Category Archives: Soups

Mean green

What garlic is to food, insanity is to art.
~ Augustus Saint-Gaudens

I added two cloves of raw garlic to the green stuff you see in the photo. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was enough to make the soup yelping-ly spicy. And, oddly, even nice.

Like wasabi, the sting is not the lingering sort (i.e. the curry / chilli sort), and is – if you can just dismiss the false thought that says you’re dying – possibly even great.

It’s the sort of spicy that wakes your mind up to the things that matter, right here, right now.

And that… is always good.


The soup also held notes of salt, pepper and basil pesto. Base – just steamed or boiled broccoli (estimate half a head of it per person, I used boiled broccoli today), and a dribble of water. And the garlic was blended with the rest of it, to cut out nasty surprises in the form of tangible pieces of raw garlic being caught in teeth. It’s a loose recipe, one that changes every time – and the originator of the whole Blended Green Stuff thing is my friend Matt, who would possibly prefer to be known as The Genius.

As for the bread, refer to this post.



Soup of the evening, beautiful…
~ Lewis Carroll

This is not the prettiest thing that you ever did see, but it was just what I needed this evening.

Love how soup is so agreeable! You just fry some sliced onions until the aroma takes over your nose, then chuck in vegetables you have on hand, herbs, cold water, some stock powder (if you are lazy like I was today!) and basically adjust what you need to to make it taste good until you are happy with it – no measurements or special powers needed. Bring to a boil, then simmmmmmeeeerrr for around 30 minutes (time will vary depending on how large your veg wedges are, and how soft you want everything to be).

Tonight, my soup contained two onions, a few glugs of water, some stock, two carrots, two celery stalks, one Agria potato, two onions, a wedge of suede, some parsnip, black pepper, cannellini beans, a forlorn fennel frond + bulb, a shower of fresh rosemary leaves – stripped from their stems. Made four servings.

What do you put in your soup?

Nigel’s soup, and other stories

Good manners: the noise you don’t make when you’re eating soup.
~ Bennett Cerf

If I kept a food diary, I would have documented a pretty colourful week. A slice of sweet-as-hell “Anzac cake” (from a bustling cafe); perfectly toasted croissants with melting cheese and salty ham; chocolates scooped from a basket; salmon, cream cheese & alfalfa artfully arranged on mini pikelets; rolls stuffed generously with smoked chicken and glistening salad and smeared with sundried tomato paste; crispy spinach samosas; a bag of perfumed feijoas (a gift); chocolate and caramel slice cut into pretty scalene triangles……

Now, before you think I’m whipping all these things up in my humble kitchen, I am not. Food has just been raining down on me for some reason. Fruit was dropped off at my front door, chocolate was left on my desk at work, coffee was delivered to me with a smile. Seriously. And I had a work lunch and a workshop/networking lunch in the last two days – not a usual occurrence – and we were totally spoilt by corporate chefs/caterers.


Along with all of this food, I’ve been reading a book I found in the library – “Climbing the Mango Trees” by Madhur Jaffrey – a story about her childhood in India, complete with lovely descriptions of what she ate growing up. An edible book!

Since food has been spilling into my life this week, I haven’t had much need or want to cook.

I have cooked two things this week though:

a slightly modified (to suit what I already had) version of Nigel Slater’s pumpkin, tomato & cannellini soup (pictured above) – I made what looked like a small pot of it, but the soup seemed to last forever… warm and sweet and tangy and perfect on the two rainy afternoons and one cool night when I had it (this soup is great for keeping in the fridge/reheating in the microwave – yay!)…

and an experiment composed of end-of-week fridge and pantry remnants – pasta with parmesan shavings and a sauce of butter, brown sugar, garlic, leek rings, cannellini beans, rosemary, lemon, a tiny trickle of soy sauce and milk which turned slightly frothy as the sauce began to roll into a gentle boil on the too-hot (unstoppable) electric stove.

… Side note: definitely falling in like with cannellini beans these days.

Time to sleep – good night and have a great weekend, everyone!

