Friday, December 29, 2006

Coco Mango Soup



Would you have ever imagined that this last year would zoom by so fast? I am finding it hard to believe that this will be my last post of the year. Sounds so dramatic, doesn't it? But just think after the weekend we'll be starting not only a new week but also a new year. It makes me sit back and take a deep breath.


It was towards the end of February when I first started with What's For Lunch, Honey? I kind of shudder when I look back at the food pictures from those days. LOL! I did learn quickly though and when my Sony digital camera I was using back then got stolen on our trip to London, I think I was the most miserable person in the Blogesphere! However, it was a blessing in disguise! When I invested in the Nikon D70s I did not realize at the time that what had started out as a bit of fun would turn out to be addictive passion!

This blog has made so many things possible for me. It gives me that little glow every time I think about them. Besides the fact that I am learning so much everyday about picture-taking, I have to say I have become more experimental with my cooking too. I do not shy away from complicated sounding recipes anymore. As a matter of fact I take this on as a challenge and in the end am totally amazed how well it turned out. Of course then comes the process of taking equally good pictures of it and then when all this has turned out well, I just cannot wait to share it with you.

You! That is the biggest bonus I was rewarded with this blog. I got to know many of you. Through your comments, mails and blogs it was just plain fun being in touch with you. I made some great friends and met some awesome people. The best thing about it is that I look forward to more of it in 2007. Just getting to know people through their blogs and sharing a common passion in food and photography brings us all so much closer. I would have never thought that this was such a fantastic social community.

With all the events that go on throughout the year in our Foodie lives it becomes easier for a beginner to meet up with others who share the same passion. The question however, is not "What should I wear?" but "What should I bring along?" There were many events in which I took part the past year too. I even started my own event and of course there was the absolutely brilliant Bloggers Postcards From The World. Both will be back with a bang in 2007 so make sure you stay tuned for that.

I think for me personally the best event - if you can really call it an event - has to be our recent Menu For Hope charity event. This was so incredible! It opened my eyes that when we Foodies get together we do not just blog for fun but are able create a tidal wave that makes a difference. It was a real honor that I was able to join the rest of you and raise close to US 60,000. Each of us helped in our own way. Some of us offered the prizes and the rest of bid for them.

As my very last recipe for the year I am going for something light and easy. After all the eating most of us have been doing and probably will do in the coming few days, I thought you'd enjoy a light but very flavorful soup. It has wonderful aromatic flavors of coconut and mango making this an extraordinary combination. A few fresh vegetables bring color and the right crunch to the soup. What a way to end the year!

Happy New Year!

Wish you joy, success, health and happy blogging! See you all on the other side.



Music while cooking:

Monrose - Shame - Hot new German girl band - New on my iPod!
Album: Temptations


Listen and watch Shame:







Ingredients:

1 shallot - finely chopped
1 piece ginger (approx. 2 cm thick) - finely chopped
200 g zucchini - sliced
1 teaspoon curry powder
400 ml vegetable broth
200 g mixed vegetables - cut in julienne/thin strips. I used carrots, bell peppers, leeks, asparagus and celery.
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons roasted, unsalted peanuts - coarsely chopped
250 g mango - cut in cubes
2 tablespoon lime juice
400 ml unsweetened coconut milk
oil for cooking





Method:
In a pot heat up some oil and sauté the onions, ginger and zucchini slices without allowing it to take on color. Add the curry powder and sauté for a few more minutes. Pour in the vegetable broth. Cover and simmer for approx 20 minutes.

In the meantime heat up some oil in a large pan and throw in the vegetable julienne. Allow to cook through, making sure the vegetables are not over cooked but still a bit crunchy. Salt and pepper to taste and keep warm.

Mix the mango, vegetables and nuts together with 1 table spoon of lime juice.

Back to the soup: Puree the zucchini in the broth. Depending on how thick you like the soup to be you can either leave it the way it is or strain the soup through a sieve, as I did. Place the pureed soup back on the heat and add the coconut milk. Bring to a gentle boil and then add some salt and pepper.

Place the vegetable mango mixture in the middle of soup bowls and then pour in the piping hot soup over the top.

Close your eyes and repeat after me "mmmmhhhhh!"



