scoop on soup

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Even though Sweden still isn’t on lockdown, I am not keen to exit my self-imposed isolation. This means I end up cooking with what I have, and right now, soup is the only thing I feel like eating anyway.

Yet I’m out of many of the ingredients I most love in soup… so it’s been experimentation time. I wanted something tomato-based – maybe just a pure tomato or tomato garlic soup. But I also felt like having something more substantial. I couldn’t find any recipes online that gave me quite what I wanted. But here we are… an experimental, slightly spicy tomato chickpea coconut soup.

Experimental tomato chickpea coconut soup
1 medium onion, chopped and sauteed
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
a pinch of sugar
1 tin (15 ounces or so) of crushed tomatoes or equivalent chopped, peeled fresh tomatoes
1 tin (15 ounces or so) of drained, rinsed chickpeas
1 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 cups water (here you could add bouillon of some sort if you want more flavor; I used a half teaspoon of some browned shallot flavored liquid base/bouillon)
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion; add garlic once onions are translucent. After 20 or 30 seconds of stirring, add cayenne, then vinegar, tomatoes and sugar. Stir.

Add chickpeas and coconut milk. Stir. Bring to simmer. Add water.

Cover and simmer about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool down before blending with an immersion blender.

Once finished, taste it to see if it’s spiced and seasoned properly. Add salt, pepper, more coconut milk, whole chickpeas (or whatever you want). Drizzle with high quality olive oil when serving.

In the photo I was just going to serve the plain soup but added some wilted spinach on top at the end. That wasn’t too bad.

I suspect this will taste better, as do many things, on the second day.

soup for the win

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In a post-tooth extraction/infection world, operating with ingredients on hand, the diet becomes overwhelmed by soup. Smooth soups. Good thing soup is a favorite – and easy. For a few days running, I’ve been on a semi-spicy black bean soup (a variation of this recipe) kick, but blended everything so as not to disturb the sensitive mouth. But today I had a bit of pumpkin leftover from something else, some must-use coconut milk and, most of all, hunger.

Hunger led me to the latest soup experiment, which is a take-off on my old go-to pumpkin curry soup recipe. In my updated version, I have guessed at the ratios – you can spice it to suit your own tastes, of course. I am not sure about the measurements. This is a super inexact recipe.

I added white beans to this because I wanted to thicken the soup a bit, add a bit of protein and a bit of texture. White beans don’t add much flavor, so this won’t ruin the flavor profiles of anything else you have going on.

New, improved (?), improvised pumpkin curry soup (vegan)
1 tablespoon (or so) olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon curry
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon cayenne

On medium heat, saute the onion until golden. Add garlic and spices, stir and cook for about two minutes. Remove from heat until other parts of the soup are ready.

Liquid step
1 cup water
1/4 cup (or so) coconut milk
2 teaspoons vegan bouillon cube or powder (or equivalent)
15 (or so) ounce white beans (I used rinsed, tinned beans)

Mix all the liquid ingredients together with white beans in container or pan you can use for blending. Blend together with an immersion blender. When smooth, add to the spice mixture and return to medium heat.

15 ounce can pumpkin (or the “meat” of a baked butternut squash)

I only had about half this amount of pumpkin, and you adjust to your taste. Obviously. Mix this pumpkin into the simmering soup base. Let simmer about 10 or 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and blend with the immersion blender.

1 cup coconut milk
Coriander garnish if desired

Return the blended soup to low heat, mix in coconut milk until warm enough to serve.

Vegan chocolate protein bliss balls

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Not long ago some acquaintances were raving about some protein bars that happen to come from Sweden. I will eventually get around to experimenting with making some approximation of those… but in the interim, doing my customary recipe research, I found a recipe for vegan chocolate protein ‘bliss balls’. I’m always looking for vegan stuff to try as well as gluten-free options (and this can be gluten-free too as long as your oats and protein powder of choice are GF). I’m not big on “protein bars” or snacks or what have you, but I know they are popular with many, so here’s my first foray into this world. Very easy, requiring no baking at all – just a bunch of ingredients thrown into a food processor and a tiny bit of mess when you roll them.

