Roasted Vegetable and French Lentil Soup

Serves: 4 – 6

Tis the season of soup: four days into winter and I don’t think we have managed to get over 10 degrees in Sydney.

Cue the long line of winter soups and we’re not sad about it.

This one is a winner: its thick, warming, healthy and kids love it – Tom Tom went in successively for four bowls.

And it’s sophisticated enough to serve as a starter at a lunch over the next few months. This really is French bistro.

Bring on winter. And extra Parmesan.

Ingredients

For the roasted vegetables

4 tbsp olive oil
2 carrots
1 capsicum
1 broccoli
1 red onion
1 head of garlic (or about 6 cloves)
4 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

For the stew base

2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
2 bay leaves
2 cans tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups of vegetable stock
100g of green beans, trimmed and cut 0.5cm pieces
1 cup French lentils
Parmesan soup

Method

Roasted vegetables

  1. Turn on oven to 180C. Chop up vegetables (don’t bother peeling the carrots) and drizzle with olive oil and toss so the veges are evenly coated.
  2. Wrap the garlic in foil and drizzle with olive oil and seal in a bundle. Put in the oven with the tray of vegetables.
  3. Roast for about 30-40 mins.

Stew base

  1. In a large pot on medium heat cook the onion and garlic until it is soft and translucent.
  2. Add the oregano, thyme, bay leaves, canned tomatoes, stock, beans and lentils. Bring to the boil and let simmer for about 15 mins or until the lentils are cooked, stirring so the lentils don’t stick to the pot.
  3. When the vegetables have finished roasting put them in a blender with roasted garlic, balsamic, tomato paste and a couple of big spoons of the soup. Blend to combine.
  4. Mix the blended vegetables into the soup base and simmer for another 5-10 mins depending on how thick you want the soup.
  5. Add the Parmesan cheese to serve.

Josh Niland’s Gurnard Soup

Serves: 4 – 6

This is a remarkably good dish, though it is from Josh Niland and so no suprises there.

Check out that skin!
Beyond elegant. Clearly restaurant.

The bisque (soup) would be the best I have had, with the addition of lemon juice at the end dialing it up a further notch. The crispy skin fish combined with the bisque is just so, so good.

Worth absolutely every bit of effort.

Big grins.

We ended up using flathead instead of gurnard for both the fish and the bisque and Josh is fine with this.

The most interesting part of the process of this recipe, was really exploring how to achieve an optimal crispy skin, something we have never particularly focused on.

We still have a ways to go though after a few attempts, we are close. (N.B. that in the photos on this recipe, you will note that we have scored the skin, something we have heard a few people recommend, though we’ve arrived at don’t score the skin.)

Anyway, our best results:

  • Heavy, cast iron skillet over a medium-high heat.
  • Lot’s of quality ghee, with the addition of more ghee halfway through. (Josh says to discard the first quantity of ghee though to date we have not done this.)
  • Utilising a fish weight. (Thanks to our mate Josh D for ours.) You could also use a small pan.
  • Not flipping the fish and cooking skin-side down only.
  • After 1 minute, moving the fish with an offset palette knife (an absolute must instrument in your kitchen).

Ingredients

100gm ghee
4 x 80gm boneless red gurnard fillets, skin on (substiture leatherjacket, red mullet or flathead)
Sea salt flakes

Soup base

4 x 300gm whole red gurnard (or substitute), gills, cuts and gall bladders removed
120gm ghee
Large pinch of sea salt flakes
2 onions, finely sliced
8 garlic cloves, crushed
3 small fennel bulbs, finely sliced
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/4 bunch thyme sprigs
5 lemon thyme sprigs (optional)
2 tsp fennel seeds, lightly toasted
2 star anise
Generous pinchof saffron threads
200ml white wine
1 tbsp Pernod
freshly cracked black pepper
Lemon juice, to taste

