Roasted Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup

Simple things that will always always brighten my day:

  • This picture of kangaroos hugging
  • A cheap manicure
  • Soul music
  • Unexpected flowers
  • A new book
  • A good margarita
  • Treat yo self. And all things Amy Poehler is involved in
  • Dinnertime with Mr. F
  • Making lists of completely unimportant things

This soup is a brightener too – in color and flavor. It’s hearty and almost a little rich, without actually having anything rich in it. Depth is added to the sweetness of the carrots and sweet potatoes by roasting and the addition of earthy cumin and a little spice from Cayenne pepper balance it all out.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1-2 inch chunks
– 4 medium carrots, washed well and roughly chopped
– olive oil
– 6 whole cloves of garlic (skins on)
– 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
– 1 large yellow or brown onion, finely chopped
– 1 teaspoon cumin
– 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
– 6 cups vegetable stock/ broth
– salt and pepper

Heat oven to 400 F/205 C.

Chop the bottom off of 6 cloves of garlic, but keep them in their skins.

Arrange the 6 garlic cloves, sweet potatoes and carrots on well oiled baking sheets. Sprinkle with salt and bake for 25-30 minutes until the sweet potatoes and carrots are soft and golden. Remove garlic cloves from their skins.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot. Add chopped onion and a little salt and saute until softened and translucent – about 5 minutes. Add the 2 cloves of chopped garlic and cook for another minute.

Add stock and bring to a boil.

Add roasted carrots, sweet potato and garlic to the stock and bring to a boil again. Remove from heat and then carefully blend with a stick blender or in batches in a blender, until smooth.

Serve warm with fresh ground pepper and a sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds.

Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup

I hate it when people say they “HATE surprises!”

Ummm, no you don’t.

You’re going to tell me that if I (or someone else you adore) showed up to your front door on a random evening with a quality baguette, cheese, wine and some fabulous conversation you’re going to be totally miffed? I highly doubt it!

Everyone loves a pleasant surprise – like a free coffee, unexpected flowers or getting a card in the real-life mail – but some people just prefer to feel in control of a situation they’re unsure of. And that’s completely okay.

But sometimes you just have to ease up and roll with the surprises. They’re probably going to be awesome ones.

This soup was a surprise – and a damn fine one. The surprise part came from adding some jarred roasted red peppers which gave the soup an excellent sweet-smokey flavor and generally tszujed the whole thing up.

Also, I suggest adding a tiny pinch of (surprise!) baking soda to your tomato soups (and sauces) – it reduces the acidity of the canned tomatoes allowing their sweetness to shine through.

If you’ve got some stale bread lying around, make some pan-toasted croutons to top this soup off – they’re super easy, thrifty and will impress the person who’s eating with you.

Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup (serves 2-4)
– 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more if needed
– 1 medium yellow onion, diced
– 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
– 1 can of whole tomatoes (I used canned cherry tomatoes, but plum tomatoes are good too)
– 2 whole (or 1/2 cup chopped) roasted red peppers (from a jar)
– 4 cups vegetable broth
– salt and pepper
– a pinch of baking soda

Heat olive oil in a large pot over a medium high heat. Add onions and a sprinkle of salt and cook stirring for 5 minutes until soft. Add garlic and cook for another minute until fragrant. Add a little more olive oil if the pan goes a little dry.

Add tomatoes, red peppers and vegetable broth. Crush the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon as you stir everything around a bit. Add a small pinch of baking soda and stir into the soup. The fizzy action means its working.

Bring it all to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

All the soup to cool for about 10 minutes and then puree it in a blender in batches. I left a  ladleful or two out, so keep a little texture. Do whatever you’d like!

Serve warm with chopped herbs (I got in on some chive action!) and pan-toasted croutons or bread.

Pan-Toasted Croutons
– 2 pieces of slightly-to-moderately stale bread (I used 3 day-old sourdough)
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 1 garlic clove, minced
– smoked sea salt
– cracked pepper

Cut bread into bite-sized squares and heat olive oil in a medium pan over a medium heat.

Add bread, garlic, salt and pepper to the pan and toss to coat the bread in seasoning and oil. Arrange the bread pieces in a single layer and cook them for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden. Store in an air-tight container for 1 day.

Lentil Soup with Harissa and Pumpkin

Ways to brighten a grey wintery day:

– Stay in bed a little longer. Heated blanket ON. (No central heating in Australia, folks – that heated blanket has been MONEY this past month.) Check your emails on your phone while doing this – you’re totally getting things done while still lying in bed!

– Make or buy the best dang cup of coffee you can muster. Drink it while watching different versions/parodies of Call Me Maybe on youtube. (Like this one or this one.)

– Do your own version of yoga/stretching/dance aerobics while watching fluffy morning TV. Mute TV occasionally to play Call Me Maybe.

– Bundle up and get outside for a walk. You’ll try and resist this at first (it’s so gloomy out there!) – but you’ll be happy you did.

–  Simmer something over the stove for a little while – something a hearty, lentil-packed and a little spicy. Top it with a zippy lemon-scented yogurt and eat while piping hot!

Awww yeah, you’re treating winter right.