Verdict:
This is the ultimate taste explosion for your tastebuds. Spoon after spoonful you will not be able to get enough of it. The wonderful coconut flatters the flavors of the fruity mango. By no means is this a sweet soup as the zucchini lends the entire soup it's neutralizing aromas. The peanuts add a perfect nutty character without being too obtrusive making it harmonize wonderfully.
I was not sure if Soeren would be quite ready for all these flavors. With every spoonful he asked "What is this?" and as each spoonful went into his mouth all I heard was "mmmmhhh!" He actually polished off two bowls! As for Tom, he is always weary when it comes to mixing fruity flavors with the savory, but this soup really had him speechless. I think it went down well!

I'll be taking this creation over to Ashwini's for this month's JFI for Coconut.

Shaun over at Winter Skies, Kitchen Aglow is hosting this month's Weekend Cookbook Challenge. This is just perfect for the theme of Soups and Stews.



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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Welcome To My Kitchen!



So where does all the cooking take place?

Don't you ever wonder what the kitchen, or should I call it the lab, looks like where all the incredible looking recipes are concocted? The birth place of wild, crazy and completely delicious recipes.

Well Ilva had a great idea! Show us your kitchen. A brilliant idea I thought and decided to squeeze in this post.


It was my mother whom I remember always saying,

"Why in heavens name do they call the kitchen a kitchen and not the living room!"

After all these years I truly understand what she means. The kitchen is the main "living" room in our home too.

The picture above shows you the kitchen looking into the dining room, which leads into the living room. From the main entrance to the house there is a side door leading into the kitchen, making it easier to bring in the groceries and take out the trash!


This one is also taken from the same place, but looking directly at the kitchen. I have a ceramic stove top where I prepare all our meals. If you are wondering "Well she does not have too many cookbooks," let me take away any misconceptions! I decided to sort a few (OK! many) of them yesterday and bring those that I do not use often upstairs. I have a few more on the shelves of our living room too. I recently bought a pretty cool wire frame where I hang a few of the pictures I have taken this past year.


This one shows you a little more of the dining and living area. Yes, that is our Christmas tree in the back. The living room has four huge glass doors, which opens to a small porch and yard.



From the opposite angle you see the rest of the kitchen. As I do the dishes I can keep tabs on what my neighbors are up to LOL! The little wine shelf at the bottom stacks up some of our favorite wines.

Hope you all enjoyed this little tour of my kitchen. Why don't you show us yours?


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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Photo: The Cliffs

The Cliffs on Flickr

Wow! Christmas 2006 is over. It went by in such a hurry. As did the whole year. Was it the same for you?

For me 2006 went by at the speed of sound. If I sit down and think about it I just do not know where to start with my recapitulation! I think I need a few more days.

One of the many things I really enjoyed this year was our short vacation to Greece. I still have a few pictures I desperately need to share with you, I know. The picture above was taken on the island of Zakynthos. Breathtaking, isn't it? SIGH!


As we all countdown to 2007, I am sure we are all thinking about resolutions for the new year. Things we would like to change, goals we would like to achieve and take on new challenges. I too have a few things planned for my blog and I will share these ideas with you in the new year. I have also been challenged by a Cream Puff I just adore. Of course I have taken on this challenge. More will be revealed in 2007! That is one thing I will not be changing ... teasing you into all eternity ;-)

For this year, I have one last recipe to share with you (towards the end of the week), thank you all for this amazing generosity and give you all a huge hug for your support and friendship.

So, while I go and think about the things that happened in 2006 and plan my new ideas for 2007 I hope you enjoy this picture of - The Cliffs.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Have A Magical Christmas!

Magical Christmas on Flickr

I'd like to wish you all a very merry and magical Christmas. Hope you enjoy the festive few days with your families, friends and children.

You've been the best, loyal, and friendliest readers anyone can ever wish for. I thank you for that.


I also thank you so much for being so generous and opening your hearts to help us raise money for Menu For Hope III charity this year - United Nations World Food Programme by bidding on my prize along with all the other great prizes. If you are wondering how much we raised, well the First Giving site reads
US$49,131.70 US$ 58,256.70!
You still have time to bid - 22nd December is the last day!
More details on how to bid can be found here.