Vegan chocolate protein bliss balls (recipe)

1 cup almonds
1/2 cup oats
46-50 grams vegan chocolate protein powder
1/3 cup packed, pitted and chopped dates
about 1/4 cup almond milk (or water)
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
About 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, if desired

Throw everything into a food processor. Blend until you have a thick, smooth paste that you can easily roll into balls. You can then roll this in some coating (I used unsweetened cocoa powder). Store in the fridge. I think I made about 24 from this recipe.

I really can’t tell you what these taste like – I have never tried them and I am a bit too disgusted by dates to even put one of these in my mouth to find out if it’s edible, so I will have to rely on others to give me a verdict.

dark chocolate tarts

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While I had been sort of hoping to veganize my standard dark chocolate mini tart recipe, I sort of ran out of time and made the regular ones. I changed the recipe just slightly from the old one I’ve shared before.

I mailed some of these to an office where most of the employees are distributed, so a lot of employees miss out on the final results. One employee misread the label on these as “farts” rather than “tarts”, giving him a small chuckle – that was as sweet as my shared baking ended up being for him.

Dark chocolate tarts
Tart shells
1 ½ cups chocolate cookie crumbs (or 1 cup cookie crumbs and ½ cup ground hazelnuts).
1/3 cup melted butter
1 tablespoon sugar

The change I implemented here was simply throwing whole Oreo cookies into my food processor and making them into crumbs. I didn’t fool around looking for some other chocolate cookies or removing the middle filling of the Oreo. This might have made the final shells more structurally sound.

Preheat oven to 190C. Lightly spray muffin tins (regular size or mini ones, as I usually use) with nonstick spray (I usually do not use the spray because the mixture uses a lot of butter; I did use some non-stick spray this time because I was not sure that keeping the filling from the Oreos in the mix would not stick to the pan).

Mix the cookie crumbs (and ground hazelnuts, if you are using them – I did this time) with the melted butter and sugar. Press the mixture into the muffin tins. Bake approx. 5 minutes in preheated oven.

While baking, prepare the filling. Remove from oven and lower oven temperature to 160C.

Filling
10 to 10 ½ ounces of dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) – 280 to 300 grams
¾ cup heavy cream
½ cup whole milk
3 tablespoons honey (flavored honey can be nice here)
1 egg, beaten slightly

The difference this time is that I used only heavy cream and no milk in the exact same proportion (so 1 1/4c cream – minus all milk).

Over a double boiler (or glass bowl over a pan of boiling water) mix chocolate with milk and cream. Stir until chocolate is melted and fully mixed together with cream and milk (smooth consistency). Stir in honey.

Slightly beat the egg in a medium-sized bowl. Gradually stir a small stream of the melted chocolate mixture into the egg, whisking the egg and chocolate together the whole time (to temper to make sure the egg does not become like scrambled eggs). Do this with just some of the chocolate until enough chocolate has been mixed with egg to ensure that the egg will not cook. Then add the egg-chocolate mixture to the bowl of melted chocolate.

Spoon the chocolate mixture into the chocolate tart shells. Bake 25 minutes, cool for at least 30 minutes before removing from tin.

Happy Halloween

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I will post later with all the recipes and reflections on this, but here are some images of all the baked stuff I made this weekend – my last big bake, I do believe. I set it all up in the office and feel very… free.

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Getting the big Halloween bake all set up in the office

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Very basic Halloween decorations

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How will I organize this??

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Ready for their close-up: Coconut cream bar cookies

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Chocolate chip cashew cookies – same recipe as the white chocolate macadamia cookies, only throw in chocolate chips and cashews instead of white chocolate and macadamia nuts

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Mini pecan pie recipe… also these got some rave reviews

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M&M cookies… same recipe as the white chocolate macadamia cookies

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Chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips – same recipe as the chocolate mint cookies but with peanut butter chips instead of mint

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Table 1 of 2: Getting rid of ingredients cookies rather than the Halloween-themed goods

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The Halloween-themed spread

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Chocolate cupcakes (which happen to be vegan – not by design, just coincidence) with grey vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream

 

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Witch finger shortbread cookie recipe… they freak everyone out

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Chocolate truffles: Very easy to make

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Coconut dark chocolate bites recipe: I toasted the coconut and blitzed it in a food processor, which is not indicated in the recipe. I think it works better this way

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Close-up: Candy corn cupcakes

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The full spread: Halloween baking 2017

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Happy Halloween 2017

 

 

Living on soup: Black bean soup

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So a few weeks ago I decided to make spicy black bean soup, and I went way overboard on the spice because I made something that was inedible. I made it edible, eventually, watering it down with water, broth and coconut milk, but it was still so incredibly spicy that I was eating less of it at a time than I normally would as a serving, meaning that it lasted far longer than it should have.

