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

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

Chocolate Fondant with Raspberry Gel and Vanilla Ice Cream

Chocolate Fondant with Raspberry Gel and Vanilla Ice Cream

Photography by Darren Bester

 

Yield: 10

For the Fondants

Ingredients 

450grms Good Quality Dark Chocolate

450 grms Butter

500grms Eggs (1 egg equates to more or less 60grms but best to use a scale to measure this out)

160grms Egg Yolks

400 grms Sugar

200 grms Flour

Pinch of Salt

Method

Melt the chocolate and butter gently in a double boiler, being careful to ensure no water touches the chocolate mixture.  Mix the eggs & yolk together lightly.  Pour the melted chocolate into the egg mixture while stirring continuously.  Add to this the sugar and flour and stir until completely combined and you no longer see any white but be careful to not over mix.  Grease your dariole moulds (100ml moulds or so) with butter and fill just over half way with the mixture.  Bake at 180 degrees for 9 or 10 minutes.  Remove and allow to rest for a few minutes before un-moulding and plating.

 Notes: This mixture can be made and poured into your moulds in advance and freezed for weeks ahead of your dinner party.  On the day of your dinner party, take them out the freezer and allow to come to room temperature before baking. 

Raspberry Gel

5ml Agar Agar (Vegetarian supplement for gelatine, available at Health Stores)

350grms fresh Raspberries (keep 3 aside per guest for plating)

200ml Berry Fruit Juice

 Method

Blend your fresh raspberries in a blender / food processor with a little water until it is liquid

Strain with a sieve into a pot, leaving behind all the seeds.  Add the berry juice to the raspberry liquid in the pot and add the 5ml’s agar agar (1ml agar agar to every 100ml liquid), stir continuously for 2 – 3 minutes, pour into a glass dish and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.   It should form a solid jelly.  If it hasn’t, simply put back into the pot add another ml or 2 of agar agar and repeat the process.   Once you have your solid jelly, put it back into the blender and blend for 30 – 40 seconds (do not over blend).  Decant into a squeeze bottle and refrigerate until needed.  It should have a gel like consistency now.

For plating – squeeze a blob of the gel on one end of the plate – using the tip of the backside of a spoon, drag the gel across the length of the plate – this creates a fancy restaurant type design that will impress !  Place the Fondant at the end of this gel line, with a scoop of ice-cream (store bought! Sorry, this chef doesn’t mind the shortcuts), Garnish with 3 raspberries per plate (always work in uneven numbers – more plating tips to follow in a separate blog post) and if you have some, a sprig of mint.

 

MarthaWho - Chocolate Fondants-9

                                         MarthaWho - Chocolate Fondants-1       MarthaWho - Chocolate Fondants-2     

Curry in a hurry …

Curry in a hurry …

This recipe is a quick fix for a Butter Chicken Curry craving because it can be whipped up in less than 30 minutes, thanks to the store bought curry paste mix … *blush* why mess with a tried and tested formula? Especially if it means less dishes after a long day in the office!

Throw in some homemade or store bought Rotis and you have the perfect week night dinner for a cold winter evening just like tonight!

Butter Chicken Curry 

Yield: 2 big portions with leftovers for 1 lucky lunchbox

Ingredients:

50grms Butter Chicken Curry Paste (I buy the Woolworths aka the Mother Ship’s paste & follow the recipe on the packet)

Oil for frying

410grms chopped canned tomatoes

125ml cream

400 grms chicken breasts

50grms butter

Fresh Coriander and Cashew nuts for garnishing

Method: 

Gently fry the butter chicken curry paste in a little oil for 2 – 3 minutes until it becomes fragrant. Add the chopped tomatoes, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Dice the chicken breasts and add to the tomatoes with cream. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for further 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from the heat and stir through the butter and half the chopped cashew nuts. Season with salt and pepper, garnish with the remaining chopped cashew nuts and fresh coriander and serve with Basmati Rice and / or Rotis.

Roti 

I am far from perfecting the art of making crispy and delicious, melt in your mouth rotis but will keep trying … practise makes perfect after all. You may opt to buy your rotis, a safer and far faster option. If you want to be a bit adventurous and give it a whirl … follow my recipe below which has been adapted based on recommendations received from 2 Roti experts … 1 a pastry chef and the other a hot kitchen chef whose Mother has been rolling out Rotis for longer than I have been alive!

Roti Recipe

Yield: 4 Minimum

Ingredients:

500ml flour

250ml water (more or less depending on how your dough forms)

80 – 100ml soft butter (estimate only – do not be afraid to use more, instead be afraid of the bathroom scale)

Oil for frying

Pinch of salt

Method:

Sift flour and salt in a bowl

Add butter and rub into the flour mixture to form a crumb like consistency

Add the water and knead until an even textured firm dough forms

Cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes

Divide into 4 or more even sized portions and roll out on lightly floured board

Dot / grate with more or less 20mls of soft butter on each portion, fold over so that the butter is on the inside and roll into a sausage shape. Repeat with the other portions

Roll both ends of the sausage shape in towards each other until they meet (the one clockwise and the other anti clockwise)

Cover and rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes

Roll out into a circular shape

Heat a pan with some oil

Place the dough into the hot pan, poke at it with your fingers, coat the top side with a little oil or butter before flipping over and browning on the other side too

Once both sides show brown ‘freckles’ it’s ready to eat and enjoy!

Note: Roti’s freeze well – Once cooked and cooled, wrap in Cling film and freeze, take out a few hours before required and simply warm up in a pan. (I’ve forgotten to take mine out a few hours in advance before and found that even frying from frozen worked well as they are not very thick!