I love to bits my nephews and nieces, but sadly, I don’t know very well. I don’t go to Lisbon that often, maybe once or twice a year and only for a few days. It is a real shame that I missing out the kiddies growing up. I try to keep up with their everyday life, and always find amusing when I found in these kiddies my own quirks. F, the oldest one is fearless in the water. I, the youngest one and my goddaughter, always wakes up in a bed mood and take her time to engage with the rest of the world. And, this Christmas I found out that V, the middle one refuses to eat his soup. “Oh, my dear boy, how can I understand you!”, I thought.
At the table the drama start to unfold, while I was having a déjà moment. “Eat you soup, V. Now.” said his mother. “You won’t eat anything else”. “No”, he answered and smiled defiantly. “V, try the soup”, replied the mother. V is a sweet kid and forced himself to have a spoon of the greenish liquid. “I don’t like soup”, he told his mother. “You don’t like soup???”, I asked him. “No, I don’t like soup” he retorted “I only like pumpkin soup. Or carrot”. Qed– not liking soup and taste preferences seems to have a strong genetic correlation. What else could I do but support V not to have his soup? He eventually moved to the main dish and dessert, soup uneaten… That is my boy!
This one is not a pumping soup, now out of season, but I guess carrots would have been enough for V to take at least 5 spoons. Or maybe even six.
Carrot and potato soup with cumin and ginger (adapted from a recipe found in taste.com.au)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 teaspoon grated ginger
- 3 carrots, roughly chopped
- 2 floury potatoes, roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
- 750ml chicken stock
- Salt and pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan until it is pipping hot. Then, add the onion, garlic and ginger and let them fry for 3 mins or until just soft.
Add carrots, potatoes and half the cumin seeds. Cover, reduce heat to low and let them sweat for 7 mins or until just golden.
Add stock, cover and simmer for 15 mins or until vegetables are just tender. Cool slightly then blend until smooth.
Season to taste, and sprinkle with some cumins if you like.
I saw it on TV, I did it and I ate it… well, with a bit of help from the mobile calorie intake units. It is just the perfect dessert – it is glamorous, delicious and can be made in advance. There is not much technique to it, except, maybe, peeling the pears. And, it might be the healthiest part of dinner, even…
Poached pears with ginger, red chilli pepper and star anise (adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s Home Cooking)
- 8-10 ripe conference pears, peeled but with the stem intact
- 200g of sugar
- 3 thumbs of ginger, cut into thick slices (about 20cm)
- 4 star anise, crushed to fine powder with a mortar and pestle
- 3 peperoncino (or red chillies peppers, to taste)
- Enough cold water to cover the pears.
Peel the pears with a potato peeler, taking care to leave the stems intact.
Put the water, the sugar and the ginger in a saucepan and slowly bring to a simmer until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the pears and peperoncino and poach for about half hour until their are soft and cooked through.
Set aside and leave the pears to cool in the syrup.
When you are ready to serve, just put the pears in the plate and sprinkle them with the star anise dust.
If you want, you can bubble the syrup for a a few more minutes to thicken a bit and serve with the pears. Or, you can prepare a chocolate sauce (just melt the chocolate in bain marie, with a bit of butter, being careful not to boil it. Add some cream and mix well). Add a pinch of cayenne pepper for an extra quick.
In one word: yum. And I am not even such a big fan of salmon… It was probably one of the most cooked dishes of this year, together with the fennel orange salad. It was quite hard to explain that indeed this is supposed to be diet food and that indeed there was no added fat in this dish
Baked salmon with an orange chilli ginger sauce (adapted from Dave Myers and Si King’s The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight)
- 2 ball stem ginger in syrup, sliced into matchstick strips
- 2 tablespoons of ginger syrup
- 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- finely grated zest of 1 orange
- freshly squeezed juice of 1 orange (about 150mL)
- 1 fresh red chilli, thinly sliced (or flaked dried chillis)
- 2 x salmon fillets, skin on (about 300g each)
- freshly ground black pepper
In a bowl large enough to hold both slices of salmon, mix the sliced ginger and garlic with the ginger syrup, the orange juice and the soy sauce. Add in the orange zest and the freshly ground the black pepper. In case you cannot source the ginger in syrup, fresh ginger can nicely replace it. In this case, add a couple of tablespoons of unrefined sugar.
