Sunday, October 19, 2014

Mark Bittman's Spanish-Style Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta & Bean Soup) for Souper (Soup, Salad, & Sammie) Sundays

Although I frequently make an oath not to buy any more cookbooks, there are times that I just can't help myself. Like when Mark Bittman comes out with a new one. Plus, since I already have How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, I felt like I needed to have How to Cook Everything Fast--Bittman's collection of 2000-ish quick cooking recipes, processes and tips too. 


I have been craving Pasta e Fagioli but I liked Bittman's Spanish-style variation because of the chickpeas and smoked paprika and wanted to try it. He didn't mention the cheese in his version but it seemed only right to replace the Parmesan with some of my favorite Manchego.


Spanish-Style Pasta e Fagioli  
How to Cook Everything Fast by Mark Bittman
(Serves 4)

3 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves
2 tsp smoked paprika
(I added 1 tsp ground cumin)
14-oz can whole tomatoes
6 cups chicken or veggie stock, or water
2 cups (15 oz can) cooked or canned garbanzo beans
6 oz spaghetti, broken into 1-inch pieces
1 bunch fresh parsley to garnish
(I added 4 oz Manchego cheese, about 1 cup grated)

Put 3 tablespoons oil in a large pot over low heat. Add vegetables to the pot and stir. Raise heat to medium-high, when the veggies start sizzling sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until they soften and begin to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and smoked paprika to the pot and stir until fragrant--about 1 minute. 

Add the tomatoes and their juice, breaking them apart with a spoon and scrapping any browned bits off the bottom of the pot. Add stock or water and raise heat to high. 

When the soup begins to boil, stir in the beans and the pasta. Return to boil, then adjust heat so it simmers steadily. Test pasta after 5 minutes, it should be tender but not mushy. If pot starts to look dry, at water a bit at a time. 

When pasta is tender, turn off heat. Taste and adjust seasoning. Divide soup into four bowls. Garnish each with the parsley, 1/4 cup cheese, and drizzle with olive oil; serve.


Notes/Results: A simple and tasty little soup. The combination of the garbanzo beans and mini spaghetti noodles was fun. My sister (Yes, when you visit Hawaii, especially in the midst of a tropical storm, Deb feeds you soup) said that she really liked the flavor from the smoked paprika and felt it set it apart from the typical Italian pasta e fagioli. I think the manchego was a nice touch. Warming and satisfying for a rainy night, I would happily make this again. 

 
This soup will link up to this coming week's Potluck! at I Heart Cooking Clubs--the opportunity to make any Diana Henry recipe or any recipe from our past IHCC chefs. You can see what everyone made by following the links once the post goes live.

In the meantime, we have some great friends waiting in the Souper Sundays kitchen. Let's have a look!

Janet of The Taste Space shares Three Sisters Soup (Black Bean, Corn and Squash Soup) and says, "This is a perfect end-of-summer, beginning of fall soup, as the last of the local corn arrives and the first winter squashes arrive. Or perfect for the dead of winter, too, using frozen corn kernels. This meal is simple but elevated by choice herbs and spices (cilantro, chiles, smoked paprika, garlic) with a heavy hand of lime juice. I used the full amount in the recipe and even I, the lover of all things tart, found it off-putting. Please start with less and taste as you go."  



Judee of Gluten Free A-Z Blog is here with a creamy Gluten Free Mushroom Bisque. She says, "When the weather starts to chill, I start thinking about homemade soup. This simple recipe couldn't be easier; I made it in 20 minutes start to finish. I pride myself on preparing tasty "quickie soups"  that I can complete and eat within the half hour. This gluten free favorite was light, delicious and soothing.  It was perfect for a calorie conscious, yet satisfying lunch! It's healthy too. Mushrooms contain valuable nutrients.



It's spicy Kimchi-guk (Kimchi Soup) from Joyce at Kitchen Flavours. She says, "I have made this kimchi soup many times using my homemade kimchi. I love kimchi soup and could finish a whole bowl of this soup, and slurp on every last drop! ... I have added in more hot pepper paste (gochujang), as I like the soup a little more spicy. Use less hot pepper paste for a milder soup, but if you love heat, you would probably add on more, just like I did! Delicious! With just this one dish, you would eat two bowls of rice!"




