Pea, Bacon & Mint Soup

Pea, Bacon & Mint Soup

Photography by Darren Bester 

You say Pea soup and I’m immediately transported back in time… I’m in my family kitchen, I’m a child, my Mom is standing over one of her trusty AMC pots (pots which are now in my kitchen some 30 years on – Talk about quality!), the radio is on and the aroma of pea soup is filling the air ! Yummy, my favourite of all her soup recipes. 

My Mom’s version, is actually Split Pea Soup, made with dry split peas & no-one will ever be able to make it quite like Mom, well not in my eyes anyway 🙂 So when the craving for Mom’s Pea soup hit the other day, I wasn’t about to attempt to recreate her winning recipe, because for me, half the comfort is knowing that my Mom made it for me, but with mom not around to see to this craving, I decided to experiment with a different kind of pea soup.  Feeling inspired by the recent sunny weather we had during our Cape Town winter, I felt like a lighter, fresher pea soup and so opted to use whole peas instead of split peas, I added some bacon because well, its bacon and any opportunity to add bacon to a recipe, I do 🙂 and then a sprinkle of mint to heighten the lightness and freshness of the soup.   

The result? Quick, easy and tasty!  Suitable for a deliciously healthy light lunch or dinner starter.  The beautiful green is so vibrant that it brings colour to any dining table, while conjuring up feelings of excitement and anticipation that Spring is finally, once again, knocking at our door …

Pea, Bacon and Mint Soup

Yield: 4 

500ml Fresh or Frozen Peas

250g Streaky Bacon, diced

1 Large Potato, chopped

1 Litre Chicken or Veggie Stock (I use the organic liquid stock from Woolies)

Handful of Mint, finely chopped

Method: 

Fry the bacon for 5 or so minutes until crisp (keep some aside for garnish), add the potato and stock and cook until the potato is soft, approximately 20 minutes. Add the peas and turn down the heat to a gentle simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat, season with salt & pepper and stir in the mint.  Use a food processor or hand blender to puree.  Pour into serving dishes and garnish with a drizzle of fresh cream and a sprinkle of crispy bacon.  

Cooks Note:  If you don’t have cream at hand, drizzle with a dash of olive oil instead.  The soup can thicken on refrigeration , if this happens just add a little stock or boiling water when reheating to achieve the preferred consistency. 

This recipe was featured on The Pretty Blog: Martha Who’s Pea, Bacon & Mint Soup

Darren Bester Photography - Martha Who_0002

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie

Photography by Darren Bester

 

My Sister-in-law Carmen’s Pumpkin Pie is synonymous with the words braai, lunch, dinner & celebration in our family.  No meal is complete without Carmie’s famous Pumpkin Pie!   While everyone loves it, there are 3 of us who usually wrestle for seconds or for that much sort after ‘take away’.   In the number 1 spot is Carmie’s Mom, my Mother-in-law, aka ‘the Matriarch’ – I know better than to try and take on the leader of the pack 🙂  Next, fighting for the leftovers is Carmie’s Husband Heinrich … again, I know the pecking order and know that if it was left to rank, I’d be walking away empty handed,  but often, kind hearted Heinrich will give in and let me eat my way to happiness (Thank you Heinrich).  

It made sense then, that I ask Carmie for this magical recipe so that I could make and share this delicious pie with friends (and always ensure I had a little leftovers stashed away).  Upon making it for friends it became evident that this is not just a family favourite, but a favourite to all who taste it.  I don’t think I’ve ever had so many requests to share a recipe … so here we go … Here’s my sister-in-law’s yummy Pumpkin Pie recipe, which she got out of a cookbook entitled ‘Cellarmasters in the kitchen’ and this particular recipe was contributed by Jan Boland Coetzee (On behalf of the nation – Thank you Jan!).  

Yield: 6 (I usually double these measurements to ensure there’s enough for everyone and plenty of leftovers when catering for a bigger crowd)

Ingredients:

50grms Butter

250ml White Sugar

250ml Milk

250ml Cake Flour

10ml Baking Powder

875ml Cooked & mashed Pumpkin (we use x 2 500grm bags.. a little extra pumpkin can’t be a bad thing)

2 Eggs

5ml Salt

250ml Fresh Cream

Ground Cinnamon for sprinkling

Method: 

Preheat the oven to 180ºc & grease an oven proof dish 

Cream the butter and sugar.  Add the milk, sift in the flour and baking powder and stir until well combined.  Add the pumpkin, eggs, salt and cream and mix well.  Spoon the mixture into the prepared dish and bake for about 30 minutes, until lightly browned on top (The pie will crack on top when ready).  Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve. 

