Thursday, 28 September 2017

Delicious Sweet Potato and Butternut Soup with Pistachio Pesto

Sweet Potato and Butternut Soup was my saviour. Yesterday was a miserably cold, wet day. Magpies were sitting under the verandah shivering and the wind was bitterly cold, coming straight off the Antarctic!

If you are in Northern America or Canada, you are probably laughing your head off, because our cold 14 degrees C, is nothing like your cold! But to us, it's the same as being buried in a snow drift.

That said, a good way to warm up the kitchen is to turn on the oven, chuck in some veg and get roasting. And that is exactly how this soup happened.

I had half a butternut squash, sliced it up with olive oil, salt and pepper and put it in the oven to roast. I was thinking I could use it in a vegetable stack, a salad, or a roast vegetable baguette. But as I watched the trees outside of the kitchen window, thrashing around in the wind and the spring blossom slowly disappearing down the block, I yearned for soup.

What turned this soup from being 'Soupa' to extra super was adding the Pistachio Pesto. That really did give it that extra zing. Swirl it around with a spoon of yogurt and thats one fine lunch on a cold day. This is how I made it.

This might be my last winter soup for a while because I have just checked out the weather forecast and we might be in for a tad of sunshine - whoo hoo! Summer is coming!


For 4 serves you will need;

600g golden sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
250g butternut pumpkin, peeled, chopped
1 brown onion, chopped
2 clove garlic, minced
1 litre of vegetable stock/stock cube/water
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and peper
knob of butter
Spoonful or 2 of plain yoghurt

Pistachio Pesto

1/2 cup raw, shelled pistachios
3 cloves garlic crushed
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups loosley packed basil leaves
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
2 teaspoons lemon juice 

Prepare a tray with baking paper, add chopped butternut, olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in a pre heated oven 160º fan forced/ 325º/3 Gas, for 20 - 30 minutes until golden.

While the pumpkin is cooking, melt butter in large pan and add onion, and cook until transparent. Add garlic and olive oil and cook a further 2 minutes.

Place the sweet potato into the pan and mix it around until it is well coated in butter and olive oil, 3 minutes or so. You can put in your stock, water or stock cube and water at this point and allow it to come to the boil.

Add salt and pepper and turn down to a simmer. 

Just as the sweet potato begins to soften, around 20 minutes, add the cooked pumpkin. Cook for a further 5 - 10 minutes until the sweet potato is nicely soft and tasting very sweet. (You could cook the pumpkin a day ahead of time, if that works for you).

Cool a little and puree with a hand blender or food processor. The soup can be used by itself with a little extra cracked pepper and a hint of yoghurt. Or you can make the pesto while the potato is cooking.

Pistachio Pesto

Place pistachios in food processor and blend until finely chopped. Set aside.

Add cloves and salt and blend again.

Place the basil into the processor and blend until finely chopped. then again all the other ingredients, except oil and blend again.

Lastly, with the motor running, add the olive oil as a stream. Once all is blended together, check seasoning again and adjust to suit. You can now add a spoonful of this to your soup.

This pesto can be used with any pasta too.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

A French Weekend in Melbourne

For a whole weekend, I felt I was back in France! And I was excited.

Day 1 - My long weekend started off with a delicious meal at a restaurant/Cafe in the CBD. Higher Ground is an open space of industrial beauty. Formerly a power station, the building has been transformed with arched windows, exposed brick and a host of greenery. The menu varied from Japanese Fish Soup to a medley of fennel, white beans and slow cooked carrots, very much like a Pistou Our waiter was unflappable, attentive and French! and the whole atmosphere was one of unhurried enjoyment.

Day 2  - Melbourne Writers Festival - Sheridan Jobbins, an Australian film maker has written her first book. 'Wish You Were Here' was launched by Amanda Keller, her friend and former colleague at Channel 10.  Nothing French here, but a remarkable girls' own adventure driving a car across America, alone, determined to find herself. The atmosphere at the launch and the whole vibe of Federation Square was uplifting.

Sheridan Left and Amanda Keller

The House of Dior at National Gallery of Victoria. In celebration of its seventieth anniversary, this adorable exhibition is exclusive to Melbourne. The range of styles from 1947 - 2017 shows the immaculate workings of Haute Couture. I was pretty much blown away by the number of items on display. Hats, gloves, shoes, ball gowns, dresses of the most exquisite embroidery; beadwork, lacework and stunning fabrics. Two women, employees of Dior can be seen working away constructing garments by hand. Truly remarkable to see the way these are made with perfect hand stitching.
Exquisite bead work and gold thread on this gown - stunning.
A couple of little black dresses, Dior style

Just a small sample of the range of clothing on vie

On the way back to our hotel, Causeway 353 we stopped at the French Baguette Cafe, Richmond for afternoon tea. Eclairs, Blueberry Cheese cake and a Green Matcha cake - sorry we ate them so quickly I didn't have time to snap them. A celebration for daughter's birthday. 

Day 4 - Our last day in Melbourne saw us visiting family at Woodend. A lovely train ride up through the Macedon Ranges and there we are an hour later. It was a bitterly cold day and just as we were finishing lunch, down came the hail, which then turned into actual snow. It didn't settle luckily, and we headed back on the train to Melbourne, just in time to catch La Belle Miette, a French Patisserie in Collins Street.  

We couldn't resit buying a box of macarons, Lavender, Salted Caramel, Pistachio, Hazlenut, Strawberry and Blueberry. I must admit they were the best macarons I have ever eaten. We also sampled a couple of chocolates, so creamy yet not too sweet. 

Dinner with daughters at East, Little Collins Street, was delicious. The Salt and Pepper Tofu was scrumptious; soft, with a delicious crust.We ate steamed spinach dumplings, broccoli with garlic sauce, string beans and hot chilli sauce. OK so this wasn't French, but it was outstanding.

Such a terrific few days spent in great company, combined with fabulous food cooked by both of my daughters! Alas back to South Australia!