Food and Recipes

spinach, risoni and lemon soup

philippa-moore-spinach-risoni-lemon-soup

This is one of my most favourite soups of all time. And if you’ve been reading my ramblings for a while, you’ll know how much I love soup and therefore that is not a statement I make lightly!

This soup came into my life like so many good things have - in Melbourne, through a friend. The original recipe had chicken in it and when I used to eat meat, I made the original recipe and it was truly ambrosial. Then when I went vegetarian 12 years ago, I used Quorn in place of the chicken. These days, I am mostly in favour of eating natural, unprocessed stuff as often as possible (I make an exception for Smith’s Salt and Vinegar chips but I digress) so I have ditched the chicken substitute all together for a can of cheap, nutritious beans.

And therefore, the 2019 version of this soup is quite frankly the best ever.

Try and grind cumin seeds fresh if you can - I must confess I only did this when I found myself in a kitchen that only had seeds, not ready-ground cumin! It is such an essential part of the soup and when freshly ground, there is an added magical earthy deliciousness to it. But don’t worry if you can’t or don’t want to, it will be just as tasty! You can also add the liquid from the beans in to the soup, I often do. I find it helps the soup to thicken. But by all means drain them first if you prefer.

This soup makes an elegant and delicious meal for friends and an equally nourishing meal for just yourself. Soup is the ultimate act of self care. Well, in my world it is.

Spinach, risoni and lemon soup

Makes heaps

1 tablespoon olive oil (or you could use cooking spray)
1 leek, thinly sliced or 1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons ground cumin
A splash of dry white wine (optional)
1.5-2 litres vegetable (or “chicken style”) stock
250g risoni (orzo in the UK) or any other short pasta
1 x 400g can cannellini or butter beans
Zest and juice of 1 large or 2 small lemons
250g spinach leaves, washed (and chopped if they are large)
Chopped fresh dill, as much as you like


Heat the oil in a large pan on low heat.  Add the leek/onion and garlic and cook for 3 minutes or until soft.  Add the cumin, saute for 1 minute. Add the wine, then the lemon zest, risoni, beans and stock.

Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for about 10 minutes or until the pasta is cooked. Add the lemon juice, spinach leaves and dill.  Simmer for a few minutes until the spinach is wilted.  Season with salt and pepper (and more lemon juice if you like) and then serve.

I love dill so I am very liberal with the amount I use.  I also sometimes put some stalks in with the broth to cook the pasta in.  If you don't like dill you can use parsley.  You can also add other green vegetables you might need to use up, like celery, zucchini (courgette) or green beans. If you have a heel of stale sourdough or other good bread lying around, you can also put the piece of bread in your bowl first, then ladle the hot soup over the top and leave for a few minutes to grow soft before eating. Divine. And no waste! (my favourite).

Despite being filled with pasta and beans, it's wonderfully light and nourishing.  You can feel it doing you good as you spoon it up. If I have a cold, this soup is all I want to eat.

best-ever chocolate chip cookies

I do understand why people eat raw cookie dough - this stuff is the bomb!

I do understand why people eat raw cookie dough - this stuff is the bomb!

I recently rediscovered these cookies. I hadn’t made them for years - I guessed around 2010 and, thanks to magic of blog archives, it turned out I was right! But the other week, I noticed a few half-empty bags of chocolate chips in my parents’ pantry and my mind travelled back to these cookies, which I first discovered via a now-offline blog in 2005 and which were always my contribution to staff morning teas when I lived and worked in Melbourne. I only had to make and bring them in once to have people clamouring for more. They really are that good.

And you might wonder at the addition of rolled oats - it might seem like the equivalent of having a salad at McDonalds but trust me, they are a non-negotiable part of these cookies. Don’t leave them out!

Everyone loves these cookies. Try them and you’ll see!

Best-ever chocolate chip cookies

2 and 1/4 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt (note: I love salt in sweet things. I up this to 2-3 teaspoons, but that's just me. And I use Maldon sea salt)
1 cup butter (2 sticks/220g)
3/4 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
2 cups chocolate chips (I used a mixture of white and milk for this particular batch as that’s what we had but prefer dark)
1 cup rolled oats

Preheat the oven to 190 C (350 F). Line several baking trays with baking paper.

Put the butter, vanilla and sugars in a bowl and beat until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, until creamy and fluffy.

Add 1 cup of the flour and fold in. Then add the rest of the flour, the baking soda and salt. It will look very thick and you'll think you need to add water or something, but don't! It will all be fine! Keep stirring!

Once all the flour is mixed in, add the oats and choc chips, again a bit at a time. Stir through thoroughly.

Use two teaspoons to spoon the mixture into small dollops on to the baking trays. You'll probably be able to get 12 on a normal baking sheet. Make sure you leave lots of room in between them, as they spread out when baking.

When your trays are all loaded, put them in the oven and bake for 10-11 minutes or until they look golden on top.

Remove from the oven and cool slightly before removing from trays. Then spoon remaining mixture back on to the trays as before, put back in the oven, etc. until all the mixture is gone.

It takes me about 7 trays to use all the mixture.

Depending on the size of your dollops, you can get up to 80 cookies from this - I usually average around 65.