Method

  1. To make the soup base, use a sharp cleaver to chop each gurnard into approximately eight small pieces, including the liver and roe.
  2. Heat 100gm of the ghee to a light haze in a large, wide, heavy-based saucepan over a high heat, add the chopped fish and salt flakes and cook for 10 minutes until coloured all over. Transfer to a bowl. Using a wide barbecue scraper, scrape off any caramelised fish from the base of the pan and add to the bowl.
  3. Heat the remaining ghee in the pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 10 minutes until softened, then increase the heat to high and cook the garlic and fennel for a further 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes, then return the cooked fish to the pan, align with all the remining ingredients except the salt, pepper and lemon juice.
  4. Pour in enough water to cover, then put the lid on and bring to the boil. As soon as it’s boiling, remove the lid and simmer over a medium heat for 20 minutes, or until thickened slightly and the taste is well rounded. Pass the stock through a mouli (or pulse in a food processer), then strain through a fine-mesh sieve, disgarding the pulp. Return to the pan, season well with salt, pepper and lemon juice and keep warm.
  5. To cook the gurnard fillets, heat 75gm of the ghee in a large cast-iron frying pan over a medium-high heat to a light haze. Place the fillets in the centre of the pan, skin side down and making sure they are not touching each other, and put a fish weight or small saucepan on their thickest side. Keeping the pan temperatures quite high, cook for about 1 minute, or until you start to see the colour around the edges of the fillets. Use an offset palette knife to lift the fillets, then reposition them to take on new colour. Now place the fish weights in the centre of the pan, covering the majority of the fillets. This will aid in setting the fillets gently from the rising heat. Cook for another 2 minutes and then remove the weights. Discard the ghee and replenish with 45gm more fresh ghee. (This is just to help temper the pan as at this stage it is important to keep the pan heat high but not so high that the skin burns, leaving the flesh on top raw.) If the flesh still seems cool to the touch at this point, position the weight on top for another 1 – 2 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets.
  6. If you find the fillets exceed your pan size, either use two frying pans or cook them in batches, and double the quantity of ghee.
  7. Once the fish is 75 per cent on the way set, the top of each fillet is warm and the skin is crisp from edge to edge, transfer them directly into warm soup bowls, skin side up and season the skin with salt flakes. Pour a generous amount of soup around the gurnard until the sides of the fish are completely submerged though the skin remains dry (and therefore crisp). Serve immediately.

Jake Cohen’s Chicken Matzo Ball Soup recipe

Serves: 6 – 8

Halfway through Sydney’s Covid lockdown, instead of being negative and talking of boredom, restrictions and homeschool, Nat and I reflected on what we had learnt and what we would take away from lockdown.

A big part of the answer was around family traditions that were forged because we had no choice but to all spend lots of time together.

One tradition that popped out of nowhere was Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year).

We went all out: we found an old Menorah on Facebook Marketplace that we promised to dust out every year: played hide the Matzo and did the full spread. Apple and honey, many things with matzo, brisket, potatoes with capers and a great challah bread.

And we dressed up.

I usually only make the Jamie Oliver Matzo Ball Soup. I’m sorry to say Jamie, I will only ever be making Jake Cohens going forward.

It is so delicious, it will sway even your most sceptical customers.

Matzo balls

2 c matzo meal
1/2 c schmaltz, melted (I used 1/4 c duck fat and 1/4 c ghee)
2 tbsp minced fresh dill
2 tsp kosher salt plus more as needed
6 large eggs, beaten
2/3 c fizzy water

For the soup

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken legs
4 medium carrots, scrubbed and cut into 2cm pieces
4 large parsnips, scrubbed and cut into 2cm pieces
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 c chicken stock
1/4 c minced fresh dill
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest

