Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Recipe: Carrot and vegetable soup with ginger

Recently I had a craving for carrot soup. I'm not exactly sure why that came to mind, but when writing out the weekly meal plan I remembered that I had some carrots that needed to be used and a sweet potato that wasn't looking as lovely as it could. When doing the grocery shopping, pumpkin was on sale, and so I decided that a carrot and other orange-vegetable soup would be delicious.
I made it up as I went along but it turned out rather nicely - it's pretty hard to mess up soup! The ginger added a nice kick. Mr Fork thought I was a bit heavy on the seasonings, but I personally enjoyed it as is. It's the sort of thing you can play with and tweak to your own tastes, and was delicious served with some fresh out of the oven ciabatta bread on the side.

Carrot and vegetable soup with ginger

  • 1 onion, diced
  • generous knob of ginger, finely sliced
  • 4 medium carrots, skin on, diced
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 400g pumpkin, peeled and cubed
  • 1L vegetable stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon each cumin, turmeric and curry powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Put a generous lug of olive oil into a saucepan and add onion. Sauté until softened.
  2. Combine carrot, sweet potato, pumpkin, ginger, spices and stock with the onion. Bring the mix to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer it all until the vegetables are soft (about 15 minutes).
  3. Blend to your desired consistency.
  4. Return to the heat and check for seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste
  5. Serve with chopped coriander, parsley or shallots.
  • I was shelling some for Jimmy, so I also added some edamame beans to my bowl before serving. They sunk to the bottom so you can't see them in any photos, but I liked them in the soup, and they added some texture.
  • The seasoning is very versatile. Add more or less, or change it up to suit your tastes. I think it would be good adding some chilli in as well, but my children aren't good with too much spice yet.
  • It was particularly good with some fresh bread on the side to help wipe the bowl clean at the end.
  • I'm a big believer in not having food go to waste, so the next night, I added the soup leftovers to a creamy sauce I was making for a macaroni pasta bake. Excuse the terrible lighting, but it turned out beautifully.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

What's in my kitchen, August 2016

Although our usual hostess Maureen is not formally hosting the IMK event while she focuses on getting well, I'm still putting up a (late) post. I know that I've let my blog post frequency slip of late, but reading (and writing my own) kitchen posts really is something that I look forward to each month. It seems that the year is just flying by. Where did July go? How is it August already? With that said though, bring on Spring! If I'm honest, the weather in Brisbane has been unseasonably warm for Winter so it's almost as though Spring is here. Some of my colleagues from Melbourne were up recently and they were happily walking around in short sleeves and soaking up the sun while I was shivering in tights and a trench coat. It's what you're used to I guess!

The 'cold' weather has been playing havoc with my sourdoughs lately (hence the lack of posting results online) but I am discovering other things that I can ferment...

In my kitchen is...

The beginnings of kombucha and a weird looking scoby. I recently attended a food fermentation workshop and came away inspired to have a go at making my own kombucha. While I'm a little grossed out at the way scobys look, I can't deny that I like to drink the results, and so I decided to give it a go. The workshop included a bottle of kombucha to take home, so I drank most of it and then used the last of it to start a scoby off. The first picture was taken a few days after I made up the jar of sweet tea, and the second picture is perhaps two weeks later. Probably could have given the jar a clean before I took the photos though...

I have since bottled my first batch, and the second is well on it's way to being ready. I still think it looks horrid, but I can get past that. Mr Fork despairs that I'm taking up significant kitchen bench space with all of my food projects, but I think home made deliciousness is worth it! 
In my kitchen is...

A new dishwasher. Our old one finally just gave up. We couldn't repair it anymore and all of the tweaks and love that Mr Fork tried to give it didn't work either. I think it had a good run - it was in the house when we bought it, and I'd estimate it's age at about 12 years, so that's pretty good for something used with frightening regularity (frightening because we go through an astounding amount of dishes here).

We procrastinated about replacing it as I wasn't sure I really wanted another one, but I'm happy to give up having to hand wash everything (see previous frightening amount of dishes comment), and it's quite exciting to have a new appliance. I'd thought that dishwashers were a standard size, but turns out there are small variations. This one was a mm or so too small for our existing space, but Mr Fork was able to take off part of the top cabinetry to make it fit. It's only obvious from the angle that I've taken this picture from, otherwise you don't see the gap.
In my kitchen is...

