrot, mushroom, zucchini, red onion, celery. I tend to use bell peppers, onions and garlic. You can add in any kind of bean you like, or all kinds of beans. I recommend a mix of black and pinto beans with a little bit of kidney beans. This is one of those occasions when you can use leftover beans you cooked and stored in the freezer.

chili 3

Ingredients for 4 people

4-5 cups of cooked beans (black, pinto and kidney beans or all black beans)
1/2 small butternut (or other) squash, cubed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño chili (seeded or not, depending on your spice super power)
2 chipotles from a jar of chipotles in adobo sauce, chopped (secret weapon pantry ingredient)
1/2 each of green, red, yellow bell peppers, diced (or other vegetable combo, whatever!)
1 onion, diced
4-6 pickled jalapeño slices from a jar
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp ancho chili powder (optional)
1 or 2 tsp chili powder (or chipotle chili powder if you don’t have the canned chipotles)
1 veg stock cube
2-3 fresh or canned tomatoes chopped
1/2 cup corn
large handful cilantro, chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper
water as needed

For the rice

2 cups basmati rice
handful of cilantro, chopped
1 clove garlic
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
extra virgin olive oil
juice of one lime

Garnish

strong cheddar cheese
greek yogurt or sour cream
or neither if you want it vegan!

** Being specific on this recipe is really hard for me as I’ve made this about twice a month for many years now (with or without the squash) and kind of do it on autopilot. The leftovers are wonderful as enchiladas, burritos, chili omelette or nachos. I also cook this in a small pot or a big pot depending on how many people are eating. So please know that this is chili and can be corrected and adjusted as you go. Word to the wise, if you’re unsure of cooking with chilies and chili powders then be careful. You can always add in more spice later, or serve a hot sauce! It is harder to de-spice the chili if you throw everything in and then realize that, oops, smoked paprika is about as spicy as you can handle.
1) Rinse and cook the basmati rice. American long grain rice is great too but I tend to use my perfect basmati.
2) While rice is cooking, sauté the garlic, onion and jalapeño chili (as well as the harder veggies like carrots or celery if using) until soft.
3) Add in all the other ingredients except the corn and cilantro–the bell peppers, beans, squash, chipotles, veggie bouillon and spices. Add in enough water for a good chili consistency. Stir to break down the veggie bouillon. The beans will absorb some water–add more to keep the chili consistency like a hearty stew.
4) Bring to boil and then turn down to simmer. Cook until squash is tender.
5) Add in the corn and chopped cilantro. Adjust seasoning if needed, for example you may need more chili powder or salt and pepper.
6) When the rice is cooked, fluff with a fork. Add sea salt (about 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon) and garlic clove to a pestle and mortar and grind to a pulp. Add this to the rice along with the chopped cilantro, lime juice and a couple glugs of extra virgin olive oil. Mix with a fork until all the flavorings are combined.
7) Serve the chili over the rice and add shredded cheese and Greek yogurt unless you want to leave out the dairy.

chili 4

Edamame Succotash

succotash

Ingredients

  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 yellow squash, diced
  • 1 small sweet potato, diced
  • 1 small ear of organic corn, cut off the cob and blanched
  • 3/4 cup edamame, blanched
  • 1 teaspoon butter, melted
  • Salt and pepper
  • Crushed red pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Toss the zucchini, yellow squash, and sweet potato in salt, pepper, and a
  3. small amount of melted butter.
  4. Roast for 30 minutes or until soft and a bit brown.
  5. In the meantime, blanch the corn and the edamame in salted boiling water and drain.
  6. Toss together and season with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes.

Butternut Squash & Kale Tostadas

Butternut squash and kale make me think of fall, and I love finding new ways to pair them together. These crunchy vegetarian tostadas are loaded with black beans seasoned with garlic and cumin, thinly sliced kale, roasted butternut squash, diced red onion, and avocado sour cream.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and cube a 1.5 lb butternut squash. Place on baking sheet and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast squash about 25 minutes, stirring with a spatula halfway through.

While squash is cooking, pour two cans of low sodium black beans into a saucepan, and add garlic and cumin. Warm on low heat.

Wash kale thoroughly. Cut kale leaves from the ribs. Roll kale leaves up and thinly slice. Place kale in colander and rinse with hot water for about 15-30 seconds to slightly wilt leaves, then rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.