Shéhérazade, Fès, Morocco

I went travelling from 18 Nov – 18 Dec. I’m now blogging about some of the places I went to… posts are not written in chronological order.

To be honest, I didn’t immediately like Morocco. When we got off the ferry, I missed Spain immediately, and a public toilet we used made my heart beat so fast I thought it might fall out. So it is that by nightfall on 23 November, I had started to prepare myself for a less than splendid dinner. I know this is totally rude and unfair, but it’s the truth. This was especially the case because the tour bus let us off a short distance away from the restaurant, and the alleyways we walked past were deserted and appetite-killing (to a pessimistic me, anyway)…

So it is that I was completely shocked and delighted by the dinner we did have at the end of our little walk. Actually, I felt a little teary-eyed.

It was, in short, magical.

This place was beautiful. I remember standing in one spot and rotating, slowly, drinking in the details – willowy trees, soft music, dim lights, pretty tables and chairs. The owner of the place and the waiters stood attentively, smilingly, ready to offer us either the room upstairs or the patio… of course we chose the patio. The weather and sky were perfect. All of us were gasping and exclaiming. I think they must get this a lot, for they just beamed patiently.

We started with some herb-infused bread and a spiced, flavourful harira (squeezed tomato soup). Few of us could resist a double helping of this… it tasted of herbs, spices and something less tangible – something I could only describe as carefully crafted to coat the tongue with pleasure.

For the main – a tagine of saffron chicken with tangy lemon and olives. The chicken was gently tender, nicely complemented by the olives and lemon – at once sweet and sour, but in subtle amounts. Again, my tongue could only smile without knowing how to describe what it was tasting. The whole time, we enjoyed glasses of good red wine.

Finally, we had something akin to crispy thin pancakes with milk, nutmeg, honey and cinnamon, topped with what I have just realised was pomegranate. Really, really nice. Freshly made, with a great texture and combination of sweetness and spice.

At the end of our meal, we were offered mint tea avec ou sans sucre… I love this refreshing minty drink without sugar. It slips down your throat like a warm sherbet of ice!

It hardly needs to be said, but this was what I needed to change my mind about Morocco – and glad I am that we had this dinner, for I was in superb spirits the next day – enough to really enjoy the Medina in Fes. :-)

Shéhérazade – 23, Arsat Bennis Douh Fès Médina, Maroc – Phone: +212 535 74 16 42

Potage parmentier; cocktaile; croissant

It’s true you can’t live here by chance,
you have to do and be, not simply watch
or even describe. This is the city of action,
the world headquarters of the verb –
~ Lauris Edmond, quote inscribed on a plaque at Civic Square, Wellington, New Zealand

I didn’t mean to cook potage parmentier tonight. I had marched in to New World with Nish after we’d had a quick lunch in between work, picking up ingredients for an intended dinner attempt of ratatouille. Sometime between bagging the eggplants and tomatoes, I realised how much it would all cost (and let out an involuntary gasp). So much for knowing what’s in season and getting that – I have tons to learn yet!

I returned the royally-priced vegetables to their respective bins, then bagged leeks, potatoes, garlic – and later googled Julia Child’s recipe for potage parmentier.

If I was stressed at work and tired on the way home, I forgot about it when I hobbled into my flat, washed my hands and got to work. Essentially, I used Julia Child’s recipe except I measured out my ingredients by visual approximation, used hot water at the start, added in fried diced onion and chopped garlic, and added diced carrot. I even followed her instructions to mash the vegetables with a fork at the end – it felt like the right thing to do…

I have to admit it did not smell wonderful whilst it was cooking (the leeks are to blame for this), and was not very pretty at the end (though this is probably more my fault than Julia Child’s!) – Matt needed plenty of gentle persuasion to let it into his mouth; but hey, the taste, I think, made up for it. The soup itself – just onions, garlic, leeks, potatoes, water, salt, a dribble of cream, a sprig of parsley – takes a little time as most good things do, but it is wonderfully simple and satisfying. We had a generous serving of soup each, with crusty baguette slices.

