Saturday, March 14, 2009

Spring vegetable soup (in autumn)

There have been a few rather cold and rainy days this March. A little different to the searing heat of February and to last March's heat wave. I am sitting in the dark cold of a Saturday night (maybe I need a life?), with hail outside and me very worried about the vegie garden!

A couple of weeks ago, I made a soup with many of the ingredients from my garden. It is based on a Bill Granger recipe, though I have changed it to suit my garden!

I should also point out that the success of this soup -apart from home grown vegies, is home made chicken stock. Whenever I roast a chook (usually a barossa chook) I use the carcass to make a stock and then freeze it to use in soups, risottos etc. Play around with quantities to suit.

Spring Vegie Soup
serves 4 i guess. we freeze leftovers for later.

big handful of barley (about 150-200g) boiled in water for around 30 minutes until tender, rinsed and drained
2 zucchini diced
1 carrots sliced
1-2 onions diced
cup of peas
1L chicken stock (or vegie stock)
tin of cannelini beans or other similar beans
2 red potatoes diced (i dont peel but you can)
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 bunch silver beet
bunch of green/ purple or rattle snake beans

salt, pepper and basil, lemon thyme or parsley to top soup
Parmesan cheese to serve

Fry onion in olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add potato, zucchini, garlic, silver beet, and cook for 5 minutes until the silver beet has wilted. Add the stock plus 1L water, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the rinsed barley, beans, cannelini beans and peas and simmer for another 10 minutes. Season and serve with herbs and Parmesan.

Good for cold wintry nights at any time of the year.


Last weekend we went home to Sydney for a cousins wedding. What was unusual about it was that all my siblings returned for this wedding. We haven't all been together since my wedding early last year and before that about 2 years ago. And we haven't all lived together since I moved out about 7 years ago. My sister is now in London and my brother in remote country NSW...

The crazy thing was, us siblings decided to act like we did about 15 years ago. Talk about regression! It was like we had never left home, or aged. The highlight was the car trip to the airport with the three of us crammed in the back, fighting noisily before all falling asleep. Things never change!

And to celebrate, my mother went into crazy cooking mood. For 5 of us she made this many dishes, most of them Arabic dishes. I forgot to take photos of all the savoury pastries she made as well. Apologies for the photos - I was hungry!

Left -molkeyah and right- bamia. Molkeyah is a green leafy vegetable -leaves pulled of the plant 'jute' (also makes hessian!). This is cooked with lamb and lemon and too much garlic, served over rice. I have found it impossible to get this vegetable fresh in Melbourne (though I am sure you can probably find it in Dandenong somewhere) so have settled for the far inferior frozen product. Bamia is an okra and lamb stew which i have blogged about here

and here we have a pasta bake and kefta bil tahini, which I have blogged previously here. I wish I had a Pyrex dish as big as this though - mum has had it for 30 years.

Too much food was had on this trip leading to a week of vegetarianism (is that a word?). Luckily my garden is still overproducing so that has not been a problem. Arabic food often has a lot of meat in it which i can only really handle in small doses. The food and family though, were great! Hopefully it will not be as long between family get togethers.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Stuffin’ Time

It is that time of the year when the vegie plot has been yielding its treasures and making it difficult to keep up with cooking things as I pick them. A couple of weekends ago, I decided to celebrate the fact that my white zucchini plant had finally fruited by stuffing them, as well as a few other things I could get my hands on! Now this did take me a while but it was a pleasant way to spend the day and it definitely tasted good!

I wanted to do the Arabic traditional vine leaves and stuffed zucchini (warrah and koosa siami) but did not have enough vine leaves. My mother suggested on the phone from Sydney that I could use silver beet instead if I had any. Had any? I have 5 plants in the backyard! I had never eaten these silver beet rolls before but they were really lovely – difficult to say if it is better or not to the vine leaves…

I originally posted on the way to make vineleaves the Arabic way here . I basically used the same rice mix, but this time threw in some currents and pine nuts. I think these were a really nice addition, adding something sweet to the already sweet silver beet.