Lentil Soup with Pumpkin and Harissa (serves 4-6)
adapted from Gourmet Traveller

– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– small knob of butter
– 1 large onion, finely chopped
– 1 medium-large leek, finely chopped
– 2 carrots, finely diced
– 1 celery rib, finely diced
– 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
– 2 cups dry French lentils
– 6 cups (1.5 liters) water, or more if needed.
– 2-3 cups diced Japanese pumpkin (or butternut)
– 1 14-ounce/400-gram can of diced or cherry tomatoes
– 2-3 tablespoons harissa paste, to taste
To serve:
– 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
– zest of 1/2 lemon
– handful of chopped coriander

Heat olive oil and butter in a large pot over a medium heat until the butter is foaming.

Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally until soft and golden – about 8 minutes.

Add leek, carrot, celery and garlic and cook for another 8-10 minutes stirring occasionally, until soft.

Add lentils and water and cook for 20 minutes over a simmer.

Add pumpkin and tomatoes and cook another 20-30 minutes until everything is tender. Add a bit more water if needed. (I added a splash.)

Stir in harissa paste and cook another 10 minutes.

Combine lemon zest and yogurt and serve over soup with fresh coriander.

Vegetarian Pho

Are you a pho addict yet? I didn’t know about this brothy Vietnamese soup until a couple of years ago, but once I did I was hooked. HOOKED I tell you!

Most commonly you see it made with thinly shaved raw beef that’s cooked by the heat of the broth and ladled over rice noodles. You’re given mix-ins like bean sprouts, lime, basil and chilli on the side that you can add at your own discretion. Interactive food! You know I love that.

But it’s often hard to find vegetarian-friendly versions of pho in restaurants. Luckily, you can make this aromatic broth at home pretty easily and load it up with all the veggies you want.

My version used a heap of mushrooms and spinach, as well as soba noodles in the place of the rice noodles. Traditional? Not all all. Vegetable-packed, slightly spicy, aniseedy pho-like goodness? Yessir.

You can easily make this broth non-vegetarian by using beef or chicken broth and fish sauce. I personally prefer the fish sauce here instead of soy sauce, but it’s up to you. You could also add cooked shredded chicken or prawns.

Vegetarian Pho Broth (serves 4)
adapted very slightly from The Kitchn

– 1 large onion, peeled and halved
– 4-inch/10-cm piece fresh ginger root, peeled and halved lengthwise
– 2 3-inch/7.5-cm cinnamon sticks
– 2 star anise
– 4 cloves
– 2 teaspoon coriander seeds
– 8 cups vegetable stock (or stock of you choice)
– 1 tablespoon soy sauce (or fish sauce)
– 2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped

Char onion and ginger directly under a broiler until slightly blackened, about 5 minutes on each side. Rinse with water.

In a large pot, dry roast cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and coriander over medium-low heat, stirring to prevent burning. When spices are aromatic (about 2 minutes), add vegetable stock, soy sauce, carrots, and charred onion and ginger.

Bring broth to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Strain and keep hot until ready to serve.

Vegetarian Pho
– soba noodles (or rice noodles)
– 3 cups mushrooms
– 2 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped

Toppings
– finely chopped chilies
– finely chopped green onion
– bean sprouts
– basil
– mint
– cilantro
– sriracha

Prepare noodles ahead. For soba noodles, cook in boiling water for about 4 minutes (according to package) strain and portion into bowls. If using rice noodles, soak in boiling water for approximately 20 minutes or according to package instructions. Pour broth over the noodles when you’re ready to serve.

I added sliced mushrooms to my finished broth and cooked covered for about 10 minutes until tender, adding the spinach in the last minute or two. Serve hot with desired toppings.

Spicy Coconut and Lentil Soup

It’s been a grey and rainy week. I’ve been caught in the rain three mornings in a row trying to go for a run. My umbrella’s all bent out of shape. I don’t want to leave the house.

What’s your favorite rainy evening ritual? Mine looks like sweat pants, bad tv (wuttup Revenge), a glass of red and a curry.

I don’t love the rain, but I don’t mind the excuse it gives me to get cozy, make something warm, and treat myself right.

I was impressed with this recipe for 2 reasons:
It develops a rich Thai flavor in less than a half an hour – if you’re craving a Thai red curry, this is probably a quicker bet than delivery.
It’s also easily adaptable for whatever vegetables you have at home. Asian veggies like bok choy, baby corn and snow peas are all at home here, but mushrooms, green beans, carrots, spinach and even sweet potato are all welcome too.

Spicy Coconut and Lentil Soup
adapted from Donna Hay’s Off the Shelf
(makes 4 serves)

– 2 tablespoons oil
– 2 tablespoons red curry paste
– 4 spring onions, light green and white parts thinly chopped
– 4 cups vegetable stock
– 2 cups coconut cream
– 1 cup red lentils
– 1 1/2 cups button mushrooms, thinly sliced
– 1 cup snow peas, trimmed and sliced in half
– 2 cups spinach, chopped

Heat the oil and curry paste in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat and cook for 2 minutes. Add in spring onions and cook 1 minute.

Add stock, coconut cream and lentils and cook for 10 minutes.

Add mushrooms and simmer for 5 minutes. Add snow peas and cover, simmering for 2 more minutes.

Stir in spinach and let it wilt down. Serve hot with rice or grilled flat bread.