Happy Holidays!

Yours,

Meeta



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Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas Goodies - Pralines and Cakes



It's like the entire world is baking for Christmas at the moment. Can you smell all the lovely aromas coming at you from your monitors?
Cookies galore everywhere you go. One of my favorite Food Blogger has completely gone wild too. Check out her mouthwatering cookies.

It is a fantastic tradition.

Every year, at this time my shopping cart at the grocery store is not filled with the usual fruit and vegetables but jam packed with raisins, flour, sugar, eggs and all things nice! I know my kitchen is gonna look like hell afterwards, but I also know that the cookies I just took out of the oven are gonna give me that ultra satisfaction.

This year besides the usual cookie recipes, I decided to make a few new treats. Something a little different to share with friends and family. I mean, I can only go to so many friends or neighbors places and when they all have the Vanille Kipferl, it kind of starts hanging out of my throat! Although I love the good ole Austrian Kipferl I decided to omit it from my baking list this year.

Instead I picked up two very interesting recipes from a German food magazine and decided to give those a try.


I would not call them cookies in anyway. One has a more cake like texture and the other is unmistakably a praline. Both taste completely incredible. So, before I share the recipes for them I do want to tell you to make a larger batch of each. They will make beautiful gifts for neighbors, teachers, friends and just about anyone you want to show special appreciation to.

Enjoy!



Nougat Orange Treats



This cake-like treat is filled with the chocolaty nougat. I'm talking rich molten chocolate nougat not the typical white nougat type made with sugar or honey and roasted nuts. This is the type which contains only sugar, cocoa butter, almonds, and cocoa mass and is often called Gianduia.

The wonderful spices, cinnamon and ground cloves, give it that wonderful Christmas aroma that always keeps you coming back for more. Finally the tangy hint of orange zest provide a refreshing flavor making this just to hard to resist.

Ingredients:
2 oranges - zested and 100 ml juice saved
200g - Gianduia Nougat (click on link to order now) - cut into cubes
6 eggs
400g + 150g - brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1/4 teaspoon ground clove powder
500g ground almonds
75 g flour



Method:
Prepare a baking pan lined with some waxed paper (about 32 x 39 cm). Preheat the oven at 200 degrees Celsius.

In a large bowl mix the eggs, 400g sugar, cinnamon, cloves and half of the orange zest with an electric mixer until it is thick and creamy - about 6-8 minutes. With a rubber spatula fold in the ground almonds and flour. Pour in the orange juice and stir until incorporated. Mix the nougat cubes into the batter.

Spread the entire mixture onto the baking pan and smooth with the rubber spatula- Bake for approx. 15-20 minutes.

In the meantime, mix the rest of the orange zest with the sugar. Mix with 1 tablespoon cold water.

Take the cake out of the oven and allow to cool. Then tip out on a large board. Cut into small squares. Gently roll each piece in the orange sugar.

Storing:
When kept in cool, dry air tight containers, this should last 2-3 weeks.

These treats are a heading their way to Danielle of Habeas Brulee, who is the host of Sugar High Friday this time round. Danielle has chosen a very fitting theme - Sugar Art.





Havana Pralines



Havana never tasted so good. This is a quick and easy to make praline with smooth marzipan, almonds and a touch of rum. A very grown-up type of treat, perfect for after the Christmas dinner, when all the kids are tucked away in bed. Sit back into the sofa with your loved ones around and bite into this crunchy praline. Trust me you will not be able to stop at just one.
I find that these are so classy that they would also make a great little bring-along for a New Year's party. What ever the occasion - one thing is for sure, these sinfully good treats will make you add one or two new resolutions to your list. But for now - enjoy it guilt-free!

Ingredients:

50g brown sugar
Vanilla pod - split and the pulp removed
150g + 2 tablespoons flaked almonds
200g bittersweet chocolate
200g Marzipan (click on link to order now)
2 tablespoon brown rum
400g whole milk chocolate



Method:

In a large pan bring sugar and 50 ml water to a boil. Keep mixing until the sugar has dissolved. Add the vanilla pulp and 150g flaked almonds. Mix well and roast the almonds until they turn golden. Allow the entire mixture to cool.

