Spicy pumpkin, tomato and coconut soup

Earlier this year a Google soup recipe search habits survey found pumpkin soup was the top of the list in New Zealand, for the third year in a row. Are Kiwis creatures of habit, huge consumers of pumpkin, or just really boring? Perhaps it’s a combination of all three. While you ponder that, here’s my latest pumpkin soup variation (which uses a respectable amount of pumpkin, but isn’t remotely boring. I hope.)

Spicy pumpkin, tomato and coconut soup
This is quick, easy and very warming, which means it meets all the criteria for a simple Sunday lunch (with enough leftover for a lucky person to take to work on Monday). Serves 3-4.

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
a good pinch of salt
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 kg pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into 2cm chunks
1 x 440g can chopped tomatoes
1 x 440ml can coconut milk

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot and add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, for five minutes, then add the spices and salt. Let cook for another couple of minutes, then tip in the pumpkin. Cover and cook for five minutes, then add the tomatoes. Half-fill the tomato can with water and add to the pot, then cover and cook for another 15 minutes, or until the pumpkin is soft.
Remove from the heat and mash roughly with a potato masher (or use a stick blender, if you like soup to be very smooth) then add the coconut milk. Stir well and return to the heat. Bring to a simmer, then serve immediately.

If this one doesn’t take your fancy, try this hands-free pumpkin and chipotle soup.

Have a great week, everyone x

Old-fashioned vegetable soup

Did you know that in some places they’re not making journalism interns learn shorthand any more? I know, I’m shocked too. Instead of giving them a good grounding in Teeline, they’re giving them magic recording pens that download interviews straight to a computer.

I knew the world would pass me by one day but I didn’t think it would happen so soon. I hate to think what Mary, my shorthand teacher, would think of this. Mary, a saintly sort, reckoned shorthand was crucial for getting you out of a tight spot. Mary warned against relying on dictaphones for fear they would break down and advised us to always carry a pencil because it would enable us to write in wet conditions. I hate to think what she’d make of a magic pen.

My shorthand isn’t what it used to be (ahem, I could do 120 wpm in my heyday), but I still use it all the time. I have recipe notes full of part shorthand, part longhand scrawl and I can still write a shopping list in seconds. Bet fancy youngsters can’t do that with magic pens.

To seal my reputation as a past-it hack of no use to anyone, here’s a vegetable soup recipe so old-fashioned it’s probably due a hipster revival.

Easy Old-Fashioned Vegetable Soup

Old-fashioned vegetable soup
This is so simple you don’t need a magic pen or shorthand skills to memorise the recipe. It’s very comforting, hearty and cheap to make. Be careful when buying soup mix as some are packed with unnecessary flavourings and salt. If you can’t find a decent one (Wellingtonians: Moore Wilson has 500g bags of soup mix that are ideal), then just use a mix of split peas, red lentils and pearl barley.

1 cup (250g) soup mix
4 cups chopped vegetables – eg onion, carrot, celery, sweet potato, pumpkin
8 cups good quality vegetable or chicken stock
fresh herbs – parsley, chervil, coriander

Put the soup mix, vegetables and stock in a large pot. Bring to a simmer, skim off any scum and let cook, uncovered, for about 1 – 1 1/2 hours, until the vegetables are tender. Stir through some fresh herbs before serving. Makes about 10 cups and freezes well.

Five fab ways with beetroot

I have one plan for my winter vegetable garden. When – or if – the wind drops and the rain stops – I’m going to plan beetroot by the dozen. Their beautiful green and crimson leaves will look quite fetching on grey winter days and the roots will be protected from the wild weather, packed in cacao husks and zoo compost. At least, that’s the plan. In the meantime, I’ve made a list of my five favourite ways with beetroot, including a truly addictive dip. If I don’t get my own harvest sorted, I’ll be doing my bit to support local beetroot growers.

1. Beetroot, Feta And Wasabi Dip
This dip is super easy to make if you use vacuum-packed ready-cooked beetroot (now finally widely available in New Zealand supermarkets – look for the LeaderBrand packs near the salad vegetables in your supermarket). I dollop it on crostini or crackers with a bit of cream cheese or strained Greek yoghurt, then sprinkle something green on top. The only other thing you have to do is not tip it down your front, especially when wearing anything white.

250g cooked beetroot
1 clove garlic, squashed to a paste with 1/4 tsp salt
100g feta, diced
2 Tbsp Greek yoghurt
1/2 tsp wasabi (or horseradish)
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put all ingredients in a food processor and whizz until a smooth puree forms (stop to scrape down the sides of the processor as necessary). Taste for seasoning, then scrape into a bowl and serve. Makes about two cups – store any leftovers in the fridge for up to three days.

2. Shocking Pink Beetroot Bread
This is a true ‘do not adjust your set’ representation of what this Beetroot Bread looks like in real life – it really IS that pink. It doesn’t have any discernable beet-y flavour, but the pinkness is pretty fun.

3. Raw Beetroot With Caraway, Fennel And Feta
One day I sent my beloved to the shops to buy caraway seeds – and he helpfully came back with a 500g bag. I’ve resisted the urge to make endless seed cakes, but I have found a use for them in this salad, which combines caraway with raw grated beetroot, fennel and feta.

