Borscht: the Beetroot Soup

I love this stuff! Probably because I know how good beetroot is for you. But this soup has other greatness in it too: onion, leek, carrot and cabbage. They’re all powerful anti-oxidant containing veggies. I particularly like veggies of the allium (onion & leek) and cruciferous families (cabbage) because they help to remove heavy metals from our bods (‘de-toxify’ us) but the old carrot’s beta-carotene (for vitamin A production) content makes it a valuable ingredient too.

Borscht is an Eastern European (think Poland, Russia) dish and traditionally includes meat; usually beef or veal but sometimes pork. I prefer to make mine meat-free, though. But when I say meat-free, I mean there’s no chunks of animal flesh in it. To clarify, I like to use a beef stock. But all you veggos out there rest easy… I have made it on a veggie stock base a few times and it’s still just as delicious.

Soups are pretty easy meals to make but when you have a Thermomix they’re even easier again. I’m providing the recipe for both methods, but the Thermomix will yield less because, unless you’re lucky enough to own the newest model (TM51) it simply doesn’t have the capacity to safely hold the same quantities as a large saucepan can.Food Fervour

So, Manual Cooks, you will need: 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped stalk celery, 1 chopped leek, 1 carrot, 2 beetroot, 250gm sliced cabbage, 1 tablespoon tomato paste (or 1 large tomato) & 5 cups beef (or vegetable) stock

Simply warm the EVOO in a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the onion, celery & leek. Sauté for about 3 minutes. Add the carrot, beetroot, cabbage, tomato/paste and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for an hour. Carefully blend in batches

Thermomixers, you’ll need: 30gm EVOO, 1 small quartered onion, 1 roughly chopped stalk celery, ½ roughly chopped leek, 1 roughly chopped small carrot, 1 large  roughly chopped beetroot, 150gm sliced cabbage, 1 tablespoon tomato paste (or 1 large tomato), 3½-4 cups beef or vegetable stock

Placing the onion, celery and leek in the bowl, chop for 5 seconds on Speed 5 then add the EVOO and cook for 4 minutes on Varoma, Speed 1.5. Add the carrot, beetroot and cabbage and chop for a further 5 seconds at Speed 5. Add the remaining ingredients and set to cook for 22 minutes at 100ºC, Speed 1-1.5. Finally, set to 1 min 30 seconds and slowly accelerate to Speed 9.

Serve immediately and ENJOY!

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Powerhouse Cauliflower Soup

This creation was the result of a respiratory infection. I’ve been working too much – around too many people – so my stressed immune system has given way to a lurgy.

A fellow workmate made me promise to get some ginger and turmeric into myself when I got home… trouble was, I wasn’t really hungry. So I did a quick Google search for “ginger turmeric vegetarian recipes” and when I struck upon a cauliflower soup recipe, the light bulb came on.

Food FervourGarlic, chilli, ginger and turmeric pretty much speak for themselves in terms of health benefits: everyone knows about them now, so it’s probably quite obvious why included them in this recipe. Coriander’s detoxifying role is lesser known by many, and the benefits cumin and fenugreek bestow on the respiratory system are pretty much a secret!

Since I was highly disinterested in expending a great deal of effort to cook, I turned straight to my Thermomix. They really are the best things to have in the kitchen when you lack time, energy and/or motivation. (This is not intended as a sales promotion, it’s my truth!) So please note: even though I’m providing a manual method for this recipe, you have to forgive me if it’s not what you expected because I’ve literally created this soup one time, and using my wonderful kitchen appliance.

Here’s what I threw in:

4 garlic cloves, pinch of fenugreek seeds, 1 onion, 1 celery stalk, 1 inch ginger root, 1 inch turmeric root, 20gm (1 tablespoon) coconut oil, 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 small red chilli (deseeded & finely chopped) 600gm cauliflower, 750gm (3 cups) stock OR Thermies use water plus 1 tablespoon veggie stock paste, salt & black pepper (this is a must: the piperine in black pepper aids absorption of turmeric’s ‘star’ ingredient by up to 2000% – you need that!) 80mls coconut cream

Thermomix Method:

Pop the garlic, fenugreek, roughly chopped onion & celery, ginger and turmeric in the bowl and set to Speed 5-6 for up to 10 seconds. Scrape down then add the coconut oil, cooking for 3 minutes on Varoma, speed 1.

Add the coriander, cumin, chilli, cauliflower, water and stock paste, seasoning with the salt & (lots of!) pepper. Cook for 18 mins on Varoma, Speed 1.