Cashew and dill cheese. I'm always excited to support local companies, and Peace Love and Vegetables from Byron Bay tick loads of boxes for me with their ethos, products and general way of doing business sustainably.

I haven't tried many commercial non-dairy cheeses, but this is so dangerously more-ish. It was good as a dip with vegetables, spread on a sandwich and even eaten by the spoonful. It was creamy and just really, really good. It wasn't cheap, so it's not something that I'd have very often, but for a treat and an occasional luxury, it's definitely something I'd get again.
In my kitchen is...

Again from the Peace Love and Vegetables company is a jar of sauerkraut. It was another attendee bonus from the fermentation workshop, and I've been adding it to just about everything in small amounts. It's a mild tasting kraut, and I've not found much that it doesn't go with. It's even quite nice and not too overpowering on it's own. When I've finished this - quite large - jar I'm well convinced that I'd have great fun mashing cabbage and salt about to make my own sauerkraut too. Stay tuned for that adventure :)
In my kitchen is...

A Costco find, a large box of vegan felafel sausages. While it's quite odd to me to have felafel in anything but ball form, I can't deny that it's super handy to have this sort of product on hand. One of the first things that I do after a Costco shop is to divide the large packages into normal portions. These sausages are now packaged in pairs in the freezer. I find them quite tasty - not too dry and certainly flavourful.

They were great for a quick meal of hotdogs one night. Mr Fork had meat dogs, and we made a variety of sides to share - sliced mushrooms fried up, sliced onions just on the cusp of being burnt (Mr Fork's favourite way of eating them), cheese, sauerkraut, tomato sauce, mustard. Everything was put in the middle of the table so that we could all make hot dogs to suit own personal tastes. Dinner win all around!

There is no official link up for the In My Kitchen this month, so I'm just going to throw it out there to all... what's going on in your kitchen this month?

Monday, August 1, 2016

How does your garden grow, August 2016

It's been awhile since a garden update, so one is long overdue I'm sure. Although it is still technically winter, my garden is very confused this season. Brisbane winter has ranged from the occasional single digit temperature up to almost 30 degrees, so it's no wonder my garden doesn't know what it's doing. Despite the confusion, there is a range of things happily growing away.

I've got some seriously prolific parsley happening (actually it's still the same plant from a year ago!). No matter how much I use, it just seems to keep on growing. The plants have huge stems and are spreading across almost half a garden bed. I keep thinking about cutting it back, but it's not woody, and it's pretty healthy looking, so I'll just continue eating parsley with everything! Perhaps another batch of parsley pesto is on the cards.

My in laws gifted me a couple of their hot chillies after I admired them at family dinner one time. I saved some seeds and planted them, and this hardy plant was the result. The chillies are lovely and spicy, and as you can see from the picture, despite being fenced off, the chickens also like them, and find a way to eat all the leaves they can reach. This plant is a great producer and I've been so time poor lately that I haven't been using all the fruit and sadly some has been left to dry on the bush. Probably it will self seed and I'll be overrun with chillies soon, which won't be a bad thing I'm sure!

Coriander shoots from seeds I'd saved from a particularly tasty plant have come up. They're looking lovely and healthy, and I've been sure to plant these far enough from the fence that they're definitely out of the chicken's reach. I love coriander on everything so I'll be pleased to have a source of it close by and on demand.

My eggplants continue to flower away. They're such lovely little flowers. I haven't had much fruit from the plants this year; I'm unsure if they're just not loved enough, or perhaps the weather has had a hand in it. I'm hoping these flowers will turn to fruit though, even though the weather is heating up significantly.

I threw a few bok choi seeds that I'd saved from last year's plants into the garden and had quite a few of them take. I snip the leaves as I need them, similar to lettuce, but it seems that something else in the garden is also a fan!