Debbie of The Friday Friends brings Mexican Chicken Soup and says, "On Tuesday I saw this on my Facebook page, was having a bad day (just tired mostly) and thought: I'm going to make this soup. This looks like COMFORT FOOD!! And I got to chop lots of vegetables. Does that sound weird? Chopping vegetables makes me happy. I don't know what it is. I think that's why I like to make soup---it has lots of vegetables that need chopping. ... This is a great soup. Good for you too. Just fresh veggies simmered in broth served over some homemade Spanish rice."



One sandwich this week, healthy Roasted Sweet Potato and Red Pepper Wraps from Shaheen of Allotment2Kitchen. Shaheen says, "I have mostly been having sandwiches for work, and I have to admit I have been getting a little bored with the plain filling, so the BBQ butter that I made recently was delightful, but sometimes its not sandwiches, its a pasta salad or today, it was Roast Sweet Potato with Red Pepper Wraps.  These were nice, but I think they would have benefited with a touch of soured cream." 


Thanks to everyone who joined in this week. If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on the sidebar for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week! 
 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Chilled Rice Pudding with Orange, Honey, & Cardamom Syrup: Cool and Creamy Comfort

 
Not everyone loves rice pudding. It's one of those things that I disliked growing up but blogging and trying recipes had made me a fan. It's comforting. And, served chilled topped with a scrumptious syrup of orange, honey, and cardamom, this recipe from Diana Henry makes a wonderful breakfast, snack or dessert for humid weather. We are gearing up for a tropical storm/hurricane hitting (now) passing south of the islands this weekend so the weather is particularly sultry today. Having this pudding and its syrup simmering away this morning and chilling throughout the day to be enjoyed tonight, is definitely a comfort. ;-)


Chilled Rice Pudding with Orange, Honey & Cardamom Syrup
Adapted from Pure Simple Cooking by Diana Henry
(Serves 4)

3/4 cup short-grain rice
4 cups whole milk (I used coconut milk)
3 Tbsp sugar (I used 2 Tbsp raw sugar)
1/2 cup heavy cream (I used coconut creamer)
3 Tbsp Greek-Style yogurt
a couple drops of vanilla extract

Syrup:
6 Tbsp honey 
3 Tbsp water
juice of 2 oranges
crushed seeds from 4 cardamom pods
finely grated zest of one orange

Put rice in saucepan, cover with water and boil for 4 minutes. Drain, put rice back in pan with the milk and sugar and bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes (Note: I cooked mine about 35 minutes total), until all of the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is soft. Stir from time to time and add more milk if it has absorbed before the rice is soft. 

Take the pan off the heat. Stir in half the cream and yogurt and all of the vanilla into the rice. Taste to check for sweetness, bearing in mind that the syrup is sweet. Leave to cool, then chill. When chilled, the pudding will be very firm, so before serving, loosen it by stirring in the rest of the cream and yogurt--and maybe even a little milk if needed.

Put everything for the syrup (except the zest) into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil to reduce to a syrup (remember: it will thicken as it cools). Strain to remove the cardamom, then add zest and cook for another minute. Leave to cool. Serve with rice pudding.


Notes/Results: Mmm... sweet and creamy and the syrup is practically drinkable, this rice pudding is simple but sophisticated and delightfully cool and soothing. I made some small changes, subbing in coconut milk as I like what it does for sweetness and texture. Diana Henry gives a couple of other syrup combinations like sour cherries in rose syrup and pomegranate and blood orange sauce--both which sounded tempting. In a tweet (Thanks to an introduction from Foodycat we are talking about doing a live chat with Diana on Twitter for any interested IHCC peeps soon!) she mentioned that with the coconut milk I was using lime marmalade would be good. Definitely trying that at some point And, in case you were wondering, Diana Henry is very gracious and so lovely to offer us the live chat so stay tuned!) I will make this again--trying the other sauces and I think this orange, honey, and cardamom sauce would be a little bit of heaven drizzled on French toast.


We are celebrating 'Icy Cold!' dishes this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs. To see what sweet and savory cold Diana Henry dishes everyone made, check out the picture links on the post. 



