Long walks in the rain and restorative vegetable soup

Hi, my name is Cheergerm, I like long walks in the rain. (This sounds like the introduction to a personal ad on a dating website.) Actually, I was under the impression I liked long walks in the rain.

After a lovely and filling lunch at Mum’s house, a forty minute walk home seemed like a good idea. The offer of an umbrella was denied. ‘No thanks, I have my rain coat, that will do thanks.’ The first five minutes of light drizzle were delightful. I felt alive, exuberant, all English-like and Mary Poppinsy. Trip trapping down the road like one of the Three Billy Goats Gruff, cool mist enveloping me.

Then the rain got heavier. Rain coat zipped up, hood on. This wasn’t going to dampen my spirits, so to speak. Did the intrepid explorer Sir Edmund Hilary turn back when things got a bit hairy climbing Mt Everest? Never! With nothing to protect my face and glasses, large drops began to drip down, obscuring my vision. A pair of teeny tiny windscreen wipers would have been great. This genteel walk was becoming somewhat unpleasant.

The rain deepened, as did my mood. I would not call for help. Captain Scott didn’t call his mummy for help in the Antarctic, did he? (Unfortunately, I had left my mobile phone at home.) The wind started to blow the rain sideways. By now my track suit pants were hugging my legs wetly, not unlike a clingy three year old with a soggy nappy. The odd drip or two was making it way slowly down my back, creeping towards undergarments that one would prefer to keep dry.

I saw a car, my heart lifted, it was the same make and colour as ours. Had the Yak come to rescue me from this foolhardy adventure? Nope, it wasn’t him. Resolutely, I put my head down. Rain was now pouring over the hood of my rain coat and down my nose like a miniature waterfall. Home was only ten minutes away.

My name is Cheergerm, I do not like long walks in the rain.

But I do like this. A marvellous restorative vegetable soup based on the kind of soup that Mum would make on wintery Sunday’s. It is perfect for when you feel wet, poorly, sad, or just in need of a big bowl of soup love. It makes a huge pot but I always freeze some for a rainy day. Mum always used barley but sadly, it is not gluten free. I threw in some lovely red Persian lentils which do not need soaking and keep their shape once cooked. The celery is essential.

RESTORATIVE VEGETABLE SOUP

2 tbl olive oil or grapeseed oil
1 onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
1 yellow or red capsicum, diced
4 sticks celery, 300g, diced
1 Swede (the vegetable not someone from Sweden), diced
4 cups veggie stock
7 cups of water
1 cup Persian red lentils (or green lentils, or barley if it doesn’t need to be GF), make sure you wash them
Big handful of green beans, chopped
2 medium zucchini, diced
1 tsp Salt and as much black pepper as you desire
1 large handful celery leaves, roughly chopped
(Optional: vegetable stock powder.)

Heat oil in large stockpan and sweat off onion, carrots, pepper, celery and swede for about ten minutes. Do not colour the vegetables.
Add the veggie stock, water, lentils and a few big grinds of black pepper. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer.
Cook for about 40 minutes until the carrots are just tender, then add the beans, zucchini and salt and cook for a further 10-15 minutes or until they are just tender. You want to keep some vibrancy in them.
Check for seasoning, add more salt, pepper and a teaspoon of veggie stock powder if needed.
Add the celery leaves and cook for five more minutes. Let the soup sit off the heat for five minutes, scoop off any lentil scum that has come to surface.
Eaten with a slice of spelt sourdough and some manchego cheese.

A Cheergerm recipe

Cooking Notes: I used a store bought veggie stock. I have made my own before (a few years ago now) but I really fancy making the wonderful sounding roast vegetarian stock from the lovely Almost Italian blog. She roasted the vegetables first to obtain some umami depth. I haven’t made it yet but I will. Or maybe you will first. Bless and damn you if that is the case.

https://almostitalian.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/french-onion-soup-with-vegetable-stock-voila/

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Gluten free date and ginger slice, minus three points

Kid 1 to our dog: Elvis I love you so much but I minus three points of love because you have no butt cheeks.