Cooks Note: Carmie does substitute white sugar for brown sugar and uses butternut instead of pumpkin from time to time.  The cooking time can vary greatly … When doubling up, I usually cook the pie for over an hour.  The pie should still have a slight wobble in the middle, when done.  Its good to let the pie stand for a bit before serving, so try and bake ahead of time & then just pop in the oven to heat through again just before serving.   This pie freezes well.

Stomped Image for blog

 

Mastering Scrambled Eggs…

Mastering Scrambled Eggs…

Who doesn’t fancy fluffy and light scrambled eggs with a slice of toast and some bacon in the morning?  It is so easy to overcook scrambled eggs, resulting in the eggs losing colour, turning brown, becoming dry or even watery.  The trick is to whisk enough air into your eggs prior to cooking and then once on the heat, it should take no more than a minute to a minute and a half to cook through.  Remember, the eggs will continue to cook even when off the pan – so always take off the heat while it still looks moist because by the time it is served, it would have cooked through.

Here are my top tips for the perfect scrambled eggs:

  • Ensure your eggs are fresh
  • Eggs should be at room temperature to ensure even cooking
  • Have your non stick pan, heat resistant spatula, whisk, eggs, butter, oil, salt & pepper at the ready – Avoid having to focus on other tasks while busy with your eggs (so get the bacon and toast out the way and leave your eggs for last)
  • In a clean bowl, add your eggs ( I used 6 the other day for Andrew & I – *blush* & it was a satisfying amount)
  • For every egg, add 15ml of cream (you can substitute this for milk but it will impact on the creamy flavour)
  • Whisk well to combine
  • Put the pan on a very low heat, add equal amounts of oil and butter, coat the pan and pour out the excess oil / butter
  • Add your egg mixture and allow to cook without interference for up to 30 seconds
  • Add salt & pepper at this stage
  • Using a spatula, gently push the egg from the sides of the pan to the centre of the pan, tilting the pan as you go to allow the liquid egg to run to the sides of the pan and then repeat the process until no liquid egg remains
  • Continue to gently turn the eggs until the egg mixture becomes firm.  Do not break up the egg curds with your spatula – you want to maintain large curds of eggs rather than small curds
  • Transfer to your serving plate and enjoy !

 

 

Moussaka

Moussaka

Inspired by my recent travels to Greece and coupled with the fact that aubergines are in season and in abundance at the moment, I couldn’t resist cooking up a Moussaka! It was delicious and so easy to make …

Ingredients:

Yield: 4 – 5

1 Finely Chopped Onion

Olive Oil

4 Cloves Crushed Garlic

1 kg Lamb or Beef Mince

250 ml Good Quality Red Wine

800grms Can Chopped Tomatoes

125ml Good Quality Beef Stock

2 tsp Ground Cinnamon

4 Sprigs of Fresh Oregano (or substitute with 2 – 3 tsp dried oregano)

3 or 4 Aubergines / Brinjals

75grms Butter

75grms Flour

500ml Milk (or more if sauce is too thick)

250ml Grated Parmesan

125ml Bread Crumbs

Salt & Pepper   

Method: 

Slice your aubergines into thin rounds and place in a colander or on a cooling rack and sprinkle generously with salt.  Leave for 30 minutes to extract all the bitter juices (the colander / cooling rack will help the juices to drain away from the aubergines).  

In a large saucepan, sweat the onion in 2 – 3 tbsp olive oil, once soft but not coloured, add the crushed garlic and cook for a further minute. Add the mince and fry until nicely browned. Add the wine and stir for a minute before adding the chopped tomatoes, beef stock, oregano and cinnamon. Simmer for approximately 40 minutes and adjust the seasoning with salt & pepper.

