Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Chickpea Veggie Soup #FoodieExtravaganza

This hearty chickpea veggie soup, full of vegetables and flavor, is thickened by a combination of nutritional yeast and steel-cut oats. It will stick to your ribs and keep you warm and your stomach satisfied for hours.

Food Lust People Love: This hearty chickpea veggie soup, full of vegetables and flavor, is thickened by a combination of nutritional yeast and steel-cut oats. It will stick to your ribs and keep you warm and your stomach satisfied for hours.

Soup is good food
Nothing warms a body more than a bowl of rich, thick soup filled with good stuff to scoop up with your spoon. Don’t get me wrong. I am also a fan of creamed soups and broths and consommés. In fact, in general, I am a fan of soup. But there is something special, and certainly more filling, about a chunky soup with stuff in it.

This lovely recipe comes from one of my favorite new cookbooks that has been mentioned in this space before: OATrageous Oatmeals: Delicious & Surprising Plant-Based Dishes From This Humble, Heart-Healthy Grain by +Kathy Hester. I gave away one copy a couple of months back when I was transformed into a lover of oats by all of the savory recipes in Kathy’s great book. I had always thought of oats as something to eat for breakfast or use in sweet baked treats, like our family's favorite chewy chocolate chip cookies. Kathy’s Mushroom Ginger Congee was truly a mind changer for me when it comes to oats.

National Oatmeal Month - Who knew?
This month my Foodie Extravaganza group is celebrating National Oatmeal month and Kathy and Page Street Publishing have generously agreed to supply a copy of her book for a giveaway. Make sure to scroll down to the bottom of this post to enter the drawing. You will not be sorry!

Recipe ©Kathy Hester from OATrageous Oatmeals: Delicious & Surprising Plant-Based Dishes From This Humble, Heart-Healthy Grain, printed here by permission from Page Street Publishing (My adaptations are in parentheses.)

2 tablespoons or 30ml olive oil
1⁄4 cup or 50g onion
3 cloves garlic
11⁄2 cups or 270g sweet potatoes
1 cup or 110g chopped carrots
1 can (15 oz or 425g) chickpeas, rinsed
6 cups or 1420ml water
1⁄2 cup or 40g steel-cut oats
4 tablespoons or 24g nutritional yeast, divided (I had never heard of this stuff but it’s actually quite wonderful and I was delighted to try it. I’m going to be sprinkling it on everything now! Read more here.)
1 teaspoon marjoram
1⁄2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1⁄2 teaspoon basil
1⁄4 teaspoon thyme
1⁄4 teaspoon ground rosemary (I used sprigs of fresh herbs in place of the basil, thyme and rosemary, chopped finely.)
1 1⁄2 cups or 270g chopped kale or other greens, like chard or collards
Salt and pepper, to taste (I used one vegetable broth cube in place of the salt.)

(Peel your vegetables and cube the sweet potatoes, dice the carrots and mince the onion and garlic.)

Add the olive oil to a soup pot and heat over medium heat. Once hot, add onions and sauté for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Then add the garlic and cook for 3 more minutes.

Add the sweet potatoes, carrots, chickpeas and water, then turn the heat to high and bring to a boil.

Once the soup is boiling, turn to low and add the oats, 2 tablespoons (30 g) of the nutritional yeast, marjoram, smoked paprika, basil, thyme and ground rosemary. Cover and simmer until the oats are thoroughly cooked, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Those are the golden flakes of nutritional yeast.

Add in the kale and the other 2 tablespoons (30 g) of nutritional yeast.

Cook about 5 to 10 minutes until the kale is tender. Add salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Food Lust People Love: This hearty chickpea veggie soup, full of vegetables and flavor, is thickened by a combination of nutritional yeast and steel-cut oats. It will stick to your ribs and keep you warm and your stomach satisfied for hours.

Per serving: Calories 177.6, protein 8.1 g, total fat 5.3 g, carbohydrates 24.2 g, sodium 41.9 mg, fiber 6.1 g

One more word about the nutritional yeast: It took me quite a few stops to find it in Dubai so I wrote the cookbook author, Kathy, to ask for substitution suggestions. If you don’t mind it no longer being vegetarian, she said to use chicken stock instead of the water, which would also give the desired umami to the soup.


Food Lust People Love: This hearty chickpea veggie soup, full of vegetables and flavor, is thickened by a combination of nutritional yeast and steel-cut oats. It will stick to your ribs and keep you warm and your stomach satisfied for hours.

We are a group of bloggers who love to blog about food! Each month we will decide on a food holiday to base our recipes around. This month's the ingredient is oatmeal. Yes, January is National Oatmeal Month along with a whole array of other delightful things! We hope you all enjoy our delicious oatmeal treats this month and come back to see what we bring for you next month. Many thanks to our fabulous oatmeal host, Lauren of From Gate to Plate.

If you are a blogger and would like to join our group and blog along with us, come join our Facebook page Foodie Extravaganza. We would love to have you! If you're a reader looking for delicious recipes, check out our Foodie Extravaganza Pinterest Board!

Pin this Chickpea Veggie Soup! 

