Mariachi Madness and the Majestic Cactus

mexicanaAs members of the human race we are constantly searching for new distractions. Art can take you places. Music can lift your soul. A good book can be liberating, capable of opening up a whole new world of possibilities – whether it be a world of magic and the epic struggle between good and evil or merely a world of gratuitous S&M as portrayed in the undisputed masterpiece Fifty Shades of Grey. In a similar manner some foods just transcend their own foody limitations. They have a story to tell, a new world to show us. This soup is one. Imagine, ladies and gentlemen, the edible equivalent to a one night stand with a Mexican millionaire; the setting sun pouring in through the windows (through which you can see the silhouette of a mighty cactus), the smoky taste of tequila on his mustachioed lips. This soup is hot, spicy, luxurious and undoubtedly over much sooner than one would like.

RECIPE: (serves 2)

Soup

  • 250g cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1tbsp tomato paste
  • 1tbsp sugar
  • 1tsp smoked paprika
  • 1tsp cayenne pepper
  • a sprinkling of dried chillies
  • 250ml hot vegetable stock
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Salsa and Croutons

  • 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • handful fresh coriander
  • handful fresh mint
  • a couple of pickled jalapenos
  • squirt of lime juice
  • 2 slices bread, diced
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat your oven to 200’C. Put the cherry tomatoes on a baking tray, drizzle them with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put them in the oven for about 15/20 minutes or until they are splitting and blistering.

Cue a gratuitous and utterly unnecessary close-up of some tomatoes. Your welcome.

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Put them in a food processor with the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, sugar, spices and stock and blend them together until they are smooth and a colour Duluxe would probably term something ridiculous like Terracotta Daydreams. Trust me on the sugar, in really brings out the taste of the tomatoes and the smokiness of the paprika. Pour this into a saucepan and add the rice, letting it cook at a gentle (but tremulously passionate) simmer.

Meanwhile, make the salsa by putting the coriander, mint, jalapenos, lime juice and olive oil in the blender. Pulse until smooth-ish. I call this colour Intense Swamp.

When the rice has absorbed the soup and is cooked but still slightly al dente (this means not rice crispies but not porridge either, a happy medium) make the croutons. Heat some olive oil in a small frying pan and add the bread. Season with salt and pepper and turn until they are golden-brown and crunchy. Take them off the heat and then add the grated cheese, allowing it to melt all over them in a sensuous manner.

Pour the soup into bowls and swirl over the salsa and top with the croutons. This soup is genuinely the dogs bollocks. The spicy, acidic salsa cuts through the smoky, sweetness of the soup. Intense flavour bomb. It would also really, really work with tortillas instead of croutons. Put some tortillas topped with the grated cheese under the grill. When the cheese is melted and bubbling put them on the soup and your ready to go…

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The Trials and Tribulations of Man-Flu

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So the boyfriend woke up this morning sniffly and complaining and brutally aware of his own tenuous mortality. I really should have seen it coming this last week. All the symptoms were there: scrumpled tissues apparently self-generating in random places about his person, walking around the house in dressing-gown and slippers looking confused and hard-done by and generally acting like an old man who’s forgotten where he’s put his trousers. I should have known. Man Flu has descended.

Once again there is only one answer: Soup. On a day like today a knife and a fork is evidently out of the question. In fact, even the most basic forms of cutlery and crockery are ill-advisable in the face of chronic man flu. I intend to give this to him in a mug alone and then leave him in bed gently groaning to himself.

This recipe is a tribute to the many lunch-dates me and my friend used to have in Scotland in a little coffee place that did the best soup and sandwich combos in the world. It seems rather fitting on a day like today where the temperature would be better suited to Aberdeen than Australia. But not to worry – this soup is as thick and comfortable as a woolly jumper and a cuddle.

RECIPE: (serves 2)

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 large sweet potato (about 400g), roughly diced
  • 1 red chilli, chopped
  • 1tbsp curry powder
  • 1tsp turmeric
  • 1tsp ground coriander
  • squirt of lemon juice
  • olive oil
  • 500ml hot vegetable stock
  • fresh coriander (optional)

Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the onions, garlic and chilli and sweat on a medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the spices and mix until it smells totally luscious and the onions are nice and soft.

Add the sweet potato and stir until it is coated in all of that yumminess and then add the vegetable stock. Bring to the boil and leave it to bubble away for about 10 minutes, or until the sweet potato has gone all smooshy. Add a squirt of lemon juice and take off the heat.

Pour it carefully into a food processor and mush it all up, put it back in the saucepan and add pepper to taste. This makes a fabulously thick soup. If you like your soup a little thinner and more catwalk-model-y OR if your boyfriend is so ill that even vigorous swallowing is beyond him then you can add a teensy bit more water (and provide him with a straw).

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Garnish with some fresh coriander for that restaurant-y, impress your friends-y look. I promise you it is so yummy and creamy and satisfying that it can cure almost any ailment. Obviously apart from man flu, which is widely accepted to be terminal.

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I am the (angry) Soup Dragon

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So it just so happens that Good Friday was promptly followed by Bad Saturday.

For those of you who don’t already know, I currently share my life with these guys:

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Llamas. They are the most fantastic, individual, crazy creatures you’ll ever meet. Unfortunately, like most sentient beings, this doesn’t stop them from sometimes being utter dickheads. Today, they managed to break into the next door paddock and are now merrily chewing through the tree-leaves like there is no tomorrow and looking infuriatingly happy with themselves. The boyfriend is at work but managed to give me the oh-so-helpful advice of “Just Do Your Best”. What is that even supposed to mean?! It doesn’t help that llamas are pretty smart. You can’t just run at them, waving your arms and yelling – they just look at you as if to say “you look like a right prick, mate” and carry on.

So here it is, after many failed attempts of llama-baiting, llama-pleading and llama-blackmailing, my solution: Soup. There can only be one answer to a day like today and this is it. It’s easy, fast and tastes amazing, even if you are seasoning it with salty tears of disappointment and frustration.

RECIPE: (serves 2)

  • 2tbsps olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 medium potato, diced
  • 1 fresh chilli, finely chopped
  • 300g sweetcorn, frozen
  • 500ml hot vegetable stock
  • 270ml light coconut milk
  • 1tsp cumin
  • 1tsp ground coriander
  • 1tsp garam masala
  • Juice 1/2 lemon

Heat the oil in a saucepan on a medium heat and add the onion, garlic, potato and chilli, stirring constantly for about 5 mins or until the onion has softened. Add the spices and carry on stirring for another minute until it is really fragrant.

Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil until the potatoes are soft. Then add the sweetcorn and allow to simmer gently for about 5 minutes.

Take it off the heat and allow it to cool for a couple of minutes before putting it in a food processor and whizzing until smooth. Pour it back into the saucepan and add the coconut milk and lemon juice – it’s best to do this while the soup is off the heat because coconut milk is prone to splitting. Your soup will still taste good but it will look like sick which many people find vaguely off-putting for some reason.

Put it back on a gentle heat and add a couple of handfuls of frozen sweetcorn for texture and some salt and pepper to taste.

This soup has the added benefit of being both gluten and lactose free and, as I just made it up, at least today hasn’t been a total dead loss.

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There you have it. Pure comfort in a bowl. Now if you’ll excuse me I have some llamas to rescue.

P.S. If you are gluten intolerant, please check that your veg stock and your spices are GF friendly 🙂

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