Allow the cookies to cool. You’ll need a will of iron to resist them while they’re warm, but it’s worth it - they’re a bit too soft when warm. When cool and firm, you will have cookie heaven.

Enjoy!

best-ever-chocolate-chip-cookies-2

roast pumpkin and cauliflower curry

I also added tofu and silverbeet from my dad’s garden to this particular version of the curry - which I’d highly recommend!

I also added tofu and silverbeet from my dad’s garden to this particular version of the curry - which I’d highly recommend!

Tasmania had a rather hot summer this year. Compared, at least, to what the summers were like when I last lived here 14 years ago! In fact, it’s now been revealed Australia experienced one of its hottest Januarys on record. Talk about a welcome home!

So you might be surprised to hear that curry remained on dinner rotation throughout the summer season for Tom and I. We eat vegan half the time and a curry, or some variation of it. is a deeply satisfying vegan meal.

I have also become addicted to pumpkin since moving home. In the UK, you could only really get butternut squash in the supermarkets - none of the beautiful Queensland Blues or grey green-skinned Kents that I so loved. Of course the open-air farmers markets had more variety than my local Sainsbury’s but most of the time I couldn’t be bothered schlepping to Portobello Road or Marylebone early on a weekend morning. My elbows needed a rest from the working week commute! So it has been heaven to enjoy pumpkin again more regularly. It’s very cheap here too, and I find a decent piece from the Hill Street Grocer stretches to at least two meals, if not more.

I prefer roasting pumpkin because you can keep the skin on - saves you a horrendous job! - and once roasted it is edible. It goes so beautifully crisp. And it’s so delicious. I have no idea why people would cook pumpkin any other way!

Back to the curry - a great way to make curry in warmer weather is to barbecue or roast vegetables that you’d normally cook in the sauce, and then add them to the sauce (or pour over) just before serving. Thanks to air con I could have the oven on inside and not roast myself, but if you want to avoid having the stove on more than necessary, outdoor grilling of the veg is the way to go.

It’s a pretty basic sauce that I’ve done here, naturally you can use whatever combination of spices you like. I quite like the occasional return to curries that remind me of health-food shops when I was growing up - the milder, garam-masala heavy curries I remember from the late 1990s, trawling through my mother’s cookery books and turning my hand to a few dishes, some of which were complete disasters but many of which my family liked. This was one of them.

Roast pumpkin and cauliflower curry

Makes four good servings, can be stretched to more if served with rice

1 medium cauliflower, cut into florets (including the leaves)
750g (roughly) piece of pumpkin (I mostly use Kent), skin on, chopped into medium chunks
2 teaspoons garam masala
Cooking spray or olive oil
2 teaspoons coconut oil
1 medium brown or red onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 inch sized piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 small red chilli, finely chopped (take out seeds if you want it less hot)
2 teaspoons garam masala
1-2 teaspoons Keen’s Curry Powder
1 x 420g tin chickpeas
1 x 400ml tin coconut cream or milk (I prefer cream as it makes a thicker, more luscious sauce but either is fine)
Handful of spinach leaves (or any greens you like)
Sea salt and lemon juice to taste

* You can use dried chilli flakes if you don’t have fresh chilli. Or both if you want a chilli fest! My family do not have the same enjoyment of heat as I do so I err on the side of caution. On that note, always try a piece of fresh chilli before you add it to your dish. The heat varies! You may end up only needing half of the chilli. Remember, you can always add more - but you can’t take it away!

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Oil or spray a roasting tin. Place your cauliflower and pumpkin pieces in a plastic bag (or a bowl, and just stir to coat) and add the garam masala. Tie up the bag and toss around to coat the pieces in the spice. Empty the bag into the roasting tin, distributing the pieces evenly (you might need two trays). Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked and golden brown.

While the pumpkin and cauliflower are roasting, make your sauce. Heat the coconut oil in a large saute pan (alternatively you could use a Le Creuset cast iron casserole dish). Once melted, add the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli, cook for a few minutes and then add the spices. Stir to coat everything well and cook until it’s nicely fragrant and toasted, but not browning or sticking. If you find it’s sticking, add a splash of water.

Then add the chickpeas and coconut cream, and stir everything to combine well. If you want more liquid, you can add a cup of vegetable stock (you can get a wonderful vegan “Chicken Style” stock in supermarkets here which I like to use) at this stage. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes or until your roast vegetables are ready. At this stage, make some rice if you like.

Once the pumpkin and cauliflower are done, this is a nice swift operation. Allow the roast vegetables to cool slightly and then add to the simmering curry sauce, along with the spinach leaves. Stir through gently to coat everything in the sauce and allow to heat through. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and lemon juice (I find a curry normally needs both) to your taste.

Serve immediately! I’ve had it with rice, with bread and all alone. Any way you enjoy it, this is a dreamy, satisfying and nourishing meal.

mince pie porridge

It’s everything you think it will be.

It’s everything you think it will be.

Friends, I’m writing this from the hotel near Heathrow Airport where Tom and I are spending our last night in the UK!

