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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Crustless Pumpkin Pie

Okay so Pumpkin Pie isn’t really a ‘Thing’ in Australia. But when you’ve bought a butternut at the farmers markets that’s the size of a human baby, finding ways to use it all becomes a challenge. Especially when you discover that the one kilogram you require for a hefty batch of Thai red curry pumpkin soup leaves you still with two thirds of said vegetable to demolish!

Food Fervour

yep, that’s my big butternut!

A friend once told me that pumpkin should only ever be roasted because “it brings out the flavour”. I discovered he’s dead right: the natural sugars caramelise and boost the veggie’s flavour incredibly. So I always roast it now, and often in quantities over and above anything I happen to be making at the time. That is to say, I roast extra so I’m prepared.

So, with a decent quantity of ready-roasted pumpkin chillin’ in the fridge, I ruminated upon its sweetness and wondered, “Could I successfully make a no added sugar dessert with it?” I considered how sweet the frittatas I made with it were. Could I make a kind of pumpkin ‘dessert’ frittata? That’s when I really began thinking about pumpkin pie… but I certainly didn’t want to have to make pastry for a pie crust. (Hell no! That’s way too much work!) Surely a blend of eggs, cream, some spices & that sweet roasted pumpkin could work?

A Google search for ‘crustless pumpkin pie recipes’ revealed (apart from all of the results being American websites) that their ingredients were pretty much as simple as I’d envisioned. Most of them however use (ugh!) evaporated milk, egg ‘replacer’ or ‘substitute’ and of course, added sugar. God Bless America!

Except for the cooking times (roasting the pumpkin & the final bake) this recipe is ridiculously simple and very time efficient. If you pre-cook the pumpkin as I did, you’ll save even more time. (Really, roasting excess vege is a great, healthy habit to get into; it helps you to stay ‘prepared’. You can save time and expand your meals options for salads, frittatas, risottos …but they also make a better choice of snack if you’re a regular ‘fridge visitor’ like me!)

Now, if you haven’t pre-roasted your pumpkin, the basic method is to preheat your oven to 200ºC, line a tray with baking paper then arrange skinned and roughly cut chunks of lightly oiled pumpkin (EVOO is fine even though you’ll be making a dessert… you won’t even notice the flavour after the roasting) and bake them for 20-30 minutes (depending upon the speed of your oven). Don’t burn them! If a skewer slides in easily & the centre feels soft, you’re done. It’s probably a good idea to let it cool a bit before moving onto the pie recipe.Food Fervour

Here’s what I used for my pie:

430gms of roast pumpkin, 2 eggs, 200gm pure cream, the following spices: 1 teaspoon vanilla paste, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ½ teaspoon nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon ground cloves & a pinch of salt, plus 50gm pecans (optional). What’s also optional is to keep some maple syrup handy to add later if you don’t think the batter is sweet enough for you. (But don’t go overboard; the more you add, the runnier the mix will be…)

Preheat the oven to 180ºC and grease & line a baking dish/casserole dish or round cake tin with baking paper, then simply throw all of the ingredients into a food processor or high-powered blender and mix well. (Thermies: a couple of 10-20 second rounds on Speed 5-6, with some scrape-downs, should suffice.) Pour the ‘batter’ into your prepared receptacle and sprinkle with extra cinnamon, then cook for 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Food FervourNB: Because I used a smaller (16x16cm) dish, my pie was thicker so I let it cook for almost an hour. Bear in mind that a thinner pie = potentially less cooking time.

Allow to cool a little before trying to remove from the dish. Slice and serve up with more cream …or just enjoy it undressed. 😛

Slow Cooker Ratatouille

It was one of those days. I had no ideas, no incentive to cook, but I had heaps of veggies I felt compelled to use up.

Nothing even remotely appealed to me in the pages of recipes I scrolled through on the net. All I knew was that I couldn’t use the oven because it was just waaaaay too hot. I vacillated between Thermomix and slow cooker recipes but the slow cooker won in the end, simply because I knew I could leave it on overnight.

A lot of slow cooker recipes are deceiving in that they’re not just one-pot: many require you to pre-cook some of the ingredients. To a lazy cook like me that just doesn’t make sense. I want to throw everything into the crockpot at once, put the lid on and walk away.