My little rough leaf pineapple plant looks to be sprouting a new pineapple. At the rate they grow, this one might be ready by Christmas. I used to have a lovely collection of pineapple plants, but the chickens got to all but this one, probably because it's tucked safely into a pot. Sometimes, laziness does pay off then (that, and those leaves are deadly and I decided it was happy where it was and I didn't need to unnecessarily cut my hands to shreds for no good reason).

My lime tree is covered in blossoms, new leaf growth, and what I suspect might be scale with those yellow leaves. Of all my citrus, the lime is the happiest, and is the only one that has ever given me any fruit. Perhaps my soil isn't suited for fruit trees in that location, but I remain ever hopeful.

My geranium has lots of little flower buds appearing. The trick will be convincing my children to let them bloom on the plant instead of plucking them at the first hint of colour as they're sure that mama needs flowers all the time.

Still to do:

  • I need to pay some more attention to my compost heap and start preparing my garden beds for the change in season.
  • I have grand plans to move around some of the front garden to make a feature section and tidy up the path. I keep putting it off as it's quite labour intensive and I can't decide exactly how I want it to end up yet though.
  • I have some lovely heirloom tomato seeds I've been gifted so I'll have to start thinking about when and where to plant those beauties.
How does your garden grow lately? Is it confused like mine, or producing as expected? Any tips for getting rid of citrus scale naturally?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

What's in my kitchen, July 2016

I skipped last month's in my kitchen round up. I nearly didn't make this month's either. We have been the house of sick here. With children in daycare, winter does tend to mean that we are all constantly teetering on the edge of illness, but I overbalanced off that edge and fell right into a chest infection. Probably the kids had it too, but they were much peppier than I was. I'm putting it down to the resilience of youth. It really couldn't have come at a worse time either (not that there is ever a good time to be ill). I work in a stream of technology related to payroll and the systems behind them, and the month leading up to the end of financial year is always busy. None the less, I'm on the mend and the work deadlines have eased so the end of financial year celebrations can now begin as well as a few other work milestones that were met simultaneously.

Although there is no central host for this month, here are some highlights from my July kitchen:

In my kitchen is...

Pei Pa Koa. I generally hate using cough syrups, but when it gets to the stage that I'm keeping myself and everyone else awake with my constant hacking, I resort to Pei Pa Koa, which is a herbal syrup that I obtain from my local asian grocer. By all reports it was originally developed by a physician back in the Qing Dynasty. It is taken orally, I usually just use a tablespoon and take it straight, although for my children I mix it into water and have them drink it.

It does contain honey so it is not vegan, but it works and I feel comforted using something that I have used over the years whenever I have been ill. There is something to be said for habits and traditions, which I'm sure contribute as much to a cure as real medicine does as well.

In my kitchen is...

In keeping with my chest infection, I found myself cross, thirsty, hot (perhaps a little fevered) and heaty. Yes, that was deliberate; I do mean hot and heaty as two separate symptoms. Instead of rushing to the doctor at the signs of illness, there are many, I suppose one would call them 'old Chinese wives tales' that can help cure what ails you. Traditional Chinese wisdom uses food as medicine, and the notion of cooling and heatiness relates to a balance of yin and yang within the body. In the Chinese context, barley water is good for cooling internal 'fire'  and calming a sore throat and other heat related issues. Apparently, the English used to serve barley water to the sick and infirm, so perhaps there is something to it all. Regardless, I wanted some, and so I cooked up a batch.

I didn't have the proper Chinese barley on hand, so mine was made with plain old pearl barley and not sweetened at all, although I did doctor the servings depending on my mood. Some were plain. Some were served with Pei Pa Koa mixed in. Some had some lemon and a splash of rum included too (perhaps not very traditional that last one!). I am not a rum drinker, but Mr Fork is and he nearly went into hysterics when he saw which of his precious rums I had chosen to use in my barley toddy (apparently it was a very good one). I have never seen the point of straining all the good barley bits, so I leave mine in when serving.
Pictured in a glorious glass bottle that has it's own little neoprene cover. I was gifted a set of these BBBYO (Beautiful Beaches, BYO) bottles by a dear friend of mine. They are wonderful - I use them for hot and cold drinks and find them one of the nicest reusable bottles I have ever used.

In my kitchen is...