Food Lust People Love: This hearty chickpea veggie soup, full of vegetables and flavor, is thickened by a combination of nutritional yeast and steel-cut oats. It will stick to your ribs and keep you warm and your stomach satisfied for hours.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Ham and Scalloped Potato Muffins #MuffinMonday

A scalloped potato casserole-inspired muffin, with sliced potatoes, lots of cheese, cream and smoked ham. Perfect for breakfast, snack or even lunch. 

For the last couple of weeks our house has been a bustle of creativity and laughter, both in and out of the kitchen. Favorite dishes were cooked, touristy places were visited, a gingerbread mosque was baked and erected, many a cocktail was imbibed and a thousand backgammon games were played amongst the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree and our ancient rag-tag manger scene, which includes such witnesses to the Miracle Birth as a headless wise man, a longhorn and a small rhinoceros, along with the usual shepherds, cows and sheep.

Now the busy bathrooms and crazy kitchen are empty. The forlorn tree, stripped naked of its finery but for the occasional missed wisp of golden tinsel, has trailed fallen needles all the way to the curb of rejection. The dog circles just me now, every hopeful. And the baby Jesus and his eclectic entourage are back in the doll stroller box from Christmas circa 1995, which is their home for 50 weeks of the year.

I look around at the now reassembled living room, furniture back in its accustomed places and I am working on being grateful rather than sad. As much as it would give me joy to keep our daughters with us always, I am grateful that they are exceptionally capable of looking after themselves and are avidly pursuing their dreams.

Trying to look on all the bright sides of this situation, another bonus is that I can cook and bake exactly what pleases me. Last week a post from a friend and fellow blogger Kelli from Kelli’s Kitchen arrived in my email inbox with a recipe for one of my favorite casseroles, scalloped potatoes. Her version is a family favorite, cheesy and creamy but with the welcome addition of ham. If that divine top baked to a golden crunch doesn’t sell you, the tender, cheesy potatoes inside should do the trick. Do go have a look. My thoughts turned, as they do, to the possibility of a ham and scalloped potato muffin but I figured it wouldn’t be very popular with the sweet muffin crowd in residence. So I waited a week. (As it turns out, most of them didn't buy the PR for dried plums vs. prunes anyway. Hey, I tried.)

Totally worth the wait. These guys are delicious. All potato-y and cheesy and that ham? The perfect addition, for sure.

A good savory muffin is great consolation. And you can be sure I have saved some ham to make the original casserole as well.

6 oz or 170g smallish new potatoes
2 cups or 250g flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
2 eggs
3/4 cup or 180ml milk
1/2 cup or 120ml whipping cream
1/4 cup butter or 60g, melted and cooled
7 oz or 200g extra sharp cheddar, grated
2 1/3 oz or 65g Parmesan, grated
1 cup or 150g baked smoked ham, chopped

Put a pot of water on to boil with a teaspoon or so of salt, as you would to boil pasta. Fill a bowl with cold water and a few ice cubes and set it aside.

Slice your potatoes and pop them in the boiling water.

Cook for about 4-5 minutes, until they are just done. Pour the cooked potato slices into a colander and drain. Transfer them to the bowl of ice water till cool.

Return them to the colander to drain again.

Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C and prepare your 12-cup muffin pan by greasing it liberally with oil or non-stick cooking spray.

Combine your flour, baking powder, salt and mustard powder in a large mixing bowl.

Set aside 6 slices of the cooked potato and a couple of small handfuls each of the cheddar, ham and Parmesan for topping the muffins before baking.

Just a little pile of each for topping.

Add the rest of the cheddar into the dry ingredient bowl and stir.

Now add the rest of the sliced potatoes into that bowl. Use a spoon to break the slices into pieces as you stir to combine. Finally, mix in the Parmesan and the ham.

In another smaller bowl, whisk together your eggs, milk, cream and cooled butter.

Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ones and stop when they are just combined.

Divide your batter between the 12 greased muffins cups.

Top with reserved Parmesan cheese and ham pieces. Cut your potato slices in half and insert one half slice of potato into the batter in each cup.

Now try to get some reserved cheddar cheese to sit on top and around each potato slice. We aren’t looking for perfect here. Just some cheese on the potato.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Remove the muffins from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes in the pan and then remove to continue cooling on a wire rack.

Since the cheese melts out a little while baking, you may have to run a knife around the outside to remove them, depending on how well you greased the pan.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Fish Steamed with Spicy Couscous

For this fish steamed with spice couscous, the fish fillets are steamed on top of the couscous so all the lovely cooking juices are soaked up, making the already spicy, herby couscous even tastier.

This is one of my favorite dishes to make when entertaining guests. See easy instructions to adapt for a dinner party at the end of the recipe.*

Parlez-vous français? Yeah, I really didn't either.
To say that three years of high school French prepared me poorly for living in Paris would be an understatement. As much as Madame Reat taught me about La Belle France, including our occasional field trips to a nearby French café where we were supposed to order in French to justify the educational status of said excursion, I learned more useful things by reading signs and labels in grocery stores and recipes on my own. 