In a bowl melt the bittersweet chocolate over a pot of boiling water. Add the almond mixture and gently fold into the chocolate. Spread a piece of baking/waxed paper out on your kitchen counter. Spread the almond-chocolate mixture on to the baking/waxed paper. Place a second sheet over the top. Using a rolling pin roll the mixture flat - to about 1 cm thickness. Place in the fridge to cool for 2 hours.

Mix the marzipan with the rum and using your hands knead to a smooth texture. Take the almond-chocolate mixture out of the fridge. Remove the top sheet of paper and place the marzipan mixture on top. Gently spread it flat with your finger tips. Replace the baking paper on top of the marzipan and once again roll evenly with a rolling pin. You now have two layer - an almond-chocolate layer and a marzipan-rum layer.

Using a sharp knife cut the pralines into small bite-sized squares.

In a steam bath melt the whole milk chocolate. Using a fork dip each marzipan square in the melted chocolate, allow to drip and scrape the bottom across the bowl. Place on a baking tray to dry. Decorate with some flaked almond pieces.



Storing:
In a plastic or metal air-tight container these will stay 1-2 weeks fresh. Keep in a cool place - but not in the fridge!




Verdict:

Ohhhhhh! If this does not sweeten up your Christmas this year then I do not know what will!! LOL! First: Soeren just could not get enough of the Nougat Orange treats. He got addicted to them and normally ate 3 pieces in one go. Everyone who I have served these too were wonderfully surprised and of course I had to give out the recipe to everyone.
As for the pralines - well I had to hide them away from myself!! I made this to give away and I am afraid until Christmas actually does come around there will be none left. These are such fantastic pralines that every chocoholic needs to give these a try.

Just think of me when you bite into these luscious Christmas goodies.

Reminder!


The counter on the First Giving site reads US$ 25,050.70! Incredible we have surpassed last years mark! You can help by donating to the Menu For Hope III charity this year - United Nations World Food Programme by bidding on some great prizes. The list of all the spectacular prizes can be viewed on Chez Pim's campaign prize page.
Please help us raise more money for Menu For Hope!
More details on how to bid can be found here.




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Friday, December 15, 2006

It's A New Dawn!

Blazing Sky on Flickr

My neighbors must think I am nuts. This was taken at 7 am in the morning - I rushed out like a mad woman, camera and tripod in hand and ran up the hill just for this one shot!!
PS. I was still in my PJ's and it was freezing - LOL!
Type your summary here.



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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

You want more of this - Toblerone Tart?



Then go grab a fork and come back later!

Somehow I knew you all would run and grab your forks. Thank you for drooling so eagerly - the wait is now over!

This is my third recipe idea for your Christmas meal. With Porcini Cream Soup and the Cranberry Ginger Chutney I hope I was able to provide some other ideas. Well I was not too sure if I should do the Entrée this week or the dessert. I decided to go with dessert first ;-).


What do you get when you combine a light and fluffy mousse to a cake base - a chocolate mousse cake? Hmmnn! OK but what happens when that mousse is not made with regular chocolate but with the mother, king, chocolate of all chocolates? The Toblerone. You get a to-die-for-and-send-me-to-heaven dessert!

I am sure you all know the smooth Swiss chocolate best recognized by the triangle shaped chunks. Did you know that these triangles represent the Matterhorn mountain in the Swiss Alps? In 1908 two Swiss gentlemen, Theodore Tobler and Emil Baumann, created the first milk chocolate, which included wonderful nougat, almonds and honey. Derived from Mr. Tobler's name and the Italian word for nougat - torrone -, the Toblerone today is one of the best selling chocolates in the world.

Right, so you might think "well golly that is satisfying enough!" But you see one has to go beyond the borderline at times. "Satisfying enough" is just not good enough at times. There has to be swooning and drooling when this dessert is presented. Combining the mousse with a tart is an ingenious plan.

The crust is baked blind and the mousse is whipped to it's smooth, fluffy consistency. Together, they make anyone weak and want more.

Without much ado I present to you The Toblerone Tart!

BTW: If you are still looking for a few Christmas gifts, over at the Daily Tiffin I have offered a few book ideas for the kiddies and of course a selection of cookbooks. Make sure you check it out!