Kid 1 is a hard taskmaster. After being begged asked to try this slice, he had a tiny nibble. Letting me down as gently as he was able to, the sproglet informed me that ‘it was not to his taste and he didn’t like the ginger and chocolate together.’ Well, that left a large amount of slice for the taller people in our household. (Kid 2 saw the cornflakes and ran a mile.) Leftover gluten free cornflakes needed to be used up so this recipe was on my ‘to do’ list. The Yak and myself were big fans, as were the other friends that I palmed it off on shared it lovingly with. It is a bit like a poorer cousin of a fancy florentine, but no less delicious.

With a chewy unctuousness, this slice isn’t as sweet as you would imagine and the ginger is a welcome spicy surprise. It would be a wonderful addition to a Christmas celebration or packaged prettily as a festive gift. Containing dates, this concoction must be good for you and being doused in dark chocolate (which science has proven to be rich in important nutrients), it is doubly so.

Kid 1, I love you so much but I minus three points of love for you being such a fussy bugger.

GLUTEN FREE DATE AND GINGER SLICE

WHAT YOU NEED
1 1/2 cups (180g) chopped dates
170g butter
85g sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
3 cups (80g) gluten free cornflakes
170g dark chocolate

HOW YOU DO IT
Put the chopped dates, butter, sugar and ginger into a medium sized saucepan. Place over a low heat and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture is thoroughly amalgamated. This takes about 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and mix in the cornflakes.
When everything is well combined, press into a 30 X 21 cm shallow tin until it’s about 1cm thick. My slice was about 26cm long, it depends how thick you make it.
Once the mixture has cooled, put it in the fridge until it is quite firm. This took about 45 minutes.

Finishing
Melt the chocolate carefully and pour it over the chilled slice.
Spread out evenly with a knife or spatula, then score the surface of the chocolate with a fork.
Set aside to cool and cut into small fingers or squares.
Store in the fridge in an airtight container, separating the layers with baking or waxed paper. Makes about 20-25 squares, depending on the size.
Cooking Note: you can use regular cornflakes if you don’t require a gluten free slice.

Recipe from Ladies, A Plate by Alexa Johnston

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jun/16/more-evidence-that-chocolate-may-be-good-for-the-heart-say-researchers#img-1


King of the vegetables and a potato and Comte galette

The Yak was crapping on orating upon the delight of the humble potato, his favourite vegetable over all others. We could say in fact, that in his view, it is The King of the Vegetables. As he plainly stated, there isn’t much that you cannot do with the tatie. Bake it, boil it, steam it, mash it, grate it, fry it, smash it, dumpling it. Perhaps The Yak has a point? What he was really trying to say was, could we please have potatoes for dinner?

The pantry was laden with potatoes, I also had some delicious looking Comte cheese that I had purchased at the cheese shop. I suffer from an insidious illness that I would not wish upon anyone, it is called ‘Cheeseyearningitis’. It entails standing in front of a cheese counter, looking longingly at cheeses that one wishes to try but one also knows, that one is of an age where one can no longer eat every cheese that ones hankers after. This is due to a waistline thickening on a daily basis and a propensity towards high cholesterol. ‘Cheeseyearningitis’. Look it up, it really exists.

Comte is a semi-hard French cheese made from unpasteurised milk obtained from cows that have only been freshly and naturally fed. It is very similar to Gruyere but a Comte cheese can only be called thus if it adheres to a whole bunch of strict Frenchy regulations. God Bless the French.

I was thinking of a good old potato bake but a googlebumble led me to this delightful concoction, a Comte and potato galette. (Galette meaning a flat pancake and this dish is intrinsically that, a pancake like concoction of cheese and potato.)

The smell of this simple dish baking caused dribble to surreptitiously slide out of the corners of my mouth. Luckily, no one was watching. How best to explain the odour of this cheese baking? I imagine that it is the smell of the meadows in the French alps, of the sweet grass and alpine flowers that blissfully happy European cows chow down upon.

This cheese and potato dish was nutty, sharp, crunchy and almost caramelised around the edges. Unfortunately, all the children present loved it so there were barely any leftovers. Which really sucked. As a French cow would say, ‘Le Moo, Le Sucky.’

