A simple spilt pea soup

Today I felt like a real cook as I had a request for Fava or Yellow Spilt Pea Soup.  Technically it’s not really my recipe, but a recipe that I had acquired many years ago from a lovely Greek family.  This is a recipe that I regularly cook and is a true winter favourite!

The first time I had this delicious, creamy and simple soup still resonates as a beautiful food memory. I remember sitting at the  table being mesmerised by this dish. The steaming pot of soup, the drizzling of olive oil, the squeezing of lemon and the crunching of shallots.  Everyone passing around different plates of olives, tomatoes and shallots to accompany the soup. I remember thinking at the time ‘this is family eating!’ I also remember when I asked for the recipe thinking ‘how can something so simple be so delicious!’

I’ve lost the original recipe somewhere my travels so here’s my take on Fava or Yellow Spilt Pea Soup.

You will need:

2 cups of Yellow Spilt Peas

1 – 2 finely diced medium onions

1 litre of water

salt

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Rinse the spilt peas in cold water and discard any of the discoloured peas. In a large pot, place the peas in 1 litre of room temperature water and bring to the boil. You might notice a slight foam starts to appear on the surface, simply skim (scoop away) and discard. Add the diced onion and pinch or two of salt. And here comes the tricky part, turn down the heat so the liquid is simmering, place the lid on the pot and  cook for 1.5 – 2 hours.  Every now and then (when you remember) gently stir your soup. You will know the soup is ready when the onions and the yellow spilt peas disappear and in their place is a creamy, yellow, gorgeous soup (no need for the hand blender). Eh voila! Taste your soup and season as desired. Drizzle a generous serving of olive oil and squeeze over fresh lemon juice.

I love eating Fava with lots of accompaniments, mezze style; think of a deconstructed greek salad, which I dip into the soup. Place small bowls of tomatoes, olives, feta, flat leaf parsley, capers, shallots or spanish onion and some crusty bread on the table.  The best part of this meal is watching your guests pass around the bowls of food and top up their soup with delicious fresh ingredients. Add an additional splash of olive oil and lemon juice about half way through your meal!

I am sure there are quicker ways of cooking this soup, but I just adore this simple, slow cooked recipe.

My Little Paris Kitchen

My time living in Paris seems like a distance souvenir. Living in suburban Brisbane is the polar opposite to the culinary oasis of Paris. However, tonight with the help of one beautiful bridesmaid and a stunning English cook Rachel Khoo I was able to remember why I feel so deeply in love with Paris.

Rachel Khoo’s cooking show The Little Paris Kitchen is a brilliant six episode tv series that aired on BBC in March this year. I have only watched the first two episodes but already I’m in love. This series is made for lovers of cooking, food and Paris. But it was even more superb for me because it takes me back to my very own little Paris kitchen.

When I moved into my 20 square meter apartment in Paris I was asked by the land lady if I wanted a washing machine or an oven? Silly question non? Oven, bien sur! I am certain that all the people who lived and visited Rue Cauchois were very grateful that I accepted that oven. Not only did the oven produce some stunning food memories, it also was an excellent heater in the winter months!  And it gave you a wee electric shock if you simultaneously touched the oven and the wet sink; just another quirky charm.

My Parisian oven was the start of my real cooking adventure and a true turning point to my love of all things food. So I thought I should give a little Merci Beaucoup shout out to Rachel Khoo for reminded me about my very own Little Paris Kitchen!

Also…a big bisous to all my glorious friends who believed and gobbled up my little kitchen dreams.

My Little Paris Kitchen

My local butcher

Oops & Oeufs

I have a lot of thanks for Nora Ephron. Not only was Sleepless in Seattle a major catalyst for the spontaneous start of my pre-marriage bliss, but her 2009 film Julie & Julia still continues to inspire.

Julie & Julia = food, Paris, food, blogging, food, New York City & more food! What else could I possibly ask for in a film?  Both Julie Powell and Julia Child (well, the actresses who brought these fabulous women to life) certainty are influential in my cooking journey. Alors, today, I cooked my first proper poached egg.

Poached eggs are all I order when I go for my ritualistic Sunday brunch with future Hubby. Soft, poached eggs. Sometimes I branch out with museli, fruit salad or avocado on toast (that always seems to disappoint) but, I always come back to my poached eggs. I just loved them!

The question remains why I have I never really attempted to cook  these little specimens before. I don’t have an answer.

