Velvet Smooth Soup to Ward Away the Easter Chill!

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I was feeling, oh so slightly under the weather as snow blew along beside the train to Amsterdam. I was heading off to a meeting with the Chair of KEA (Kiwi Expatriates Abroad) in The Netherlands and the portents were not good. The wind chill factor was arctic in nature, the sky was heavy with wet snow and frankly I just wanted to be back on that dry, summery Island of Waiheke composting happily and listening to the sound of the sea.

We were meeting at a previously untried cafe called Vinnies Deli on Haarlemmerstraat to talk about ideas, meetings, home and of course, food matters crept in just a morsel.

We walked in, decided what to order, liked the living room feel of the place, felt some Ottolenghi influences and settled down to a velvety soup of celeriac, fresh truffle and garlic croutons. Suddenly the day didn’t seem quite so dull, in fact it seemed full of promise. I came home and immediately started to try and re-create that delicious and heart warming soup. Although it wasn’t the same exactly, the recipe below made all the family very happy.

Celeriac is rather a plain, unglamorous root veggie but it has star quality. Go and try one now! It is apparently Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall fav root veg of all time and can be used in heaps of ways, salads, coleslaws, gratins, mash and of course.. soup. And if you are in Amsterdam give Vinnies a try. We were both impressed both by the friendliness of the service, the homely lounge room touch and most important by the FOOD! The sourdough bread was excellent as well. 

Celeriac Soup (for 4)

1 large celeriac bulb, peeled and cut roughly into cubes

1 large white onion, chopped finely

1 – 3 cloves of garlic depending one how much you like garlic

2-3 large floury potatoes, peeled and chopped in cubes similar in size to celeriac

I also had a stalk of asparagus, a bit of leek and some zucchini to use up so shoved that in as well. I think cauliflower would work as well.

1 litre at least, of a good stock (I made my own out of old veggie peelings and am organic stock cube)

100 mls of fresh cream (or low fat organic milk or you are off cream!)

seasonings 

favourite spices or herbs – cumin seeds, or a little sprig of thyme. Saffron would also be rather nice, I feel.

Fry the onions in a little butter and olive oil until translucent. Add in chopped garlic. I blended my soup a little with a hand blender but left a few lumps. It is entirely up to you, what consistency you like and you may find it good to add more milk, more stock etc to the finished product. 

Add in the cubed celeriac, and potatoes plus the cummin seeds, fry until fragrant. Pour in stock and cover the vegetables. Simmer until the veggies are softly tender. Add more stock etc if needed and remove thyme sprigs. Add in the cream and simmer again for awhile, then you can either cool and blend in a food processor or use a hand blender, or just mash it up a bit with a potato masher. I served it all up just like Vinnies Deli with garlic croutons. I made these with left over crusts from club sandwiches I made for a school do. Bake the crusts with olive oil which has had crushed garlic added, season with salt and pepper and bake for about 10 minutes in a moderate oven until golden bread. Don’t you just love frugal food? 

Now serve it up the family and ask them to guess what sort of soup it is… My family were at a loss and then I showed them the celeriac bulb. By the way the fussy family really did really like this soup, so try it out on the unbelievers (you know the veggie nay-sayers!).

If you want to make it really, really special, see if the ladies at the Portabella have a little spring truffle for a good price (I got a little spring truffle, there last week for around 7 euros). Now, here’s a fact I didn’t know – from the North African coast from Morocco to Egypt to the deserts of Iraq you can find truffles in the sand and while they are hugely expensive in Europe, a family in Basra may have quite a few of them hanging about.  Experienced gatherers simply look for a mound in the sand and gently dig them up – thanks so much, my friend Basma, for telling me all about them.  

I will leave you with a photo of the little cakes at Smith and Caugheys in Auckland, NZ and suggest you go to this blog to try out making some divine hotcross buns for Easter … I think you might just be tempted by these recipes from http://www.poiresauchocolat.net

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And if you are in Amsterdam, you might just fancy one of these little morsels below, at Unlimited Delicious who currently have the best salty caramel chocs I have come across in The Netherlands (also on Haarlemmerstraat at no. 122)

Enjoy the Easter holidays by sitting at a table with family and friends, talking about things that matter and things that don’t….

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There and Back again with Added Flavours – a trip away broadens the food horizon!

