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

Creme fraiche and chocolate nut truffles

Last Sunday my sister-in-law turned up on my doorstep with a huge chocolate cake, a tub of Zany Zeus creme fraiche and a jar of Fix and Fogg chocolate peanut butter.

We anointed the cake with dollops of both – such a good activity on a winter Sunday afternoon, sitting around, eating cake with chocolate peanut butter on top – and then they left. “I expect you to do something creative with that peanut butter,” she called over her shoulder as they left. “No chance,” I said. “I’m just going to eat it out of the jar.”

But it turns out there’s only so many spoonfuls of chocolate peanut butter and creme fraiche you can eat in a week. Here’s what you should do with the rest.

Easy Chocolate Peanut Butter And Creme Fraiche Truffles

Creme fraiche and chocolate nut truffles
If you’re not in the habit of having either of the main ingredients lying around, you could always make your own creme fraiche AND make your own salted chocolate nut butter. Then you can whip these up whenever you like, rather than for the rare occasions when you have some going spare.

1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/3 cup chocolate peanut butter
1/4 cup ground almonds
1/2 tsp pure vanilla
1/3 cup finely chopped dark chocolate (about 10 squares of Whittaker’s Dark Ghana)
a good pinch of sea salt

For rolling:
2 Tbsp ground almonds
1 Tbsp cocoa, sifted

To make the truffles, put all ingredients in a bowl and beat until well combined.
Mix the second measure of ground almonds and cocoa together in a shallow bowl.
Roll teaspoonfuls of the mixture into small balls, then roll them in the almonds and cocoa. Leave in the fridge to set for 30 minutes before eating. Store, covered, in the fridge. Makes about 22 balls, depending on how much you eat in the process.

Have a great week, everyone!

How to knit an egg cosy (and make fork pompoms)

One of the happiest winters of my life was spent in Whanganui, where my lovely friend Anna and I amused ourselves with sewing, cooking, art projects and soaking in the fire bath in our garden. If it sounds all a bit Little House On The Prairie, that’s because it was. The house we rented felt very much like an idyll from the rest of the world, kept warm by the hum of sewing machines and a constantly-boiling kettle.

Life seems to have become a lot less idyllic of late, but I’ve decided there is still room in my life for little projects.  Especially slightly ridiculous ones as soothing as knitting an egg cosy.

Very Easy Egg Cosy Knitting Pattern For Beginners

Lucy’s Easy Egg Cosy

I devised this pattern after knitting my daughter a woolly hat – essentially a rectangle that you draw up at the end. This lacks the absolute charm of a more complicated pattern but it’s an excellent confidence booster for amateur knitters. The one in the picture is a little bigger than it’s supposed to be – or perhaps I bought shorter than average eggs – but this pattern should make one that’s just the right size.

You will need:

8mm knitting needles

Double knitting wool – use up any scraps you have, as long as they’re the same ply

Wool needle

Cast on 28 stitches. Knit one row, then purl the next. Continue in this fashion until the work measures 6.5cm, changing colour as your wool supplies allow.

Thread a wool needle (as in, a sewing needle, not a knitting needle) with wool and slip it through the stitches as you slip them off the knitting needle. Gather both ends of this wool together and pull tightly – the knitted work will come together like the opening of a drawstring bag. Knot together tightly.

Carefully turn the egg cosy inside out and stitch the open side together. Trim any loose threads and hey presto, your eggs will never grow cold again. For added style at breakfast time, add a tiny fork pompom on top. Instructions follow below…

How To Make Fork Pompoms

How to make a fork pompom

When I made my daughter’s hat, making the fist-sized pompom for the top seemed to take nearly as long as the knitting did (and it used nearly as much wool!)

These tiny pompoms are much faster than the traditional cardboard donut method. All you need to do is to wind the wool around the tines of a fork – I’ve used a cake fork in the image above – until you have a fat wodge of wool. Slip another piece of wool between the tines and the wrapped bundle, then tie tightly in the middle (I’ve used a different colour here for display purposes). Slip the tied bundle off the tines, then snip the ends of the pompom as usual. Be careful not to trim it too agressively if it’s a very little pompom as it may fall apart.

Have you got a winter project on the go?

The art of writing – workshops at Tea Pea

It’s cold, and grey and the news everywhere is bleak. But before you rip open a chocolate bar and sob into your screen, there is a ray of light on the horizon. And you can get involved!

This month sees the start of a series of fun workshops, demonstrations and talks at the lovely Tea Pea School in Khandallah. You can sign up to learn about loads of things, including floral artistry, interior design tricks, cake icing and writing. Yes, writing. I’m particularly excited about that one, because I’ll be teaching it.

So, if you long to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) but don’t know where to start, come and join us. The Art Of Writing workshop will help you unearth your inner writer, with tips on connecting with your audience and finding your voice, advice on grammar and construction, how to craft the perfect social media post and more. We might even talk about how to write a recipe, if the need arises.

There will be lots of fun to be had, along with food, drinks and goodie bags. You can find out more about The Art Of Writing workshop and the Tea Pea School here.

Have a great weekend, 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.