soup

Country onion soup(Soupe à l’oignon champêtre)

Winter has suddenly hit us with a bang and out came the soups of which onion soup is a favorite. The secret of a good onion soup rests on a good stock (preferably homemade) and of course the slow, deep caramelizing of the onions. If you want a quick soup for dinner, this is not it. But no doubt, for a cold day, an onion soup, topped with a melted cheese crouton, is pure heaven.

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Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • The longer you can caramelize your onions, the more flavorful they will be. It is a myth that onions can be caramelized within 10 minutes.
  • I cut my onions in quarters and then slice the quarters finely, because I don’t like long strips dripping soup  from my spoon.
  • To serve country style, serve the soup in a tureen with the croutons on top and serve each portion from the tureen.
  • It can also be served individually by placing a slice of bread on the soup, top with cheese and grill for a few minutes to melt the cheese.
  • Don’t be skimpy with the thyme as it adds to the flavor.
  • To really serve a soup and not soaked bread, don’t serve too much bread in the soup, for it soaks up a lot of the liquid and you will be left with only onions and soaked bread.
  • Serve the soup hot in warmed  bowls.

..a variety of onions..

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..onions cut into quarters and sliced thinly, cooked until translucent and caramelized until dark and soft…

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countrybread, called a tourte here inCorréze, sliced and torn into smaller portions..

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..Vieux Cantal( aged Cantal cheese) broken into small chunks and sprinkled on the bread and soup for a country dinner..

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To all my American friends and readers…have a Happy Thanksgiving!

..à la prochaine fois..

Ronelle


Summer peach soup with red berries..and Provence

In midsummer, when the sun is blazing hot and the cigales are singing away, we don’t have much desire for eating, except for indulging in ice cream. A cold simmer peach soup is perfect for those days and brings a bit of welcome change to the ice cream menu.

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La recette:

  1. Bring to the boil 1 liter of water with 1 vanilla pod, 200 g sugar and the rind of 1 lemon. Remove from the heat, add a handful of fresh mint leaves and set aside to cool.
  2. Peel and cut 6 peaches of your choice into slices.
  3. Add to the warm syrup and leave to cool down completely before storing in the fridge for about 4 hours to infuse.
  4. Serve cold in glasses or bowls and add a handful of fresh red berries of your choice to the soup(optional).
  5. Decorate with fresh mint leaves and serve with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

Serves 6 people.

Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • I used a mixture of white and yellow peaches.
  • Macerate the berries with some sugar before adding to the soup, since they may be too sour for the soup.
  • Add the berries on a little kebab/cocktail stick and stick into the soup, to eat separately.
  • Leave the berries if so desired.
  • Replace the mint with lemon verbena for something different.
  • Serve in frozen glasses for an icy effect.

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The signature of Provence is its white limestone..in the countryside, the hills,  in the built walls, the drywalls, the houses, the pavings ,  the flowerbeds, the villages… Some of them new and some weathered handsomely by the mistral  and rains of centuries.

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I love an atmospheric window..

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Clearly seen in this image below, is the different types of stone used, maybe at different times by different craftsmen.

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Just look at that stone…beautiful non?..

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A  stone staircase between these beautiful stone walls, going up and up and up…

Provence 2013 27-06-2013 18-27-23 3139x4349A typical Provencal door..

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A flowerbed by a front door, typical in the small villages with no gardens..

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Lovely shutters and vigne vierge creeper..

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Sedum growing on the rooftiles..totally content in the heat, like me…

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Holly hocks…an old world flower and one of my favorites..

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Gay colour in an ochre coloured flower container..

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Bonnieux is known for its brocantes..

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..which overlooks the valley..

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A window peeking from above a fig tree..Provence 2013 29-06-2013 11-30-09 3212x4619

Lavenders on the windowsill..

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A cloche against a perfect Provencal sky…Provence 2013 29-06-2013 11-46-17 3238x3877And lastly,  a sunset goodbye …

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So, with these images it is back to reality here at Coin Perdu, where summer is in full swing..and I don’t want it to end!

à la prochaine

Ronelle


Nettle velouté with petit pois pesto.