So when I found a recipe that fit the bill on Voracious Veggie‘s website (direct link below) I proceeded to adapt it… just by adding more stuff, really.

Slow Cooker Moroccan Eggplant

Food FervourHere’s what I used:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), 1 diced onion, 1 finely chopped garlic clove, 1 small diced carrot, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon chili powder (double this if you actually want to taste it!), ½ teaspoon paprika, ½ cup tomato paste, 1 cup vegetable stock, 8 mushrooms sliced, 1 small eggplant (cubed), ¼ butternut pumpkin (peeled & cubed), salt & pepper.

And this is all I did:

Pour the oil into the slow cooker, adding the onion, garlic and carrot, followed by the rest of the herbs & spices. Mix in the tomato paste & stock next, then add the mushrooms, eggplant & finally the pumpkin. Season with salt and pepper. Cook on low for at least 8 hours (I left mine on overnight… a total of 14 hours!) You can stir it up every now & then if you like.

Food FervourFor my first meal, I mixed through fresh basil leaves, then topped the lot with chopped kalamata olives and crumbled feta (see left). Deeelish. For the next serve, I popped a piece of grilled wild salmon on top of a plateful.

There are so many ways you could serve it up. Super simply, with bread or on toast (mmm, melt some parmesan in or over it!) or as a pasta ‘sauce’. The point is, it’s dead easy, it’s packed with micronutrients and fibre, low in fat & complex carbs (for those concerned about them) and …..it’s just EASY!!! (Yes, I repeated myself.)

Don’t despair if you don’t have all of the veggies I used… the following will substitute perfectly : capsicum, zucchini, actual tomatoes (this will significantly increase fluid content FYI) …even cauliflower and broccoli (just don’t expect the broccoli to hold its colour) The more the merrier! Let me know what you use. 🙂

Broccoli, Kale & Sundried Tomato Frittata

I LOVE frittatas. Mostly because I adore eggs (they’re an incredibly nutrient-dense food) but there’s a host of other reasons…

Frittatas are so. damned. easy. to make. You can put an amazing array of stuff in them (which in turn further inflates their nutritional value) and even better, they can be eaten cold as a healthy snack on-the-run. (They even freeze well …. even though I’ve never tried… coz I eat ’em too quickly!) Apart from the baking time, they’re pretty quick to prep.

I needed to harvest my very healthy kale plant a few days ago, and knowing that I could fit a LOT of leafy greens into a frittata, there was no question about what I’d be making. I had a fair bit of broccoli lolling about in the fridge too so grabbed that, but knew I’d need some ‘punchier’ flavour …so I pulled out the sundried tomatoes. And my addiction to turmeric (more specifically its nutritional powers) has reached the point where virtually every egg dish I make features it. This explains the ridiculously intense yellow colouring:Food Fervour

I used the following ingredients:
125gm broccoli florets, 100gm finely chopped kale leaves (if you find kale too strong in flavour you could easily substitute with spinach) 40gm finely chopped sundried tomatoes, 6 eggs, 1 (heaped!) tablespoon of freshly grated turmeric (you could use the powdered stuff, and less of it, if you’re not as fanatical about it as I) salt & black pepper (important inclusion to help your body receive turmeric’s power) 40gm grated cheddar (or parmesan if you prefer) plus extra for topping.

Super simple instructions:

Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC, grease (I use EVOO, that is extra virgin olive oil) and line a shallow baking dish with baking paper, set aside.

First you’ll need to steam your broccoli & kale. The broccoli will take only slightly longer than the kale, so place a steamer in a medium-large saucepan (unless you have another method of doing this – I have a Thermomix – yay for me!) with about one centimetre of water. Whack on the lid and as soon as it comes to the boil, pop in the broccoli. It should only take 3-4 minutes, tops. Haul it out, set it aside, and then throw in all the kale. This should only take about 2 minutes. You just want it to wilt. (Thermies, fill the bowl to the blades, pop the broccoli in the basket and cook 6 minutes Varoma, speed 1-1½. When done, set the broccoli aside, put the kale in the basket and cook for another 2-3 minutes, same temp & speed.)

