Autumn Seasonal Eating. Carrot and Parsnip soup with toasted almonds.

Warming Carrot and Parsnip Soup

In Hungary we say ‘it has become my blood’ after a great meal or drink. It means the food has immediately invigorated us and brought us back to life. Having had a bad cold all week, that it exactly how I felt after a bowl of this soup.

Autumn Seasonal Eating. Carrot and Parsnip soup with toasted almonds.

I had no plans to make soup but I had too many carrots and parsnips and everybody knows making soup is a great way to use up surplus vegetables. Plus I already mentioned that pesky cold, so I  knew a few bowls of a nourishing soup would do us good. Without further ado, I hauled out one of our biggest pots and got to work. After about twenty minutes of peeling and chopping, the prep work was done, and I was ready to begin my kitchen magic.

But before I continue, there is something I would like to share with you that I think made this soup extra special. A few days before, I had made a batch of clarified butter, or ghee, for the first time.  Homemade ghee has a sweet, almost vanilla-y scent while being pretty neutral in flavour,  and it can also take some heat. It is perfect if you are after some buttery deliciousness without the smell of burning fat. So I sautéed the finely chopped leeks, celery, garlic and ginger in plenty of this melted goodness, bringing out the depth and sweetness of the their flavours and adding some creaminess to the overall texture.

After that, I added the chopped parsnips and carrots and threw in a couple of cubes of good vegetable stock. Homemade chicken or vegetable stock would be even better if you have some. I used 50/50 ratio of carrots and parsnips to get the right amount of sweetness for my taste. When the vegetables were almost ready I poured in half a can of coconut milk, just enough for a bit of creaminess without the explicit coconut flavour. I also added the juice of half a lemon which was essential for a perfectly balanced flavour.

I finished the soup by blending it with a stick blender but not before I threw in a small bunch of lemon verbena leaves. I bought a plant at my local Farmers’ Market and I just love it. It is similar to lemon grass, really good in soups and curries,  and I just had a mug of camomile tea with some crushed lemon verbena leaves, ginger, and honey, so I think my lingering cold is almost the thing of the past.

Lemon Verbena
Lemon Verbena

The soup was a hit with the kids as well which is always a huge bonus. They asked for not one but two extra helpings! We had it the next day too and I froze a batch for when we need another bowl of sunshine in our bellies.

I have learnt that toppings can make a big difference in a meal, and it is also a great way to bring a bit of variety when you are eating the same thing two or three times in a row. So after trying this soup with toasted almonds, I served it with garlicky kale crisps and toasted seeds which took this soup to a whole new level. I think next time we will try it with sautéed mushrooms to give the soup some extra body.

Autumn Seasonal Eating. Carrot and Parsnip soup with kale crisps and seeds.

So, the recipe! It will serve about four but feel free to double the amount for extra servings.

Ingredients:

  1. 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  2. 4 parsnips, peeled and chopped
  3. 1 leek, finely sliced
  4. 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
  5. 1 inch of ginger, peeled and chopped
  6. 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  7. 2 tbsp. ghee (feel free to use any other fat if you prefer)
  8. 2 tbsp. coconut milk
  9. juice of half a small lemon
  10. small bunch of lemon verbena leaves (optional)
  11. Vegetable or chicken stock
  12. Salt, pepper

 

Method:

  1. Melt the ghee and sauté the finely chopped leeks, celery, garlic and ginger.
  2. Add the carrots and parsnips, top up with enough water to cover plus 2 inches. You can always add some more water in the end to get the desired consistency.
  3. Add the stock cube. If you have liquid stock add it with the water.
  4. Cook until the vegetables are soft.
  5. Add the lemon juice, coconut milk, season with salt and pepper to your taste.
  6. Add some lemon verbena leaves and blend until smooth using a stick blender.
  7. Serve topped with toasted almonds, seeds, or anything you fancy.

Enjoy!

Merlixa

 

 

Advertisements
dark and moody photography. Still life photography. Pumpkin. Autumn harvest.

Autumn Pumpkin Curry with Black Cardamom and Star Anise

It is the middle of September and I still feel slightly disoriented. Autumn has barged in rather unceremoniously, like an uninvited visitor, leaving me in a perpetual state of trying my best to be polite, while really wanting to kick them out.

Summer has been good to us, with its free flowing days, lots of play, and very few obligations. And while free play will always be a big part of our days, we certainly need to plan ahead a bit more.

I am not a creature of habit but I have learnt that we all have more space, literally and figuratively, to be creative when the wheels of the household mechanics are well oiled.  So I am spending a solid week decluttering the house, setting up a meal prep and batch cooking routine, a cleaning schedule, and trying to plan our days so there is time for the most important things,  like spending time outside, reading stories, play, dream, and create. My husband must be on the same page, as there is talk of refreshing the house, in fact, he is on his way to pick up some new doors, as we speak. Wow, simple life does actually require a lot of prep work!

Anyway, before I turn this blog post into a chapter from housekeeping journal, I would like to share with you my recent recipe for Autumn Pumpkin Curry, a definite upside of Autumn being here. Maybe she can stay, after all.

dark and moody photography. Still life photography. Pumpkin. Autumn harvest.I love curries, especially vegetarian versions. It is such a great way to enjoy the flavour of vegetables, to transform them into a wholesome and heart-warming meal.

I enjoy the organic way of cooking a curry, almost like creating a magic potion, making sure all the vegetables are cooked just right and the spices are perfectly balanced to enhance the overall flavour. Serve it on a bed of steamed rice, with some homemade pita and chutney on the side, and I can’t imagine a better meal on a rainy autumn evening.