Finally, add the coconut cream then blend 60 seconds speed 9-10.

Manual Method:

Pop a large saucepan or stockpot on the stove over a medium heat and add the coconut oil. Roughly chop the garlic, onion, celery and tip into the pan/pot. Grate the ginger & turmeric fingers straight into the mix and toss in the fenugreek (you may want to employ a mortar & pestle to grind these little fellas down…) ground coriander, cumin and chilli. Cook for a few minutes, until the spices are fragrant and the veggies begin to soften.

Add the cauliflower, stock and season with salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then drop back to simmer for about 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat, add the coconut cream then blend in batches (take care: heat & blenders can be dangerous)

I had just roasted some cashews so garnished my soup with them and some fresh coriander. Just what the ‘doctor’ ordered!

Simple Celery Soup

I can’t stand waste… in all facets of life, but particularly food. I can usually find ways to use up leaves and stems (of broccoli and cauliflower for example) but the one plant I struggle with is celery.

You see, I’m definitely not the kind of person who buys the stalks pre-cut and packaged from shops: if it’s not the whole head, I won’t touch it. And FYI, it has to be organic because celery is one of those plants that too readily absorbs and holds toxic substances (like pesticides… here’s a link to the current (American) “Dirty Dozen”). Since the vast majority of recipes ask for only the stalks, more than half of a whole bunch of celery can go to waste.

Apart from veggie stock, there seem to be very, very few recipes on the net that help you to use up the whole plant (I’m trying to grow my own so that I may be able to harvest it directly as I need it in future) but I finally found a simple soup recipe that is now my Go-To. I’m not usually one for creating dishes with minimal veggies but because celery’s so good for you (super high fibre and water content – your liver loves it – and super low calories, for those who care) and this recipe is so easy, I figure it’s acceptable to chug down a lot of this (surprisingly tasty) soup. NB: it doesn’t actually include the leaves (they do tend to be bitter) but I’ll sometimes throw some in.Food Fervour

I’m providing directions for both manual cooks and Thermomixers, but manual cooks take note: celery fibre is tough to break down so you’ll have to blend more thoroughly at the end …please take great care with the hot liquid.

Food Fervour

300gm worth of celery offcuts.

All you’ll need is: 1 onion, 1-2 garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) 300gm celery offcuts (see pic) and 500mls (or a little less if you prefer a thicker soup) of your preferred stock – chicken or vegetable (Thermomixers can use 1 tablespoon of stock paste & 500ml water if preferred)

Thermomix:

Quarter the onion and add it to the bowl with the garlic clove/s, blending for 5 seconds at Speed 5. Add the EVOO and cook for 3½minutes at Varoma temp on Speed 1.

Add the roughly chopped celery, further breaking them down for 5 seconds at Speed 5, then add your choice of stock. Set to cook for 17 minutes Varoma temp, Speed 1.

Finally, blend for 60 seconds at Speed 9-10 (increasing speed slowly, for caution) and serve immediately.

Manual:

Heat 1 tablespoon EVOO in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 finely diced onion and finely chopped garlic clove and cook for 2-3 mins

Add roughly chopped celery* and stock and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to simmer for 10-12 minutes.

Blend thoroughly (in batches if necessary)  and serve immediately.

*the finer you chop the celery, the easier the final blend should be 😉

 

Mushroom, Leek & Spinach Stew

With below average winter temperatures here on the Gold Coast at the moment I’m craving warm comfort food a bit more than usual… but tonight I was feeling pretty lazy.

I had my mind set on using up the button mushrooms and leek in my fridge so searched for some inspiration on Google. Nothing particularly hit the spot, so I ended up combining ideas from three different recipes: a vegetarian mushroom stroganoff, a leek & mushroom pasta dish, and an actual leek & mushroom stew…food fervour

It’s not like me to limit the veggie content to just three in most of my meals, but I was tired, and running behind, and just too plain lazy to go the extra mile. Maybe it had to do with the fact that I’d made a batch of gluten free cacao chip biscuits earlier in the afternoon and eaten a few too many of them?

Contrary to its deceptive title, this dish is not vegetarian: I deliberately opted for beef stock to pump up the stew’s flavour. Chicken stock would enrich the mushrooms as well, but Veggos, I am certain that veggie stock would still taste terrific, should you wish to try it (…and please let me know how you go if you do!)