I now know weird but handy phrases like laissez gonfler - leave to swell -  and saupoudrer de chapelure – sprinkle with breadcrumbs - and napper en sauce – coat with sauce - that hardly ever come up in normal conversation. 

Not a culinary word, but one I am very proud of learning is autocollant. It means self-adhesive. Not useful you say? Try ordering stamps and imagine miming, "the ones I don't need to lick," at the post office. 

Probably more importantly, I learned that Ah, bon, despite containing the word for good, can be used to acknowledge good or bad things, a confirmation akin to “I hear you”  - or a question, depending on inflection: “Really?”

Répétez après moi: Le couscous est simple à préparer.
I am always on the lookout for new and different starches to add variety to our plates, outside the usual triumvirate rice/potatoes/pasta so I was delighted to come across couscous for the first time in France. It’s a staple there, I am guessing thanks to the North African influence from the former French colonies. 

It has since become essential in my cupboard as well and the instructions on that first box of couscous, graine moyenne or medium coarse, is the source for my pet phrase laissez gonfler, which I have managed to work into more conversations that you would imagine. 

This spicy dish is adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe from a series called Oliver’s Twist. I’ve been making it regularly since 2003 when the episode Flash in the Pan first aired. It’s perfect for this week’s Sunday Supper theme of Lighten Up for the New Year, with lots of flavor from the spices and cilantro and very healthy steamed fish on top. Make sure to scroll down to see all the other lovely lightened up recipes the group has made for you today!

For the spice mix:
1 1/2 teaspoons flakey sea salt (I use Maldon.)
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 (2-inch or 2.5cm) piece cinnamon stick

For the dish:
2 cups or 370g wheat couscous – medium grain
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
2 red chilies (Remove the seeds for less heat.)
1 large bunch cilantro or fresh coriander, leaves picked, stalks finely sliced
Four portion size filets of a relatively thin white fish like sole or flounder. Cod will do if it is not too thick.
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning fish
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Couple of handfuls cherry tomatoes (more or less to your taste)
1 large lemon, cut in half at the equator
Optional: another lemon cut in wedges for serving.

Put the couscous in a bowl with enough hot - but not quite boiling - water to cover it. Seal the top of the bowl with cling film and then drape a towel over the top and set aside for at least 10 minutes. Laissez gonfler!

 The couscous will soften and double in size. When it's done, fluff it with a fork and keep covered till needed.

Make your spice mix by pounding the salt, fennel and cumin seeds, coriander seeds and cinnamon together in your mortar.  (If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can use already ground spices.)

Mince your onion and one chili pepper. Slice the garlic and the other chili.

Cut the very tough bottom parts of your cilantro stems off and discard. Finely chop the rest of the stems up to the leafy part and then roughly chop the leaves. Some leaves are going to get in your stems and, of course, your leaf pile will have the most tender stems, and that’s okay.

Mostly leaves in front. Most stems in back.

Lay your fish out on a plate and season both sides with salt and pepper.

Heat a large saucepan on a low heat, and sauté the onion, garlic, cilantro stems and chopped chili in a good drizzle of olive oil.

Add the spice mix to the pan with another drizzle of olive oil.

Cook for a few minutes and then add the butter. Let it melt then add the couscous.

Mix thoroughly with the spices and sautéed seasonings. Stir in most of the cilantro leaves, reserving some for garnish when serving.

 Turn the stove down to a very low heat, and lay the fish fillets on top of the couscous. Drizzle with olive oil and tuck the lemon halves, cut side up, and the whole cherry tomatoes in the couscous.

Cover with some foil or a tight fitting lid, and cook for 15 minutes or until the fish is white through and flaky. You may need to add just a little bit of water so that the couscous doesn’t burn on the bottom, so do check it about halfway through. A very heavy pan or a diffuser will help with this problem.

Adding a few tablespoons of water about halfway through.

To serve, sprinkle with the remaining cilantro and sliced chili, squeeze the cooked lemon halves over everything and drizzle on some more olive oil. Divide the couscous between four plates and top each with a steamed fish fillet. Serve with additional wedges of lemon, if desired.

*Dinner party instructions
If you are having a dinner party for eight or 12, double or treble the ingredients and prepare as instructed up to the point where the couscous is ready. Allow it to cool then transfer to a greased baking pan (Make sure it is one that can go straight from refrigerator to oven) before adding the fish, the halved lemons cut side up, cherry tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil. If you want to get fancy, throw in some raw shrimp or prawns as well. Cover with foil and refrigerate if it’s going to be more that a half an hour till it’s cooked or if your kitchen is warm. Once the guests have arrived, bake your fish on couscous- still covered in the foil - in an oven preheated to 350°F or 180°C, allowing extra time for cooking the fish if the dish is chilled. Follow the same serving instructions above.


If your New Year’s resolutions include eating more sensibly, I’ve got a great list of “lightened up” recipes for you this week. Many thanks to our great host T.R. from Gluten Free Crumbley!

Bright Beverages
Blissful Breakfast Items
Appetizing Starters
Savory Soups and Sides
Marvelous Mains
Delightful Desserts