Put the salmon in the bowl with the marinade. Turn a couple of times, ending with the fish skin side up. Cover and let it sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 220oC. Line a small baking tray with baking parchment. Take the salmon fillets out of the marinade, scraping off any bits and pieces, and place them on the tray, skin side down. Season with more ground black pepper. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the salmon.
Meanwhile prepare the sauce. Pour the marinade into a tiny non-stick pan and bring to the boil. Cook for 6 minutes or until the liquid has reduced to half and the garlic is softened.
Put the salmon fillets on warm plates and spoon over with the sauce. Be careful not to damp the fish with the sauce. Serve immediately.
Last time I tried pork and prawn balls, it was a mess… After that, I talked myself to never try this dish again and stick to the Asian restaurant around the corner for my prawn and pork fix. Then, I saw Gordon Ramsay cooking them on his Ultimate Cookery Course and I sort of changed my mind. As usual, a very brief list of ingredients and a method which looked foul proof – definitely something worthwhile trying. In fact, it is so easy to do it has become one dishes I do over and over again. In less than 30min, I have the balls ready to be eaten. To make it even more convenient, once fried, the balls keep in the fridge for a few days. All you have to worry about is get the stock going and in less than 10min, you have your freshly cooked dinner ready. For added valued, almost not fat and no carbohydrates in sight…
Pork and prawn balls in aromatic broth (adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course)
For the balls
- 100g raw prawns, peeled, deveined and finely chopped until almost minced
- 250g minced pork
- 1½ tbsp finely chopped chives
- 1.5cm piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and diced
- Enough sunflower sun for pan frying the balls
- 2 big handfuls of spinach
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 spring onion, trimmed and finely sliced, to garnish
For the aromatic broth
- 1L stock, home-made or from stock cubes
- 1 lemon grass stalk
- 2 whole star anise
- 2 teaspoon oyster sauce
- 2 teaspoon soy sauce
- 2cm piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
Place the minced shrimps in a bowl with the pork, chives and ginger. Season with a good pinch of salt and pepper and mix until the ingredients are well combined and sticking together. Roll the mixture into small balls about the size of a golf ball. Transfer to a plate, cover and chill until needed.
Meanwhile, get started on the broth. Heat the stock in a saucepan, add the other ingredients and mix well. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and gently simmer for 10 minutes to infuse, then taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.
Heat a heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat and add a dash of oil. Fry the pork and prawn balls, turning frequently, for 6–7 minutes until golden brown all over. Transfer into the gently simmering pan of broth and leave to cook for 5 minutes until the balls are cooked through. Add the spinach and cook for 1 minute until just wilted.
Taste the dish and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve garnished with spring onions
Apparently, my first chemical overexposure was to β-carotene. If legend is true, I convinced one of my Aunties to fed me with so many carrots I become orange, much to parents dismay. Unfortunately, I can no longer ask my Auntie whether this might have been slightly exaggerated for dramatic effects or indeed this was the beginning of a delictive career… In any case, the truth is that I love my carrots. Specially, if they come in the form of a colorful, light and soothing soup.
Carrot ginger soup
- 2 kg of onions, peeled and sliced
- 5 medium sized yellow yellow onion roughly chopped (about 1 kg)
- 2 large thumbs of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- about 1 liter of chicken stock (or water)
- salt and pepper to taste
- olive oil or butter as needed (enough to cover the bottom of the pan with a thick film)
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. When is pipping hot, toss in the onion and generous pinch of salt and pepper. Let cook stirring occasionally, until soft (about 10min)
2. Add the carrots and the grated ginger and let them sweat for about 20min, until soft and fragrant
3. Add enough stock to cover the vegetables and increase the heat to medium-high to bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and let simmer until the carrots are very tender. It will take about 45 minutes.
3. Remove the pan from the heat and using a hand held mixer , puree the soup. (if you prefer a smoother texture, strain the pure through a sieve)
4. Bring the soup to the heat, add another spoon of olive oil and check for salt. Let simmer for about 15min.
5. If you wish, add some nutmeg.
This is not an easy to make soup. But, it is totally worth the effort… It might even be the best pumpkin soup I have had, with the obvious exception of Mrs Caramelized Sr’s creations. Just bumped into the recipe almost by accident on David Leite‘s website. By coincidence, I had all the main ingredients, a lot of time in my hands and the inclement weather was unsuitable for any attempt to try anything outdoors.
