Basic Home-Made Tomato Soup

IMG_3411Tomato soup is everywhere; on restaurant and cafeteria menus, tinned or bagged on shelves in supermarkets, in powdered form, in powdered one-mug form… And in my experience, nine times out of ten it’s a complete let-down. The last tomato soup I ate in a lunchroom was probably just tomato purée watered down, then smothered in cream. I’m pretty sure no fresh tomato ever went near it. IMG_3391

Why is that, when nothing could be easier than making a basic fresh tomato soup? I suspect it has a lot to do with many people being completely out of touch with proper, home-made food and not knowing how things are actually supposed to taste.

But I’m not here to preach, I am here to give you a basic, yet delicious, recipe for freshly-made tomato soup. 😉 So here goes.


IMG_3437Ingredients
500 g tomatoes (about six medium-sized ones)
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 large clove of garlic, roughly chopped
1 tbs tomato purée
750 ml vegetable stock

Preparation
– Slash the tops of the tomatoes cross-wise with a sharp knife and put them in a snug-fitting bowl or container. Pour on enough boiling water to cover and let stand for a few minutes.
– Drain tomatoes and skin them when cool enough to handle.
– Roughly chop the tomatoes (I use the food processor for this).
– Heat olive oil in a pan and fry the onion and garlic for a few minutes.
– Add the tomato purée and fry for a few more minutes.
– Stir in tomatoes and stock and bring to the boil, then turn down and simmer, lid on, for about 20 minutes.
– Let cool slightly and blitz with stick blender, food processor, whatever you have.
– Reheat and serve.

Quinoa and Vegetable Burgers

IMG_3379The quest for the perfect vegetarian burger continues. So far, I’ve made bean and tofu burgers, so I felt it was time to move on to another type of patty, the grain-based burger. These quinoa and vegetable burgers are based on a grain cakes recipe I found in this article. I’ve fiddled with the amounts a bit because I didn’t want to use half an egg yet only needed half a batch. I also added some wheat gluten flour to make sure the cakes would hold together, and I was very happy with the result.

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I love the texture of these burgers. The quinoa crisps up nicely on the outside and the cheese gives them a soft (but not squidgy) inside. I do recommend frying these on the day you make them, because the ones I fried the day after fell apart in the pan, something that always annoys me about vegetable burgers.  You can use almost any (left-over) vegetables you like in these, provided you cut them very small or grate them. You could add dried herbs or spices but I didn’t feel these needed that. I did fry the burgers in garlic oil.


IMG_3373Ingredients
1/2 cup/80 g quinoa, cooked according to packet instructions and chilled
100-120 g vegetables of your choices, chopped finely (I used a red pepper and spring onions here)
handful chopped coriander
1 egg, beaten
100 g grated or finely chopped cheese (I used Gouda)
6 tbsp of finely ground oats (I blitzed some rolled oats in a food processor)
2-3 tbs wheat gluten/gluten flour
dried spices or herbs (optional, I didn’t use any in these)
(garlic) oil

Preparation
– Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and try to form smallish burgers/patties. If the mixture is too wet, add some more wheat gluten.
– Form patties, lay them on a lined baking tray and put them in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
– Fry the burgers in batches in a thin layer of oil until golden and crisp on both sides.
– Drain on kitchen towel and serve.

Two for One: Artichoke/Basil Spread and Pasta Sauce

IMG_3305One of the things I love about cooking is the feeling that on one hand you are chopping, stirring, beating, stewing as countless people have done before you, while on the other you’re creating that unique dish at that particular time for those specific people. It’s being part of an age-old tradition and heritage while at the same time completely doing your own thing. In that sense, I think you could call cooking one of the most postmodern activities out there; everything’s already been done a million times over, so originality is out, but what a wealth of experience to work with and make your own. I think there is freedom in there, somewhere.IMG_3298

Having just said that, you probably won’t be too impressed with me telling you this is my own creation. But it is, within the pesto, spread, pasta sauce spectrum, anyway. 😉 Right, let’s ditch the philosophy and get our hands dirty (another thing I love about cooking; it’s a perfect mix of creativity and comforting routine chores). IMG_3300

I love the flavour of marinated artichokes but unless you buy really good ones from a delicatessen, they almost always have tough, wooden bits in them. This is why I decided to blitz jarred, supermarket-bought artichokes into a pasta sauce with some other ingredients, creating an unforeseen second dish; an excellent spread to serve with crackers and drinks! The artichoke and basil mixture has just the right texture and flavour for it. If you’re after the spread, simply blend together the sauce ingredients mentioned below (see ‘preparation’ also, though). If you want to make a main, follow the entire recipe.


Serves 2

Ingredients 
– 180 g wholemeal spaghetti or pasta of your choice
– 3 tbsp/30 g pine nuts

For the sauce
– 1 x 295 gr jar of marinated artichoke hearts (in brine, not oil)
– 15 g basil leaves
– 1 heaped tbsp nutritional yeast (you could use parmesan)
– 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
– 1/4 tsp of fine sea salt (or to taste)
– pepper, to taste
– 3 tbsp/45 ml extra virgin olive oil

Preparation

– Cook pasta according to packet instructions.
– Meanwhile dry-fry the pine nuts in a skillet to toast them. Be careful not to burn them, they should be golden.
– Blitz all the sauce ingredients, except the oil, in a (mini) food processor or with a stick blender.
– Add the oil gradually in a thin stream while still blending.
– When the pasta is almost cooked, hold back 1/4 cup/60 mls of the starchy cooking water.
– Gradually stir this water into your artichoke mixture to loosen it up. Go easy and see how much you need, the sauce should coat the pasta but not be thin.
– Drain the pasta when cooked and put it back in the pan. Mix in the artichoke and basil sauce using salad cutlery or similar.
– Divide between bowls, sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and serve.