4. Raw Beetroot Bliss Balls
These Raw Beetroot Bliss Balls are another pretty-in-pink flight of fancy – the colour is all-natural. Think of the anti-oxidants! If you’re trying to get your children (or other friends and family) to eat more vegetables, this is a very easy way to do it.

5. Big Bold Beetroot Soup
Beetroot is a key ingredient in this hearty winter soup for people who don’t like following recipes (particularly husbands, I have found). It’s big, bold, red – and delicious.

What’s your favourite thing to do with beetroot?

Five easy spring meals

It’s spring! Proper spring – with balmy temperatures, early rising birds and new buds appearing in the garden. Well, it was like that a few days ago. Now we’re back to tempestuous winds, lashing rain and that horrible greyness, but I’ve got high hopes.

Spring Daffodil Photo: Lucy Corry

It’s too soon for asparagus and the little lambs arriving in paddocks near you are too small for the cooking pot, but there are lots of other spring-y things to eat. Here are five easy spring dinners to add to your repertoire…

1. Superfood Salad: It’s got quinoa, broccoli and other spring-y, crunchy things to make you feel like frolicking in the sun. What more do you need?

Leon-Style Superfood Salad

2. Tray-baked Lamb and Potatoes: This is really good for those ‘I can’t think what to have for dinner’ evenings, which occur in our house at least once a week. Everything goes in the oven in one dish and there’s minimal cleaning up (even the non-cooks can make this one).

Easy Greek Lamb And Potatoes

3. Spring Cauliflower Soup: Cauliflower has had a bit of a renaissance of late, thanks to the craze for turning it into a pizza crust, but I think it’s unbeatable in this simple and healthy cauliflower soup.

Detox Cauliflower Soup

4. Simple Smoked Fish And Rice: This is another one-pot wonder, handy when you’ve been out in the garden tackling six months’ worth of weeding.

Easy Smoky Fish And Rice

5. Little lamb burgers: If you’re blessed with a beautiful spring day, cook these outside on your (long-neglected) barbecue. If it’s ‘sit inside by the heater weather’, they can be baked or pan-fried indoors.

Little Lamb Mince Burgers

What are your plans for this spring? 

Just add water soup + a giveaway!

When we came home from our epic Euro adventures last year there was one thing I was dying to do: drink water out of the tap. Because cocktails and jasmine tea and magnums of rose are all very well, but there comes a time when all you want to do is turn the tap on and have delicious, unpolluted, H2O come gushing out.

New Zealand isn’t immune from the cult of the plastic water bottle, of course, but we are lucky that we can drink the good stuff straight from the tap (even though many local councils advise people to run the water for a bit first thing in the morning to flush out any trace metals that might have built up overnight, which is a bit worrying!) I’m sure this is one of the reasons why our coffee is so good – an old flatmate of mine who was a coffee roaster was meticulous about water quality and insisted on using filtered water in his espresso machine.

While we’re used to taking good quality water for granted, I am really happy to be able to support a UK-based campaign run by BRITA and Delicious magazine that’s hoping to find some great recipes using filtered water. That might sound a bit ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’, but good water is an integral ingredient to so many things (not to mention the soup below). You can find out a bit more about the Better With BRITA competition here – don’t forget to check out the current entries to see who you’re up against. The three winners will be taken on a VIP trip to The Big Feastival in London and get the chance to sell their wares (and show off in general).

If you’d like to improve your drinking water quality, BRITA have given me one of their exceptionally pretty Marella Water Jugs (RRP £33) to give away to a lucky reader. You can enter via the Rafflecopter wotsit below. Unfortunately this giveaway – like the Better with BRITA competition – is only open to UK residents, but I have a consolation prize for everyone else – the secret to making ‘just add water’ soup.

Frugal Chicken Soup

Just Add Water Soup
In the colder months we follow the happy ritual of having a roast chicken on Sunday nights, not least because it means we have two cheering lunchboxes of leftovers to brighten Mondays. I used to feel guilty about throwing away the carcass instead of making stock, until I twigged that I could shortcut the process and make hands-free chicken soup instead. Here’s how…

1 x chicken carcass (or as many as you may have!)
2-4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 onions or leeks, peeled or washed, as appropriate, finely sliced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1/4 bunch celery, including leaves, roughly chopped
fresh herbs – parsley, thyme, sage
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
water
salt and pepper
olive oil
extras: tinned beans/chickpeas, drained and rinsed; quinoa or buckwheat; more herbs

Start by putting the chicken carcass in a large pot. Tuck in the vegetables around it and barely with pure, filtered tap water. Cover, set over medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Let bubble away for 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and extract the chicken bones and any bits of skin or fat. The meat should fall from the bones (and there will be a surprising amount of it). Return to the heat and add in any of the extras. If adding grains, add them to the pot and bring the soup to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, or until tender. Taste for seasoning – it will need a good amount of salt. Serve with crusty bread and a drizzle of olive oil. Makes 4-6 servings.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Given the frugal nature of this simple soup I think it’s a fine contender for this month’s Credit Crunch Munch, a blog event devoted to budget-friendly food created by – Fab Food 4 All and Fuss Free Flavours. This month it’s being hosted by Gingey Bites – check out her list of frugal and delicious meals.

* This post was created with the assistance of BRITA, but all opinions (and the recipe) are my own.