Thursday, July 25, 2013

Soup series, 10: Meredith Costain's pumpkin soup with Asian flavours

Years ago I worked near a café that made the most wonderful lunches. There was no set menu – just vats of whatever the chef felt like making that day. One of the regular offerings was a silky pumpkin soup with ‘Asian flavours’. I invented my own version of it. It must be okay, because every time I serve it to guests, they always ask me for the recipe


1 large butternut pumpkin
1/2 kumara (orange sweet potato) or extra pumpkin
1 large onion, chopped
1 large very ripe tomato
chicken or vegetable stock (Massel or Vegeta are good commercial brands)
1 tablespoon Red Thai curry paste (Mae Ploy brand is best)
pinch cumin
1/2 tin coconut milk
bunch of coriander

1 Peel the pumpkin and kumara and chop into chunks.
2 Place into a large stock pot with the chopped onion.
3 Add enough stock to cover the vegetables.
4 Bring to the boil. Turn down heat and stir in the Thai red curry paste.
5 Cut a cross in the top of the tomato and add to the stock for a couple of minutes. Remove tomato and peel off skin, chop roughly and return to the pot.
6 Simmer for 40 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
7 Blend soup till thick. (A stick blender is best for this as it can be done while the soup is still in the pot). If your soup looks too ‘watery’, reduce this by simmering until some of the liquid evaporates.
8 Add the coconut milk and cumin and put the pot back on the stove over a low heat for a few minutes.
9 Pour into bowls and garnish generously with coriander.

My latest picture book Daddies are Lovely is out next month from Koala Books/Scholastic, just in time for Father’s Day. With gorgeous pictures of dogs and puppies by Slovenian illustrator Polona Lovsin, it celebrates the special relationship between fathers and their children. Why not let your dad know how much you love him by making him a bowl of pumpkin soup!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Soup series, 9: Gillian Polack's chicken soup and kneidlach(dumplings)

Chicken soup
There are many ways of making this soup. The very best involves a big boiling chicken, some giblets, some feet and the usual vegetables. I can’t get most of these things easily, so I’m giving you the recipe as I made it tonight. The quantities are large, but it freezes perfectly and is good to steam rice in (then I add coriander and chilli and other things and call it rice porridge) and somehow none goes to waste. Vegetables and meat can be eaten with the soup, or it can be eaten (as pictured) as a simple broth.
2 kg chicken frames
1 big handful chicken giblets
1 big handful chicken necks
2 big onions (peeled but not chopped)
1 big parsnip (cut into half or quarters)
Celery tops (the leafier the celery the better)
3 carrots (halved)
Much water

Put the chicken in your biggest pot. Add enough water to cover. Bring this to a boil and simmer for at least 8 hours with the lid off the pot. If more water needs adding (this depends on the size of your pot) just add more. Make sure that nothing sticks to the bottom (stir from time to time). Let it sit overnight. Skim.
Reheat and add the onion. After an hour or so, add carrot and parsnip. After another hour, add celery and season. Let it cook until it’s satisfactorily golden and tasty, skimming or stirring as necessary and adding water as necessary.

Kneidlach (dumplings)
2 medium eggs
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons oil or fat (preferably chicken fat rendered with onion, but olive oil is healthier)
Salt (to taste)
Pepper (to taste)
1 cup coarse matzah meal
Sometimes I add a bit of cinnamon, or some almond meal, or some finely chopped celery.
Mix liquid ingredients first. Add everything else and mix well. Let sit for 2 hours. Form into balls (walnut size).
Bring a big pot of salted water to the boil. Add balls (do not crowd the pot) and cook them for 20 minutes.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Soup series, 8: Sue Bursztynski's favourite winter soup

I have a full time day job. Winter and summer alike, I'm up at six and out of the door soon after. My writing has to be fitted in around that, and all my books have been written and edited at night, sometimes till two in the morning, then up again for work at six. I don't have time or energy to do elaborate meals, not if I'm to get stuck into the writing after dinner. So my philosophy has always been to get the maximum result for the minimum of effort.

I don't have a lovely garden, only a balcony with unkillable green plants on it - my few efforts to grow herbs have been huge flops; because of this, I buy everything at a greengrocer or supermarket on the way home.

In the cold of winter, with the wind howling outside and the rain pouring down, I love to cook a thick soup to eat with hot buttered toast. Sometimes, if I'm out of bread, I make pan-fried flat bread, which takes about ten minutes and tastes wonderful.

This soup is one I created myself. It includes potatoes, onion, mushrooms and, believe it or not, spices. It's not a spicy soup, though - the spices are ground cumin, coriander and turmeric. Turmeric, especially, goes very well with potatoes, something I discovered by experiment. I don't cook with salt, but you're welcome to add it to your own taste and a little black pepper is also nice.

The recipe makes two bowls of soup, one for tonight, one for lunch at work next day, when it tastes even nicer than the first night.

Potato, Mushroom and Onion Soup

2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
Handful of mushrooms, chopped
Ground cumin, coriander and turmeric
500-750 ml boiling water

In a saucepan, fry a large finely chopped onion in a little olive oil. Add the mushrooms, then the potatoes. Throw in the spices and turn everything over so that it's well coated. Pour the boiling water from your kettle and stir. Leave to simmer till the potatoes are tender, then mash them and stir - this thickens the soup. Simmer some more till satisfied. It should take an hour or less from beginning till end, depending on how you like it, and while it simmers, you can prepare something else, check your email, write the latest chapter,etc.

Serve with hot buttered toast. Yum!

Sue Bursztynski is the author of numerous articles and short stories and ten children's and YA books, the most recent being Crime Time:Australians behaving badly(Ford Street Publishing) and Wolfborn (Woolshed Press, and imprint of Random House Australia). She is a member of the Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine publishing collective, for which she is currently editing an issue.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Soup Series, 7: Deborah Gray's Squash and Chestnut Bisque


Thanksgiving in California might not conjure up snow covered streets and parka clad inhabitants, but temperatures can dip and we respond enthusiastically to the change in the weather by lighting fires and creating warming soups.

I love all kinds of soups at any time of the year, but this is a soup that is requested by my husband’s family at Thanksgiving each year and I happily comply, saving it for just that time of the year to make it feel more special. Although there could be nothing easier, it provides an elegant and healthy entrée into the heavy Thanksgiving turkey meal. There are many different variations on this type of recipe, but this is my own twist.
Squash and Chestnut Bisque

1 butternut squash (3lb)
1 small onion
1 cup chopped celery
2 Tbs. olive oil
½ cup chopped cooked chestnuts or canned water chestnuts – I actually entirely substitute ½ cup chopped pecans, because I like the flavour and I usually have those on hand
6 cups fat-skimmed chicken soup
1 cup low-fat milk
½ tsp ground coriander
Freshly ground pepper
Salt (about 1 tspn)

Peel and seed squash, and dice. Peel onion and chop.

Warm oil in a 5 to 6-quart pot over medium-high heat, stir onion and celery until onion is limp and translucent, about 6 minutes. Add ½ cup pecans (or chestnuts) and stir until lightly browned, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Add squash, salt, coriander, pepper and broth. Cover pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until squash mashes easily when pressed, 20 to 25 minutes. Add milk.
In a blender, whirl soup, a portion at a time, until smooth. Return soup to pan, add salt to taste (it will depend on how salty the stock is) and reheat on medium until steaming, but not boiling. Garnish with chopped pecans. About 8 servings.

I can’t help but think of wine pairings with any meal. This one would pair well with a number of crisp whites with good minerality, such as Viognier, white Burgundy, Pinot Blanc, dry Riesling, or even Verdelho.