French Onion Soup

by Veronica on April 8, 2010

As I made french onion soup the other day, I was suddenly pleased that it was not on the menu when I was working in the kitchen. God knows that soup is a job for an apprentice, who can cry and sweat while it cooks and not for the actual chef.

French onion soup is a labour of love. Or maybe an exercise in torturing yourself, I’m not entirely sure.

Onions are not my favourite things. I love eating them and currently, I’ve got a whole patch of my garden planted with them, but preparing them drives me up the wall.

So why, you might ask, did I willingly choose to make this soup?

Well you see, I bought a 10kg bag of onions a few weeks ago and it was the day before supermarket day and onions were about all we had left in the house. So onion soup it was.

And trust me, it is so worth the effort.

I peeled the onions in a sink full of water so that I didn’t cry too badly, treading on children underfoot as I went. As I started slicing the onions though, I had to kick them out of the kitchen because the onion gases were everywhere and I really didn’t need two sobbing children flumping at my feet.

Slicing the onions was a nightmare, it doesn’t matter how fast you work, when you’ve got 18-20 medium onions in front of you, you’ll never be fast enough.

I cried. A lot.

Once they’d cooked down a bit it was better, then I was just stuck in front of the stove, stirring every 20 seconds or so until they caramelised to a nice deep brown.

I added the chicken stock, from cubes, because I’ve been lazy and not made any home made stuff, and hey presto, it was good to go.

Delicious.

Ingredients:

A good amount of onions – I think I used 18 or so.
2tb butter
4tb olive oil
6 cups of chicken stock

Method:

Melt the butter and olive oil together in a large pot. Add the sliced onions and cook over a moderate heat, stirring regularly until they caramelise. They will try and catch on the bottom of the pot, so make sure you don’t burn them. The caramelisation can take up to 45 minutes.

Once they’re caramelised, add the chicken stock and check the flavour, add salt if necessary.

Serve.

Traditionally, french onion soup is served with a piece of grilled baguette with melted cheese floated in the top. I didn’t do that because of the children’s coeliacs, but you probably could.

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Pumpkin Soup

by Veronica on March 27, 2010

Pumpkin Soup

This morning, when it dawned cold and grey and I dragged myself out of bed to tend to the children, shivering all the while, I was glad that I’d bought a butternut pumpkin. I’d wavered over it, standing at the fruit and veg market, in front of the pallet full of them, marked $1.80 a pumpkin.

Will I make soup? Is it going to get cold enough for soup? I don’t much like pumpkin unless it’s soup…. um…. will the kids eat soup, Isaac is at that age where he is getting picky, I don’t even know if he likes pumpkin…..

Eventually, obviously, I bought the pumpkin and this morning, I was glad.I was also glad that we’ve got lots of wood, as I kicked my partner out of bed and made him light the fire for us because it was cold.

You see, I’ve been sick, desperately sick and the thought of some food still leaves me wanting to vomit. (Watermelon – good, chicken drumsticks – bad. Apple slices – good, pork chops – bad.)

Pumpkin soup was just the ticket when I woke up this morning, still feeling a little off and needing a quick easy dinner that wasn’t pasta (again) or rice noodles and beef broth (again).

And what a soup it is.

I tend to do very very little to my pumpkin soup, instead preferring to let the pumpkin speak for itself. That sentence my dears, is a very wanky way of saying that the budget it is tight and I don’t have any bacon or fancy bits I could add to it right now.

Normally, I saute off an onion, a couple of garlic cloves and 2 rashers of bacon, before adding my peeled, chopped pumpkin and covering with chicken stock.

Today though, I used only pumpkin, chicken stock and onion and you know what? It’s fine. Delicious in fact.

No photos from the preparation though as somehow, I was more interested in keeping my own fingers intact while I peeled pumpkin and throwing slices of raw pumpkin to the whining hordes to take photos.

Sorry.

And Isaac? Well, he loved it, so it was a needless worry on my part.

Empty soup bowl

Isaac

Ingredients:
One large butternut pumpkin, peeled and cubed.
3 medium onions, chopped roughly.
Enough chicken stock to cover the pumpkin in your pot – 6-8 cups.

Pop the diced pumpkin and onion into a pot and pour over the chicken stock. Bring to the boil and then turn down to simmer for 30-40 minutes. When the onion and pumpkin are soft, blitz the whole lot with a stick blender, or pour it into a regular blender.

Serve with a splash of cream and chopped herbs. I used chives and parsley – the only herbs that survived the great earwig, slug and snail attack of ’09-’10.

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Roast Pork

by Veronica on March 23, 2010

I got to cook some of Frogpondsrock’s pork last night.

Can I just say ….. Mmmmmmmmm.

It was delicious.

Waiting to be roasted.

I scored it and rubbed salt into the scores.

Then, I baked it for 20 minutes at 220C, before turning down the heat to 190C and cooking it slowly for nearly 2 hours.

Pork Crackling.

Roast dinner.

I served it with potatoes and onions roasted in the pork juices, peas, gravy made from said juices and my home made chutney.

It was delicious.

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Tomato Chutney

by Veronica on March 19, 2010

Our tomatoes have been hanging in the BBQ area for a while now, slowly ripening. This morning I had enough to make another pasta sauce. I’d forgotten just how soothing peeling tomatoes is, and then squashing the warm flesh between your fingers.