Eggplant and Bell Pepper Terrine

Eggplant

So what is a terrine? My online Apple dictionary defines it as: 1. a meat, fish, or vegetable mixture that has been cooked or otherwise prepared in advance and allowed to cool or set in its container; 2. A container used for such a dish, typically of an oblong shape and made of earthenware.

This recipe conforms to both definitions and is a wonderful vegan appetizer. If you’re an eggplant lover, this one’s for you. It takes about an hour of prep time and can be made the day before. In fact, it is best if made the day before so the terrine fully marinates. Bring it to room temperature before serving for best flavor.

Ingredients:

4 red bell peppers
2 medium eggplants  – cut ¼ inches thick rounds
1 small shallot  (peeled and minced)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup organic tofu (mashed)
2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves (Now appearing at the Farmers’ Market)
Vegetable oil cooking spray

Directions:

Roast the bell peppers under the broiler until skins begin to bubble and peel. Peppers will almost be black when they are ready. Transfer to a large baggie and close the top carefully (peppers will be plenty hot). Let steam in the baggie until cool enough to the touch – approximately 15 minutes. Peel, seed and skin peppers. Cut into 1-inch wide strips. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Spray two baking sheets with cooking spray. Working in batches, arrange the eggplant rounds on baking sheets in a single layer. Roast until tender – about 20 to 25 minutes. Turn the rounds over after 12 minutes to ensure even cooking. Using a spatula, transfer the rounds to a wire rack to cool (wax paper works well but if you can use a rack it lets the air circulate to both sides).

In a small bowl, combine the shallot, vinegar, salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until smooth. Set vinaigrette aside.

Spray a terrine with cooking spray (I use a 9×4 inch earthenware loaf pan). Arrange one-third of the eggplant rounds, slightly overlapping, to cover the bottom of the pan. Brush lightly with vinaigrette. Arrange half of the bell pepper strips, slightly overlapping, over the eggplant. Using a rubber spatula spread half of the tofu over the peppers. Top with half of the fresh basil and brush lightly with vinaigrette.

Make another layer of eggplant, vinaigrette, bell pepper, tofu and basil. Brush with vinaigrette. Top with a third layer of eggplant. Brush with vinaigrette. Using your hands, press down firmly but gently on the terrine, compressing the layers.

Cover tightly and marinate, in the refrigerator, for 12 to 24 hours. Carefully un-mold terrine onto a platter and garnish with fresh basil prior to serving.

Fresh Fig & Arugula Salad

Recipe of the Day

I am in fig heaven.  Does a more divine, sweet, and delicate fruit exist?  They must truly be the food of the gods.  Besides being so delicious, they are incredibly healthy and detoxifying.  I adore them fresh this time of year, but be sure to eat them within a day or two of buying because they are very delicate and will not last more than that.

Fresh Fig & Arugula Salad Recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups arugula, rinsed and dried
  • 4 fresh black figs, gently washed and quartered (with skins on, stem removed)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions:

  • In a large bowl, combine arugula, olive oil, vinegar, molasses, pine nuts and salt and pepper.  Toss to combine.
  • Separate into serving bowls and top with quartered figs.

What’s for Breakfast? Sweetcorn Fritters With Roast Tomato.

Recipe of the Day

corn

This time when we returned from Canberra the boot of our car  was filled with plums, tomatoes, sweetcorn, spinach, sweet basil, capsicum, cucumbers and zucchini. All freshly picked from my father’s garden. And two enormous bunches of hydrangea in hues of pink, lilac and blue.

Our holidays are well and truly over and we are getting back into the swing of things. School might not start until next week, but my daughter is back into her swimming routine. I picked her up from the pool this morning. As usual she was absolutely ravenous. “What’s for breakfast?” she asked.

She particularly loves sweetcorn. Especially from her grandfather’s garden. Not surprisingly this is one of her favourite breakfasts. Sweetcorn fritters with roast tomato. Another classic from Bill Granger. It’s still on the menu at Bill’s Cafe. All day. Served with bacon. We decided to give the bacon a miss today. Putting the focus entirely on our beautifully fresh produce.Somehow things always taste better when you grow them yourself.

roasted tomato

Sweetcorn Fritters With Roast Tomato

Serves 4

For the roast tomatoes

4 ripe Roma tomatoes, sliced in half lengthways
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the fritters

1 cup plain  flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 cups fresh corn kernels from the cob
1/2 cup diced fresh capsicum (pepper)
1/2 cup sliced spring (green) onion
1/4 cup chopped coriander and parsley
4 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the roast tomatoes

PREHEAT the oven to 180 C. Place tomatoes on a baking tray cut side up,and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with sea salt and pepper.
ROAST in oven for 20 minutes.