Ingredients:

For the tart crust:
Zest from 1 orange
135g concentrated butter
100g sugar
1 egg
50g ground almonds
200g flour
1/4 teaspoon backing powder

For the mousse:
100g chocolate containing 70% cocoa - coarsely chopped
200g Toblerone - coarsely chopped
70g Butter
300g cream
2 eggs
2 tablespoons clear honey






Method

Pre-heat the oven at 200 degrees Celsius.

In a large bowl, using am electric beater, whisk together the orange zest, 125g of the concentrated butter, sugar, and egg until creamy. Knead in the flour, baking powder and ground almonds. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and keep cool for 2 hours.

Roll out the dough to the size of your tart form. Using the rest of the butter grease the tart form and place the dough into the form. Cut out any edges. Place a sheet of baking paper onto the dough and either using pie weights or dried beans/peas, blind bake the tart for approx. 15 minutes. I would recommend using dried beans or peas as the weights can sometimes be too heavy for the tart crust, causing it to bake unevenly. After use, the beans/peas can be stored in a dry plastic bag and used for baking over and over again.

Take the tart out of the oven remove the beans/peas and baking paper, then bake the crust for another 5 minutes.

To prepare the chocolate mousse, place a bowl over a pot of boiling water. Add the chocolate, toblerone and butter to the bowl and allow to gently melt. Brush the tart base with some of this mixture. Keep the rest cool. Beat the cream half stiff.

Whisk the egg and the honey together and gently fold in the chocolate mixture and the half beaten cream. Pour the entire mousse mixture onto the tart base, smoothing where ever necessary. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Decorate and serve chilled.



Verdict:

Although this cake looks like you can eat large amounts of it, you will realize that one slice is very deliciously filling. The orangy flavors in the tart crust harmonize so perfectly with the chocolatey aromas of the mousse. Just perfect for a lovely festive dessert.


Reminder!


The counter on the First Giving site reads US$ 11,900.00 and it is increasing by the minute. You can help by donating to the Menu For Hope III charity this year - United Nations World Food Programme by bidding on some great prizes. The list of all the spectacular prizes can be viewed on Chez Pim's campaign prize page.
Maybe you would like to add this to your collection! Or you would like to decorate your walls with these gorgeous photos. How about a makeover for your blog. Whatever you do - please help us raise more money for Menu For Hope!
More details on how to bid can be found here.

Dig into your pockets and give with open hearts. Help us raise money for those who really need it.



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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Menu For Hope III

Did you know that every year ten million people die of hunger and diseases related with hunger? Shocking isn't it? While we are lucky enough to live in countries where food is readily available in masses, others do not have this privilege that is so often taken by granted.

At this time of year we are all busy preparing for the festivities to come, buying presents and enjoying family traditions, it is important that we also remember our responsibilities to help the needy. Those who depend on us and on organizations like the United Nations World Food Programme to supply them with the very basics to help them survive.

This year the Menu For Hope III's aim is to help raise money for the United Nations World Food Programme. In 2004 and 2005 Menu for Hope I and II helped raise substantial sums for the Tsunami victims in Southeast Asia and victims of the devastating earthquake in the Kashmir region of India and Pakistan. Last year the money raised by food bloggers for the earthquake victims with the Menu for Hope campaign amounted to more than US$ 17,000!

From December 11 till December 22, we all pitch in helping Pim break last year's record. During this time you have the opportunity to purchase raffle tickets for some spectacular and exciting gifts. Each raffle you purchase will be a little step towards helping raise money for the cause. So please people, look deep into your hearts and dig just a little deeper into your pockets.

On behalf of all the European bloggers I would like to thank David Lebovitz who is the campaign host for Europe. He is the one coordinating all European entries for this event. Thank you for taking care of us all! To view all of the prizes coming from Euprope, please check out David's round-up. There are a few great prizes on offer here.



My donation to this event as host, is a fantastic cookbook we have seen a few times on my blog - here and here. Dorie Greenspan's mouthwatering Baking: From My Home To Yours. This book contains over 300 recipes, some of which can be viewed here. This is more than just a normal baking book it is like having a friend in the kitchen. You will definitely enjoy Dorie's style of writing, her tips, the scrumptious photos and most of all each and every recipe.
I do know that a few of you have this on your wishlist! Now, here is your chance donate for a good cause AND get your hands on this incredible book.
That is not all folks! No, to entice you a little more I will be packing 2 boxes of some of the most gorgeous Belgian truffles you have ever had. A lovely assortment of rich, nutty and chocolaty truffles to accompany you while you browse through Dorie's recipes.