Happy Aloha Friday!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Lost Tribe of Coney Island" by Claire Prentice with (a Vegan Version of) Arroz Caldo (Filipino Rice Stew)

Much of America has an obsession with people and things that are different or that we don't understand. We have a strong carnival and circus history, hitting its peak in the 19th century. Even today, FX's American Horror Story: Freak Show premiered last week with the highest ratings on that network's history--proving that we still like to gawk. In the summer of 1905, it was a tribe of Philippine aborigines that had America lining up in record numbers, and their story is told in today's TLC Book Tour Stop of "The Lost Tribe on Coney Island: Headhunters, Luna Park, and the Man Who Pulled Off the Spectacle of the Century" by Claire Prentice. 


Publisher's Blurb: 

Coney Island, summer 1905: a new attraction opened at Luna Park. Within weeks it would be the talk of the nation.

For the first time, The Lost Tribe of Coney Island unearths the incredible true story of the Igorrotes, a group of “headhunting, dog eating” tribespeople brought to America from the Philippines by the opportunistic showman Truman K. Hunt. At Luna Park, the g-string-clad Filipinos performed native dances and rituals before a wide-eyed public in a mocked-up tribal village. Millions of Americans flocked to see the tribespeople slaughter live dogs for their daily canine feasts and to hear thrilling tales of headhunting. The Igorrotes became a national sensation—they were written up in newspaper headlines, portrayed in cartoons, and even featured in advertising jingles, all fueled by Truman’s brilliant publicity stunts.

By the end of the summer season, the Igorrote show had made Truman a rich man. But his genius had a dark side and soon he would be on the run across America with the tribe in tow, pursued by ex-wives, creditors, Pinkerton detectives, and the tireless agents of American justice.

Award-winning journalist Claire Prentice brings this forgotten chapter in American history to life with vivid prose and rich historical detail. The book boasts a colorful cast of characters, including the mercurial Truman Hunt; his ambitious, young Filipino interpreter, Julio Balinag; Fomoaley Ponci, the tribe’s loquacious, self-important leader; Luna Park impresarios Fred Thompson and Elmer “Skip” Dundy; and Frederick Barker, the government man dead set on bringing Truman to justice.

At its heart, The Lost Tribe of Coney Island is a tale of what happens when two cultures collide in the pursuit of money, adventure, and the American Dream. It is a story that makes us question who is civilized and who is savage.

Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: New Harvest (October 14, 2014)

I wanted to be on this book tour because I found the subject matter fascinating--the tribe themselves, the sideshow culture, Coney Island at the turn of the century--and it was a true story. It turned out to be an absorbing, albeit disturbing book because of the exploitation of the Igorrotes by Truman Hunt and many others. The amount of research that that Claire Prentice put into the book, tracking down information across America, Canada and The Philippines is pretty incredible and the challenge to spin out that level of detail and combine it with her own conjecture to create a readable story must have been daunting--but overall, it works. The book did start slow for me (I kept putting it down and picking it back up again) as the story and players were set up and it was tough to keep all of the detail straight. (There is a cast of characters list in the front of the book that was helpful to keeping track of most of the main players.) About halfway through, the pace picks up as Truman Hunt's true colors come to light and he turns from an almost avuncular caretaker who, while first and foremost out to make a buck--or many bucks, still seems to care somewhat for his charges, to an abusive drunk and a force of pure evil who cares for no one but himself. The final third of the story is a page turner as Hunt is tracked down and put on trial and the reader anxiously waits to see if justice is served and the Igorrotes get to finally go home. 

The cover blurb says "It is a story that makes us question who is civilized and who is savage"--and how true this statement is. The Igorrotes, known to be a industrious and mostly peaceful people, are completely sensationalized for publicity and ticket sales and treated extremely badly. It takes quite a while for the American government to step in to investigate the situation--likely in part due to how portraying the tribe as savages, supported the viewpoint that The Philippines was not ready to govern itself after the Spanish-American War. It made me angry, it made me embarrassed for our country, and it made me shake my head many times. A very dark, and not a proud part of our history, but a colorful and compellingly readable book.


Author Notes: Claire Prentice is an award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The Washington PostThe Times of LondonThe GuardianSydney Morning HeraldBBC OnlineCosmopolitan, and Marie Claire.  

Connect with Claire on her blog, claireprentice.wordpress.com.