A quiet evening with my 2 other flatmates out; Matt cleaned the house and we went grocery shopping after dinner, and then… I was in for a pleasant surprise at home – dessert! Matt prepared calypso coffee and croissants with banana & jam – delicious! I learned the method of pouring cream on to the back of a spoon to keep the cream in a neat little layer at the top of the glass too (see above).

We are now flopped on the couch like dehydrated frogs, I am just listening to Norah Jones and feeling very sleepy…

PS. Today, I tried bread with peanut butter & maple syrup for fun – well, I really tried this because (true story) – I was too lazy to take jam out from the fridge. Experiment paid off though, I feel; it was quite nice!

Time for a shower. Ciao!


Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius.
~ Pietro Aretino

Did you think I’d given up cooking through “Falling Cloudberries”? I was afraid I had too. However, it isn’t December yet, so I guess I’m not allowed to give up!

Tonight, I decided to try my hand at making this Greek dish from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries” to warm us up…
#56 Avgolemono (Chicken Soup with Egg & Lemon) – Page 82

I tripled the amount of carrot and celery used in this broth, and absolutely loved inhaling the aroma of this while it simmered slowly on the stove. No butter, no oil, just sweet veges, flavourful parsley, piquant peppercorns and – of course – a grand free range chicken.

Tessa Kiros’s recipe for this yielded 4 generous servings of sweet, comforting broth with a refreshing twist of lemon, creaminess from the egg and a smattering of rice to provide texture. We had the chicken (tender and still sweet) and vegetables on the side. I am so pleased with the result of this!

In other news, we visited La Cigale yesterday where I picked up some yummy turkish delight, and Mandy and I introduced ourselves to the whimsical world of macaroons…. oh, and I also had a lovely chicken liver parfait brioche, which made for a tasty breakfast. I kicked myself for not having my camera with me as we watched a man sifting almond sugar on to his tray of croissants, people surveying the spread of fresh organic vegetables, a grumpy woman selling jam…

A sort of “tong sui”

It’s nice to eat a good hunk of beef but you want a light dessert, too.
~ Arthur Fiedler

Long before I fully awoke to the pleasures of raspberry brownies, crème brûlée and affogatos, I ate a variety of tong sui for dessert. Tong sui, literally translated as “sugar water”, is an inclusive term for sweet, warm soups or custards served as dessert in Cantonese cuisine. I still think Hong Kong is the best place to go for this, though I noticed many places selling this in Singapore on my last visit there too.

Supposedly, they are meant to help moderate your body temperature, cooling your body in summer and warding off chills in winter.

You can google “tong sui” for more comprehensive photos and descriptions of it, but common tong sui include a deep, rich black sesame paste, dou-hua (a satin-smooth tofu pudding), red bean soup, steamed milk custard, gui-ling-gao (I really don’t know what this is, but it’s a black jelly with a unique taste – probably not the thing to launch your tong sui experience)… all of these, I feel, are perfect when you don’t want something too sweet, heavy or rich (as decadent desserts in the Western world often are).

This morning, I awoke to the sound of heavy rain and decided to try making a simplified, impromptu version of something akin to a sweet potato and ginger variation of “tong sui” (hopefully not too far off from the real thing!)

    3 pandan leaves*
    1 small kumara/sweet potato
    Small knob of ginger
    2 tbsp light brown sugar**
    * or dried red dates, unsure of quantity
    ** or brown sugar slabs or rock sugar, unsure of quantity
    Method to my madness:
    In a small saucepan, bring water to the boil.
    Meanwhile, peel the ginger knob and kumara. Slice ginger, and chop kumara into bite-sized pieces. Wash and tie the pandan leaves into a knot.
    Add the ginger, kumara and pandan to the boiling water – leaving enough water to just cover the surface of the ingredients (approximately 1 cup?). Add in the sugar. Stir gently.
    Cook for 10-15 minutes, until kumara is soft. Discard pandan knot, and pour enough of the soup into a small bowl. This can be consumed hot or cold, I am having mine hot today as it is a cold rainy morning!
    Yields 1 serving.