The most amazing rocky road. Made by the Noosa Chocolate Factory in Noosa, Queensland, their rocky road comes in white, milk and dark chocolate varieties. Amazingly, and oddly not well advertised, their dark chocolate version is completely vegan! That's right, ninja vegan rocky road!! So good, it has me walking from one end to the other end of the city regularly to stock up. I've told them that they're missing a prime opportunity to cater to vegan chocoholics by shouting that from the rooftops, but they said that, although the machinery is cleaned in between batches, they do use the same machines for the milk versions as well, so can't 100% guarantee that there aren't trace ingredients.

It's my guilty pleasure. Guilty because, if I eat without restriction, I can quite easily polish off an entire bag in one sitting. Look at it though! I have no idea how they make such delicious marshmallow and jelly without the gelatine, but they've done a spectacular job of it. Many of their dark chocolate items are also vegan, but this one is my favourite.

In my kitchen is...

A gift from my work colleague who, knowing what a chocolate fiend I am, brought me a dark chocolate frog when she was up visiting from Melbourne recently. As she works very closely with me, I suspect that she is also feeling all kinds of relief that it is the end of financial year too. Perhaps a package of celebratory rocky road may need to find it's way to her desk soon.

I love that I have colleagues who love and appreciate me as much as I do them. I have been slowly nibbling away at this dark chocolate (vegan!) frog when I have a hot drink after dinner at night times. Mr Fork and my children all shun dark chocolate, so these treats are pretty much all mine (which means they last for ages and don't just disappear when my back is turned)...

In my kitchen is...

Lovely thick and hearty dahl, made from split peas. I've been making lots of legume meals lately. They're easy to make in bulk, freeze well for the nights I don't feel like cooking, and are so soothing and warm now that winter has settled in and the weather is most decidedly chilly. This particular version included tomato, coriander seeds that I'd dried from the garden, some mustard seeds and a whole bunch of lovely spices which made the house smell gorgeously fragrant. Served over some rice, it was a warming meal and perfect for soothing a sore throat.

There is no official link up for the In My Kitchen this month, so I'm just going to throw it out there to all... what's going on in your kitchen this month?

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Conversations with my toddler

You can see previous conversations I've had here and here.

Ellie has a cold so she's a bit congested at the moment. She leans over right into my face and breathes
E: Mama, can you hear my nose singing?
Me: ... Ellie that's called breathing. And you're actually breathing snot all over me...
E: But mama, it's a song!


In the morning, over breakfast:
E: Mama, I wish you were dead.
Me: That's a terrible thing to say Ellie. Why do you wish that?
E: Don't be silly mama, I'm only pretending. I love you. But I wish you were dead.
Me: ...

After she'd been particularly irritating and picking fights with Jimmy and I:
E: Mama, I'm sorry for being naughty. Even though I'm naughty, you still love me all the time though don't you?
Me: Of course Ellie. I love you even when you're naughty. But I'm proudest when you use your good behaviour.
E: So mama, will you keep me forever? Please?!
Oh toddlers. This stage is just so adorable!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Mama, please look after my bear...

Before we even got pregnant, I'd fallen in love with a friend's baby's Flat Out Bear. It's a bear made from sheepskin and they're so soft and chewable and perfect for little fingers to explore. Mr Fork went out and bought me a big white one which I named Mortimer, and a little one, which he explained would be for our future child.

When Ellie arrived, she was given this bear, and when she was old enough, her daddy told her that story - she just loves her baby bear. They always sleep together, and they're very close. So it was a big deal, when I was packing for a recent Melbourne trip, that Ellie slipped her baby bear into my suitcase, and told me that she was sending her bear along with me so I had something to snuggle with. Of course, she also told me that she would have Mortimer while I was away, thank you very much.

I was appropriately touched. I decided that I would text pictures of baby bear on my work trip back to Mr Fork so that Ellie could see what we were up to. It was a hit! Perhaps my colleagues may never let me live it down that I carried and posed a bear around our office, and I certainly gave the workshop participants something to talk about when I walked in to facilitate and carried a bear up to speak with me... here are a few pictures of what we got up to.