Method

  1. For the matzo balls: In a large bowl, stir together the matzo meal, melted schmaltz, dill, salt, and eggs until smooth. Gently stir in the seltzer until incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Scoop the chilled matzo mixture into 1/4-cup balls, using wet hands to roll them until smooth. You should have about 14 matzo balls. Gently add the matzo balls, one at a time, to the boiling water. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until fluffy and tender, about 1 hour. Remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for 15 minutes, then keep warm until the soup is ready.
  3. For the soup: While the matzo balls cook, preheat the oven to 230°C.
  4. On a half sheet pan, toss together the chicken legs, carrots, parsnips, onion, olive oil, and a heavy pinch each of salt and pepper, then arrange the legs skin-side up on the pan. Roast for 30 minutes, until the vegetables and chicken are lightly golden.
  5. Transfer the vegetables and chicken to a large pot and cover with the stock and 4 cups water. Bring to a simmer over medium- high heat, then reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer and cook until the chicken is extremely tender, about 30 minutes. Using a ladle, skim off any fat from the top of the liquid and discard. Remove from the heat and keep warm.
  6. Transfer the chicken legs to a bowl and let cool slightly. Once they are cool enough to handle, use two forks to shred the meat and discard the skin and bones. Stir the shredded chicken, dill, and lemon zest into the soup, then taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  7. Mix the matzo balls in with the stock, chicken and vegetable mix.
  8. Ladle a matzo ball and soup into a serving bowl and enjoy!

The Monday Morning Cooking Club’s Chicken and Barley Soup

Serves: 8

The Monday Morning Cooking Club is a wonderful story.

In 2006, a group of Jewish women in Sydney started meeting to share recipes and talk all things food.

They contributed their favourite and family recipes and a couple of years later, they published a cookbook of their favourites.

This soup by Barbara Solomon is so warming. So healthy. So nourishing.

Especially through winter, we love to always have a soup in the fridge for lunch and snacks and this has become a favourite.

Yum.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
400gm tin diced tomatoes
2 ltrs chicken stock
200gm pearl barley
350gm (2 cups) shredded cooked chicken meat
2 tbsp chopped parsley

Method

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and cook the onions, carrots and celery until soft. Add the garlic to the pan and cook for a further 1 – 2 minutes, then add the tomatoes and stock and bring to the boil.
  2. Add the barley and reduce he heat to a simmer, then cook for about 50 minutes or until the barley is tender. Add the chicken and parsley, and stir through to heat. Season well with salt and pepper to taste.

Banc’s Sweet Corn and Basil Soup

Serves: 4

This is a truly sublime soup and one we have served plenty of times at the beginning of a dinner party.

It is from the famous Sydney restaurant, Banc.

We have served it both hot and cold and plenty of times, we have been asked for more. Indeed, we had a cook-off with a mate a few years back where we both did three courses each and this soup was a comprehensive point-scorer in my favour.

Here’s what the prep looks like when you’re cooking it for 31+ friends (!!!) at our long lunch/wedding:

Prepare it beforehand and chill in the fridge.

And seriously blow them all away.

Ingredients

4 fresh corn cobs
200gm diced onions
50ml cream
50ml diced butter
1 small bunch fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Method

  1. The stock: Peel and remove all the outer stalks from the cobs. Using a knife, remove all the corn kernels from the cobs and reserve. Cut the cobs in half.
  2. In a heavy-based pan, melt half the butter and add half of the diced onion. Sweat the onion for 5 minutes on a medium heat without allowing it to colour. Add the cobs and a good pinch of salt and cook for a further 5 minutes without browning.
  3. Add 1.5 litres of water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the stock to infuse for a further 30 minutes before passing it through a fine sieve, discarding the cobs and onions
  4. The soup: In a heavy-based pan melt the remaining butter and add the remaining diced onion. Sweat the onion for 5 minutes on a medium heat without allowing to colour. Add the corn kernels and a good pinch of salt and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  5. Add the corn stock and simmer for 20 – 25 minutes until the corn kernels are tender. Pour in the cream and continue to cook for 5 more minutes.
  6. Remove from the heat and blend the soup in a blender until smooth. Add roughly chopped basil and season with salt and pepper. Leave the soup for at least an hour – ideally overnight in the fridge – to allow the flavours to infuse, before passing the soup through a fine sieve, pressing hard on the corn to extract as much flavour as possible. Season once more and serve hot or cold.

The French Laundry’s Creamy Lobster Broth

Serves: 4

The French Laundry is one of America’s best and most well-known restaurants.

