soup


In case you’re wondering, a vague nerdy interest in the scientific side of things (informed, unfortunately, by nothing beyond high school classes!)  is a large part of what’s keeping me motivated on this Elimination Diet.  It’s been over a month now of keeping a strict food diary, and there have been some results.  But culinarily and socially, our family’s eating has been less than exciting.  I did enjoy doing a couple of the food challenges: the first week, I got to reintroduce salicylates, which, among other things, meant I could have herbs and spices again.  As you would imagine, I went crazy – making cajun this and pilaf that – and when I then rang my dietician to ask about some strange things my body was doing, she said: you sound toxic; you must stop.  Oh dear.  The second challenge was better: for amines, I had to eat chocolate every day!  Needless to say, that was fun, and happily my body did not protest (as much).

But what I’ve been trying to do is to refine some core recipes that comply with the requirements of the bare-bones elimination diet that I can use when I feel the need to detox again.  I returned to an adaptation of a Moosewood favourite that we first tried in the autumn.  It’s hard to make pea soup look appealing, but it sure is tasty and nourishing, and uses very few ingredients.  I just made a up a huge lot that will keep me going in lunches all week.

Meanwhile, wish me luck as I try out glutamates (MSG being one of the better known incarnations of this chemical). I’m hoping that I don’t react because I so want to continue to be able to eat mushrooms and parmesan cheese (which contain naturally-occurring glutamates), not to mention eating Chinese food again!  So have a go with some pea soup for now and cross your fingers for me!

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Split pea and vegetable soup
Adapted from Moosewood Cookbook Classics

1 tbsp butter
1 large leek, white part only, finely sliced
2 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
3 carrots, cut into 1.5cm chunks
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1.5cm chunks
2 cups dry split peas
about 1.25L  water

Heat the butter in a large saucepan.  When the butter has melted, add in the leek, carrot and potato.  Saute on low-medium heat to sweat the vegetables.  It should take about 10-12 minutes until they are aromatic and the leek is completely soft but not coloured.  Add in the garlic and saute for 1 or 2 minutes more.

Then add in all the split peas and the water.  Bring to the boil, then simmer gently for about an hour, stirring occasionally to help the peas break down.  You might need to add more water as needed.  Season to taste.

Yield:  serves 6

As I approach the official end of the elimination phase of my dietary investigations, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to notice that this time has featured a rediscovery of some of my childhood foods.  Many of these reflect that I didn’t grow up with a vegetable focussed diet, but I have to admit that I’ve enjoyed returning to rice congee (made with real chicken stock), shredded chicken and carrot soup with glass noodles, and a chicken, macaroni and vegetable soup.  These were part of my Mum’s repertoire of simple, nourishing Indonesian-Chinese staples that our family grew up with.  Since very few asian flavours are permitted by my restricted diet (ie no soy, ginger, miso, chilli etc), I’ve enjoyed these nostalgic meals even more.

But I have tried to keep faith where possible with our present family’s vege-centred food.  This has met with varied success.  A few dishes I reported on in the last post have had several good re-runs, but notable dissapointments included my trial of diet-friendly mayonnaise (an alchemical test as olive oil and lemon juice are not permitted)  and pear chutney (featuring tinned pears and citric acid!).  I had a breakthrough though when I realised that since fresh cheese is permitted, I could therefore eat goats cheese!  Hooray!  Here’s what worked in the past two weeks:

IMG_4166_1– roasted beetroot and goats cheese frittata
– roasted sweet potato and red lentil soup, with goats cheese and chives
– apple sponge pudding (pictured, based on Johanna’s recipe)
– tapioca pudding (from 101 cookbooks)

I was really happy with the sweet potato soup, especially the gorgeous orange colour that the soup retains because the sweet potatoes are roasted whole in their skins.  That way, only the skins darken and the flesh stays bright and pure. (Also, if you don’t have time to roast the sweet potatoes, I think you could get a pretty good result by just chopping up the uncooked potatotes and adding them with the stock. )  So: hooray for goats cheese, which has been the flavour saviour of the past week!

