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Food is such a great coping mechanism.

Last weekend, I headed down to Brighton Beach for brunch and some hands-on cooking.  Laura and I bartered for an exchange of our respective talents – custom-made jewelry for her; lesson in pasta making for me.  Seeing as she just wanted a replica of a design I’d made for myself, I’d say I got the better end of this deal!

We spent a full afternoon forming, kneading, resting (with a glass of bubbly), rolling, cutting, filling and then devouring our fresh, hand-made pasta.

(Kelly, Grace and me churning out the linguini)

This weekend, I spent the better half of Saturday making soups.  See Damiano & Kristin arrive Tuesday morning hot from the summer days of Paris to the tail end of a dreary Melbourne winter.  So I thought I’d better have some comfort food on hand to help with the transition.

I made Steve’s favorite slow cooker potato soup, french onion soup, and a new one—this roasted tomato soup from one of my favorite food blogs.  Taste test says, delicious!  I added some fennel to the roasting process (tip: remove before blending) and ended up with an earthy and rustic soup that really gives you the sense some love has gone into it.  Thanks as always Mr. Rufus!

I’m planning to (defrost and) serve with tortellini, and there’s something about a rustic tomato soup (read: not from a Campbell’s can) that seems Italian to me.  So let’s just call it a double weekly whammy of Italian cooking!

To top it all off, I recently got a surprise “going away” gift from Kelly – a shiny new pasta rolling machine.  Now I can put my skillz to good use.

(but I think I’ll wait til next weekend; I’ve got three Italians staying with me this weekend.  Too much pressure!)

Over the weekend, Steve pointed to this foreign looking substance at the market and said, “what’s that? can we eat it?”

Never one to pass over a new vegetable opportunity, especially with such enthusiasm from Steve, I bought two.  With a budding sore throat, I was craving something warm on Monday night, so I whipped up this amazingly hearty, soothing, creamy without cream soup.

celeriac and apple soup

1 large celeriac, peeled and diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
50 grams butter
3 apples, sliced
500-750 mls of chicken stock
3 handfuls sage

topping: leftover baguette (diced into cubes), 50 grams each chopped bacon & walnuts

Heat butter and onion in a large saucepan and let simmer for 3-5 minutes.  Add celeriac and sweat for another 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add stock to cover the celeriac entirely and sage (or season to taste) and allow to simmer for 12-15 minutes, or until celeriac is soft.  I had some deep-flavored chicken stock on hand that I’d brewed over the weekend, which I’d like to think added to the heartiness of the final product, but regular ol’ store stock will do.

Add apples, cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly and blend for 2-3 minutes to give it a soft and silky texture.  Voila!

Now, you may have realized my trick to getting my husband to eat veggies by now:  always add bacon!  This soup is no exception. But I thought the topping, objectively, really gave the soup a punch; the smoky bacon and nutty crunch adding another dimension to the creamy texture of the soup.  To partake, fry bacon for 3-5 minutes, then add walnuts and diced baguette and continue to saute until bacon is cooked and bread is slightly crispy.

It’s that time of year when my cooking posts become totally out of sync with the fresh seasonal produce in the U.S.  While I am enjoying kilos of cherries, nectarines and mangos for mere dollars at the farmer’s market, those of you in the dead of winter in the U.S. are probably thinking, does produce shipped from Chile count as “seasonal”??

In any case, this soup was so fabulous it’s worth sharing whatever the season in your hemisphere.  A cold treat, with a hint of sweetness and a lot of crunch, it will be a staple on my “impress the dinner guests” menus to come…

 apple and soup cream soup

10 lychees

1 small Lebanese cucumber

8-10 large mint leaves

400g unfiltered pressed apple juice

200g sour cream

Carefully remove skin and pit lychees, leaving roughly whole (or only halved).  Dice cucumber into small squares, and thinly slice mint leaves.  Combine with lychees.  Whisk apple juice and sour cream together, and chill for 10-15 minutes or until ready to serve.  Divide lychee, mint and cucumber mixture evenly among 4 soup bowls and pour apple sour cream soup on top.

*recipe from Australian Gormet Traveler

As the winter season draws to a close, we are definitely looking forward to spring’s bounty.  For those of you in the northern hemisphere, here’s a warming soup to get you through those cold winter days to come.  Just in time for autumn harvest.  This was a huge hit with Cathy & Dave when they visited, I think Cathy even asked for leftover soup for breakfast the next day…

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

  • 1 large cauliflower, chopped into thick pieces
  • 3-4 shallots, roughly chopped
  • 1 leek, roughly chopped
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 500ml (2 cups) chicken stock
  • 300ml heavy cream

Combine cauliflower, shallots, leek and garlic in a roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil.  Roast for 1 hour at 200 C, turning occasionally. Bring stock and cream to simmer in a saucepan.  Transfer to a blender, and blend in cauliflower mixture. Salt & pepper to taste.  Serve with hot buttered soldiers (non-Aussies, read: buttered slices of sourdough toast)

* Adapted from the Gourmet Traveler