Driving through the Napa Valley and having lunch at The French Laundry is most definitely on my bucket list.

Thoma Keller, the man behind The French Laundry has another restaurant in New York called Perse and Nat and I agree that it was the finest dining experience either of us had ever had. 11/10.

Thomas Keller is a genius.

We have had The French Laundry cookbook for a number of years though we had only ever cooked one thing in it: Yabba Dabba Doo, an incredible standing rib with Pommes Anna and a Bordelaise Sauce.

Now we have done two… this classic broth which is to die for.

Rather than live lobsters, I purchased tails and set aside the meat for another dish. I then supplemented the lesser lobster shell with the prawn shells from 24 prawns.

It was sublime I know this is something we will do again for our next dinner party.

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 3 lobster bodies, cut into quarters
  • 1 ½ cups chopped tomatoes
  • ½ cup chopped carrots
  • 1 bunch tarragon
  • 2 cups heavy cream

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan and sear the lobster parts for a few minutes until they turn red.
  2. Add the tomatoes, carrots, tarragon and cover the lobster parts and vegetables with water. Bring to the boil, skimming off any impurities that float to the top.
  3. Reduce the heat and simmer for an hour.
  4. Strain the stock, pushing as much liquid through as possible. Strain the liquid again through a fine strainer and pour the liquid into a clean pan.
  5. Return the strained liquid to the heat and reduce slowly until there is one cup of liquid left. Add the heavy cream and continue to simmer until there is 2 cups left.
  6. Strain once more and refrigerate until needed.
  7. Slowly reheat and serve.

Italian-style Zucchini and Parmesan Soup

Serves: 4

Wow this is a good soup!

Like, wow.

Neil Perry of course and reasonable quick to whip up, Nat and I cooked this for a Saturday lunch as part of a weekend of cooking and we were blown away.

We used a very good and aged parmesan and shaved it in; not the yellow stuff you get in the supermarket. Some warmed, crusty bread and wow.

We were warm and completely satisfied for the entire afternoon.

You must do this!

Ingredients

750gm green zucchini, cut into 1cm-thick pieces
Extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bunch basil
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
1½ liters chicken stock
125ml pure cream
40gm unsalted butter
40gm parmesan, grated, plus extra to serve

Method

  1. Heat a little olive oil in a heavy-based sauce pan over a medium heat and add the zucchini, garlic, basil and a good pinch of sea salt. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the zucchini starts to soften.
  2. Add the stock, bring to the boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for about 8 minutes.
  3. Pour the soup into the blender and pulse until well pureed though still with a bit of texture; not completely smooth.
  4. Return to the saucepan and stir in the cream, butter and the parmesan.
  5. Serve with a sprinkle of grated parmesan and a good ground of fresh pepper.

Skinny Chicken Laksa

Serves: 2

I avoid Laksa at lunchtime. I avoid cooking it for dinner.

It tastes awesome, though it is notoriously fatty. I’m probably kidding myself given half the dinners I make, though Laksa has always been a red light for me.

This recipe by Jill Dupleix – which I have adjusted slightly – is, at least on face value, much healthier than the 400ml can of coconut cream variety I am used to, and tastes just awesome. The meat isn’t fried, the laksa paste isn’t fried off in oil.

(That means you can eat more I assume!)

On my deathbed I’ll smash down pork crackling and proper Laksa, though until then…

Serves 4

150gm vermicelli noodles
2 c (500ml) chicken stock
2tbs laksa paste
2 chicken breasts cut into 3cm strips
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tsp caster sugar
250ml can reduced fat coconut milk (OK, original recipe was 100ml though can was 250ml)
200 gm green beans, trimmed and cut in half
1 cup bean sprouts (add as much as you want)
2 cup coriander sprigs (again, add as much as you want)
2 cup mint leaves (ditto)
Fried Asian shallots to serve (half handful per serve)

Method

  1. Soak the noodled in warm water for 10 minutes until soft. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat the stock in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Once hot, whisk in the laksa paste.
  3. Add the chicken, tomato, sugar and ½ teaspoon of sea salt and simmer for 10 minutes until chicken cooked through.
  4. Add the coconut milk and beans and simmer for 5 minutes until beans cooked through.
  5. Divide the noodles among 4 bowls and soon over the chicken and the laksa broth.
  6. Top with bean sprouts and scatter with coriander, mint and dried Asian shallots.