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Roasted sweet potato and red lentil soup with goats cheese

1.5kg sweet potatoes (about 3 medium)
1 leek, finely sliced
1 large clove garlic, finely sliced
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup red lentils
1.5 L stock (I used chicken stock, but for a vege version use chicken-style powder)
50g fresh goats cheese
chives, snipped

Preheat the oven to 200C.  Line a baking tray with baking paper (this is essential as lots of very sticky juice oozes out during baking!), and place whole unpeeled sweet potatoes on it.  Bake for about an hour, until the potatoes feel soft when you poke a fork into them.  Cut in half with a knife and allow to cool slightly.

In a large soup pot, saute the leek and garlic on low heat until softened but not coloured (about 8 minutes).  Scoop out the sweet potato flesh and add to the pot, and pour in the stock.  Bring to the boil.  Take off the heat and puree with a hand blender.  Return to the heat, add in the lentils and simmer for about 20 minutes until the lentils have broken down.  You might need to add more liquid at this stage, according to the consistency you are after.  Season well.

Serve into bowls, with the goats cheese and chives on top.

Serves: 4-6 as a main.

Is it silly to think that making this soup for a recent big weekend cook-up was somehow even more homely and wholesome because it was done in my shiny new red pot?  Seeing all the colourful vegies in there, with the unruly tops of my market-day beetroot also sneaking into the frame, was just the thing to inspire industrious home-making thoughts. Soup, with homemade stock, was the order of the day.

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We have fond memories of a knockout pumpkin soup we enjoyed at the London Fifteen restaurant a few years back.  Among all the dishes that we sampled that day, we agreed that the soup starter had stolen the show.  This version, which follows the recipe in Jamie’s Dinners with only minor changes, was a more straightforward affair but still tasty and satisfying. And, seeing as it made a vatful in quantity, the leftovers gave us the opportunity to take the soup in a different direction with the addition of some greens and unusual ravioli.   I’m sending over our second variation on this soup over to Jacqueline for this month’s No Croutons Required, which asks for ideas for soups or salads featuring leaves.  Even though pumpkin soup is usually pretty uniformly smooth in texture, the idea of using the soup as a background to other flavours and textures appealed to me.   I spied some stunning beetroot ravioli at the greengrocer that I wanted to try but which I thought might not work with our usual pasta sauces.  So in that went; plus, stirring some baby greens into the soup is a great way of sneaking in some extra veg and is a snap to do.  Who says that orange, pink and green can’t look good together?

IMG_4053_1Take 1: Simple pumpkin soup with sage
Adapted from Jamie’s Dinners

olive oil
handful fresh sage leaves
2 red onions, sliced into thick half moons
2 sticks celery, trimmed and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 sprigs rosemary, leaves picked
2kg butternut pumpkin (squash), cut into rough chunks
2L vegetable stock
creme fraiche or sour cream, for dolloping

In a very large saucepan, heat some olive oil until hot and drop in the sage leaves.  When they have sizzled and crisped up, take them out to drain on some paper towel.  Set aside the leaves until you are ready to eat.

Into the remaining hot oil, tip in the onion, celery, carrot, garlic and rosemary, and saute on low heat for about 10-15 minutes until the onion has softened.   Then add the pumpkin and stock, bring to the boil and simmer for about half an hour or until all the vegetables are soft.

Take off the heat and puree the soup with a hand blender.  Season well with salt and pepper.

To serve, add a generous dollop of creme fraiche and top with some crispy sage leaves.

Yield: 8 servings

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Take 2: Pumpkin soup with beetroot ravioli and baby spinach

Seeing as this is more an idea than a recipe, my tips on this one are a little freeform…

– heat some pumpkin soup
– find some stunning filled fresh pasta (eg beetroot ravioli!) and cook according to instructions
– at the bottom of each soup bowl, place a generous handful of baby spinach
– ladle over the hot soup, and stir gently to wilt the leaves
– top with a few ravioli, and, of course, some creme fraiche and sage leaves.