Unimaginable that nettle soup can be delicious and yet, it is! Once cooked, the stinging effect disappears completely and all that is left, is a dark green, flavorful soup. Stinging nettle grows everywhere, the sign of fertile soil, and costs nothing. So why not make use of it? It reminds me somewhat of watercress, of which I often make soup too.  Along with the spring petit pois pesto, it makers for a typical spring lunch or dinner or even a starter. See the Pincée de fleur de sel below for more ideas. I do hope you’ll try it.

Nettle soup with petit pois pesto

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Recette:

Soup:

  1. Pick nettle leaves, wearing a pair of  leather or other thick gloves. Separate the leaves from the stems, keeping only the tender leaves and stems. Harvest about 3 large colanders full of leaves  for 4 people.
  2. Rinse the leaves in cold water to get rid of sand and grit. Don’t forget using the gloves, or switch to tongs.
  3. Clean and chop two spring onions and sauté in coconut oil(not to be confused with palm oil)or olive oil. Add 5 stems of  garlic along and its flowers.(optional)
  4. Mix the nettle leaves with  the onion and add enough vegetable stock to JUST cover the nettle/onion mixture. Adding too much liquid will result in a watery soup.
  5. Simmer on medium heat for about 20 to 25 minutes.
  6. Remove from the heat and mix with a hand mixer to a creamy soup.
  7. Add 3/4 can of coconut milk and 1 large TBSP of mascarpone cheese to the soup. Stir  and leave to simmer very gently over low heat for another 10 minutes.
  8. Season with salt and pepper, lemon juice and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
  9. Leave aside until needed.

Petit pois pesto:

  1. Boil 1 large cup of freshly shelled petit pois for 2-3 minutes and rinsed under cold water. Leave to dry.
  2. Mix together in a mortar and pestle with 5 sprigs chives,  2-3 TBSP olive oil and 1 TBSP pine nuts.
  3. Season with salt and pepper, lemon juice and a drizzle of white balsamic vinegar.
  4. Don’t overwork to a puree.

To serve: Serve the soup warm OR cold with a quenelle of petit pois . Finish off with sprinkling of milled pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

Bon appétit!

Pick nettles with a pair of leather or other thick gloves!

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I picked the leaves(with gloves of course) early morning, separated the leaves from the harder stems, kept the softer ones, rinsed it very  well and kept it in the fridge until I started the preparation.

 Rinse very well!

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Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Remember to pick the leaves with gloves, rinsing and adding to the casserole, working with gloves or tongs all the time.
  • Like spinach, nettle must be rinsed well, preferably under running water. Catch the water in a bowl and add to you plants.
  • It resembles spinach when cooked.
  • Use watercress, or spinach leaves instead of nettle.
  • If you fear the nettle to be too “wild” to your liking, add 1 large peeled,  boiled and mashed potato, OR add some spinach leaves along with the nettle.
  • Don’t add too much stock or else the soup will be watery. It is always possible to add some stock afterwards.
  • Serve the soup cold in glasses or cups, topped with a room temperature pesto, or serve warm in bowls with room temperature pesto.
  • If using frozen petit pois, boil longer than fresh peas..about 4 minutes. Stop the cooking process by placing in ice cold water.
  • For a nice apéro, make a cuppacino – Place a layer of petit pois a the bottom of a small glass,pour over some soup and finsih off with whipped cream. sprinkle with grean matcha tea powder.

Freshly shelled petit pois.

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Last, but not least..the pea shells are off to the compost heap!

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*Note: I have finally gotten the chance to redo my photos for the Washing day post and if you would like to see and read my thoughts on a washing day..just follow this link to Coin Perdu -Laundry day!

Laundry day at Coin Perdu!

* Thank you to everybody who shared their laundry stories either on Facebook, in an email or on the blog..I loved reading them..if there are more of you who want to share..please do so, I would love to hear your washing day stories and I know others would like to read them too!

Bon appétit et à la prochaine!

Ronelle


Velouté de butternut..and footprints in the snow.

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“Un rideau de flocons blancs ininterrompu miroitait sans cesse en descendant vers la terre; il effaçait les formes, poudrait les choses d’une mousse de glace; et l’on n’entendait plus, dans le grand silence de la ville calme et ensevelie sous l’hiver, que ce froissement vague, innommable et flottant de la neige qui tombe, plutôt sensation que bruit , entremêlement d’atomes légers qui semblaient emplir l’espace, couvrir le monde.” Guy de Maupassant, boule de suif.