The broccoli can be laid in the bottom of the baking dish immediately. Then you need to squeeze excess fluid from the kale. You could do this by hand (clean hands of course!) but I use paper towel so that I don’t lose any of the green to my fingers.

Next up, simply beat the eggs with the turmeric, salt and pepper. (Thermies: 5 seconds or so at Speed 5) then pop the kale, sun-dried tomatoes and grated cheese in and mix thoroughly (by hand… you don’t want to pulverise the veggies!)

Now, I opted to spoon the solids (the kale, tomato & cheese) into the baking dish, to fill in the gaps between the broccoli florets … I guarantee if you try to pour the whole mix out you’ll end up with a pile of vege in one spot! Call me OCD, but I’m fairly sure it’ll cook better if the liquids & solids are evenly distributed. I dribbled the remaining egg mix evenly throughout the dish as well.

Food FervourThe final step is to grate however much extra cheese you want, over the top of the entire dish then whack it in the oven for 30-40 minutes (just check it at the half hour mark: when it appears quite solid in the middle, it should be ready).

Unless your knife is very sharp, I’d let it cool a bit before slicing it into pieces. And I dare you NOT to eat any when you do this… 😉

Pimped Up Egg ‘n’ Lettuce

I’ve always been a fan of egg and lettuce sandwiches but they’re really a bit average when you consider nutritional value. Sure, there’s super-healthy, protein packed egg but most of the time it’s been mixed with sugar-laden mayonnaise, on white bread. And poor old iceberg lettuce… well, its colour kinda says it all. There’s some water and fibre there but it otherwise doesn’t have a lot else going for it…

I’ve said before that it’s really worth pre-boiling up a few eggs and keeping them in the fridge for ’emergencies’ …or just days of pure laziness, such as I am having. This fine prepatory activity saved me a whole lotta time today. In fact, my lunch was ready in less than four minutes…Food Fervour

All I used was: 2 slices of rye sourdough (a fermented, flavoursome bread) 1 boiled egg, ¼ of a large avocado, 3 think slices of parmesan cheese (you could use any hard cheese but a sharp flavoured one will taste better) & a handful of baby spinach leaves.

Because I keep my bread frozen, I had to thaw them in the toaster …which gave me time to peeled the shell off the egg. Then it was a super simple assembly: avo spread thickly over both pieces, egg slices and laid on one, topped with the parmesan cheese (at this point you could, if you wish, chuck this under the grill to melt that cheese …mmm…) then carefully laid baby spinach (OK, OK, apart from sounding highly OCD, this actually helps you to fit more spinach on the sanger, so it’s less likely to fall out when you eat it. Uh-oh, another OCD statement…) Salt if you prefer, then pop the second slice on top, avo face down (did I really need to spell this out?) and Bob’s your uncle…. a delicious, healthier, more nutrient-dense version of an old favourite.

….that I probably wolfed down in less time than it took to make it… 😛

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!

Banoffie Berries

There’s no question I’m a Sweet Tooth. For some reason, I usually want some dessert after dinner …even if I’m full. But it’s always a healthy option; usually fruit & nuts with yoghurt.

Tonight however, I had some leftover cream in the fridge. And an overripe banana in my fruit bowl. Now, although I’ve never eaten much of it, I love Banoffi Pie. Cream + banana = Banoffi  😛

This is basically a pimped up version of Strawberries & Cream: that was the original plan until I spotted the banana and the cogs began turning. The best thing about this is that the natural sugars in the overripe banana mean no added sugar is necessary in the cream. This dessert is super quick, easy and created from just four whole, natural ingredients.

Food FervourNB: I used a specific brand of cream that is naturally very thick (Maleny Dairies) so I can’t vouch for how well this may work for ordinary supermarket brand creams.

All you need for a single serve is: approximately 2 tablespoons of cream, 1 small overripe banana, fresh strawberries and a handful of fresh blueberries.

Finely chop the banana then simply mix vigorously with the cream, using a fork. (It might seem like a bit of work but using a blender could result in banana butter if you’re not careful. Besides, who wants to add a blender to the washing up?) Being overripe, the banana should break up pretty easily.

Simply chop your strawberries, top with the ‘Banoffi’ mix, toss over the blueberries and devour. Deeeelicious!