For the fritters

SIFT flour, baking powder, salt and paprika into a large bowl and make a well in the centre.
IN a separate bowl, combine eggs, and milk.
GRADUALLY add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until you have a smooth, lump-free batter. The batter will be quite stiff.
PLACE corn, capsicum, spring onion and herbs in a mixing bowl and add just enough of the batter to bind them.
HEAT 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a non-stick frying pan on medium heat, then drop in 2 tablespoons of batter per fritter and cook 4 fritters at a time.
COOK for 2 minutes or until the underside of each fritter is golden. Turn over and cook fritters on the other side. Transfer to a plate and keep warm while cooking the remaining fritters.
SERVE with roast tomatoes and rocket.

John Eales Medal 2013

Preparations

Arriving in Sydney at 6:00am and realizing there were no dry cleaners able to sort out a suit by 4:00pm was a rather stressful start to the day. Luckily I remembered from my retail days that we always had to steam the clothing we received before placing them on the racks. We ended up finding someone kind enough to battle the creases for us. After that we chilled out at the beach for most of the day before getting back to the hotel to get dressed. I think the other girls were way more organized than me in getting ready. I used an old dress, did my own hair and didn’t even have time to fix my nails, hopefully no one noticed.

Gold Carpet & Media

As we entered the function we had to walk up the gold carpet. Nick had already told me what to say if they asked who I thought would win the John Eales Medal (as this was what I was asked last year). It didn’t quite go that way. The interviewer asked “Did you feel that the invitation to the John Eales Medal was something you simply could not turn down?” “Err…I don’t know anything about rugby, but I thought I’d do my best”, I managed to squeeze out. It would probably have been better if I said something along the lines of: “I’m from the Northern hemisphere, more accurately a few clicks from the North Pole, and don’t think I understand how big this is. But I’m very honored to be here”. Oh well,better luck next time haha. Luckily they didn’t include my answer on national TV.

The Dinner

After the somewhat awkward experience entering the function, Nick and I went inside to be seated. We were served delicious crab and caviar for starters. However, Nick managed to dip his tie in the crab meat and I launched my fork with black caviar into my lap (note: white dress) first thing sitting down. Can’t take us anywhere… I tried to not do too many clumsy stunts as most of the dinner was broadcasted live. Nick didn’t seem to care a great deal, but was rather focusing on getting as much food as possible while listening to the speeches.

The food was fantastic. The main, hereford beef tenderloin with chive-spiced goats curd mousseline, truffle potato galette and root vegetables looked very nice. However, I went for the vegetarian option as I’m not a huge fan of red meat. It was an asparagus, green pea and mint risotto with lemon mascarpone. The dessert was also really tasty; chocolate tart with raspberry cream, lemon meringue pie with raspberries, apple and sultana crumble square and vanilla & mango brulée. I tried all the different bits, so good! Nick also cleaned up, but in spite of having a starter, main and dessert, he still remained hungry.

rugby

Despite a few awkward moments, and me not knowing half of what the speeches were about, the night was really good, with awesome food and nice people  ★

Fall Salad: Roasted Pear, Pomegranate, and Gorgonzola with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette

salad

If you’re looking for an easy, crowd-pleasing salad then here you go! The roasted pears add a nice twist, and the pomegranate seeds burst in your mouth. I buy the pomegranate seeds already packaged, but if you have the time you can meticulously de-seed the pomegranate. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to do that…I had to watch a You-Tube video! If you don’t like gorgonzola or blue cheese, you can easily substitute goat, feta, or Parmesan. You can also use candied walnuts or pecans, but the maple syrup in the dressing already adds a nice sweetness. Enjoy!

Roasted Pear, Pomegranate, and Gorgonzola Salad with  Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

Roasted Pears:

  • 3 Anjou pears, quartered and cored
  • 1 tablespoon EVOO
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette:

  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup