Pumpkin soup

I’m currently experimenting with soups, trying to make one pretty much every week, whilst keeping it interesting at the same time. It’s probably no surprise that being a Halloween week, I’ve made pumpkin soup today. I don’t normally use pumpkin in cooking much at all, so it’s actually nice that I have as the soup is lovely!  The consistency of my soup is quite like that of  velouté, velvety and smooth. If you would like yours thicker, I would just reduce the amount of the liquids in my recipe.

2 onions, finely chopped
splash of olive oil
1 pumpkin (mine was 1,8kg)
1 litre of vegetable stock (I mix Bouillon powder with water)
2dl double cream
salt
pepper
pumpkin seeds
pea shoots

1. Peel, deseed and chop the pumpkin.

2. Heat the oil, then cook onions for 5 minutes until soft. Add the pumpkin and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Add the stock, and after bringing it to boil simmer for 10 minutes. Add the cream, and season with salt and pepper.

4. After cooling the soup down a little bit, puree it in a blender.

5. Re-heat if needed, drizzle some olive oil on top and serve with some pumpkin seeds and pea shoots.

Squid and chorizo salad

This wonderful salad is full of flavour and content. The dried chickpeas need to soaked for 8 hours so this dish will need some pre cooking planning, but apart from that is quite a simple food to make, with not a lot of actual cooking involved.

2dl dried chickpeas
400g squid
1 chorizo sausage (about 60g)
8 plum tomatoes
1 fresh small green chilli
2 cloves of garlic
1 spring onion
2 leaves of romaine heart lettuce
25g fresh parsley
juice of one lemon (or 2tbsp)
6 tbsp olive oil
salt
pepper

1. Generously cover the chickpeas with cold water for 8 hours. After the soaking time, drain. Place in a pot, cover with fresh water and bring to boil. Simmer for 40 minutes.

2. Whilst the chickpeas are boiling, chop the ingredients for the salad base. Cut the tomatoes into quarters. Deseed and finely chop the chilli, and also finely chop the garlic cloves, spring onion and parsley. Cut the romaine heart lettuce into thin strips. Mix together, and add the lemon juice and half of the olive oil. Season with a little bit of salt and pepper. Place in the fridge. Once the chickpeas are cooked, drain and let cool.

3. Cut the body pouch of the squids open, and score the inside into diamond shapes. Then cut the squid into bite size pieces.

img_4543

4. Heat the remaining half of the oil in a frying pan, and put the squid pieces in the scored size up. Fry for about 30 seconds, then turn over and fry for another 30 seconds. You may need to do this is two-three batches. Season with a little bit of salt and pepper, and set aside.

5. Chop the chorizo into small pieces. Fry in the pan for couple of minutes, then add the squid and fry for another minute.

6. Add the cooled chickpeas to the salad base, and mix together. Plate the salad, and add the squid and chorizo on top.

Mixed bean cassoulet

I’m not entirely sure what the true, authentic way of making bean cassoulet is, but the good thing with any this type of food is that you can easily make it your own. You can go from vegetarian version to a hearty, meaty one, or anything in between. This is what I went for this time, using my homemade chicken stock (click here for recipe), and I’m already looking forward to the next time, to make one perhaps with sausage. I would categorise this dish as hearty winter meal. I’ve never been a big bean lover, but this dish is a great introduction to tasty ways of cooking them, and my husband loves this dish. One thing that requires some organisation with this is soaking the dried beans beforehand, but otherwise the steps to making this food are pretty simple. I use a 10 bean mix of black eyed beans, black turtle beans, butter beans, haricot beans, lima beans, pinto beans, red kidney beans, rose cocoa beans, alubia beans and mung beans.

500g dried mixed beans
2 medium sized carrots, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
handful of fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp paprika powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 can of chopped tomatoes
4 dl chicken stock
dash of vegetable oil

1. Place the beans in a bowl, cover with cold water and soak for 12 hours. After the soaking time, drain. Place in a pot, cover with fresh water. Bring to boil, and on high setting boil for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to simmer, and boil for 1 hour 20 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 360°F.