OK, so there is not a lot of great food inspiration coming from this book--but you know how I do love a challenge. ;-) When Hunt's group of Igorrotes are getting food to eat, it is mostly beans, rice and potatoes. The book is pretty graphic in its descriptions of the dog killing, cooking and eating that becomes part of the daily show for the tribe--although in their culture, dog meat was only for special occasions. Sad and not at all appetizing. I was going to do a rice and bean dish or maybe a take on a vegetarian Coney Island hot dog to represent the book but again--too soon for any kind of dog mention for me. Finally, I went with a vegetarian take on a classic Filipino comfort food dish, Arroz Caldo or rice stew. A congee-like porridge with chicken in a gingery rice broth. I came across it in the last book I reviewed (Aunty Lee's Deadly Specials) when it was made by the main character's Filipino housekeeper / assistant. 


For my meat-free version, I used mock-chicken and I added corn because it was mentioned that the Igorrotes missed "the juicy maize and the sweet camotes (sweet potato) they could pick or dig up from the soil whenever they wanted them at home." As Julio, the translator and care-taker of the tribe tried to get fresh vegetables and "even a little chicken" for this charges when he could, it doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility that they could have made arroz caldo on occasion. In order to make it completely meat-free, I used a mock chicken stock and made up a batch of a homemade vegan 'fish sauce' recipe from One Green Planet that I have been wanting to try. 

Arroz Caldo (Filipino Rice Stew)
Inspired by this vegan recipe and this non-vegan one ;-)
(Serves 2-3)

1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, thinly sliced 

2 cloves, garlic, minced
2 Tbsp finely-minced ginger
1 cup short or medium-grain rice
3 cups mock-chicken broth + more if needed/desired

1 cup fresh or frozen sweet corn kernels
2 Tbsp vegan fish sauce (see recipe link above)

freshly ground black pepper to taste 

To garnish:
mock 'Chicken Breast' Strips 
scallions--green parts, chopped
fried garlic or onion pieces
pepper
fresh calamansi, lemon or lime, sliced or cut into wedges 
extra vegan fish sauce

In a heavy pot, heat oil over medium heat and add onions, ginger and garlic. Cook,  about5 minutes, stirring regularly, until onion is translucent.

Add rice, stirring to coat the grains with oil. Cook, stirring frequently, until rice starts to lightly brown. Add broth and bring to a boil.


Lower heat and covering pot, simmer, stirring occasionally, about 25-30 minutes, or until the rice has softened and the porridge has thickened to desired consistency. Stir in corn, add extra broth as needed and cook a few minutes more. Stir in vegan fish sauce and season with freshly ground black pepper to taste.

To serve: Ladle the arroz caldo into bowls and garnish with mock-chicken strips, scallions, and fried garlic or onion bits. Serve with lime or calamansi wedges and extra fish sauce. 



Notes/Results: Filling, comforting, and pretty tasty. The ginger, garlic and fish sauce take care of any blandness I was worried about. Speaking of the fish sauce, I have two bottles of regular fish sauce in my fridge but I like this easy-to-make-vegan version even better--it adds plenty of umami but doesn't overpower (or smell!) like fish sauce does. I'll definitely be making it again. The corn was a good addition for its bursts of sweetness in all of that salty/savory. The mock-chicken strips (I used Morningstar Farms Chik'N Strips) were a bit dry (could be my cooking or how long they have been in my freezer) ;-) but pretty chicken breast-like in texture and flavor. The head of garlic I had was rotten so instead of fried garlic bits, I subbed in some fried onion pieces, chopped, to still have the crispy bites, and although sometimes I can find calamansi--when I actively look for it there is none to be found, so I subbed in lime. All in all, an easy dish and a fun vegan variation that I would make again. 


Note: A review copy of "The Lost Tribe of Coney Island" was provided by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own. 
 
You can see the stops for the rest of the TLC Book Tours and Reviews here.



 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Stew of Baby Potatoes and Artichokes with Lemon and Rosemary: A Provencal-Inspired Ragoût for Souper (Soup, Salad, & Sammie) Sundays


The October 2014 issue of Vegetarian Times is full of recipes I want to make but I was first caught by the article on in-between-season, 30-minute stews and the Baby Potatoes and Artichokes with Lemon and Rosemary. Simple, fast to make and featuring several of my favorite ingredients. I also like how it straddles the gap between late summer and full-on-fall with its lighter, lemony taste profile. 