However, today with help of Julia Child I attempted to poach an egg. Although I didn’t have the vinegar like the recipe calls for, the eggs eventually seemed to poach. With my darling friend standing next to me, I cracked the egg into simmering & swirling water. Together we watched, much like a familiar scene from Julie & Julia as the egg white splattered into the pan and cooked into tiny little pieces which, was far from appetizing. But beneath this strange simmering liquid appeared a tiny poached egg. Success!  The next egg decided to rebel it’s destiny to be poached and ended up spilling on the bench, the oven, the floor and me. Oops! Four out of five ain’t that bad at all. We ended up having four delicious soft poached eggs, which we shared with simple olive bread and sautéed mushrooms.

Despite learning a new ‘skill’ today, Sunday brunch will always involve someone else cooking my oeufs pochés.

*A note on the mushrooms; they had to be cooked in two lots, as ‘mushroom must not be crowded in the pan’ or else they will not brown. Merci beaucoup Julie and Julia. In no specific order. 

a guide to a simple loaf of bread

A few months ago I read a book called ‘down to earth – a guide to simple living’ by Rhonda Hetzel. When I say read, I mean looked at the words, talked about a few things and then placed the book back on the bookshelf. I certainly have not been making my own washing powder or sewing clothes like the books suggests! However, this morning I was compelled to re-read this book hoping that it might provide me with some inspiration. It did.

I found myself at 7am cooking from scratch.

I was lucky enough cook lunch today for my dear friend who is up from Sydney. Instead of going out and buying food, I decided to take a leaf from ‘down to earth’ and utilize what was in my cupboard and fridge. I opted for a simple lentil dish, cooked in the same style as my previous lentil creation; (soaking lentils, boiling with water, adding in a few vegetables & herbs). Today’s dish however, was a slight variation to my original; losing the middle eastern flavour, instead adding a more peasant french feel. By peasant french I mean I added onion, capsicum, green beans and a dash of dijon “it is must be French” mustard.

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To accompany this dish I made bread. This might not seem like a major achievement for the many domestic goddesses and trained chefs of the world; but for this suburban cook it was significant. Significant mostly because I had never had the desire to make bread before let alone make bread before 9am in the morning! I decided on using my new cookbook, the classic “Baking” by Margaret Fulton and found myself weighing flour, activating yeast and kneading dough all before I had consumed my morning oats.

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The end result was lunch made with ingredients from my fridge, cupboard and garden. A homage to a ‘guide to simple living’. A delicious lentil dish, with a simple loaf of warm, doughy, crusty bread (which we topped with real butter, salt & pepper).

The 4pm Dinner

This afternoon I attempted to make a late lunch/early dinner. To my knowledge there is no brunch equivalent of combining these two meals. Dunch or Linner is not appealing. Even linguistically challenged people like myself can recognise that these are not words that will take off.

So, to the outside world it would appear that my fiancé and I were eating a 4pm dinner. Traditionally, ‘the 4pm dinner’ is the time dinner is served in nursing homes and hospitals. Although neither old or sick there is something pleasing about a long graze over a late lunch which spills into the evening.

In an effort to eat more fish, as prescribed by my naturopath I decided to pick a Red Emperor fillet. This is a gorgeous looking fish; white flesh and an almost coral/crimson skin.  What attracted me to the fish was not only its appearance but also the fact I thought it was locally caught. Healthy and good for the environment!  From my thorough research, ahem googling, it would seem Red Emperor is a reef fish from North Queensland; which makes me question the phrase ‘locally caught’. Environmental conversations aside, the meal was a standout success.

To the home cook; tonight we ate fish, chips and green vegetables. I could also write; tonight we ate Red Emperor with roast  potato chips and a side of greens. Or I could trump all the above descriptions a la carte style. Tonight we ate…

Red Emperor en papillote; crusted in olive bread, on a bed of Spinacia oleracea…(an edible flowing plant aka Baby Spinach), with twice cooked potatoes and a side of truffle oil infused greens.