Whilst this is simmering, 

Preheat the oven to 180ºc

Prepare the white sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan over a low heat, whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly add your milk little by little, whisking the entire time to avoid lumps. Continue whisking until the sauce thickens, if the sauce becomes too thick, add more milk until you achieve the correct consistency (think of the consistency used in a lasagne). Remove from the heat, stir in the parmesan cheese and season with salt & pepper.  Taste and adjust the seasoning until you are happy with the flavour.

Turn your attention back to the aubergines, dab with carlton towel to drain away any remaining liquid and excess salt.  Coat the aubergine rounds in olive oil and fry in batches , in a non stick pan over high heat for a minute or two before turning and cooking the other side – you want to achieve a nice charred appearance. (If you have a griddle pan, use it).

Layer your oven proof dish with the mince sauce, white sauce and a layer of aubergines, repeat if necessary and end with a final layer of white sauce. Mix together the remaining parmesan cheese with the breadcrumbs, sprinkle on top and bake for 30 – 40 minutes until bubbling and golden !

Serve with a salad of baby spinach leaves, tomatoes, cucumber and feta and a good bottle of red wine 🙂

 

Lasagne

Lasagne

Who doesn’t enjoy a good Lasagne? This one is quick and easy but packs a delicious punch of flavour that will have you returning for more and more and more …

Ingredients:

Yield: 6

For the Mince

1kg lean beef mince

400grms chopped canned tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato puree

600ml beef stock

2 large onions (finely chopped)

2 celery stems (finely chopped)

4 cloves garlic (crushed to a paste)

60ml vegetable oil

1tsp ground cinnamon

2tsp mustard seeds

3 tbsp dried oregano

2 tbsp fresh Italian parsley

250ml white wine

Freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of salt

Cheddar and Mozzarella cheese for topping

Lasagne sheets (1 – 2 boxes depending on the size of your oven dish)

For the Béchamel Sauce 

60grm butter

60 grm plain flour

1 litre milk

55grms parmesan cheese

½ tsp ground nutmeg (optional)

Pinch or 2 of salt and pepper

Method: 

In a deep pot bring half the oil to temperature, add the mince and cook over a medium heat.   While that’s going on, heat another pan, add the remaining oil and gently *sweat the onion and celery for 2 or 3 minutes, before adding the cinnamon and garlic and cooking for an additional 2 minutes before adding all, to the mince pot.

Now add the tomato puree, parsley, oregano, mustard seeds, canned tomatoes, stock and the wine and stir to combine. Bring to the boil and then drop the temperature and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent sticking to the pot.

Pour boiling water into the kitchen sink and lay pasta sheets – this will par cook the sheets, lessening the required cooking time.

Preheat the oven to 180ºc

To make the Béchamel sauce … Melt the butter in a heavy-based pot over a low heat, then add the flour. Stir with a whisk, and cook gently for 2- 3 minutes to make a white *roux. Slowly pour the cold milk on to the roux, whisking as you do so, and bring to the boil over a medium heat, whisking continuously.

Once the sauce comes to the boil, lower the heat and simmer gently for about 10 minutes, stirring continuously to prevent lumps forming. Season to taste with salt, pepper (preferably white) and add the nutmeg.   Continue stirring until the sauce thickens to the desired consistency. If it thickens too much, add a little milk, stir through and remove from the heat.   Stir in the parmesan cheese and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Remove your pasta sheets carefully from the water and lay on a clean dish towel, cover with another dish towel to pat dry.

If your mince still contains a lot of liquid, increase the temperature and bring to the boil for a few minutes, to cook away some of the excess liquid. Remember however, that it is a mince sauce so you don’t want to cook away all the delicious sauce you have just spent 40 minutes creating.

To assemble – spoon some of the mince mixture into your ovenproof dish, cover with lasagne sheets, spread over some of the béchamel sauce and repeat the process ending with a layer of béchamel sauce. Top with a mixture of cheddar and mozzarella cheese and bake in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes or until golden and bubbling goodness

Cook Notes:

*Sweat – to sweat vegetables means to cook on a gentle heat to soften but not brown

*Roux – A roux is a common way of starting many sauces. It is a mixture containing equal parts of flour to fat (butter) used to thicken liquids. The longer a roux cooks, the less its thickening ability.

Lasagna collage 3