I only started using pesto after marriage and used to buy ready made jars. It was a convenient thing to do, as at the time I was on an interior design course on Tuesday evenings, so that was a pasta day 🙂 . It used to be a chore to find the vegetarian version of this classic Italian dish. Then about three or four years back I had bought a basil plant for the kitchen window sill and it had produces so many basil leaves, so I thought I should venture into making my own pesto. It was successful and so simple to make that I decided I would buy a basil plant each Spring and make my own pesto.
From looking at various TV chefs and other recipes, as well as a friend (who lives in Italy) telling me that I do not need to add cheese or pine nuts (as they are so expensive), just normal salted nuts are fine – I started making my own version as below. To make it more creamy I sometimes use almond, cashew, and pistachios nuts powder.
There are many uses for pesto, not only as a pasta sauce but also as a dressing for salads, for adding flavour to soups, a spread for sandwiches and roasted mushroom or eggplant. You can also create many different versions like I did by adding the sun-dried tomatoes. Other herbs and vegetables can also be added to give it an extra added flavour.
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Leeks! Why did I not try these before now? It is the question I asked myself when I bought them and made this soup the first time last month. They are visually amazing with wonderful layers and colours, so fresh and vibrant, just like the colours of new life coming up in Spring. Then there is the taste, subtle yet very distinct. Coming from the onion family it has a very delicate onion taste. I decided to use leeks to make a soup just to try the basic taste, not to mention many recipes I have read include putting leeks in soups and stews.
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If you look at the complete menu for a Chinese meal in our house, then you see sweetcorn soup, spring rolls, and stir fry with either rice or noodles. This was also the standard order when ever we used to go out to eat in Malawi. That used to be the set menu we would get, probably because that was all the vegetarian option that was available. I remember how we used to keep on adding more pepper to the soup because that is what our father did, and then as we got older adding the garnish also just like he did. The chilli in the vinegar gives it an added flavour and depth to the taste especially if you like the slightly tangy and spicy flavours. Just simple tastes and natural flavours, this is what you get from this soup, not to mention the health benefits of the key ingredient itself. Sweet corn is rich in vitamin A & C and folate and magnesium. Cooked sweet corn is said to become rich in antioxidants and believed to help fight cancer and heart disease, however you loose the vitamin C.
I don’t know why I don’t make it with out having the other Chinese dishes, as it is such a quick simple recipe and can be eaten with bread or rice crackers. Oh well will have to try and remember next time I am looking for a healthy filling snack 🙂
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I had a version of this soup at a friends house, when I was pregnant, it was so tasty and different to what I normally make, i.e. plain tomato or with pasta & vegetables (carrot, sweet potato, butternut squash etc.) In the past I have tried cauliflower soup and found it to be very bland, however the way that this has other vegetables and multi grains gives it a good depth of textures and added flavours. So you guessed it, as always I recreated it at home. My friend used the shop bought multi grain mix, however I made my own mix at home from the individual grains. You can put what ever vegetables you have – it does not have to be what I have used.
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Until recently I did not like sweet potatoes very much, I guess it was due to the variety that I used to have but now we regularly eat the orange fleshed variety. This is quite quick and easy to cook, and despite its naturally sweet taste works well with strong savoury flavours. This particular variety is said to be rich in antioxidants vitamin C and beta carotene, which can help to enhance memory, so it is a good food to give to growing children. When my son started weaning I had got a few books from the library which helped give me ideas of what kind of food to give him. Certain foods are very common to give to children when they are at this stage. Foods rich in carbohydrates are very common but rather than the normal basic potatoes, I increasingly started using sweet potatoes because, as mentioned above, they are good for us. I used to just boil and mash them and then slowly I started adding salt, pepper, lemon juice, ghee (clarified butter), olive oil, rosemary and lightly sautéing them giving a very good added nutty and slightly caramelised flavour.
For quite some time now I have seen many recipes for sweet potato soups, but never actually got around to trying any of them however yesterday I thought I would give one of them a go. I had to change the recipe that I choose as I did not have all of the ingredients but it turned out to be a sweet and subtly spicy flavourful soup, not to mention satisfyingly filling. It is very quick and easy to make and I think it is a good meal to have if you are trying to be healthy or wish to eat a light meal. I would say in the current cold weather it certainly warms you up. As I was making it I came up with a few ideas of how to make it different, for example by simply adding red Thai curry paste and soy sauce, it could be turned into an oriental soup.
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I came across this recipe from a supermarket magazine. It looked great and I always wanted to try and make dumplings. I adapted the recipe and changed the vegetables to what I would normally keep or vegetables I use for roasting during autumn/winter. If you do not want everything to be the same colour then just remove the beetroot. You can also add a can of beans (of your choice) or a lentil & grain mix, this makes it more wholesome.
I am glad I tried the recipe as it has been a hit with everyone who has tried it. This recipe is a very good warm and comforting food, especially when the weather starts to get colder. Serve it with some bread rolls or garlic bread. I hope that you enjoy this recipe as much as I do. Give it a go, it is the correct season for it 🙂
Continue reading “Root vegetable & mushroom stew with cheese dumplings”