I adore cooking my fish en papillote. Although I am unsure as to the exact cooking times, it seems you can not over cook fish when you place it in a paper parcel. The fish is steamed in these tiny paper parcels which doubles as being healthy but also deliciously moist. Having no bread crumbs in the house, I processed yesterdays sourdough olive bread and then grilled this in the oven to imitate the texture of store bought breadcrumbs. Mixed into the breadcrumbs; fennel, curly and flat leafed parsley, courtesy of our herb garden.  Our fish fillets were dusted in the breadcrumbs, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt and the final touch; lemon and garlic bien sur! All of this was wrapped into a paper parcel and baked, for about 20 minutes. At 20 mintues I opened the parcels slightly, spilled some verjuice (a recent discovery) over the fish and continued cooking for a few minutes. The green vegetables were steamed and truffle oil added before serving. And those twice cooked potatoes; a little secret from my future mother-in-law, were the perfect combination of crispy and creamy. A insanely succulent potato chip.

I would love to have  a Nigella moment and sneak into the kitchen tonight in my dressing gown for a midnight snack.  Unfortunately there are no leftovers, which in my books means our late lunch/early dinner equals a success.

Note to my new blogger self, must explore the use of comma verse semi-colon.

‘It’s a breakfast snack’

‘It’s a breakfast snack,’ remarked my dear friend as our brunch was plodded down in front of us. We had ventured into a new cafe, The Burrow.

A recently converted Turkish restaurant turned West End brunch joint.  Wooden tables etched out of giant tree trunks majestically filled the space and exposed timber beams gave a true sense of rustic warmth.  Another Saturday in Brisbane, sunshine and espressos. I am one to always be impressed when the cost of an espresso is significantly less than that of a latte or cappuccino. 30 ml of coffee sans milk…why should it be the same price? So at $2.5 I was pleasantly surprised. I was also impressed by the $7 turkish toast with smashed avocado salsa. Less than $10 for brunch and great company equals a win.

The Burrow serves a fine blend of coffee, 100% organic and fair trade.  Both the espresso and soy flat white looked perfection and would suitably pass for service in our southern states. In fairness to The Burrow my espresso was complex, rich and developed. However, I should have seen the warning signs when the counter staff advised us of a long wait times for any food orders.

Can I ask what do you expect when you order the staple avocado on toast?

What appeared on our plates in terms of size was something you would think to find in a fine dining. If this size appeared in the bedroom, ladies you would be disappointed. Two slim turkish fingers, a thin layer of avocado with small chunks of spanish onion. Smashed avocado salsa? What amused us even more was the knife and fork that accompanied our meals. This breakfast snack could have been consumed in three bites, maybe four; it certainly did not require the use of cutlery.

This is not a cost issue, I would happily pay more for the humble avocado on toast. This is a case of size. In life bigger is not  necessarily better. However; when you are out for brunch, the meal which should leave you full until the early afternoon I do think wholesome is what people look for.  Whilst we mused of the hilarity of our breakfast snack, we noticed the falsity in The Burrow. Big white plates to suggest grand meals and those exposed low timber beams…add ons to an ordinary plastered ceiling, just another illusion.

Unless you forgot to reserve for 10:30am at The Gunshop Cafe or are in fact searching for a ‘breakfast snack’ I wouldn’t rush to hop, skip or jump into The Burrow.

The company on the other hand was delectable, as per usual.

WOW + OH

Last Friday night I found myself in a delightful restaurant Azafran, a hidden gem in Brisbane. Having persuaded the menu online prior to arrival I was immediately transported back to my time living in Paris.

The menu was delicate, simple and inspired.

For starters… ‘Seared Scallops, shaved maple pork, Fennel puree pickled Samphire’. Samphire for the novice house cook like myself is an edible plant that grows in coastal areas.  It looks like ‘honey I shrunk the asparagus’ however, it has the slight taste of aniseed. The sweetness of the the maple syrup with the perfection of the scallops made me simply say WOW.  Main consisted of more WOW moments ‘twice cooked Duck with quince and cinnamon, silverbeet leaves, tarragon gratin and jus’; the duck was tender, flavoursome and had that oh so naughty straight to the hips layer of duck fat. This was followed by a Azafran’s stand alone signature dessert…

Could there be anything more delightful than a turkish deligh pannacotta, saffron caramel, pistachio ice cream and fairy floss? Non, in case you are wondering…there is nothing more delightful.

The only thing I could say whilst consuming this light, complex fusion of a dessert was ‘oh’. Speechless is something I am not on the worst of occasions, however, ‘oh’ was the only adjective I could conjure.

Best meal I’ve eaten in Brisbane.

Note to self, must extend my vocabulary…’wow’ and ‘oh’ do not do Azafran justice, but aptly describe my dining experience.

http://www.azafran.com.au/