Now, wanting a more palate-friendly version of the soup, I tried again, shying away from the several teaspoons of chili powder the original recipe called for, and I am happy to say this was perfect and has kept me in delicious soup for days.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 diced red onion (any kind of onion you like will do, though)
1 or 2 diced carrots, depending on how much you like carrot
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
4 cups vegetable stock
2-3 containers of black beans (drained)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 container (about 15 ounces/425g or so) stewed tomatoes

Heat oil, cook onion and carrot on medium heat for five to ten minutes, add garlic, cook for another minute. Keep stirring. Add spices (except black pepper). Stir and cook for about a minute. Add vegetable stock and 2 containers of black beans and the pepper. Bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, blend the tomatoes and other container of beans together in a blender and add to the pot. You could experiment here and add more beans to the blend (for a thicker soup). Stir while cooking for about another ten minutes.

You can also experiment with what you throw into the soup. If you like red or green bell peppers, chop some up and throw them in at the beginning with the onions and carrots. If you like spice, you could always chop up and throw in some jalapeno. Maybe you like corn – “liberate” some corn from the cob or throw in a drained can of corn. It’s up to you. Similarly, at the end, if you like a creamier soup, you could also add some coconut milk or cream/milk as well.

It was great when newly made but the leftovers the next days were REALLY good because the flavors had a chance to develop and the base of the soup got a bit thicker.

Broccoli-Herrgård pie

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I had broccoli, Herrgård cheese and pretty much nothing else. I decided to make a savory pie from it – hoping the coconut milk wouldn’t add too much “sweetness” to the flavor. I also did not want to make a pastry crust that required being rolled out, so here’s what we ended up with.

The pics don’t make it look too appetizing (photography isn’t my thing) but it’s bloody well yummy.

Broccoli-Herrgård pie

Preheat oven to 200C

1 head fresh broccoli, steamed and chopped

Steam your broccoli for about five minutes (until tender), chop it up and set it aside.

Crust
½ cup grated cheese (I used Herrgård because it’s what I had but cheddar would be great)
¾ cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
¼ cup melted butter

Mix cheese, flour, salt and mustard and add the melted butter in until just combined. Press into a pie tin. Set aside while you prepare the filling.

Filling
1 tablespoon butter
1 chopped onion
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup cream, half-and-half or coconut milk (that’s all I had on hand)
½ cup cheese, grated
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 eggs, slightly beaten

Melt the butter in a skillet, sauté the onion for about five minutes. Whisk in the flour, cream/coconut milk, salt, nutmeg and cheese until you have a kind of roux/sauce. Cook about one minute. Mix in the broccoli. Remove from heat and gradually stir in the beaten eggs. Pour into the prepared crust.

Bake for 15 minutes at 200C.

Remove from oven and reduce heat to 190C while you sprinkle a bit of extra cheese on top. Bake for an additional 20 minutes.

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Gluten-free pumpkin cream cheese muffins

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Made some pumpkin muffins using coconut flour – turned out well. 🙂 Gluten-free, paleo, and yummy.

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How?
3/4 cups coconut flour
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cups maple syrup
6 eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 175C. Line a cupcake pan with liners.

Mix all ingredients together. Put the mixture into the liners (2/3 full).

Cream cheese filling
About 1/3 cup cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons sugar

Mix cream cheese and sugar together.

Make small indentations in the pumpkin mixture and add dollops of cream cheese filling – you can swirl it in slightly if you want a bigger mixture.

Put the muffins in the oven. Bake 25-30 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in the pan, remove from pan and cool completely before serving.

Homemade paneer – experimental dinner

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Ready to eat

Ready to eat

When I hosted a guest at my place recently, I made my own paneer hoping to make this experimental pseudo-Indian dish. I always overestimate how much food I will need when people visit. I plan for breakfasts, lunches and dinners but prepare such elaborate breakfasts (a nice way of saying that I overdo it in a big way usually – even though I get better all the time), no one wants lunch.