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“It was early autumn, then, before the snow began to fly. –(There’s an expression for you, born in the country, born from the imaginations of men and their feeling for the right word, the only word, to mirror clearly what they see! Those with few words must know how to use them.) Men who have seen it, who have watched it day by day outside their cabin window coming down from the sky, like the visible remorse of an aging year; who have watched it bead upon the ears of the horses they rode, muffle the sound of hoofs on the trail, lie upon spruce boughs and over grass – cover, as if forever, the landscape in which they moved, round off the mountains, blanket the ice in the rivers – for them the snow flies. The snow doesn’t fall. It may ride the wind. It may descend slowly, in utter quiet, from the grey and laden clouds, so that you can hear the flakes touching lightly on the wide white waste, as they come to rest at the end of their flight. Flight – that’s the word. They beat in the air like wings, as if reluctant ever to touch the ground. I have observed them coming down, on a very cold day, near its end when the sky above me was still blue, in flakes great and wide as the palm of my hand. They were like immense moths winging down in the twilight, making the silence about me visible.” – Howard O’Hagan Tay John

…Voilà coin Perdu in January! Quiet and silent behind its curtain of white…

neige 2013-023..Our barn, where we are living until the house is finished..

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..A view on the bench, where I dream and plan, except in winter. Then I dream and plan by the fire..

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..Forgotten socks …

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..and terracotta pots waiting to be cleaned..

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..Two adorable faces, waiting for fresh hay..

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..The Eiffle tower, a bit askew in the potager..

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..Old barrel rims, waiting to become arches in the potager..

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..The wine bottle rack, serving some different purpose every so often..

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..The road to la toilette requires snow boots..

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..”La toilette” in snow attire..

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..Velouté de butternut..

velouté de butternut 1Recipe:

  1. Clean and chop and onion and fry in some olive oil.
  2. Add some cleaned Butternut, cut into chunks.
  3. Cover with vegetable or chicken stock until vegetables are completely covered. simmer until very tender.
  4. Mix to a puree and put back on gentle heat.
  5. Add coconut milk to the soup according to your preference.. Season and leave to simmer gently on low heat for about 10 minutes.
  6. Add the juice of 1 orange, season with salt and pepper.
  7. Serve warm with freshly grated nutmeg and crusty bread.

So, on this quiet, hushed snow note, I leave you..

à bientôt!

Ronelle


Un Noël à la campagne 3: Topinambours and chestnut velouté with wild mushroom croutons.

The entrée (starter) for this menu is A topinambour (Jerusalem artichokes) and chestnut velouté with  wild mushroom croûtons. It has a wonderful woodsy flavor and finished off with a shaving of black truffle on the chanterelles mushrooms, it transports you into a winter forest.

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Recipe:

  1. Clean 1 onion and cut in slices. Fry the onion in a little olive oil until translucent.
  2. Clean 5 large Jerusalem artichokes, cut into small, even chunks  and add to the the onion.
  3. Add a tin of peeled chestnuts (210g)  to the mixture.
  4. Add a bouguet garni  and 350 ml water or stock (vegetable) to the vegetables and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
  5. Remove the bouquet garni and remove the soup from the heat. Add a handful of washed parsley and mix with an electrical hand mixer until the soup is creamy. If you want the soupy perfectly creamy, you can push it through a sieve.
  6. Add some cream, or stock, or milk to bring it to the right consistency (like thick cream). Season with salt and freshly milled pepper and a few drops of lemon juice.
  7. Serve warm with some freshly  grated nutmeg and a mushroom croûton.
  8. Mushroom croûton: Toast three thick slices of bread. cut into fingers and brush with truffle oil on all sides. Clean some some mushrooms of your choice with a brush and fry quickly in olive oil. Add some chopped parsley , season and place on top of the toast fingers. Finish off by placing two shavings of black truffle on the mushrooms and serve immediately with the soup.
  9. This soup can also be served as an amuse bouche, served in small glasses, with small fingers of toast.

Serves 4 people as a starter.