The prize code for my gift to you is: EU09 (please use both digits - EU09 and NOT EU9).

Here is how it works:

  1. First Giving is the official site handling all your donations. So, go to this site and make your contribution.
  2. Each US$10 you donate will buy you one virtual raffle ticket. Using this raffle ticket (or tickets) you can pledge towards a prize of your choice. The list of all prizes can be viewed on Chez Pim's campaign prize page.
  3. Specify which prize you are interested in by entering the prize code of your selected prize in the "Personal Message" section of the donation form. Do enter how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code -for example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for UW01 and 3 for UW02.
    If your company matches your charity donation, please remember to check the
    box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.
  4. For US donors, if your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so it is possible to claim the corporate match.
  5. Please allow us to see your email address so that we could contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.
  6. On January 15 the raffle results will be announced on Chez Pim. Draws are conducted electronically.


A fellow Indian Blogger whom many of my Indian readers will know is offering totally scrumptious Indian Goodies. So, make sure you check that out too!

Please help us support Menu For Hope III by donationg generously.

Thank you!


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Friday, December 08, 2006

A Souper Challenge - Making A Pea Soup!


I remember one of my first experiences with the German Erbsensuppe was not all that pleasant. It was in a ski resort on my first winter holiday in Germany. I had just arrived fresh out of Qatar 3 months prior to this, I was met with such low temperatures that were till this time unknown to me and I was constantly freezing. To top all that I was homesick and missed my parents. To cheer me up a few friends suggested a ski trip. Well OK! The thing was I could not ski - as a matter of fact I had never even seen snow in my life.

Till then I was the true beach bum! I lived in places where the sea and beaches were a stones throw away. Give me a pair of water skis and I am in my element, surfing the waves, but what was I supposed to do with these ski poles? They were just in the way. And what is it with all this heavy stuff you have to wear. I swear I not only felt like a huge funny looking orange bear I probably even looked like one in my huge, thick bright orange ski jacket! Don't even get me started on the ski boots. Are they really supposed to weigh a ton? Anyway, my friends at the time all decided it would be cool to put me into a ski school and I sort of went along with the idea. Hey I'll give anything a go once. I hated every minute of it. I was supposed to march to the top of a small hill. Normally that would have been no ordeal, but lugging the skis, in these huge boots it was a tough ordeal. Every time I got up to the top, I got onto the skis and was supposed to ski down in a so called plough. Once at the bottom, take the skis off and lug them back to the top. UGHHH! This for 3 hours!! Well, I gave up on the second day. There is much more to life than skiing down some dumb slope. Like some nice warming food.

In one of these famous, cosy ski huts, I decided to try something regional and warm cuisine. I went for the Pea Soup. I was really looking forward to it. I heard it was the typical dish that one got served in ski huts and always tasted good. So, imagine my disappointment when I was served pale gray-green slop! That is the only way I can describe it. It was a thick mushy gray colored slop on my plate. There were a few bits of unappetizing pieces floating around that I presume were supposed to be meat of some kind. Taste wise? Bland and of nothing in particular - not even salt!

The pea soup is typically made from dried peas. It belongs to the traditional cuisine of several countries and the way of preparing it is more or less similar. Normally dried yellow or green peas are soaked overnight and then cooked in salt water or broth until they are soft. Depending on the recipe throw in some herbs, purée the whole mixture and add some meat or sausage. Now that was the most basic peas soup recipe.

However, I need more. So I went to work in my kitchen lab to experiment.

What was created was a nutritious, thick - by no means mushy - and most intense tasting pea soup I have ever had.

BTW: If you are having trouble coming up with interesting gifts for your family and friends, you'll find a Christmas Guide on the Daily Tiffin. This week I covered Homemade Gifts. Check it out!

