Roasted cauliflower, fennel and pumpkin soup

Mothers Day came and went in the place we live. For us, it was a low key day. My three sisters and I had recently returned from New Zealand where we farewelled our beautiful cousin Simon. He was a kind, funny, free-thinking, non-accepting of the status quo, shining beacon of a man. His battle with Fredreich’s Ataxia had worn him down and so, he took his leave of us. We are left heartsick and numb but I like to think he has shaken off the earthly chains of his embattled body and spirit and is perhaps dancing somewhere, to the Rolling Stones, on a warm tropical beach. He has a frangipani tucked behind his fine thatch of fiery, strawberry-blond hair and the requisite seaside cocktail in hand. Vale Simon.

So, as exhaustion overtook us, Mothers Day was gentle and unassuming. My boys were sweetly honest with heartfelt gifts, words and cards. In the spirit of honouring Mothers everywhere, I give a shoutout to my own Mum, whose patient, deep abiding love has been an invisible prop against my back in the hardest of times. I give a shoutout to my sisters who are mothers, how I admire their patience, far greater than mine. For another sister who is a step mum (a tough gig at times), I give her a shoutout as a steady and wise presence in the life her stepchild. For our Aunty Lyn, one of the strongest of women who has lost far more than any mother should ever have to but still loves, lives and not simply exists. For my friends who are Mums of all kinds, whether they have children, fur-babies or even plant-babies. These are women I admire, lean on, talk to and share this crazy life journey with in a real, unaffected, lack of bullshit kind of way. You know who you are.

Mum and her hubby did pop over for a simple Mothers Day lunch. We had bowls of this filling, thick and earthily spicy soup followed by a luscious gluten free custard-like apple cake that Mum had made. (Something I will certainly be baking and blogging soon.) Happy Mothers Day, yes it’s belated but no less heartfelt.

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER, FENNEL AND PUMPKIN SOUP

WHAT YOU NEED
1/2 cauliflower (600g)
1 large fennel bulb
300g pumpkin
1 1/2 tsps cumin seeds
1 1/2 tsps dried oregano
1/2 – 1 tsp dried chilli (depending on your tolerance for heat)
Salt
Olive oil or grapeseed oil
2 medium size potatoes
1 litre veggie stock
1 litre water
Pepper

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 180C and line two trays with baking paper .
Cut the cauliflower into florets, chop the fennel bulb into 2 cm chunks and the pumpkin also into 2 cm chunks.
Put the cauliflower on one tray and the fennel and pumpkin on the other, drizzle with oil and divide the oregano, chilli, cumin seeds and a tiny bit of salt between the two trays and stir to coat the veggies. (Go easy on the stock as it depends on how salty your veggie stock is.)
Roast for one hour until the vegetables are tender and slightly caramelised. Remove from the oven.
In the meantime, add the stock and water to a large saucepan, add the thinly sliced potatoes and cook until tender.
Add the roasted vegetables to the stock mixture and cook for a further 20 minutes .
Blend with a hand stick blender until creamy and smooth and add salt to taste and pepper if you so fancy it. Pour into a bowl of your choice and serve with good bread, toast, cracker or nowt.

A Cheergerm creation

https://fara.org.au

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Fennel and chickpea soup and he tangata

Soup cravings come on cold days, rainy days and sometimes on days when grief threatens to overwhelm. Soup in its many guises is my ultimate comfort food, bar mashed potato. It is the making and eating that brings a little salve for the soul, if only for a short while.

Our one-of-a-kind Uncle Rodger died a few weeks ago, he made us promise to use the word ‘dead.’ Not ‘passed’ (away, over or under), not ‘left’, not ‘lost’ and not ‘gone’. (As if he had somehow been carelessly misplaced.) I did ask if ‘carked it’ or ‘shuffled off this mortal coil’ were acceptable terminologies. We both had a good laugh at that.