Une pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Don’t add too much liquid in the beginning..you can always thin with some milk, or stock or water towards the end to the thickness you prefer.
  • Replace the mushrooms with plain button mushrooms or with crispy Spanish ham.
  • Replace the Jerusalem artichokes with pumpkin.
  • Toast the croutons in a toaster or dry toast in a pan to keep it light.
  • Finish the soup with a twirl of truffle oil.
  • Never wash mushrooms with water, clean them with a brush.
  • Fry mushrooms in a hot pan ..I prefer to fry mushrooms in duckfat(a little) which can be heated to very high heat without becoming toxic. Afterwards I drizzle a little Olive oil. In a hot pan, you don’t need much fat, because the mushrooms fry very quickly.
  • I don’t push the soup through a sieve, because I like the tiny pieces of parsley which gives a nice 3speckly” effect to the soup.
  • Enjoy.

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The Christmas market in Meyssac was very quaint and I especially loved the lovely church with its display of nativity scenes in all the alcoves. Each nativity scene depicted a country…Brazil was there, France of course, Italy, Africa. Even Peru was there, each little figurine dressed in typical clothing. I adored it and planned on going back to Meyssac to take pictures of all the scenes. When I finally went back, it was gone! Of course, it made sense..it was on display only for the weekend of the market..all those precious figurines couldn’t be left unattended for the whole season. I can kick myself! So I lost out on the lovely nativity scenes..you will have to wait until next year.

But the little église of Meyssac is still adorable and here are some photos…

…The exterior of l’église de Meyssac…

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..the interior towards the altar with Chrismas lights hanging above the aisle…

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..the altar from close up..

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..and the only nativity scene left for the season..

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..un lustre lighting up one of the many figurines the Catholics so love..

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  • Tomorrow will see the plat principal (main meal): Beef tournedos with bone marrow in a wine sauce and steamed vegetables.
  • A nice DVD to get you in a French vintage mood…La plus belle histoire des femmes.

.. alors, à demain!..

Ronelle


Gaspacho! with crisp Iberian ham and a walk in Brive la Gaillarde, Corréze.

Yesterday was hot. Very very hot. I thought I was going to melt. Here in the southwest of France we are “au niveua 2 du canicule” (level 2 heatwave). In Paris everybody is in water…by the Eiffel, in die seine, in the fountains. We are drinking water by the tons, the ice cream shelves shelves are empty. We are thirsty and hot and sticky. We are like limp fish. But it isn’t the worst heat I’ve known, so I don’t complain..pretty soon it will be dark European winter days and I will miss this heat.

In the meantime, there are many ways to keep cool. One of them of course is eating cool meals…like sipping cold gazpacho!

Une petite pensée:

  • I don’t add bread to the gazpacho, but I love to serve it with croutons sprinkled on top. Omit the croutons and mix some country bread together with the vegetable mix.
  • Serve with vegetables cut into small dice(cucumber, peppers, spring onions)
  • Serve with a cocktail stick of goats cheese, cherry tomato, basil leaf.
  • Serve topped with a spoonful of scraped iced tomato juice.
  • Use a celery branch to stir.
  • Add cubes of ice in each glass
  • Serve in rustic Spanish glasses for the best effect.

A visit to Brive la Gaillarde..Les rues, des petits chemins, un bistro, la collegiale St. MArtin, lesboputis(quilts), l’architecturte et les fontaines..voilà Brive la Gaillarde a Corréze.

From an overheated Vallée de la Dordogne…à bientôt!

Ronelle


Red lentil, carrot and pancetta soup.. and a garden in February.

Garden work starts around February. It is trimming of the roses and lavenders and planting fruit trees and just general cleaning up of the garden. As it is still cold even though it is is uplifiting to fiddle in the garden, a nice thing to come back to inside the house, is a warm soup! This soup is one of the nicest lentil soups, in my mind…unpureed, thick and great with the subtle flavor of the fried pancetta ham.  It is very quick and easy and very tasty. It even beats the lentil/red pepper soup I usually make.

  1. Heat some olive oil in a big casserole pot. Fry 10 slices of pancetta, torn into pieces. Add 2 chopped shallots, 3 sticks of chopped celery, 2 diced carrots. Cook together for about 5 minutes.
  2. Add about 200g of red lentils along with 3 cups of vegetable stock.
  3. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes over gentle  heat until the lentils and carrots are tender.
  4. Remove from the heat and add one TBSP of tomato paste and some lemon juice to taste.
  5. Season with salt and freshly milled pepper.
  6. fisnish off with some freshly chopped parsley leaves.
  7. Serve warm.