Finally I got around to making this potato-paneer filling for red peppers, cooked in a tomato-curry sauce, accompanied by basmati rice and fried onions. Oh, how I love onion rice.

How did I do this? Well, I started a few days ago by making paneer. How do you make paneer? It’s pretty easy.

You need:
1 liter milk
1/8 cup lemon juice
Cheesecloth for straining

Put the liter of milk in a heavy saucepan, stirring every couple of minutes while you wait for the milk to come to a boil. Once it reaches boiling point, remove from heat and add the lemon juice in slowly until the milk completely curdles.

Line a strainer with the cheesecloth and drain the milk-lemon mixture. The liquid will drain away and you will be left with the thick curdled milk. Twist the cloth tightly and squeeze repeatedly from different angles to ensure that the liquid completely drains.

Turn the cloth over and place about one kilo of weight on top of it and leave for several hours to really make sure the liquid drains. This will create a solid paneer block, which you can use immediately or refrigerate for a few days – be sure to cover with water in a container if you are keeping it to ensure it does not dry out.

Now you can cut it into cubes, as many recipes call for, or use it the way I used it in my potato-paneer experiment.

potato paneer spice filling mixture

potato paneer spice filling mixture

Boil four small, peeled potatoes until soft. Mash them together with one cup of crumbled paneer. Mash in the following mixture of spices:

¼ teaspoon red chili powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder
¼ teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro
salt and pepper, to taste

Mash all of this together and then hollow out a couple of red peppers, discarding the insides and seeds and slice rings you can fill with the potato-paneer filling.

Pepper rings, ready to fill

Pepper rings, ready to fill

Filled pepper rings, ready to grill

Filled pepper rings, ready to grill

Set aside the filled pepper rings while you prepare the easy curry sauce and sauté the onions for the rice. (Prepare the rice at the same time in a separate pot.)

Nothing like onions the spice up rice

Nothing like onions the spice up rice

For the curry sauce… there is no exact recipe here, and you can adjust spices and heat levels to your own taste buds. I erred on the side of too spicy this time, but it was still quite tasty.

Sauce:
2 tablespoons oil
1.5 chopped onions
1 tablespoon garlic-ginger paste
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/8 teaspoon chili powder or cayenne pepper (I accidentally added far more than this)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
about 20 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
about 1/2 cup of tomato passata
salt and pepper to taste

How?
Sauté the onion for about 20 minutes on low heat, add the ginger-garlic paste and heat through. Add the spices. After a minute or two, add the tomatoes and passata. Let cook for about five minutes on low to medium heat. Add a tablespoon or two of cream or coconut milk. Puree in a small food processor and return to oven-safe cast iron skillet to keep warm.

Saucy!

Saucy!

Now put the stuffed pepper rings under the grill and brown them and warm them.

Add the pepper rings to the sauce and heat on the stove or the oven.

Fluff the rice and add the fried onions on top.

The finished products

The finished products

Having completed this experiment once, I know where I went wrong and where I can improve. My next guest will benefit from my learning…

Shedding layers part seven: Books

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Cookbooks! Yes, why do I have so many cookbooks?

Long, long ago, in an era long before the internet existed and everyone had five devices to search for internet content, including recipes, people exchanged recipes on little designated notecards made just for recipes. Or they collected recipes and published them in books. Some were generalist in nature, some were very specific (for example, vegan desserts, which, contrary to what some might say, are not only sorbet related, or vegetarian Indian cooking).

I must have gone through many phases of wanting a collection of recipe books because… well, over the years I accumulated a whole lot of them. Everyone around me – grandmother, mother, parents’ friends, etc. – also had recipe books aplenty. It never struck me that is was not necessary. Back when I started my own collection, it was kind of necessary because, as I said, there was no internet then.

Moving from country to country, lugging hundreds of (and it used to be over 1000) books along with me, though, it all seemed like too much. Especially as each year saw the internet grow and its cornucopia of content overflow, it made no sense to carry around books I had cracked open maybe once – and never once used to cook with.

That said, I still have a stack of these books and these will be the next things with which I part as I go on shedding extraneous layers of my life.