I made a couple of small changes to the recipe--mainly to give me more (and more flavorful) broth. They are noted in red below.  


Vegetarian Times says, "A Provencal-inspired ragoût is a satisfying supper on its own--just add a salad."

Baby Potatoes and Artichokes with Lemon and Rosemary
Adapted from Vegetarian Times, October 2014
(Serves 4)

3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 (13.75 oz) can water-packed artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained, and halved
4 cups quartered baby potatoes (I used a mix of colors--Yukon Gold, red, blue, white)
1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives, quartered
2 cloves garlic, minced (I used 3 cloves)
1 tsp fresh rosemary (I used 2 tsps)
1 tsp grated lemon zest (I used zest from entire lemon)
1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable stock (I used 1 cup)
(I added extra lemon zest and minced fresh parsley to garnish)

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Cook artichoke hearts cut side down in skillet without stirring, 4 to 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Transfer to plate, and set aside. 

Heat remaining oil in skillet. Add potatoes, and season with salt, if desired. Stir, cover pan, reduce heat to medium low, and cook 10 minutes, or until potatoes are deeply golden all over. 

Uncover pan, add artichokes, olives, garlic, rosemary, and lemon zest. Stir 15 to 30 seconds. 

Add broth, cover, and gently simmer 5 to 6 minutes, or until potatoes are just tender and liquid reduces to a light gravy. 

Nutritional Info: Per 1 1/4 Cup Serving: 260 cal; 5g protein; 13g total fat (2g sat fat); 36g carbs; 0mg cholesterol; 266 mg sodium; 9g fiber; -1g sugars

 
Notes/Results: Satisfying but not heavy. The creaminess of the potatoes contrast well with the broth, slightly tangy from the lemon, olives and artichoke hearts. I like that the potatoes and artichoke hearts are browned a bit--it adds more flavor and texture to the dish. I added extra broth to mine to have more liquid to dip bread into and more garlic, rosemary, and lemon zest to flavor the added broth. I think you could add in other veggies of your choice, or even a can of beans for extra protein. Simple and pretty quick to make, I would happily make this stew again. 


We have friends waiting in the Souper Sundays kitchen, let's take a look! 


Debbie of The Friday Friends shares hearty Portuguese Soup and says, "I had not made it in YEARS.  Probably not since the last time I used blustery in a sentence. I challenge you to use blustery in conversation today! So, he likes this soup.  I made it and I loved it so much. To be honest---I didn't remember ever making it. But I must have at least once. I won't wait so long to do so again. It was warm and filled with such good things, beans and corn and peas and kielbasa! You should try it."



Pam of Sidewalk Shoes brings pretty Tarragon Chicken Salad Veronique and says, "As a creature of habit, once I find something I stick with it. Once I found Chicken Salad Veronique from Ina Garten, I never had to look for another tarragon chicken salad. Oh, she calls it chicken salad veronique and I believe in my limited technical food knowledge that the veronique is thanks to the grapes in the salad. But to me the shining factor in the chicken salad is the tarragon, so I make sure to include it in the title."



Janet of The Taste Space offers up Cali-Coco BLT Quinoa Salad and says, "I used my previous recipe for coconut bacon, added half an avocado, a handful of cherry tomatoes, a mound of arugula and then fortified it with cooked quinoa and smoked tofu. Rob thinks the smoked tofu looks like cheese, but I swear it is not. Mash up the avocado with each bite but I will admit I scooped a bit of garlic-infused mayo aioli with each bite as a quasi dressing. Delicious!
 

Thanks to Debbie, Pam and Janet for joining in this week. If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on the sidebar for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week! 
 

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Aunty Lee's Deadly Specials" by Ovidia Yu Served with 'Cherril's Ginger Lemongrass Doctail'

I love a mystery, when you make it a cozy mystery, full of temptingly-described food and set in Singapore--a country I spent time in several years ago, it gets even better. I am excited to be a stop on the TLC Book Tour for the second book in Ovidia Yu's Singaporean Mystery series, Aunty Lee's Deadly Specials. Rosie "Aunty" Lee, cook, business owner and budding sleuth, is back to snoop herself into another mystery along with her domestic helper Nina, ex-flight attendant and potential new partner Cherril, Police Inspector Salim, and the other 'regulars' from Aunty Lee's Delights. This time things get personal for Aunty Lee when everyone suspects that her special chicken dish is responsible for two dead bodies.  