Serves 4 people

Suggestions:

  • The soup can be served as a starter if you have a light meal.
  • Use smoked bacon instead of pancetta.
  • Add 2 chopped tomatoes for a more watery  soup.
  • Add more stock or less, depending on how thick you want your soup.
  • Stir in a TBSP of cream at the end for a heavier, creamier soup.
  • The parsley can be replaced by freshly chopped coriander.
  • The soup is even better the day after.

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The month in a year that I like the least, is January. I’m an ostrich and I hide my head, hoping no one will see me. Or I’m a bear, hybernating and I’m mean when disturbed. But I’m also the seed lying and waiting to push through the cold and the wet soil and bloom in the first rays of  sunshine. When February hits, I’m usually back among the living, with a strong desire to be outdoors. We have had some beautiful days in February and the garden is winking at me. When wandering through the February garden, there are small delights which makes a colorless Tourangelle  garden in February beautiful in its own way.

“L’hiver, c’est la saison du recueillement de la terre, son temps de méditation, de préparation.” – Lionel biosseau (winter is the time for the earth to meditate and prepare itself.)


All things cold and wintry, with emtpy potager cloches  and emtpy watering cans, a dry lemon verbena whcih awaits some sun to push its leaves and 2 pretty pebbles from La Loire to add some ambiance in this “jardin en Fevrier”.

The rosehips are starting to show signs of weariness and fatigue, the monnaie du pape and dry hydrangeas are delicate in their white paper thin petals and in stark contarst with the dark berries of the “gloire de versailles”- Cyanothus.

The buddleia already has new growth on its woody stems, the hellebores are flowering in white clumps close to the dark wet soil, while the faithful Italian Arum sees to lush green vegetation in the garden, perfect to pick and stick into a vase along with a hellebore flower.


The rouge gorges et charbonnieres et mesanges charbonnieres feed happily on the fruit balls and seed bowl hanging under the arch and the chickens enjoy the freshly turned over soil.


A lot of green moss on the terrace and stairs and around pots, while the rustic old chains that my husband so patiently aged for me, just gains more charm as the winter turns into spring.

Upturned terracotta pots everwhere in the garden, for protection and for housing/hybernating of “friendly” insects like the Forficule(earwig).

And of course…leaves and leaves and leaves!

Few things compare to enjoying that first  drink outside and munching on some clementines, even though you have to jump up and down to keep warm!

The gargoule fountain is quiet, as are several corners in the garden.

Next time I’ll tell about my seeding and planting process in my brand new potager(vegetable garden) at Coin Perdu, our farm in Correze,  the espalier of fruit trees I plan and just life in general in a March garden. We’ll be going to Coin Perdu more and more from now on, so much of the garden stories will happen there, where everything is still bare and new and in the raw!

a la prochaine fois!

Ronelle


Butternut velouté..and fragrance in the home

Butternut soup is probably my most favorite soup. Keeping it simple brings out the natural sweetness of the butternut and warm comfort of its creaminess.  Don’t hide its wonderful autumn flavors behind all sorts of funny additions…sometimes something has to be left alone to speak in its own voice. Like the velvety butternut.

Suggestions:

  • Any other pumpkin of about 1 kg can be used in the same way.
  • Add a knob of butter when sauteing the shallot…it adds more flavor.
  • Use home made vegetable stock if possible, or else an organic vegetable stock. Water can be used instead.
  • See here for a bouquet garni.
  • Add about 2 tsps orange zest for a more pronounced orange flavor.
  • If the soup is too thick, add cream for a richer version and milk for a lighter version to your taste.

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..and fragrance in the home..

Isn’t it nice to step into a home and smell the most subtlest of fragrances…not an overwhelming smell, but just enough to have you wonder what it is, where it comes from.

There are many ways to bring fragrance into your home. But always remember the first golden rule: always keep it soft, gentle and subtle. Nothing is as sickening as a sweet and overpowering smell. It is much like an old woman seeking youth in powder and perfume.  Or like a guy who fell into a bottle of Old Spice. The second rule is to never have a perfumed candle at the dinner table or around food.

..candles: héliotrope, wild rose and green tea..

To prevent a room from being invaded with scent, a perfumed candle should burn only for a short while. The small tealight tops are a favorite of mine to burn on winter evenings when it gets dark in the afternoons. They are very gentle in flavor and I leave them to burn the whole evening…romance and ambiance for all, even on week nights…everybody loves it!