POTATO AND COMTE GALETTE

2 tbl unsalted butter (30g)
1 kilo potatoes, peeled and coarsely shredded. I used Desiree because it’s all I had, the recipe called for Yukon Gold. I shredded them in my food processor, oh yeah. Squeeze the potatoes well to get rid of as much liquid as you can.
200g Comte cheese, grated
1 1/2 tsps sea salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Black pepper

Preheat oven to 180C.
Preheat a medium size frypan, add half the butter and melt it.
Place 1/3 of the shredded potatoes into the frypan, sprinkle half a teaspoon of salt, some grinds of black pepper and sprinkle some nutmeg evenly across.
Sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese over the potato.
Place another 1/3 of the potatoes on top, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and add another 1/3 of the cheese.
Add the last 1/3 of potatoes, drizzle the remaining butter on top then press the mixture down with the back of a spatula. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg then sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
Over a medium heat, cook the potatoes for about 10-15 minutes until the potato on the bottom starts to sizzle.
Transfer the frying pan into the oven and cook for about 25-35 minutes until golden brown and the potatoes pierce easily with a knife. (Meaning they are cooked.)
Eat it down quickly before the children do.

Recipe knicked from the website listed below, only a minor change was made to it.

http://www.oliversmarket.com/index.php/413

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comté_cheese


Green lentil dal, a curry, not the author

How could I not use this recipe as an excuse to wax a wee bit lyrical about one of my favourite authors, Roald Dahl?

Easily, you may say but then, that is how I roll. Expect the unexpected, I never promised you a rose garden and all that. (Whatever the hell that means, seriously, what does it mean?)

As a child, my fervent reading habit encompassed the works of Roald Dahl. His books were devoured as readily as any white bread that I was able to get my mitts on. (Back in the day, Mum baked homemade bread or we ate brown bread. This once painfully fussy eater hankered after a slice of white bread something fierce.)

Favourite Dahl tomes included the hippy trippy delicious adventures of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, closely followed by Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and of course, James and the Giant Peach. These books were read cover to cover and more than once. They were then followed by the rest of his children’s novels and poetry. In my later teenage years, I encountered his more grown up ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ in which a story about screaming plants was inked indelibly onto my mind and psyche. To read Dahl is to go on an adventure and end up in a place you never thought you would go.

Indian food is a little like a Roald Dahl tale, an exciting and exotic journey into a diverse world of spice and many varying ingredients. Each bite can reveal a different flavour and aroma. Every spice brings something new to the party. This curry consisting of deep green legumes is gently earthy, with a delicate creamy blend of heat and richness. It is a wonderful addition to an Indian banquet or just as pleasantly, scoffed alone with a heft serving of basmati rice.

On that note, I leave you with my one of my favourite Roald Dahl quotes. (And of course, the recipe.)

‘And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.’

GREEN LENTIL DAL

WHAT YOU NEED
250g green lentils, washed
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic clove, roughly chopped
5 cm ginger, roughly chopped
1/4 cup oil
1 tbl ground cumin
1 1/2 tsps ground coriander
2 tsps salt
1/4 tsp chilli powder
2 tbl garam masala
1/4 cup cream

HOW YOU DO IT
Put the lentils in a large saucepan and add 6 cups of water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 45 minutes to one hour or until the dal feels soft.The lentils will start to split a little and that is fine.
Drain and reserve the cooking liquid.
Blend the onion, garlic and ginger in a food processor to form a paste or finely chop them together with a knife.
Heat the oil in a medium size saucepan and fry the onion mixture over a high heat, stirring constantly until golden brown.
Add the cumin and coriander and fry for two minutes.
Add the lentils and stir in the salt, chilli powder and garam masala.
Pour 310ml (1 1/4 cup) of the reserved lentil liquid into the pan, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for ten minutes.
Just before serving, check for salt then stir in the cream and simmer for another 2 minutes to heat through.
Serve alone with steamed basmati rice or as part of a feast.

A Cheergerm adaptation from the The Food of India: A journey for food lovers by Murdoch Books. Recipes by Priya Wickramasingh and Carol Selva Rajah.