Music While Cooking:

Snow Patrol - Chasing Cars. Brilliant soul touching song.
Album: Eyes Open
Watch the video:


Music and Artwork courtesty iTunes
Video courtesy YouTube




Ingredients:

300g frozen peas - yes I used frozen peas! I prefer my pea soup where I can see a few peas instead of having one that is completely mushy, which is often the case when using the dried variety.
1 large onion - coarsely chopped
500g smoked pork chops
100g smoked bacon - cut in cubes - I used a fantastic type smoked with juniper berries
2 carrots - cut in cubes
2 leeks - cut in slices
1 large potato - cut in cubes
1 1/4 - 1 1/2 l vegetable or chicken broth
2 - 3 thick slices toast bread - cut in cubes
1-2 teaspoons herb mixture - I used the italian herb mixture
Olive oil
Salt, pepper








Method:

In a large pan heat some oil and sauté the onions until transparent. Add the bacon cubes and also allow to sizzle. Pour in the broth and bring to a boil. Add the the pork chops and allow to simmer for approx. 20 minutes.

Add the peas, potatoes and carrots and carry on simmering until the vegetable become soft - about 15 minutes.

In the meantime heat some olive oil in a frying pan. Add the toast cubes and pan fry until nice, golden and crunchy. Sprinkle a good portion of the italian herb mixture. Set aside.

Take the pork chops out of the soup and cut the meat into cubes. Add back into the pot with the leek. Simmer for a few more minutes to allow the leek to release it's flavor into the soup.

Salt and pepper to taste. Using a potato masher, coarsely mash some of the soup. Be careful not to make it too mushy if you prefer to have a few vegetable pieces in your soup.

Serve in warmed bowls and sprinkled with the croutons.



Verdict

This is what I really call a soul, heart and body warming soup. Exactly what one expects to taste when one is craving for a good and piping hot soup. It is not flat in taste, rather so wonderfully flavor intense that you really have to resist licking out the bowl. The herby croutons add the right amount of crunch. Just the perfect dish to sink into a huge sofa on a rainy day with a huge bowl of this delicacy.

Tami, thank you for the souper challenge. Please accept my offerings.



Menu For Hope III
One last thing before I call it a day for today.
From December 11 to December 22 I will be hosting a prize for the Menu For Hope III fundraiser. I would like to rally up everyone to help raise money for this special cause by bidding on the various prizes offered during this period. Every penny you bid will be sent to the United Nations World Food Programme. In return you will be able to get your hands on a special prize. Many of us are taking part and you will find more details here.




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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Who Likes Cranberries Ginger Chutney?



On the second week of Christmas, Meeta made for me Cranberry Ginger Chutney and Porcini Cream Soup.

OK so there are many of you who love cranberries. Well this is just perfect for you.

Another week down and a little less than three weeks to go. Today I am bringing something that will take you to heaven and back. A chutney that will complement your entrée meat dish during the festive season, leaving your guests in heaven 17.

I am not exaggerating.

I made this delicate but taste intensive Cranberry Ginger Chutney to serve with the Thanksgiving dinner a few weeks ago. For my Thanksgiving dinner I had selected the lovely and elegant menu as suggested by the Bon Appetit menu from Eicurious.com. Each of the suggested dishes were absolutely perfect and comes with my very high recommendation. So, if you are still menu planning for your Christmas dinner you might want to consider this menu idea.

However, the one dish that really made the entire evening, really had to be the Cranberry Ginger Chutney. I wish I was able to reach out into my notebook and give you all a spoonful to taste and a nosefull to capture the wonderful aromas. As I can't I will try to describe the tastes for you. It is sweet but not the sticky sweet type, tart but not acidic and spicy but not hot. All the flavors are strong but not overpowering in any way and blend together with such perfection that even the most hesitant person will use a tablespoon for second helpings instead of the teaspoon!

With the turkey roulade I made, it was incredibly good. Complemented the herby mushroomy flavors of the stuffing with perfection. I am certain that this chutney would fit very well to venison as well as poultry and other meat dishes. The best discovery however, I made was the day after the dinner. I had run out of preserve for my croissant for breakfast. So, as I still had plenty of the the chutney leftover I dipped the croissant into it. DIIINNNG! What an explosion! This makes a wonderful fruity breakfast spread too.