Half way through the making of the soup, while struggling with so many elements and details, I took a closer look to the post header. It turned out this dish is authored by Charlie Trotter, better know for its stylish and imaginative cuisine (meaning – a bit too difficult for the rest of us mortals). I probably would have never had the guts to try it if I had realized this earlier. But, once you start doing it, what else can you do but carry on and finish the dish?
A couple of tweaks were made though. The original recipe calls for thyme to be added to the pumpkin roast, and sage to finish the dish. I had none, either dry or alive, and simply omitted it. Also, instead of chicken breasts I had chicken thighs. Ended up doing the same that Yotam Ottholengi does for its chicken and buttermilk cold soup.
Pumpkin Soup with Chicken and Ginger-Braised Leeks
For the preserved ginger
- 6 tablespoons peeled and julienned fresh ginger
- 1 1/2 cups (=300g) sugar
- 1 1/2 cups (=375mL water)
For the soup
- 1 small pumpkin, halved and seeded (I picked already cut pumkin, about 1,5kg)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- 4 chicken thighs
- 1 yellow onion
- 1 garlic clove
- 4 cups (=mL water) chicken stock, or enough to cover the chicken thighs
- 2 leeks (white part only), cut into 1 cm inch-thick slices
- 5 tablespoons (=70g) unsalted butter
- 3 cups (= 375mL water) chicken stock (or enough to cover the chicken thighs)
- 1 tablespoon plus 1/4 cup preserved ginger
- 4 chicken thighs
Place the ginger, 1/2 cup (=100g) of the sugar, and 1/2 (=125mL) cup of the water in a small saucepan. Simmer for 10 minutes, strain the liquid, and repeat the process two more times, reserving the final cooking liquid to store the ginger. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to 1 week.
Make the soup
Preheat the oven to 350°F (=175°C). Season the flesh of the pumpkin with salt and pepper and rub with the olive oil. Place the pumpkin pieces on a baking sheet. Add enough water to have about 1cm water in the oven dish 45 to 60 minutes, or until tender.[the recipe called for thyme sprigs to be put under the pumpkin, but I had none at home.]
In the meanwhile, start the kitchen broth. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onion and garlic on a low heat for five to 10 minutes, until soft but not coloured. Add the chicken, and the salt and the pepper to taste. Pour in stock just to cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked. Reserve the broth and shred the chicken off the bones while it is hot . I always discard the skin, but that is entirely up to your taste.
Cook the leeks with 2 tablespoons (= 30g) of the butter in a saucepan over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until translucent. Add 1 cup of the stock and the 1 tablespoon ginger and cook over medium-low heat for 25 minutes, or until the leeks are soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Keep warm.
Puree the 1/4 cup ginger and any residual ginger juice, the chicken broth, and the pumpkin pulp until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Cook the soup in a saucepan over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until warm. Whisk in the remaining 3 tablespoons (=40g) butter and season with salt and pepper.
Spoon some of the leeks into the center of each bowl and ladle the soup around the leeks. Arrange some of the shredded chicken in the center of each bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and serve immediately. [the recipe called for sage leaves to be added, but I had none at home.]
Hot sweet baked pumpkin
- 1,5kg pumpkin or butternut squash, unpeeled weight, chopped in 3cm cubes
- 50g butter
For the dressing:
- sugar 4 tablespoons
- water 200ml
- ginger a thumb-sized lump, chopped
- 1 large, medium hot, chopped ed chilli
- the juice and the zest of 2 limes
- 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
- coriander a small bunch, finely chopped
Set the oven at 200 oC/gas mark 6. Peel the pumpkin, discard the seeds and fibres, and cut the flesh into small pieces, about 3cm in thickness. Put them in a roasting tin with the butter and bake for 50-60 minutes, turning occasionally, till soft enough to take the point of a knife.
Put the sugar and water in a shallow pan and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer till the liquid has reduced by half. Meanwhile, peel and roughly chop the ginger and put in the bowl of a food processor. Halve the chilli lengthways and chop roughly, removing the seeds if you wish for a less spicy seasoning. Add the chilli to the bowl, then grate in the zest of the limes. Squeeze in the juice from the limes, then process to a coarse paste.
Stir the spice mixture into the syrup and simmer for a minute before adding the fish sauce and coriander. Remove from the heat.
When the pumpkin is fully tender, spoon most of the chilli sauce over, toss gently to coat each piece, then return to the oven for a further 5-10 minutes. Toss with the remaining chilli sauce and serve.