Here we are waiting at the airport.
Posing on the hotel bed, so she knew I was looking after her bear and keeping it company.
What? Oh, just hanging out in the reading chair.
The view from the hotel window in the morning.
Why yes... we do have a swing in our office. I think all offices should have one!
This is the view from our Melbourne office. I'm told it's lovely, except when the F1 car race is on, as it's run quite near, and then it's just noisy and traffic is annoying.
Ellie was quite impressed seeing all that her baby bear got up to and I thought it was a lovely way for her to be involved in my travel, which is otherwise a bit lonely and impersonal. And I got a cute little bear to keep me company. Wins all around!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

What's in my kitchen, May 2016

Finally, it's starting to cool down and really feel like Autumn. The days are still sunny and warm, but evenings and early mornings have that traditional Autumn chill I'm used to. Just in time for Winter to start properly next month! I'm hanging out for porridge in the cold mornings, and all the various toppings I can add to it.

Things have been a bit quiet in my kitchen this past month. I've been stretched thin, with work being extremely busy, and Jimmy and Ellie being particularly attention seeking and needing to be constantly near me, if not touching. I suppose it's a side effect of working harder too as we miss each other when I'm not as available. On top of all that, I picked up a university subject, just for interest's sake, but it's taking up more of my time than I expected, so what with one thing and another, my kitchen and its contents and creations hasn't been photographed as much as usual.

Nonetheless, I do have a few snippets to share.

In my kitchen is...

Mayver's Dark Roasted Crunchy peanut butter. I've already talked about how much I love this brand before but the dark roasted butter is a new addition to the range. The peanuts have been slowly roasted before being crushed and sea salt added. They claim on the label that there are at least 153 peanuts in each jar, which tickles me because I like a bit of quirkiness in my advertising! There is also a smooth version, but if it comes to a choice between smooth or crunchy, I'm crunchy all the way.

I was a bit hesitant about the taste at first, as I didn't see anything special about it, but it's grown on me and now I find it delicious - it's good on home made sourdough, spread over apples and pears, and even dolloped over the top of porridge. I like it so much, I've just bought a second jar (pictured as I didn't want to photographically admit just how clean I'd scraped the last jar...)

In my kitchen is...

A mini pink phalaenopsis orchid. Today is Mother's Day and I woke up to find this orchid on the dining table at breakfast time. It wasn't really a surprise, as I'd seen Ellie and Mr Fork scheming over the flowers while we were grocery shopping, but it's the thought that counts.

I also had breakfast made for me - vegemite and avocado on sourdough toast (I was instructed to make the sourdough in preparation last night) and hot coffee.

I've not had the best luck in the past with orchids, but hopefully this little one is the exception. Ellie told me it's small like her and Jimmy, but it will grow too. She's also asked if she can share and can it live with her in her room.

In my kitchen is...

My latest salad obsession. I started making it because tomatoes are constantly on sale lately so I've always got some, and my garden parsley is out of control so I needed something that would include both of those things. Throw in some lemon juice, fresh garlic and some salt and pepper and this quinoa tabbouleh was created. I find it delicious and filling and it travels very nicely for lunches on work days. It's also good warm or cold, so it's very versatile.

In my kitchen is...

My constant little companion. Jimmy is very different to Ellie - where she is happy to play independently and do her own thing, he just wants to be close to me. He is happiest underfoot and always wants to know what I'm doing and be involved by watching and touching. So, if I'm in the kitchen, he generally is too, poking into all of the cupboards and exploring. He likes to pull everything out, and stack them or make music by banging on everything. If I'm mixing something, he likes to help hold the spoon, and he's always wanting to peer excitedly into the oven or whatever pot is on the stove in the hope that it's something delicious for him to eat.

I don't really mind, unless I'm using the knives or carrying something hot and I forget that he's there and nearly trip. I believe that children learn best by being included and watching, so I don't really want to banish him when he clearly enjoys being there. I have finally taught him that ovens are hot and to stay back when I'm opening it so that's something. Perhaps I have a mini Masterchef in the making!
I am linking this post in with Maureen, the orgasmic chef, host of the monthly In My Kitchen event.

What's in your kitchen this month?


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