For a solid single serve, you will need 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 finely chopped clove of garlic, 1 leek thinly sliced, salt & black pepper to season, approximately 200gm sliced mushrooms, 200mls beef (or veggie) stock, 1 teaspoon thyme, ½ teaspoon sage, 40gm cream cheese, 100gms baby spinach.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a frypan over a medium heat and cook the garlic and leek for 3-4 minutes (until the leek has softened) stirring occasionally. Season with salt & pepper, then add the remaining oil and the sliced mushrooms, cooking for another 3-4 minutes, again stirring occasionally. Add the thyme, sage & stock, bringing to a boil, then reduce to simmer for about 10 minutes. Mix the cream cheese through then add the spinach, stirring until it has just wilted.

Serve immediately and enjoy immensely! If you’re super hungry, I can imagine a chunk of bread would compliment this perfectly and help you mop up every last drop from your dish.

Sustainable Eating

Let me just say, from the outset, that this may sound weird to most: I just got excited about making beef stock.

food fervourWell, that’s not exactly true. I have thought of jumping on the ‘bone broth’ wagon for a little while now, but only grabbed my grass-fed cow-parts a couple of days ago. Via a recipe on Jo Whitton’s old Quirky Cooking website, I prepared it and left it to simmer on the stove for almost 24 hours. Er, yes, even when I vacated the house & overnight while sleeping… (I know, a bit of a dodgy move) But now I have 3 litres of nutritious, gut-healing broth.

The exciting part is, I feel great knowing I’m using parts of the animal that a vast majority of people waste. Now I’m no saint (because offal & sweetbreads I just will not be able to manage) but considering I don’t usually consume a lot of meat anyway, I feel like I’m “doing my part” for the environment …and the cows. (Ok, so I’m nowhere near as virtuous as the Vegans and Veggos…)

food fervourWhat made me super excited however, was discovering there was more than just a few litres of broth in this process: there was lard. Well, not exactly; having never used it before, I’m not sure what I’ll do with it…

What I meant to say was beef. Slow-cooked (braised) beef, from the stock bones. So not only did I have lots of broth, but also a substantial amount of protein left to eat. Meals for DAYS! That means my $8 for 2 kilos of cow bits has also saved me a fair bit of dosh.

The ready-cooked (falling-off-the-bone, melt-in-your-mouth) meat just needed a ‘theme’ and from the moment I saw & felt its texture, I knew I wanted Mexican. So all I had to do was fry up garlic, onion, spices, add the tomato passata, and some of my fresh broth before adding in the ‘shredded’ meat, to warm & soak up the flavours.

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Mexican Shredded Beef with grated cheddar & tomato guacamole on a bed of baby spinach, cucumber & capsicum

Making a quick guacamole in the meantime, my Mexican Shredded Beef salad dinner was ready in a matter of minutes. (Alright ….discounting the fact that it took nearly 24 hours to cook the meat in the first place….) And I have enough left for two more meals. I think that’s called “value for money”. And maybe also “sustainable eating” 😉

Red Lentil & Veggie Curry

This is one of my fall-backs. You know: one of those recipes that is quick & failsafe and you know it’s full of goodness. It’s a slightly adapted version of a soup recipe I found in a Women’s Weekly cookbook I snapped years ago, because of its title:food fervour

All I’ve done is reduce the fluid ingredients to ‘thicken’ the soup to a curry consistency. Too. Easy.

To make this delish meal you will need the following:

1 teaspoon coconut oil, 2 tablespoons red curry paste, 400gm passata (or can of crushed tomatoes if you prefer) 2 cups chicken (or veggie) stock, 1 large diced carrot, 2 finely chopped celery stalks, ¾ cup (washed) red lentils, 2 cups broccoli &/or cauliflower florets, 1 large chopped zucchini, handful of roughly chopped snow peas, ⅓ cup (80ml) coconut cream, 2 tablespoons fresh coriander

Method:

Melt the coconut oil in a very large saucepan, then add the curry paste, stirring for about 1 minute. Add the passata/tomatoes, stock, carrot and celery, bringing to a boil before reducing to simmer for about 5 minutes.

Add the lentils (& cauliflower if using), cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the remaining vegetables (broccoli, zucchini & snow peas) mixing well and leave to simmer again, covered, for 5-10 minutes (depending upon how ‘al dente’ you prefer your vege). Stir the coconut cream and coriander through just before serving. food fervour

I love this with or without rice and can even gulp it down cold from the fridge when I’m in a hurry. It makes at least 4 meals for me… and I’m a pretty big eater!

If you have a bit of a clue about curries, I’d encourage you to experiment with the vegetables. My attitude regarding them is “The More, The Better” 😉