Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Year-Round Creamy Tomato Soup

Temperatures and leaves both start to drop, days are shorter and nights cooler. All of these are the first signs that Summer is over and it's time for a new season, but for me the arrival of Autumn and Fall is all also the welcoming start of Soup Season. Don't get me wrong there are the occasional times in the Summer when I will want a bowl of soup but they are generally light soups saved for cooler days. Autumn however, marks the start of piping hot bowls of really comforting, homemade soup that will warm you up and satisfy you in an instant.

Tomato Soup may seem more of a Summer Soup but for me it really is a year-round soup to enjoy. When I was pregnant with my son and finally over my morning (or rather 'all-day' sickness!) Tomato Soup with Cheese Toasties was my staple lunch and I don't know where I would have been without it! In the height of Summer when tomatoes are in abundance I love to use fresh vine-ripened tomatoes such as in my Fresh Tomato Soup recipe, but for the rest of the year it has to be tinned tomatoes. This recipe was taken from the book Pretty Delicious by Candice Kumai (read my review of the book here) and as far as I am concerned is the most fantastic Tomato Soup ever. I make it all the time because not only does it taste fabulous, but it takes no time to make at all and despite it being a 'creamy' tomato soup, there is actually no cream in it so it's healthy too!

I changed a few things in the recipe to suit our tastes but the core of the recipe is courtesy of Candice Kumai. If you like Tomato Soup, try this and I promise you will never buy tinned tomato soup again!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Spicy Tomato & Mozzarella Gnocchi

One of my favourite things about going on holiday is the food you get to enjoy. In my opinion one of the absolutely best ways to experience and understand a country is by trying the food and eating what locals eat. This dish is one I make over and over and is inspired not by a dish I had (unfortunately!), but one my Dad had 4 years ago. We were all in Rome on the last day of our holiday after flying to Italy for my Brother's wedding. I was 27 weeks pregnant and we were spending the day experiencing as much of Rome as we could in the short time we had left. We managed to see most of the magnificent historical sites (beautifully breathtaking) but of course as important as that was so was sampling some delicious Italian food(!), so we stopped off at a lovely little restaurant and sat out on the terrace with awnings protecting us from the bright sun. I chose this simple Gnocchi dish which arrived at the table still bubbling and simmering in the terracotta dish it was baked in. A light, fresh tomato sauce coated each little pillow of potato gnocchi and in amongst it all were small pieces of mozzarella that had formed molten pools of creamy, silken mozzarella goodness!

The dish was light, simple and so flavourful that it really stuck with me, and as I said I have been making my own version ever since. Since I am such a lover of spicy food I couldn't help to add a little touch of fresh chilli to the dish, but you could easily miss that out if you prefer. This to me is classic Italian cooking – simple to make, using good ingredients and absolutely delicious to eat. Buon Appetito!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cookbook Review ~ Homemade Summer by Yvette van Boven

I love it when you get a new book that perhaps you would have maybe overlooked or missed out on. Whenever I manage to go to my favourite book shop ever – Books for Cooks in Notting Hill – I always find such a book, which is the beauty of that shop (and of course any other good book shops!). Homemade Summer by Yvette van Boven is one of those books and this one came courtesy of my Sister-in-law and Brother which they got for me from Books for Cooks as my Birthday present. Having never heard of the book, the author and her other published books (Homemade and Homemade Winter) I was over the moon to get this book and to be introduced to her.

Yvette van Boven is not only an acclaimed cookbook author, but a freelance food stylist, recipe developer and an illustrator (as well as the recipes she also did all of the illustrations for the book!). On top of that she also runs a restaurant and catering service in Amsterdam and spends her time living between Paris and Amsterdam. Talk about a busy lady!

The book is packed with 250 pages of recipes, photographs, drawings and lovely little personal stories. There are 6 chapters in total devoted to recipes including 'Breakfast, Brunch & Lunch', 'Cakes & Sweet Things for Tea Time' and 'Main Courses'.

The Tested Recipes:

Banana Crumble Muffins
Quinoa Patties with Feta, Zucchini and Corn
Yogurt Dip with Mint
Buttery Corn Risotto
Cake with Raspberries, Blueberries and Coconut
Italian Chicken Stew
Grilled Goat Cheese Polenta

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Ultimate Granola

I've had this recipe tucked away for a long time. Stashing it away for another project or at the least a 'reserve' when I hadn't managed to photograph a new recipe. But then it occurred to me that I really should post it (and not just because I have nothing else to post this week!!) because it is incredibly popular in our house and I feel like I am always making up a fresh batch!

When my husband is in town during the week this is his favourite breakfast to have. He can either have a bowl with milk at home before heading to work, or if in a rush he grabs some and takes it with some yogurt to enjoy as soon as he has some time!

The recipe was adapted from one I read in The Meat Free Monday Cookbook but after doing quite a bit of research on Granola recipes, I found that honestly they are all pretty similar, and really it's just about finding a combination that you like then if need be, adapting things slightly. I'm not going to lie, this isn't a cheap version of Granola but in my opinion it is worth every penny! This version really has a little bit of everything in it so it's a big hit in our family and the touch of cinnamon adds a delicious warmth to it. It makes a lot which I like as it lasts a little longer but if you prefer you can easily half the recipe.

Enjoy it with milk, to snack on by itself, or my favourite way – sprinkled over yogurt.

{I like to use cups for this recipe rather than measuring everything out as I find it a lot easier. If you don't have specific measuring cups just find a small mug or coffee cup and use that – the main thing is just to keep the quantities the same once you find your cup of choice!}

Makes approx. 12 cups of Granola

½ cup almonds, roughly chopped
½ cup pecans, roughly chopped
½ cup brazil nuts or other nuts of your choice, roughly chopped
4 cups porridge oats
½ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup pumpkin seeds
½ cup flax seeds
½ cup flaked coconut
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
½ cup grape seed or sunflower oil
½ cup honey or agave syrup
1 cup dried fruit of your choice – I like a combination of sour cherries, goji berries and sweet cranberries but you could add raisins, dried blueberries or dried apricots, chopped up

Preheat the oven to 350F/ 180C and line a large baking sheet (or 2 smaller ones) with baking parchment - trust me, this will help with clean up!

In a large bowl mix together the almonds, pecans, brazil buts, oats, all of the seeds, coconut and the cinnamon. Mix well then add the oil and honey. Stir well so that everything is evenly coated with the oil and honey, mix then transfer to the baking tray (or trays). Spread the granola out evenly over the tray and press down slightly with the back of a large spoon or spatula, then bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, turning half way through cooking so that it gets evenly browned.

Once the granola is golden and crisp, remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes then add the dried fruit. Transfer to an airtight container and enjoy however you like.

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