It’s reducing now and I thought that while it was reducing, I’d share my tomato chutney recipe.

Photos are from today’s pasta sauce, not from the chutney. I was juggling 2 small children, I didn’t have a chance to juggle a camera as well.

Unwashed tomatoes.

Blitzed and ready to start reducing.

There is always a penis shaped tomato.

***

First, it helps if you’ve got the kitchen to yourself.

Of course, if you’re me, you don’t.

I had Isaac standing on one side the the bench, threatening to throw himself at the floor (seriously kid, you’re 14 months, not old enough for this climbing nonsense!) and Amy, standing next to me, supposedly helping.

But we all know how helping goes when your child is 3 and a half.

So, clean the kitchen. That’s always a good start.

Take your green and yellow tomatoes and chop them roughly. Add some crushed ripe tomatoes for liquid so that the bottom of your pan doesn’t burn while you’re cooking the green tomatoes.

To the tomatoes add sugar and salt, a couple of tablespoons each. Also add garlic, lots of it – I used probably 15 cloves (what? I like garlic)- and 4-5 medium onions, but if you’re using less tomatoes, use less garlic and onion.

A splash of vinegar, white balsamic would be my preference, but Amy tipped it into a cup and tried to drink it a few weeks ago – much choking and coughing ensued and she is more respectful of the vinegar now – so I used white wine vinegar.

Turn on the heat and let it simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent catching and burning. Burning will fuck up an entire pot of chutney, so you know, don’t let that happen. When the tomatoes are all soft, take your Bamix and blitz everything into a pulp. Cook for another 20 minutes or so before checking the seasoning. Add salt or sugar as you think necessary, you will probably need rather a lot of sugar to counteract the green tomatoes acidity.

Let it cook for as long as possible to improve the flavours, also to let it reduce and thicken.

Once the consistency and taste are to your liking, bottle it into warm, sterilised jars, the ones with the pop top lids. Set aside to cool and seal, checking the pop tops. If any of the jars don’t reseal, you’ll have to pop them in the fridge and eat them first. I had 4 in this batch that didn’t, obviously the jars weren’t warm enough. I gave 2 to my SIL and we ate the other 2 jars quick smart.

Ingredients:

Tomatoes (I had about 4kg)
lots of garlic
4-5 medium onions
salt and sugar to taste
a dash of vinegar

By all means, if you have herbs growing and want to use them, add them. My herbs are all going to seed at the moment, so I’ve not been using anything much. And we’re not going to talk about my basil that the dog dug out. Twice.

Chop everything roughly, making sure that there is enough ripe squashed tomatoes in the bottom of the pot to prevent burning. Add salt and sugar, a dash of vinegar, lots of garlic and the onions. Let simmer until everything is soft, then blitz to a pulp. Continue to cook for about 20 minutes before checking the seasoning and adjusting with salt or sugar as needed.

When the taste and consistency are to your liking, bottle into warm sterilised jars and set aside to cool.

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Unpretty food

by Veronica on March 17, 2010

You know what? Sometimes, no, most of the time, I don’t photograph what we’re eating. Like tonight, when I completely forgot to get mince out of the freezer and was stuck at 4pm, wondering what the hell we were going to have for dinner.

On the up side, we had to go out this afternoon, so I wouldn’t have had the time, nor the energy to make the lasagne I was planning on.

On the down side, yet again I was stuck looking in the fridge, wondering if I could just feed everyone grated carrots for tea and call it a night.

In the end, I did what I always do and threw something together in 5 minutes. Funnily enough, the kids thought it was fantastic and Isaac ate 2 bowls full.

As a side note: I slave away all afternoon, cooking something delicious and it gets a meh response, I throw together a one pot meal and everyone inhales it. What is with that?

So really, this is my really wordy way of saying we’ve been eating ugly food lately. Ugly, but tasty.

Last night we had Baked Pasta with Bacon (everything is better with bacon) and tonight we had, well, I suppose I could call it something fancy like ‘Onion and tomato rice’ but in reality, it was a throw together of home made pasta sauce and basmati rice, with grated cheese on top. Isaac thought it was the best thing, but admittedly, he is eating much much better since his tongue tie snapped. I didn’t photograph it (the food, not the tongue tie).

Tomato  Rice

Cook enough rice for the people you have. Once it’s cooked, drain and throw back into the pot you used. Stir through a jar of pasta sauce. Serve with grated cheese and freshly chopped parsley.

***

Baked Pasta with Bacon

Preheat your oven to 200C

Cook pasta in plenty of salted boiling water. I use Gluten Free pasta, so I have to keep a close eye on it to stop it dissolving into mush. It’s a fine line.

While the pasta is cooking, fry off your bacon in the bottom of a saucepan and set aside. In the same pan, without washing it, make a bechamel sauce [see note]. Once the pasta is cooked, mix it into the bechamel, and pour into a casserole dish. Top with bacon and grated cheese and if you’re not cooking gluten free, breadcrumbs.

[NOTE: I make bechamel using a gluten free flour mix instead of regular plain flour. It works just as well and definitely better than either potato flour alone, or tapioca alone, both of which I’ve tried previously.]

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