It is difficult choosing words to describe a loved one who has died, my fear is that they may diminish and somehow confine the person you are writing about. Rodger was the strongest of the strong. The best of husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, friends, mentors and work colleagues. A teacher, therapist, board member of the Frederichs Ataxia Research Association of Australasia (the insidious disease that his three sons are and were afflicted with), an activist for social change and a man who refused to accept the status quo.

Rabidly rugby loving in a ‘shouty at the television’ kind of way, funny, headstrong, story-teller and family history orator. Outdoor adventurer, former Kathmandu model, lover of music, literature and beauty, gourmand, wine and whiskey aficionado. Empathetic and not afraid to cry. Renowned for his ongoing love affair with wood; building things out of it, collecting it, chopping it, admiring it and burning it. (The woodpiles he left are legendary.) This was a man who chose the timber for his own coffin and started to build it until he no longer could. This was a man who chose as his final song at his funeral, the eternally and everlastingly funny Monty Python song ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.’

He fought the foul cancer that took his life with everything he had. His amazing wife is one of the most quietly determined and supportive people you would probably ever hope to meet. They walked side by side in love and joie de vivre as well as in grief. Through the diagnosis of their three beautiful boys disease and the ongoing heartaches it brought, when their oldest son took in own life in his early twenties, through to the Christchurch earthquakes and when Rodger himself was diagnosed. Their spirits however, were never broken despite the ongoing crap that life threw at them.

Rodger was a beacon that always burnt brightly and he will be missed beyond measure. As an Uncle, he was easy to talk to, his puns knew no end and he was always interested in what was going on and what I had to say. One of his favourite sayings was a Maori proverb.

He aha te mea nui o te ao
What is the most important thing in the world?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
It is the people, it is the people, it is the people

So, after returning from New Zealand where we got to say goodbye, then celebrate and mourn his remarkable life, I needed soup. This was the soup I made. The chunky chickpea bites, the silky aniseed fennel alongside the slight hum of chilli and thyme is warming and nourishing. (It’s even better the next day.) Rodger would have hated it. He was bloody sick of soup of by the end of his life as it was the only thing he could eat. The cancer he battled, deprived him of eating the food he had always loved.

This soup is not for you Rodger but this post is. Because what truly makes this life worth living is the people, the people, the people.

FENNEL AND CHICKPEA SOUP

WHAT YOU NEED
3 tbl grapeseed or olive oil,
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 large fennel bulb, diced into 2 cm
4 celery stalks, chopped into roughly 2 cm dice
2 carrots, diced into 2cm
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1//4 tsp dried chilli flakes
2 litres vegetable stock
1 litre water
1 tin crushed tomato
800g cooked chickpeas, drained (I used two tins chickpeas.)
1/2 tsp dried thyme (1 tbsp fresh thyme)
2 fresh bay leaves
200g green beans, chopped
Salt and pepper

HOW YOU DO IT
Sauté onions, fennel, celery and carrot for about ten minutes in a large saucepan over a medium heat, until they start to soften.
Add the garlic and chilli and cook for one minute, stirring continually.
Add the stock, water, tomato, chickpeas, thyme and bay leaves. Add a few good grinds of pepper and about a teaspoon of sea salt. (My stock was homemade and did not contain salt, so do not add salt at this point if your stock contains salt.)
Bring the soup to the boil then reduce to a simmer.
Skim off any scummy frothy bits that float to the top.
Cook for about 60-80 minutes until the carrots and fennel are tender, check for seasoning.
Add the green beans and cook for about ten minutes until the beans are just tender and still a bright colour.
Serve in bowls and be comforted. This soup freezes very well.

Cooking Notes: I like this soup with a fair bit of broth so if you prefer a more ‘stew’ like soup, cut back the amount of water you add from 1 litre to 500ml of water.

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Friedreich Ataxia Research Association


Spicy parsnip soup

Autumn is finally casting it’s multi-hued shadow over our city, changing leaves from green to yellows and varying shades of red or orange. Summer has had a tight grip on the throne and has refused to abdicate, up until now. Nights are somewhat cooler and the produce at the growers market has started to reflect the changing seasons. Parsnips, swede, pumpkins, ruby coloured plums and pale lemon coloured quinces.