Cranberries
Cranberries are known as the cousins of the blueberry. Growing wild they are found on low, creeping shrubs. However, when cultivated they are grown on low trailing vines in large sandy bogs. They are mostly cultivated in North America and southern Canada.

Fresh cranberries contain the highest levels of beneficial nutrients and are known to be little phytochemical powerhouses packed with five times the antioxidant content of broccoli. They are packed with antioxidants and health promoting properties. As a matter of fact when compared to 19 other common fruits, cranberries were found to contain the highest level of antioxidant phenols.

Selecting and Storing
Cranberries are a fruit with a short season as they are harvested between September and October. So, they are available in the markets from October to December. Just in time to enjoy them in various creations for the festive season.
While choosing cranberries, go for plump and fresh ones that are deep red in color firm to the touch. Actually the deeper the red color the higher the concentration in beneficial anthocyanin compounds.

Firmness indicates the quality of the fruit. Did you know that during harvesting there is an amazing way to sort the better quality from the lesser quality fruit? By bouncing the berries against slanted boards, those that bounce over these boards are the better quality ones and those that don't collect in the reject pile!

Fresh cranberries can be stored in the fridge for many months. Sort out all the shriveled, soft and discolored berries before you store them. Once frozen the cranberries can be kept for several years. Spread the fresh berries on a cookie sheet and place these in the freezer for a few hours. When fully frozen simply transfer them into a freezer bag. Once thawed use them immediately.


Music While Cooking:

All Saints - Rock Steady - They are back and with a smashing hit. New on my iPod.
Album: Studio 1


Music and Artwork courtesy iTunes





Ingredients:
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit Menu Planner

3 cups fresh cranberries
1 1/2 cups sugar - I used brown sugar
3/4 cup apple juice
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 large pear - peeled, halved, cored, cut into cubes
1/4 cup finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper






Method:
In a large saucepan stir the sugar, apple juice and vinegar over a medium heat, until the sugar dissolves.

Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reducing the heat simmer until the mixture thickens. This takes about 20 minutes.

Season the chutney with salt and pepper. Cool at room temperature then transfer to a bowl and chill in the fridge.

This chutney can be made 3 days ahead of time and stored in the fridge.


Verdict:

As I mentioned above this was the star of the evening. It was funny how a few of my guests looked a bit alarmed when I said that this is a cranberry ginger chutney. I guess it was hard for them to believe that such a combination could actually work. It was interesting to watch them first very carefully try a very tiny portion of it and as the enlightenment spread across their face, I had to smile when they scooped up large portions.
Yes, it is really an ecstatic combination on your tongue. Even though there are several flavors in this chutney it all comes together into a very elegant aromatic composition.
The best thing is that is is so versatile. Serve it with your main course on the evening before and then dish it up as a fruity spread for a brunch the next day. Brilliant!




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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Announcement: Menu For Hope III


I'd like to put in a pledge to all my faithfull readers.

The tireless Pim is looking for eager participants to help raise money for a very good cause - United Nations World Food Programme.

In 2004 and 2005 Menu for Hope I and II helped raise substantial sums for the Tsunami victims in Southeast Asia and victims of the devastating earthquake in the Kashmir region of India and Pakistan. Last year the money raised by food bloggers for the earthquake victims with the Menu for Hope campaign amounted to more than US$ 17,000!

I would like to urge all my readers to help make this year a record year. Let us try and break the record from last year by pledging and donating for this cause.

All the details for those who wish to take an active part in the campaign by hosting a prize can be found here.

You can contact the hosts for your region:

US West Coast: Sam of Becks & Posh
US East Coast: Adam of The Amateur Gourmet
US (the rest): Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen
Canada: Jasmine of Cardamom Addict
Europe: David Lebovitz of Davidlebovitz.com
Latin America: Melissa de Leon of the Cooking Diva
Asia Pacific: Helen of Grab Your Fork

Those who cannot host a prize, do not feel guilty! You can play a huge part by bidding for one of the prizes and donating a bit of money. As I am informed, there are a few fantastic prizes up for grabs.

Of course I too will have a fantastic prize to offer all my readers. Are you curious? Come back on December 11 and you'll be able to discover what it is. Trust me, you will not want to miss this prize because I know a few of you have it on your wishlist!!!



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