Publisher's Blurb:

"Rosie “Aunty” Lee, the feisty widow and amateur sleuth and proprietor of Singapore’s best-loved home-cooking restaurant, is back in another delectable, witty mystery involving scandal and murder among the city’s elite

Few know more about what goes on in Singapore than Aunty Lee. When a scandal over illegal organ donation makes news, she already has a list of suspects. There’s no time to snoop, though—Aunty Lee’s Delights is catering a brunch for local socialites Henry and Mabel Sung. Rumor has it that the Sungs’ fortune is in trouble, and Aunty Lee wonders if the gossip is true. But soon after arriving at the Sungs’, her curiosity turns to suspicion. Why is the guesthouse in the garden locked up—and what’s inside? Where is the missing guest of honor? Then Mabel Sung and her son, Leonard, are found dead. The authorities blame it on Aunty Lee’s special stewed chicken with buah keluak, a local black nut that can be poisonous if cooked improperly. She’s certain the deaths are murder—and that they’re somehow linked to the organ donor scandal. To save her business and her reputation, she’s got to prove it—and unmask a dangerous killer."

Paperback: 384 pages  
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Original edition (September 30, 2014)

I find Aunty Lee to be a delight--although of course I don't have to put up with her constant quest for information (usually gossip) and her meddling like Nina, her assistant, does. For her advancing age, she is spry and sharp as a tack, and she has a good heart. I love her wit and the kitchen wisdom she relates to solving crimes and to life in general.

"Really good cooks probably have dishes that go wrong as often as anyone else. Great cooks have twice as many  because they are constantly experimenting with new ingredients and new combinations. Aunty Lee believed she was a great cook, in life as well as in the kitchen. When a dish came out wrong you knew that there was something wrong with either the ingredients or the way they had been put together. In life, it was people and their personalities who were her ingredients."    
Aunty Lee's Deadly Specials

Aunty Lee's Deadly Specials moves along at a rapid pace--much like the way Aunty Lee's mind works. This made the close to 400 pages fly by and I liked that this second book was longer and gave more detail to the crimes and their solving than the first book did. It is a bit predictable (cozy mysteries often are), and there were some points where I wanted to push Aunty Lee and the police to just figure it out already--but overall the story kept me engaged. Part of the draw of this series for me (beyond the food) is the look into Singaporean culture and life. Having made several trips there, I recognize some of the characteristics of the people, the food, and even some of the places mentioned which is fun. Author Yu paints a picture of the country with her words and has a sly humor that is reflected in her characters, so even if you have not been there, I think you will feel like you have when you enter Aunty Lee's world. Aunty Lee's Deadly Specials is a quick and fun read that you will enjoy if you are a fan of cozy mysteries, foodie fiction/foodie mysteries, female sleuths, and stories with a strong cultural influence. If you are new to Aunty Lee, start with Aunty Lee's Delights--it will introduce you to the characters and set the story up for this second book. I look forward to the next book with more from Aunty Lee and her friends.


Author Notes: Ovidia Yu is one of Singapore’s best-known and most acclaimed writers. She has had more than thirty plays produced and is also the author of a number of mysteries. She received a Fulbright Fellowship to the University of Iowa’s International Writers Program and has been a writing fellow at the National University of Singapore.

Connect with her through Facebook or follow her on Twitter.


Don't read this book while hungry--there is so much wonderful food to inspire in this series. In addition to all of the lovely Peranakan food--both traditional and Aunty Lee's variations that she serves in her cafe, there are other dishes like tomato rice and a 'cook a pot of curry day' potluck in the kitchen of Inspector Salim's mother, Filipino arroz caldo (chicken rice porridge) that Nina cooks, biryani and coconut laddus (sweet dessert balls) at an Indian cafe, and even a toasted-banana-and-peanut-butter sandwich that was the 'favorite treatment for existential angst' of Aunty Lee's late husband. I was quickly drawn to the healthy drink concoctions Cherril was building into Aunty Lee's business, calling them 'doctails.'    