The knobbly root vegetable parsnip, has a lovely creamy white flesh and lends itself well to soups and purées. Roasting the veggies in the spice mix adds a wonderful depth of flavour and whilst this may not be the prettiest of soups, it is earthy, certainly quite spicy and heartily warming.

SPICY PARSNIP SOUP

WHAT YOU NEED
2 tbsp olive oil
500g parsnip, peeled and diced
1 potato, peeled and diced
1 red onion, peeled and cut into 8 chunks
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tsp ground coriander,
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp chilli powder
1 litre vegetable stock
Salt

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 180C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Place all the diced and chopped veggies including the garlic, into the tray. Sprinkle over the spices, pour over the olive oil and mix the veggies until they are well coated in the spice mixture.
Bake for 20 minutes, then stir the vegetables. Bake for another 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
Once the vegetables are tender, place them in a large saucepan, add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil.
Simmer for ten minutes then allow to cool for a few minutes before blending with a stick blender. Check for seasoning and add a bit of extra water if the soup is too thick for your liking, I added 3/4 cup. Bring the soup back to a simmer and serve.
We ate it with sourdough toast and hunks of Manchego and blue cheese.
Serves 4 for lunch or 2 very hungry grown ups for dinner (with a little leftover for someone the next day.)

A Cheergerm recipe


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/



Roasted cauliflower soup and doonas

Hot soup is like a winter weight doona. It wraps it’s arms around you and bear hugs you into a calmer state of existence. (Put that on a card Hallmark.) Soup is by nature pretty forgiving. It’s a nifty way of using up spare veggies and other assorted leftover bits and bobs.

Rarely does it taste exactly the same twice and making soup is always a bit of an exciting adventure. (Please keep in mind that I don’t get out much anymore.) It reminds me of 1970’s flannelette pyjamas, Walt Disney movies on the television, Mum’s veggie soup and her homemade scones.

Autumn is upon us. The days here have been unseasonably warm but the nights are certainly cooler. As the Yak stretches up to the top of the linen cupboard for cosier bedding, I also dust off the soup pot, ready for heavy usage. (In other words, expect a plethora of soupy type posts over the new few months.)

Roasting the cauliflower emphasises this vegetables nutty flavour and gives it some gorgeous caramelisation. Preparing this cruciferous veggie in this manner is like eating cauliflower on steroids. (Without any uncomfortable enquiries from official sporting governing bodies.) This soup is soft and harmonious with a slight garlicky hint and earthy undertones from the cumin.

Keep in mind that roasting garlic will give it a it milder and sweeter flavour. My cloves of garlic were very small but it was all I had left. Next time I would use bigger cloves or add a few more in. At least it was Australian garlic, the upside being there were no food kilometres/miles/cubits/furlongs on it.

Roasted cauliflower soup

WHAT YOU NEED
1 head cauliflower cut into large florets
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
Olive oil to drizzle
2 tbl olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 large peeled potato, small dice
1 tsp cumin powder
6 cups water
1 teaspoon Massel vegetarian stock powder (or stock powder of your choice)
1/2 tsp sea salt
Black pepper to season

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 170C.
Place cauliflower and garlic cloves into a roasting pan lined with baking paper . Drizzle over olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, remove and stir then for another 15 minutes.
Check at 30 minutes and remove from the oven if the cauliflower is tender. Place aside and peel the garlic when it has cooled.
In a large saucepan, pour in 2 tbl olive oil and sauté onion for 1 – 2 minutes then add potatoes, cumin and stir for a minute or two.
Add the cooked cauliflower and peeled garlic, water, stock powder, salt and some pepper.
Bring to the boil then reduce the soup to a simmer.
Cook for 30 min, until potatoes are soft then blend with a stick blender.
Check for seasoning and serve.
We enjoyed this soup topped with crumbled fetta and crunchy toast on the side.

A cheergerm recipe