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Shellfish (called Pippies in NZ) dug up with toes from Blackpool beach

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Our home-grown peaches and avocados

big O

I have been there and back again in true hobbit sense and I confess my heart mostly lies there. It is taking me some time to adjust to my urban wintry skyscape and digest all that I have seen. Firstly let me say I know that I am lucky in the extreme to be able to call such a unique part of paradise my  home (at least when I am in New Zealand). I post the pictures above not to make anyone feel envious (no, really) but to show how it closely nature and food can be connected, well particularly in a warm temperate climate. Sadly the climate was almost too warm and dry when I was home, as on Waiheke, similar to many other places in New Zealand, we are reliant on rain-water fed tanks for drinking, washing and watering plants. It hadn’t rained for many, many weeks when I left and many farms have become dustbowls. But onto food…

The top picture shows a favourite New Zealand shellfish, similar to a cockle, usually dug up with ones feet, which we harvested from a little tidal beach not far from our house. We made them into the typical fritters with some eggs, flour and herbs. The New Zealand government allows you to take 150 per person per day! You are also allowed 50 sea eggs (Kina), 20 scallops or 50 mussles – when I was young I don’t remember any restrictions but these days limits have been set to conserve natural resources.

On the island (see pic above) you can fish off the  rocks and catch a snapper for supper if you are lucky. No license is required for sea fishing but the fish must be of a certain size, unlike the fish I saw being sold in Crete last year which would barely make a mouthful! There’s a lot of composting going on and many residents grow vegetables, fruits and are the guardians of beehives. There is what I call extreme recycling going on with grey waste water, and at the local dump where you can drop anything usable so others may benefit from your castaways. Island residents are very aware that non-recylables have to be transported off island at a high cost – so the least amount of waste the better. And at the market on Saturday everyone is doing a little honest trading with anything from sun-dried plums on sale, to cardamon and lemon tarts, to fresh herbs, lavender products, coconut buns, second hand books, locally made fashion – it’s the place where everyone meets for a chat and some fine, homemade food and coffee. See below for the lovely home-made tarts on sale. Waiheke is a vibrant community where people are doing what they can, to earn a daily crust, keep the earth as healthy as possible and get by. I did an Eco tour while there and learned much more about composting Bokashi style, about eco- style building, about grey water use and square foot gardening – the latter is entirely ‘doable” for us here in the lowlands, and I will be attempting it this year.

One man has built a Gaudi style Bio Backpackers out of home made mud bricks and old paper, madly interesting and an intense labour of love. Suffice it to say I was inspired by the food I tasted while home, the people who shared their valuable knowledge and I will do my best to pass it on to as many people as I can.

Not only was I gathering knowledge I was collecting recipes and sampling as well. My friend Linnet in Singapore was kind enough to share some of her favourite recipes with me and so I am now sharing with you. Given that we quinoa eaters are in danger of depleting  the locals main protein source, I leave it up to you to use quinoa or substitute it with bulgar as I did. This dish is good warm or cold, can be stored in the fridge for 3 days and is an excellent and substantial side-dish. I served it recently with Halloumi and pea fritters, a yogurt sauce and a crisp green salad – the punters were impressed.

I will call this Linnet’s Yummy Tahini & lentil Salad

1 cup cooked bulgar or quinoa

half a teaspoon salt

quarter of a cup of lemon juice

quarter if a cup of olive oil

quarter of a cup of tahini

same of warm water

1 clove of garlic

half a tsp ground cumin

half a tsp ground black pepper

2 cups cherry tomatoes

1 cup cucumber diced (optional to make it a more summery dish)

1 cup cooked drained lentils – green or cooked chickpeas etc ( I used roasted red peppers for a little sweetness!)

2/3rd cup of finely chopped parsley

2 finely chopped spring onions

Method

Mix the lemon juice, oil, tahini, warm water, garlic, cumin, pepper and salt together. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, toss and serve.

Linnet's yummy salad with halloumi fritters

Linnet’s yummy salad with halloumi fritters

Oh, I have loads more recipes to share but I won’t overburden you! Travel is wonderful to broaden the mind and the broad bean mash I met along the way was pretty jolly good too.

Thanks Tracey, Linnet, Jacinta, Jane, Fiona, Briar Sheryl, Tanya, my sister Dyanne, nieces Charlotte & Annabelle, nephews Sam and Paul for putting up with me and showing me a right royal time. New Zealand, Waiheke I pray to all the weather gods for a decent drop of life-giving rain for that dusty earth.

Apologies for the empty blog post earlier today, some tiny, weeny, over-eager typing fingers I fear!

Kathy Voyles

14 March, 2013

homemade gorgeous pies at the Saturday market on Waiheke

homemade gorgeous pies at the Saturday market on Waiheke

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