"Why you want to call them duck's tails?" What have they got to do with ducks?"

"Not ducks, Aunty Lee. You know, like cocktails and mock-tails, only these are healthy, like a doctor would recommend, so we call them doctails. I'm using green tea, barley water, soy milk, and brown rice tea as bases for the freshly juiced fruits."
Aunty Lee's Deadly Specials

There were two recipes at the back of the book Aunty Lee's Easy Candlenut Chicken Curry--easier to prepare and not likely to be deadly like her buah keluak dish as it uses either candlenuts or macadamias, and Cherril's Ginger Lemongrass Doctail. Having a fondness for lemongrass and ginger tisanes, I decided to make Cherril's drink as my dish inspired by the book.


Cherril's Ginger Lemongrass Doctail
Very Slightly Adapted From Aunty Lee's Deadly Specials by Ovidia Yu
(This recipe makes 4 cups. Two to drink right away, and two to put in the fridge to be chilled for later.)  

5 cups water
An inch of fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped (I used about 2-inches)
3 big stalks of lemongrass (or 5 little ones) including the juicy white bulbs, washed and chopped
honey to taste

Bring the water to a boil in a pan. Add the chopped ginger and lemongrass and turn the heat down to simmer for at least 5 minutes. Stir in the honey to taste. Strain and serve. (Note: Because I was icing mine. I simmered the mix for about 15 minutes, stirred in the honey, then removed the pan from the heat and allowed it to cool down for about 30 minutes before straining, chilling and serving)

Book Notes: 
  • Aunty Lee prefers her Ginger Lemongrass drinks served hot, but you'll find it delightful either way.   
  • According to both traditional Chinese medicine and traditional Malay jamu, ginger has many healing and balancing properties, including the ability to warm the blood and soothe the digestive system. 

Notes/Results: Crisp, cool and refreshing with a little heat from the ginger that bursts in at the end. Aunty Lee might like her drinks warm but it is too hot and humid here for that right now. I went for chilled and heavily iced for extra refreshment. Although I *lived* on a similar warm concoction for a few days after getting food poisoning in Thailand and the lovely people at the resort for our weekend stay kept bringing me tea presses filled with hot lemongrass and ginger tisane and saltines. ;-) It was very soothing. I made a couple of changes to the recipe--upping the ginger as I like the kick, and steeping it longer to get extra flavor which helps when icing it. I make tisanes like this frequently--sometimes adding lemon or mint to the mix, and when I travel, I take along this Pukka Lemongrass & Ginger blend which is refreshing and good for the occasional traveler's tummy. 


Note: A review copy of "Aunty Lee's Deadly Specials" was provided by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own. 
 
You can see the stops for the rest of the TLC Book Tours and Reviews here.


 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

(An Amazing) Moroccan Lentil Soup with Yogurt & Chilli-Fried Onions from Diana Henry for Souper (Soup, Salad, & Sammie) Sundays

There's a new chef in town at I Heart Cooking Clubs. This week we will start six months of cooking with Diana Henry. A UK-based cook, food writer and cookbook author with global influences. I bought her book Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons in my pre-blogging days, attracted to her Middle Eastern and Mediterranean recipes. It's become a habit for me to start my cooking with a new IHCC chef with a bowl of soup. It's warm, it's welcoming, and I find that if a cook can make a great and memorable bowl of soup, the rest of their recipes usually follow suit. I came across Henry's Moroccan Lentil Soup with Yogurt & Chilli-Fried Onions on her website and knew it had to be my 'Welcome Diana Henry!' dish.  


I like the healthy comfort of a good lentil soup and I have a container of ras el hanout* that doesn't get used nearly enough, not to mention my deep love for soup toppings. Chilli-fried onions and cool, creamy yogurt? Yes please! It looked like the perfect soup to start off our cooking time with and served with some grilled naan, a satisfying meal. 

*Ras el hanout is a North-African spice mix that means "head of the shop"--signifying that it is a mixture of the best spices the spice merchant has to sell. It usually contains a combination of cardamom, cloves, ground cinnamon, coriander, ground chilli peppers, cumin, paprika, turmeric and other spices.


Henry says, "If you don’t want to make the chilli onions, add 2 chopped, deseeded chillies to the soup, or some harissa to taste, instead."
 