Winter chases us inside earlier and for longer…we  cook inside more, we make fires in the fireplaces and receive more visitors inside than in any other season. It is important to have fresh fragrance in the house as well…flowers, diffusers, lamp bulbs with rings and dotted wih essential oils, some envelopes in drawers or in hidden corners, some light house sprays, pillow sprays, sachets hanging on door knobs, incense burning after an open fire in the fireplace. Again…keep it light and stay away from the sweet and strong flavors, like vanilla and fruits.  I sometimes use cedar incense to get rid of the smoky smell of our open fireplace. I never use potpourii, because it only gathers dust.

..diffusers with tea lights and incense..

When using a diffuser and a tealight, take care to drop only a little 0il and burn the candle only a short while. The fragrance quickly disperses throughout the room.

In the bedroom, room sprays and pillow sprays are gentle enough..spritz on the bed rather than the pillow and a light spritz in the air with a room spray leaves a gentle frangrance.

..home and pillow sprays..

My favourite fragrances are rose, heliotrope, amber, citrus, all tea leaves and cotton flower. Some of these tiny bottle below go back many, many years and I can’t get rid of them. They still carry the smell of essential oils…and sweet memories.

..bulb rings with essential oils..

A drop of essential oil on a bulb ring, made from terracotta or balsawood on a bulb and the heat of the bulb disperses the fragrance through the room. The balsa wood works great on the new economy bulbs which don’t get as hot.

..scented envelopes and handmade envelopes..

Although the scented envelopes are meant for drawers, I place them in bowls in corners in the house. They aren’t strong and overpowering and only give off a flavor when you pass them. And of course, nothing is easier than making your own envelopes: Use white envelopes and paint them in your favourite olours, drip the paint, flow it on the envelope, write, scribble, hand paint…whichever you feel like doing. Fill your handpainted envelope with clean catsand or wooden shavings, add a drop of soft essentail oil, glue your envelope and place in a corner where it can be admired as well as give off its gentle fragrance in the room.

May your winter days…and for otheres, summer days…be filled with the softt fragrances of cotton flower, and your evenings be cozy around the flicker of a cedar scented candle.

…à la prochaine!..

Ronelle


Sorrel and rocket cappuccino..and the chicken chronicles II.

When something is in abundance, we should make use of it…like the sorrel in my garden, which is growing profusely. Not to mention the rocket, which is close to taking over the garden. Combine the two in an early atumn soup, sprinkle with some pistachios and cut some baguette to accompany.

Suggestions:

  • Spinach and basil leaves can be used instead of the sorrel and rocket.
  • The green peas are added for a green color…don’t boil the peas so they lose their green colour.
  • Potatoes can be added for a more consistent soup.
  • Be sure to sauté the sorrel beforehand in a bit of oil to prevent a sour taste to the soup.
  • Use a cuppaccino frother to make milk froth for a light version, or use whipped cream instead.
  • My way of making a creamy milk froth: Use cold, half fat milk. pour up to the marked level of the frother and froth until creamy. warm in the microvwave until the froth rises to the top. (Keep an eye on it, it haapens very quickly).Remove from the microwave and stir with a metal spoon until the mixture is nice and creamy.Spoon onto your soup(or coffee). The froth will hold its shap for quite a long time. For a cold soup, omit the heating.
  • This soup is delicious warm or cold.

…bon appetit!…

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…while the soup is busy simmering… an update on the chicken chronicles...

I mentioned in a previous post: Asparagus with poppy vinaigrette and a confused chicken, that the one hen turned out to be a rooster, which forced me to give them to a friend living on a farm.  It broke my heart to see them go and I especially missed Petronella, the rooster terribly, with his wonderfully cockey attitude! But they are happy  where they are now and Petronella can crow to “his” heart’s delight without worrying about neighbours. Here they can be seen as cute tiny chicks…A simple salad and special corners.

After a while I got two new chickens…Tartelette and Omelette.  Two Pekin bantam little chickens in the colour of Touraine…a soft grey, called “porcelaine“. They soon filled the sad corners of my heart…isn’t it amazing how much love we have to give? They are two adorable little featherfooted friends and I couldn’t ask for better chatterboxes to bring fun and laughter to my days!