 

Cha Ca (Ling Fillets marinated with dill and tumeric)

Serves 6

According to Google translate, ‘kinh ngạc’ is amazing in Vietnamese and I do hope it is because this dish is a-mazing.

It’s got it all.

Healthy, hot, filling, so tasty.

Seriously, copy paste these ingredients and clear your schedule for tonight because this is going to make tonight – and every night you cook it – very special.

Mark Jensen of Red Lantern is a genius!

Ingredients

1kg ling fillets
8 spring onions (scallions)
4 garlic cloves
1 tbsp ground turmeric
2 tsp hot curry power
2 tbsp plain yoghurt
1/2 cup fish sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 bunch dill
125g rice vermicelli
1 cup fish stock
1 lemon
300g bean sprouts

Method

  1. Cut the fish into 4cm pieces, place in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Put the white heads of the spring onions (reserving the stalks) and garlic in a mortar and pound to a paste.
  3. Add the paste, turmeric, curry powder, yoghurt, fish sauce, sugar, 2 tablespoons of the oil and a third of the dill, roughly chopped) to the fish and mix well. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
  4. Cook the vermicelli in boiling water for 5 minutes, turn off the heat and let sit for a further 5 minutes. Strain, refresh under cold water a set aside. (This may contradict instructions on pack, though don’t worry!).
  5. Thinly, diagonally slice 4 or 5 of the green spring onion stalks.
  6. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat, add the remaining oil and fry the fillets for 30 seconds on one side.
  7. Turn the fillets over, add the fish stock and simmer for 3-5 minutes until the fish is cooked through.
  8. Remove the fish and squeeze over the juice from the lemon.
  9. Mix the bean sprouts, sliced spring onion, remaining dill and vermicelli together, place into bowls and spoon over the fish fillets and sauce.

Jamie Oliver’s Real Mushroom Soup

Serves: 6 – 8

It is true – I think – that at its most basic, mushroom soup is mushroom soup. It’s tasty enough, it is nice warm or cold, it’s filling and it’s healthy.

This spin on mushroom soup by Jamie Oliver not only adds a bit of zing to the whole thing, it is one of those cannot-be-ignored opportunities to use truffle oil!

And it’s still healthy which is why I must have two gallons of it frozen and ready for dethaw on any given night where I am too tired to cook.

You should consider the same!

(Slight adaptation of the recipe where I increased mushrooms from 600gm to 1kg.)

Ingredients

1 small handful dried porcini (I also used some shiitake)
Extra virgin olive oil
1kg mixed fresh wild mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 handful fresh thyme, leaves picked
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 litre chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon mascarpone cheese
1 lemon
Truffle oil (optional)
Sliced loaf of bread, brushed with olive oil and grilled

 

Method

  1. Place the porcini in a small dish, cover with boiling water and leave aside.
  2. Heat a heavy saucepan medium-hot and as Jamie Oliver famously puts it, ‘add a good couple of lugs’ of the olive oil and add your mushrooms. Stir for a minute or so and then add the garlic, onion, thyme and season. Meanwhile, chop half your porcini, reserving the liquid.
  3. After a minute or so of cooking, add the chopped and whole porcini and the reserved liquid. Continue cooking on a medium heat for 20 minutes or until most of the liquid has disappeared.
  4. Season again and add the stock. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Remove half of the soup and whiz in a blender until smooth. Reintroduce to the remaining soup together with the parsley, mascarpone and a final seasoning as needed.
  6. To serve, a small drizzle of truffle oil, maybe a squeeze of lemon, chopped parsley, perhaps a few reserved and cooked slices of mushroom, a crack of pepper and some oiled and grilled sliced bread.