3. Place the oil, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, bay leaves and thyme in a casserole dish. Fry on the hob for about 5 minutes, stirring, until onions start getting softer.

4. Place all the remaining ingredients in and mix everything together thoroughly. Cover with a lid, and place in the oven. Bake for 35 minutes.

 

Winter warmer beef and root vegetable soup

I was planning on making this soup for few weeks. Since I started planning it I’ve gone on a diet, and after I made it, I decided to count the calorie content of the soup. My recipe makes a really big amount, which only contains 2000 kcal. I was very pleased to find out that a portion size only contains a couple of hundred calories. The purpose of this soup was not a low calorie meal options, but it for sure is an added bonus. You will still get soft meaty pieces of beef, and the fresh vegetables bring such great flavour. It’s perfect winter warmer food.

600g diced beef
500g swede (about 1/2 of a large swede)
350g turnips
400g parsnips
250g carrots
600g potatoes
1 onion
125g cauliflower
125g broccoli
2 cloves of garlic
2 dl frozen peas
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tbsp black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
handful of fresh thyme sprigs
4 litres of water

1. Place the beef pieces and half of the water to a large pot. Cover with a lid, bring to boil, and boil for couple of hours, until the pieces are starting to get soft. It doesn’t necessarily matter what cut of the beef you use. If you are using tough, cheaper cuts, boiling them this way before you add the other ingredients will make them wonderfully soft. At the beginning of the boiling, keep on eye on the pot, as the ‘muck’ coming out of the beef may foam a lot. You may want to skim some of the foam / muck away. After about an hour’ add the salt, peppercorns, allspice, finely chopped garlic, bay leaves and thyme.

img_4401

2. While the beef is boiling, prepare all the vegetables. Peel and cut the turnips, swede, parsnips and carrots into small pieces. Peel the potatoes, and cut them into bigger, still bite sized pieces. Finely chop the onion, and cut the broccoli and cauliflower into small florets.

 

3. After the beef has been boiling for couple of hours (or longer if required) and is soft, add the carrots, swede, parsnips, turnips and potatoes, and the remaining half of the water. Bring back to boil, and simmer for about 10 minutes.

4. Add the onion, cauliflower, broccoli and peas and simmer for another 10 minutes. Check the taste, and add seasoning, if required.

img_4405

Marrowfat pea soup

This is one of the soups I’ve really been missing from my native Finland. Ask anyone what food is served on Thursdays, and they should all say it’s this pea soup, followed by pancake for dessert. I found it difficult to find dried marrowfat peas traditionally used, so I decided to try a soup mix of pearl barley, green split peas, haricot beans, marrowfat peas, red split lentils, yellow split peas and brown rice, and was absolutely delighted at how close it came to the real deal! I was organized and planned my roast pork which literally fell apart (click here for recipe), for the weekend before making this soup, and it was perfect.  You will need to be a little bit organized when making this soup even if you haven’t planned to cook the meat in advance, because you need to soak the dried pulses for 12 hours. This recipe will make a big soup.

500g soup mix of dried pearl barley, green split peas, haricot beans, marrowfat peas, red split lentils, yellow split peas and brown rice
~500g pork shoulder meat, pulled to shreds
4 litres water
2 beef stock pots
salt
white pepper

1. Place the dried pulses in a large bowl, and cover with plenty of cold water. Leave to soak for 12 hours.

2. Drain and discard the soaking water. Place the pulses in a large pan, together with 4 litres of water. If your pan isn’t large enough, start with 2 litres, and add more after some liquid has evaporated. Bring to brisk boil, and boil for 10 minutes, unvovered.

3. If using uncooked meat, place the piece in the pan, skin removed. If you are using already cooked meat, leave until later. Bring the mixture to a softer boil, add the stock pots and cover with a lid. Boil for 2 hours. Stir a few times during the cooking.