When I cook a curry, I rarely follow a recipe. First I look in the fridge, then take out all the veggies that might work well together. I open the spice cabinet and take out all the warm spices I have, choose the ones I think might work well together, and trust my intuition when it comes to measurements.  I check for some tomatoes, chickpeas, or lentils, perhaps coconut milk. If I am particularly organised, I will do some work in advance, like peeling and chopping the vegetables.

dark and moody photography. Still life photography. Pumpkin. Autumn harvest.

For this version, I was using a pumpkin, aubergine, red pepper and tomatoes combo, some rainbow chard added at the very end, all delicately spiced with black cardamom, star anise, coriander seeds, cumin, paprika, turmeric, and ginger. It sounds like a lot of spices but they balanced each other really well, warming the autumn vegetables and enhancing their flavour without overwhelming them. I love spicy food but because of the kids I add the chilli separately to my serving.

dark and moody photography. Still life photography. Pumpkin curry. Autumn harvest.

Ingredients:

  1. 1 medium pumpkin, peeled, deseeded, and chopped into 1 inch cubes
  2. 1 aubergine, sliced and quartered
  3. 1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
  4. 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  5. 2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  6. 1 bunch of rainbow chard, spinach, or kale, chopped
  7. 1 can of tomatoes
  8. 3 black cardamom seeds, grinded
  9. 1 star anise, grinded
  10. 1 tsp coriander seeds, grinded
  11. 1 tbsp turmeric
  12. 1 tsp paprika
  13. 1 inch ginger, peeled and grated
  14. Salt, pepper

Method:

  1. Steam the cubed pumpkin until just tender but still have a bit of bite, set aside.
  2. In the meantime, gently fry the onions in a bit of olive oil until soft and slightly caramelised.
  3. Add the spices, ginger, and garlic, and fry for a minute or two.
  4. Add the aubergines and chard stalks and let them soften a bit. Add a bit of water as the mixture might stick.
  5. Add the pepper, pumpkin, tomatoes, rinse the tomato can and add extra water, and let it simmer until the vegetables are soft but not mushy, about 15-20 minutes. Season to taste.
  6. Add the rainbow chard leaves and cook for two minutes.
  7. I like to serve the curry on a bed of boiled brown rice, with homemade pita bread, and chutney on the side.

Tip 1: If you chop the vegetables (with the exception of onion and garlic) in advance, this dish comes together very quickly.

Tip 2: If you would like to make this dish more hearty, add some beans or legumes, like chickpeas or lentils.

Enjoy!

Merlixa

 

 

Beetroot Salad with Prunes and Walnuts

This salad was one of my favourites as a child growing up in Ukraine.

Salads, in general, were an essential part of my childhood cuisine, and not the skinny green leaves, thank you very much, our salads were always wholesome, almost meals in themselves. I don’t remember any dinner party or celebration without a meaty Olivier, or a hearty Vinaigrette in the middle of the dinner table, always served in the biggest salad bowls, so there would be leftovers for at least two days. These salads always tasted even better the next day, when all the flavours have fused together. They were amazing first thing in the morning, I remember eating them on a slice of stale bread.

But back to the salad of this post. This beetroot salad was not be the king of the table, like the Olivier or Vinaigrette, and so would be served in a much smaller salad bowl, but still played a very important part in the dinner table setup, alongside garlicky cheese spread, pickled fish, and other Eastern European delicacies.

To make this salad, I would first cook the beetroot with skin on to preserve the flavours, then let the beetroots cool, peel, and coarsely grate them. Then I would add a generous handful of chopped toasted walnuts and chopped juicy prunes. I don’t originally remember any herbs added to this salad but when I tasted it I really missed a certain extra aroma that would bind the beetroot, prunes and walnuts together. I made a quick trip our herb garden and came back with a few sprigs of thyme, and they just did the trick.

Originally, I remember this salad served with a bit of sour cream mixed in, transforming the deep purple colour of into a bright fuchsia, but when I tasted the beetroot and sour cream combination, I didn’t like it at all, and not even the beautiful colour could convince me otherwise. My palate must have changed since childhood, or I maybe I have not been exposed to almost permanent sour cream doses since moving further West. So instead, I opted for a more classic dressing of balsamic vinegar, honey, and olive oil, and it worked just fine. I also added some green leaves (yes, I know, I am gladly swapping the sour cream for greens now). Rocket would work really well here too, or any bitter leaves.

I had some leftover goat cheese from out trip to the farmers’ market so I rounded out the salad with a slice of grilled cheese. The overall combination was perfect, each flavour enhancing the other and blending together beautifully.

Beetroot salad with prunes and walnut.

Ingredients:

  1. 2-3 medium beetroots, cooked with skin on
  2. 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  3. 1/2cup good quality juicy prunes
  4. 3 sprigs of thyme finally chopped
  5. 3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  6. 2 tbsp. olive oil
  7. 1tsp honey
  8. salt, pepper
  9. goats cheese, 1 thick slice per serving
  10. Green salad leaves, 1 generous bunch per serving

Method:

  1. Cook the beetroots with their skin on until soft. Let them cool. Peel and coarsely grate.
  2. Toast the walnuts, chop the prunes and add to the grated beetroot.
  3. Make a dressing with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, and thyme.
  4. Add the salad leaves and the grilled cheese and add a generous splash of dressing.

Tip : I recommend cooking the beetroots in advance and storing in the fridge with their skin on. It saves time and the cool beetroot will taste better.

 

Enjoy!

Merlixa