Our youngest son went from eating all manner of pureed vegetables when he was an infant, to almost a complete aversion to them when he became a child. It’s only recently that we’re seeing a gradual shift in his mind state when it comes to the consumption of vegetables. There’s not quite a sense of joy just yet, as he takes a mouthful, but we’re getting there… it’s a start! Continue reading
Yesterday afternoon I spent a very pleasant hour or so sorting (and at long last, filing!) an ever-growing pile of recipes that have been ripped out of cooking magazines over the years. Often there are only a few recipes inside that truly appeal, so with each move we’ve made around the country or world, I’ve found it difficult to justify the continual packing and unpacking of so many magazines… plus I’m loathe to stack them onto our bookshelves, which quite honestly deserve a finer quality of literature. For the most part though they are all recipes that I would still like to try out at some stage in the future and finally having them in some sort of order will make this much more achievable. Continue reading
There was a monster in my garden! My stomach turned as I contemplated how to get rid of him. Should I slash at him ruthlessly, cutting him off from his life-supply? Should I preserve and bottle him like a specimen in the museum? Or should I leave him in situ in the interests of science to see how truly monstrous he could actually become? I had turned my back for a week or two and he had swelled and distended himself to become the zucchini magnificent that he is today. Continue reading
A few weeks ago when my children and I were unwell, I went searching for the ultimate in health-promoting, comforting and most importantly… delicious-tasting soups. It was a given that it had to be based around chicken, but when I came across this rather lovely recipe featuring leeks, garlic, lemon and a little pasta, I knew that I’d found exactly what I was looking for! It is a recipe that I’ve adapted (ever so slightly) from one of my favourite Neil Perry cookbooks, called ‘The Food I Love’.
I’m absolutely kicking myself that I didn’t discover this soup years ago… all those years that have passed when we could have been indulging and restoring ourselves through the colder months of the year. Therefore, starting immediately is our belated, but now completely embraced tradition of chicken soup to warm the body and soul.
Chicken & Orzo Soup | Gather and Graze
- 300g Free-Range Chicken Breast(s)
- 8 Peppercorns/1 Star Anise/1 Bay Leaf
- 100g Orzo/Risoni Pasta (or any other small pasta shape)
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 2 Leeks (washed and sliced finely)
- 2 Cloves Garlic (finely chopped)
- 1 Litre Good Quality Chicken Stock
- Zest and Juice of 1 Lemon
- Sea Salt and Black Pepper
- Finely Grated Parmesan Cheese to serve (optional)
- A Handful of Chopped Flat-Leaf Parsley (optional)
- Recipe slightly adapted from Neil Perry’s ‘The Food I Love’ cookbook
The first two steps of this recipe can be done well ahead of time if you like and then placed in the fridge until you’re ready to start cooking the leeks/garlic.
Fill a medium-sized saucepan with water and add the peppercorns, star anise, bay leaf (or any other herbs, spices or aromatics that you desire). Bring to the boil and then turn off the heat completely. Place your chicken breast(s) into the pot with the poaching liquid and leave for about 2 hours. Remove to a bowl to cool, before shredding.
While the chicken is poaching, place a small saucepan filled with water on the stove and once again, bring to a rolling boil. Add some sea salt and then the orzo pasta, giving a quick stir to make sure none is stuck together and then cook until al dente (tender, but with a slight bite). When ready, drain the orzo and rinse gently with cold water. Set aside for later.
About half an hour before you want to serve dinner, place a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, along with the chopped leeks, garlic and a little sea salt. Allow to sweat for about 10 minutes or so, until the leek has softened. Then add the chicken stock, lemon zest and juice (depending on the size and type of lemon, you may wish to add half of the juice at first and then taste to see if more is required) and simmer for another 10 minutes.
At this point it’s up to you to decide whether to puree the soup or not. With one of my children averse to the sight of cooked vegetables in any soups or stews, I decided that a couple of minutes of whizzing the soup with a stick blender was the only way that he might enjoy it. It worked!
Now add the shredded chicken and orzo into the soup and stir gently to combine. When the chicken and orzo are warmed through, the soup is ready to serve.
This soup is lovely as it is, or perfect with some finely-grated parmesan cheese and some chopped flat-leaf parsley scattered on top… with some crusty bread on the side too!
With somewhat ulterior motives, I began not so long ago, to trace some of our family history. Knowing that predominantly my ancestry winds it’s way back to English and German origins, I was actually secretly hoping to uncover that gem of a find that I had a drop or two of Italian blood coursing through my veins. Not just because so much of the country is jaw-droppingly picturesque and packed full of history and culture, or that the deliciousness of their food and wine leaves me so constantly in awe… but mostly because I would love dearly to have grown up with an Italian Nonna in my life. Complete with her opinionated wisdom on all facets of life and her deep sense of family and love to knit everyone together. Countless stories she would have told of people and places from her past long ago and while she was telling these stories her hands would be busy kneading dough, rolling pasta, or stirring a pot of the most aromatic ragu ever to grace a cucina. The sights and sounds and smells would have seeped into my very being, guiding me and staying with me right the way through life.
Alas, I found nothing surprising except an English convict or two to colour my family tree, so I’ll leave you with something of an aromatic recipe which unfortunately comes not from my Nonna, but with love and essence of Italy all the same. Salute!
Brodetto | Italian Seafood Soup
- 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 Small Onion (chopped)
- 2 Cloves Garlic (crushed)
- 1/3 Cup Flat Leaf Parsley (chopped)
- Pinch of Crushed Dried Red Chillies
- 1 Small Red Capsicum/Sweet Pepper (diced)
- 1 Medium Fresh Fennel Bulb (trimmed and diced)
- 400g Tin Chopped Tomatoes
- 1-2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
- ½ cup Dry White Wine
- 500mls Fish or Vegetable Stock
- Sea Salt and Black Pepper
- 400g Boneless White Fish Fillets (cut into bite-size chunks)
- 12 Raw Prawns (shelled and deveined)
- 1 Calamari/Squid Hood (cleaned, hard quill removed and thinly sliced into rings)
- Zest of 1 Lemon
- Handful of Fresh Basil (or Flat-Leaf Parsley) Leaves (chopped into thin ribbons)
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over low/medium heat. Add the onions (with a good pinch of salt) and fry gently for about 8-10 minutes until softened. Next, stir in the garlic, parsley, dried chilli, capsicum and fennel, continuing to fry gently for 5 minutes or so. Pour in the tinned tomatoes and tomato paste and continue to cook another 10 minutes. Pour in both the wine and stock, bring to the boil and then reduce heat to simmer for another 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper while the soup is simmering. Add the fish pieces and partially cover the saucepan with a lid, simmer for about 4-5 minutes, before adding the prawns for a further 3-4 minutes until cooked. The calamari rings should go in for the final minute or so of cooking.
Top with lemon zest and basil and serve immediately. Absolutely perfect with a loaf of fresh, crusty bread on the side.
Notes on Cooking:
- Feel free to use boiling water instead of the wine and stock, though be sure to check the seasoning, as more salt and pepper will most likely be required to balance the dish.
- This soup is beautiful with all manner of seafood added to it – try adding some cleaned mussels, clams or scallops. Be thoughtful of the required cooking times for each…
- My thanks to a dearly-loved friend in New Zealand who first introduced me to this soup – her recipe has been altered somewhat over the years, yet still makes me think of her each time I cook it… xx