4. If you cooked the meat with the soup, remove the piece, pull apart to shreds and add back to the soup. If you are using pre-cooked meat, add it in now, and heat through, stirring occasionally.

5. Season with the salt  and pepper to taste. You should have a nice, slightly thick soup. Also, it will taste even better when reheating it again the following day. As a serving suggestion, do also try it with a little bit of mustard mixed in.

img_4244

 

Seafood and chorizo paella

Just like with risottos, I’ve never liked paella – until I made my own. I’m also not great friends with seafood with shell on in the food (I know it’s supposed to make it tastier, however I don’t like having to remove shell whilst eating), so I’ve used a way around it.

serves 4

600ml water
200g shell-on tiger prawns
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black peppercorns
400g cooked mussels with shell on
~~~~~
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
1 onion
1 small green finger chilli
10 plum tomatoes
1 red pepper
200g cooking chorizo
150g raw king prawns
200g raw squid
100ml white wine (Sauvignon Blanc)
1 lemon, juice squeezed
2 dl frozen peas
250g Bomba paella rice
pinch of saffron
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp paprika powder
1/2 tsp salt

1. As I don’t like seafood with shell on in my food, I use the shells for the stock separately. Pour the water in a pan, and heat to boil. Remove the heads and shells from the tiger prawns, and add to the water (keep the actual prawns aside for later). Add the sea salt and boil, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add the mussels, and simmer, covered, for 8 minutes. Once done, pour into a jug through a sieve (I also use a piece of muslin). Whilst prepping the other ingredients, let cool. Once cooled, remove the mussels from the shells.

2. Whilst the shells and mussels are boiling, I tend to prep all the other ingredients before starting the cooking. Finely chop the onions, garlic and chilli. Heat olive oil in a large pan. Fry the onions until softened, and add the garlic and chilli. Also add the saffron and half the paprika powder.

3. Chop the chorizo and squid, and add to the pan with the raw king prawns. Fry for 5-10 minutes, until the prawns and chorizo are cooked.

4. Add finely chopped tomatoes and pepper, mixing everything together.

img_4230

5. Add the paella rice, and stir together. Pour the wine, and let bubble. Once almost reduced, add the stock liquid. Stir, then boil uncovered and undisturbed, without stirring for 12 minutes. During this time, sprinkle the salt and black pepper on top.

img_4233

6. Add the peas, mussels and tiger prawns, and stir until warmed through. Add the remaining half of the paprika powder and the lemon juice.

Slow cooked roast pork shoulder

After not having had time for much home cooking lately, it was wonderful to whizz up this perfect fall-apart, melt-in-the-mouth shoulder of pork. I will also be using some of the leftover meat for another dish later in the week (keep your eyes peeled). This recipe does take quite a long time to cook, but I prepared the seasoning on the previous evening, and started the cooking as soon as I woke up in the morning. You can leave it unattended for a long time in the middle part of the fpreparations, so I also managed to go shopping whilst it was in the oven. For foolproof recipe for perfect Yorkshire puddings, click here.

1.6 kg piece of pork shoulder
3 sprigs of thyme, leaves
2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds

1. Crush and mix all the ingredients together. Cut slits on the pork skin, and rub the spice mixture all over the skin, slits and meat. If you have time, do this the evening before you intend to cook the meat. Place in a container, cover and refrigerate overnight.

2. Heat oven to 220°C / 430°F. Place the pork on a roasting rack, and roast for 30 minutes uncovered. Cover the pork properly by couple of layers of foil, and reduce the temperature to 160°C / 320°F. Roast for 4 1/2 hours.

3. Remove from the oven, and increase the temperature to 180°C / 360°F. Cut the skin off, and wrap the meat in the foil. To keep it warm, you may also want to wrap the foil package in a kitchen cloth / towel.

4. If cooking roast potatoes in the cooking juices from the pork, place the potatoes at the bottom of the roasting tray. Place the skin on the rack on top of the potatoes. Roast for about 1 hour 20 minutes , turning the potatoes every now and then (around every 20 minutes).

img_4203