In a matter of hours, I’ll swapping winter for summer - and this breakfast won’t exactly be seasonally appropriate. But with Australia’s changeable weather, you never know! I made up this breakfast last year, as the first snow was falling in London and I wanted something hearty and warming but indulgent for breakfast on one of my work-from-home days. It was so delicious I simply had to share it! I’ve never seen anyone else make this so I guess it’s a PM original, haha! You can probably tell by the lack of approximation in the recipe I’ve given below. I’m just a whack it all in kind of cook, and I’m assuming you already know how to make porridge, so this is easy!

It has become my favourite thing to eat for breakfast this time of year in the lead up to Christmas. It’s festive, indulgent and delicious! If you’re a mince pie fan, give it a try. You will be delighted from the first mouthful to the last.

Mince pie porridge

Serves 1 hungry or 2 less hungry people

2 cups rolled oats/porridge oats (I have used Sainsbury’s organic Scottish porridge oats)
Milk of your choice (I like to use oat or almond) - quantity will depend on runny or thick you like your porridge
An appropriate sprinkling of festive spices to your taste - I use a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, but just mixed spice is fine if that’s all you have
Pinch of sea salt
Flaked almonds, or other nuts or seeds you have lying around (I like to add chia) (optional)
2 mince pies
Greek yoghurt or soy cream to serve

Place oats, milk, spices and salt in a small saucepan and stir to combine. Place the pan on a medium heat and stir regularly as it heats up, the oats cook and the porridge thickens. Add more milk if you need it. Add more oats or some chia seeds if it’s too wet!

When it’s nearly ready, add any nuts/seeds (if using) and then crumble the mince pies into the porridge mixture, stirring well. Leave on a low heat, stirring constantly, almost whipping it, to break up the bigger bits of pastry and filling (but be careful!). Once it is all well combined, check for the consistency you like (I sometimes add a little more milk at this stage if it’s got too thick) and then pour into your bowl/s. If you’re feeling very indulgent, you can place another mince pie on the top.

Drizzle with yoghurt or soy cream (my favourite!) and eat! Preferably with Kate Rusby’s Christmas album The Frost is All Over playing softly in the background and watching snow fall.

What’s your favourite festive breakfast?


inner mary berry bakewell slice

bakewell-slice-tea

With the baking hot weather (no pun intended) we've had in the UK this summer, I have barely turned my oven on. Meals have been mostly salads, breads, cheeses, dips, anything that involved minimal cooking. Vegetables picked from my garden which required blanching in boiling water at the most. 

But then came the most welcome cool change, and I found myself basically turning into Mary Berry last Sunday, baking a cake and a slice to use up the last of the butter, sugar and jam that had found their way into my kitchen after a wonderful visit from my parents. 

In fact, it was my mum who suggested a Bakewell slice to use up all the jam. I'm very partial to a Bakewell, so immediately thought this was a brilliant idea. But, as I say, had to wait for the all-pervading heat to dissipate slightly before I could even entertain the idea of turning the oven on.

I love almonds but I'm not overly fond of a strong, synthetic almond taste that you often find with marzipan and the like. So I used up a bag of ground almonds very happily but forwent the almond essence that was in the original recipe. By all means include it instead of vanilla if you're an almond lover! 

After Tom and I had enjoyed this fresh out of the oven, I knew the solution to avoiding temptation all week was to take the rest of the slice into my office on Monday to share with my colleagues. I don't often take my baking in, as I use a lot less sugar than most people are used to, as that's what I prefer. But to my surprise, the slice was hoovered up and I got so many compliments. So if you're looking to win some brownie points in your office, seriously, make this slice and take it in. I have already been asked to make it again! 

 

Bakewell slice

Adapted from this recipe

1 sheet ready-rolled shortcrust pastry
Roughly 1 cup (a little less is fine) jam of your choice (I used a mixture of raspberry and strawberry)
200g organic unsalted butter
175g caster sugar
4 eggs
150g ground almonds
100g self-raising flour
Dash of vanilla extract
Flaked almonds for the topping

Preheat the oven to 180 C (fan). Unroll your pastry sheet, roll it out a little with a rolling pin and then place it, including the baking paper it comes with, into a baking tray of roughly 30 x 20 cm size. Spread the jam over the pastry.

Beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until well combined. Add the almonds, flour and vanilla and stir well. Spread this cake mixture evenly over the jam and pastry.

You can either scatter the top with flaked almonds now and just keep an eye on it and cover with foil once the almonds get brown, or you can add the almonds when the slice has about 10 minutes baking time left. If you choose the latter, they won't be embedded into the cake as much as the mixture won't be wet any more. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. For me, I can't stand a burned nut so I'd rather go with the second option and err on the side of caution! 

Place the tin in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown and the cake has risen nicely. If you choose the second option with the flaked almonds, remove after 20 minutes and scatter the flaked almonds over the surface, then return to the oven for the rest of the cooking time.

Allow the slice to cool in the tin. You can ice it, as the original Delicious recipe suggests, but I was happy (and found it sweet enough) with just plain flaked almonds on top. 

bakewell-slice

Cut into slices, take it into your office and watch your popularity soar! It's absolutely perfect with a hot cup of tea or coffee.