It began with the best of plans: To cook some corned beef and ease my cravings for this most familiar of comfort foods.
Inevitably, I had leftovers.
The first day I made a wonderful Corned Beef Hash, because that’s my go-to leftovers meal and I always believe it tastes even better than the original. Of course it does. But while I spent pleasurable hours over the following week consuming a 1kg cut of corned beef – and you will get a Turkish-inspired meal idea for it in the next few days – I was faced with the challenge of getting through a large under-utilised wedge of cabbage. Continue reading Day 14 – Cabbage and Bacon Soup
In Italy, sausages are traditionally eaten with lentils on New Year’s Day and so it seems to me that if it can be elevated to a celebratory meal by one of the great food cultures of the world, surely you can eat them in a soup during the week and consider yourself well satisfied.
This is quick to make and it tastes even better the next day. It’s fantastically portable for a work lunch, either in a thermos or to be warmed up in a microwave. It’s also hearty and sustains you throughout the mid afternoon slump.
Continue reading Day 7 – Sausage and Lentil Soup
It’s been a while since I’ve had this soup, but then again, it’s been a while since hot weather. While the rest of the country has sweltered, I still have my blankets on the bed. Every time I think now would be a good time to remove them, along comes another cold front.
It’s January as I write this and I’m wearing ugg boots.
So, back to vegetable soup. This was always going to be on the cards given I had half a fridge of vegies to empty before the next market excursion, but I had forgotten how wonderful such a bowl could be. It’s very delicately flavoured and that’s part of the charm. Continue reading Day 13 – Creamy Vegetable Soup
It’s the acid test of any newbie starting out in a commercial kitchen – use your palate to tell you when to add an ingredient or when to restrain yourself.
I served blue cheese to friends as part of my birthday lunch, but am not a massive fan of it normally so was stuck with ways to use it up because to throw it out would be criminally wasteful. If you don’t have blue cheese, use any soft stinky cheese. Brie or camembert works well, even more so if you can bring it up to room temperature before you throw it into the soup.
There are thousands of recipes for this much-admired soup, but really, the less you do to it, the better. Don’t play around with lots of cream or thickeners or anything else that will detract from this beautiful result. It must be green thick, gooey and so fragrant you want to bathe in it. It’s the perfect weekend supper dish. Continue reading Day 3 – Broccoli and Blue Cheese Soup
I defy anyone who thinks that a quick takeaway is easier to arrange than cooking for themselves to try this soup and note the difference. Yes, it uses takeaway items – in this case six of steamed dim sims – but the rest was thrown together using bottom-of-the fridge vegies, a desiccated dried chilli or two, some pre-made stock and a packet of rice noodles.
Strictly speaking this is not a short soup as it has long noodles in it, and of course it doesn’t have prawns or barbecued pork in it, but you can easily add it if you want. I made this in a double boiler, meaning I could cook the vegies in the stock below and let the steam infuse the dim sims as they heated through. Continue reading Day 12 – Long and Short Soup
I’ve had a recipe for braised celery given to me by my former mother-in-law for the longest time and for far more than the most obvious reason – taste – have never sought to try it out. Which brings me to a question for you all: How many reasons do you need to NOT try a recipe?
Do you not try a recipe because it doesn’t have an accompanying photo? Because it sounds horrible? The main ingredient doesn’t immediately appeal? If you have never outgrown your preschool aversion to the different or unusual, you could be forgiven for making food choices based on the more obvious deficiencies.
But what if the recipe was given to you by someone you don’t especially like? What if, without getting too specific, the recipe seems weird, odd, out of season or just deeply unattractive? Is it the taste or the texture you don’t like? What about the colour? If it’s green, does it appeal as much as something that is berry coloured? Continue reading Day 13 – Celery and Fetta Soup
Chowder and bisque are words to describe the unctuousness of a soup thickened with cream.
Don’t be fooled however – just because it’s creamy doesn’t mean it has to stick to your ribs or impose itself upon your digestion. Unlike a stew-like chowder, a bisque is rather light, in both taste and its effect on your stomach, which is just as well during this time of year when all we want is to eat lightly after a hot day.
To really get to best of the sensational flavours in this soup, you need to seek out some fish stock, or, even better, make your own. Tasty as this soup is, it does require some earlier stock-making preparation, but the results are well worth it.
When you next buy seafood, buy a whole fish, even if you are only wanting fillets. Ask your fishmonger to fillet the fish for you, and to hand you the head and bones of the fish in a separate bag. Using these valuable leftovers makes the base for a sensational – and very easy to make – fish stock.
Continue reading Day 5 – Fish Bisque
Take 1500 people, dress them in white and tell them to bring everything they need for a sit down three course meal – including table and chairs – to an iconic Sydney location, the MCA.
Welcome to the wonderful world of Dîner en Blanc.
On a chilly Saturday in a Melbourne park, I took a phone call from a friend who invited me to come. I had less than a week to find some white clothes (not easy at all in black-clad Melbourne) and get myself sorted. Luckily, the three course meal I came up with took less than an hour to think up and plan for.
This gazpacho was the first course. It is completely coincidental that it’s a white soup. I wanted to make it for a very simple reason: it’s ridiculously easy and cheap to make.
This is a fine example of Spanish peasant food, made to be eaten throughout the very hottest of summer weather. Everything about this makes for elegant eating, and yet uses quite simple ingredients that are all at their seasonal best at this time of year: bread, garlic, olive oil, a handful of almonds and grapes – yes, grapes.
Continue reading Day 14 – Almond Gazpacho
Every once in a while an email arrives from a reader with an idea or a recipe that is couched in humility, or self-deprecation. Often the sender will declare that, ‘It’s not much, but my family really likes it’. Readers ask me, very politely, to cook it up and see for myself.
So, let me say it as clearly as I can: I LOVE getting recipes from readers. It’s not just that your suggestions would make a great addition to this site. What I love most is the back story, the reason it’s become so popular in your house, the reason you think it’s so damn good you’d want everyone to know about it.
And what I admire most of all is when people share with me a small snippet of a love story.
Now, it may not appear sometimes to the sender that theirs IS a love story, but in the case of this soup, I was under no doubt whatsoever. By way of explanation, the sender, Dave, told me simply that his wife had been very sick for a number of months and that this soup, made by experimentation and an embargo on favourite foods while she recuperates, had been a triumph of perseverance.
Sometimes it’s hard to get worked up about a simple soup, but this is entirely justified. It’s a lovely delicate flavour, beautifully balanced and clearly imbued with love and care and the very best of human kindness.
Continue reading Day 11 – Dave’s Zucchini and Potato Soup
Lentils get bad press. They shouldn’t, but they do. Despite all attempts to bring them into our kitchens, we invariably negate sound nutritional advice with, ‘yes but they taste bad and make me smell much worse.’
To which I say: You may equate lentil soup with smelly students in flea-infested digs, but if we had all eaten like this as students we would not have complained in the least.
This really is fabulous and doesn’t need much embellishment but there’s no reason you couldn’t use it as a base and add a range of suitable vegetables. Sweet potato, carrot or even a tin of diced tomatoes could all be added.
As for the consistency of the soup, I prefer it thicker, but you may want to add some more water to the mixture to lighten it up. Just wait until the end of cooking time, once the lentils are completely cooked through before adding some boiled water from the kettle.
Also, it’s worth noting that lentils are the only dried pulse that you DON’T have to soak before using, saving you valuable time. Just rinse them, pick them over for any bits of grit and throw them into the pot. Too easy.
Continue reading Day 11 – Red Lentil and Coconut Soup