These photos show the rolling up process for the silver beet. They need to be blanched briefly in boiling water to make it easier to roll. One thing to note is that the stems need to be cut away or else it makes it very difficult to roll. Large silver beet can be cut into two (or three). Place the silver beet rolls tightly into a pot as shown in the last photo. Make a sauce out of tomato paste, water, lemon and oil and pour over the top. Cook on a low heat on the stove. The silver beet rolls don’t take as long as the vine leaves – I think 30 minutes was probably enough.

And don’t throw away those stems! Cut them up rather small, throw them into some boiling water, cook until tender. Then toss them with a sauce made from tahina, lemon and garlic. This makes a really nice side salad to the stuffed goodies.

I also stuffed some white zucchinis from the garden...

This photo shows the hollowed out zucchini. The hollowing out tool can be purchased from Arabic grocery stores (such as in Coburg) or I guess you can try using a knife, though I think it would be very difficult to not cut the shell. I dont believe that the normal dark green zucce variety can be substituted in this dish, as it does not have the nice thick sweet skin.

And don’t throw out the inside of the zucces! I sauté it slowly with onion and garlic for a long time until it breaks down and then add lemon, salt and pepper and cumin and coriander. This is delicious hot or cold, served as a dip with extra olive oil or as brushcetta topping. Really really good!

I also stuffed these – alas not from the garden but how cute is that pumpkin! I roasted these rather than cooked on the stove and added the rice mixture already cooked (for the silver beet and zucces the rice was added uncooked).

This is a close up of the cooked zucchini and long eggplants. So good!!!

This yoghurt dip is essential with stuffed goodies. Yoghurt, salt, garlic, cucumber and mint (all from the garden!).

As is this salad! Fatoush – basically tomato, cucumber, spring onions, parsley, mint, radish, toasted pita bread and a dressing of oil, lemon, sumac and garlic. We positively reeked after this meal from all the raw garlic but it was worth it!

And my final dinner plate (minus the pumpkin and capsicum – do you think I may have cooked too many things?).

Wow, that was a long post. But if you find yourselves with a glut of any of these vegies – give this a go, you will not be disappointed!

Note: All these vegies were stuffed ‘siami’ which means without meat. There is a meat version, which I personally do not like as much, but if anyone is interested I can post my mothers recipe.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Swimming in tomatoes

In early January I was moping around the garden wondering why I didn't have any ripe tomatoes yet.

Fast forward to the end of February and I am drowning in tomatoes. We are picking buckets this big every couple of days! Not bad for a first time gardener. I am wondering if maybe I planted too many cherry toms but I have started eating them as snacks and for almost every meal!

The mission to use all our tomatoes began this week. So far we have made a tomato sauce/ passata, a tomato relish, a gazpacho soup, and tomato and basil sorbet. We have also unfortunately started to become inundated with zucchinis (a few we didn't notice in the garden got to 900g!!!). So the pickling adventures also begin!
The gazpacho was a revelation. I have never made it before and didn't realise how easy it was! I had some left over home made spelt bread which I whizzed up to bread crumbs in a food processor. I then processed about 700g tomatoes, 150g of cucumbers (also from the garden), added 150g of the bread crumbs and then added 2 cloves of garlic, a cup of water, salt, pepper and Tabasco sauce. Leave in the fridge for an hour (or overnight - I am still eating it and it is beautiful), add some good quality olive oil to serve and enjoy! I think I will try serving it with some tomato sorbet next time.

We made a batch of passatta earlier in the week. I haven't tried the results yet (as we have so many fresh ones still!) but I followed a recipe by Maggie Beer. I am a little concerned with shelf life as I have not made preserves of any kind before - any information from worldly bloggers reading this would be appreciated!

And this is the latest preserve -tomato relish based on a Stephanie Alexander recipe. It seems a bit thinner than I am used to but I haven't tried it yet. I was also thinking a tomato jam might be nice but cannot find a recipe I am happy with.

Of I go to make some zucchini bread and butter pickles. Happy eating everyone!