Moroccan Lentil Soup with Yogurt & Chilli-Fried Onions
Adapted from DianaHenry.com
(Serves 8)

Soup:
3 Tbsp olive oil (I reduced to 1 1/2 Tbsp)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1/2 Tbsp ground coriander
2 tsp ras al hanout
280g (10 oz) red lentils
400g (14 oz) can chopped tomatoes (I used fire-roasted)
1.2 litres (2 pints) chicken stock or water (I used mock-chicken stock)
salt and pepper
6 Tbsp roughly chopped coriander, plus extra to garnish for the chilli-fried onions


Chilli-Fried Onions:
2 onions, very finely sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil (I used 1 Tbsp)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp soft brown sugar
1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
juice of 1/2 small lemon


Heat the oil in a heavy pan and sauté the onion and celery until soft but not colored. Add the garlic and spices and cook for 1 minute, then add the remaining soup ingredients apart from the coriander. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, or until the lentils become a purée. Season and stir in the chopped coriander.

To make the chilli-fried onions, quickly fry the sliced onions in very hot olive oil until golden brown with crispy bits. Add the cinnamon, sugar and chilli. Stir and, once the sugar has melted, add the lemon juice and season. Serve the soup in hot bowls with a dollop of yogurt and the chilli-fried onions. Garnish with coriander leaves.



Notes/Results: The layers of flavor in this bowl soup are amazing--there is the slight smokiness of the cumin, the aromatic and slight sweetness or the coriander and ras el hanout blend--the soup is quite good on its own. But, add on those toppings and things get even more interesting with the cool tangy yogurt and those delectable onions--sweet and spicy. When the onions stir into the soup, their sweetness spreads into each bite. (You could of course omit the yogurt or use a non-dairy yogurt if you want to make it vegan or dairy-free.) One of the best lentil soups I have made and although thinly slicing (I used my mandoline) and frying up the onions is a little extra effort, it is well worth it--don't leave them out. I did reduce the oil--just something I do in most recipes to reduce the calories and fat, and I don't think it suffered for it. Otherwise, this recipe needed no adjustments. It is a warming bowl of soup to curl up to and makes the kitchen smell wonderfully exotic. Well done Diana Henry--this one is a keeper and I can tell we are going to have a fun six months. 


I'll be linking up this wonderful soup to IHCC as soon as the 'Welcome Diana Henry!' post goes live. I Heart Cooking Clubs offers a new chef to cook with every six months, fun weekly themes, an ability to drop in-and-out as your time allows, and a monthly Potluck event where you can cook any recipe from any of our ten previous chefs. It's a fun group, I hope you consider joining us.  


A couple of friends are hanging out in the Souper Sundays kitchen with me--let's see what they brought.


Tigerfish of Teczcape - An Escape to Food is here and says, "Kale, Tomatoes, Mushrooms Soup is made by adding kale to a soup cooked with onions, garlic, ginger, tomato and mushrooms mixture of beech mushrooms and thinly sliced oyster mushroom). Add any kind of noodles you prefer, to make it one-dish. By using mung bean noodles (or glass noodles), the soup broth remains clear and light. If you use wheat-type noodles, the soup may just slightly thicken up due to the starch in the noodles."



Debbie of The Friday Friends returns this week with a Taco Soup by her friend Shelly Noble and says, "The Handyman and I love a good bowl of soup!  And this one is souper easy. And souper good! Shelly turned in a simple Crock-pot recipe because she says  she likes easy things. I love to use my crockpot and come home to a house filled with great aromas. That's just what you do with this soup. Fix it in the morning, leave for the day (or stay home and read a book), eat in the evening."



Janet of The Taste Space shares zesty Mexican Spinach Salad with Salsa Baked Tofu and says, "I just might need a very pretty picture to knock me out of a bloggers block. A simple recipe, I really only gave directions for the salsa baked tofu and told you what else I included in my salad. No measuring, just plating and eating. I tried a bit harder to make this salad pretty. It is kind of a cross between my quick and easy salsa chickpea tacos and my older Mexican salad with a creamy tomato saucy dressing with a little old school baked tofu. Yum!"


Thanks to Tigerfish, Debbie and Janet for joining in this week. If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on the sidebar for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week!