Early mornings begin with joghurt. Healthy chicken food the rest of the day and a gouter(snack) late afternoon is  their favorite joghurt again, some grated coconut and a few shreds of salami…yeah yeah…I know… chickens know nothing about joghurt and coconut…, but then I also think these  two chickens don’t know they are chickens!

Where Tokala and Ayiani(my two beautifully chic cats)ignore me for the better half of the day to live their royal life, Tartelette and Omelette are just too eager to follow in my every  fresh footstep, to entertain and be entertained all the way. They fiddle around under my easel in my atelier during the day, groom and massage their feathers by my feet  and slip into the kitchen when I’m not looking to nestle in “their” corner for a nap, while looking at me with flirty eyes and charmingly tilted heads, begging to be allowed to stay…now tell me…how can I refuse such seduction?

…à la prochaine!

Ronelle


A summer apricot soup amuse bouche and une fête d’été!

An apricot soup says SUMMER! in so many ways.In its bright yellow color we find the warmth of mid summer days. The flavor has us  smelling the shadows of big overhanging tree branches…that afternoon nap after the pic-nique. And the taste…the taste that makes us hear les cigales in the heat of the day, see les guêpes hoovering over all the sweet delicacies of our al fresco meals… So. If you’re in the mood for a little summer heat and holiday…take to an apricot soup, close your eyes and see yourself  stretched out in the fields, chewing on a grass sprig, dozing off  with a heavy summer laze and then just lose yourself in being the happiest soul walking this earth!

*Une petite soupe d’abricot est indispensable pour l’été. Sa couleur nous donne la chaleur des journées dorées. Dans son saveur on sent les ombres des rameaux d’un grand noyer et on a envie de  s’allonger et fermer les yeux pour un petit moment magique. Et le goût…le goût nous donne l’impression d’entendre les cigales, de voir les guêpes qui dérangent la tranquilité d’un repas al fresco. Alors. Goûtons cette petite soupe et laissons notre imaginaire nous transporter vers un champ où on s’allonge dans l’herbe et nos pensées disparaissent dans les nuages de rêves et de bonheur.



Suggestions:

  • Try this also with soft ripe peaches.
  • Use a rose wine instead of a white.
  • for a completely vegetarian dish, replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock.
  • Serve with a fresh traditional baguette, topped with some melted camembert cheese.

VF:

  • Substituez avec des pèches.
  • Remplacez le vin blanc par une rosé.
  • Pour la version végétarienne, replacer le bouillon de poulet par un bouillon de légumes.
  • Servez accompagnée d’une baguette ancienne et son camembert fondu.

…un brunch d’été…

With two weeks left before the summer holidays, it is now or never to have a fete d’ete with all our friends before they all take off with their straw hats  and tanning lotions. Let’s make it special. Make it fun. Make it beautiful and dreamy. Summer. Gay with color. Inviting.

*Dans deux semaines on arrive au début de vacances d’été. Il reste donc qu’un petit bout de temps pour se régaler une toute dernière fois avec nos amies, avant qu’on prenne la route, armée de nos crèmes solaires et les espadrilles! Allé! Faisons une fête spéciale. Gracieuse. Chaleureuse.  Merveilleusement habillée avec les couleurs gaies de l’été.

…rustic romance for a brunch…

Choose a corner in the garden.

On cherche un coin dans le jardin.

…a view on summer…

Go overboard on flowers and plants. Don’t spend money on buying flowers. Pick all kinds of greenery and even herbs and don’t overlook the beauty of weeds all around you. Ask a friend for trimmings which are happening now to pump new life into plants. Buy some seedlings or summer plants instead that can be planted afterward in the garden. They come at cheap prices everywhere now and buy them in trays. Set the trays as is on your tables and in your serving corners. Tie some rafia or some sisal around for a ristic garden look. And don’t forget to send a few plants in a cute container home with your friends, which they can plant in a pot or their own garden. And DON”T do what I did….have so much fun that you forget to give each friend her plants at going home time!

*Il y’a un choix exubérant de  fleurs et  de plantes. Ne dépensez pas d’argent sur les fleurs en commerce. Elles sont libres et abondantes tout autour de nous. Pensez aux herbes, aux feuillages, même les mauvaises herbes qui poussent sans cesse avec une beauté plus subtile. Surtout on a des voisins et des amis qui font une nettoyage de saison en ce moment, donnant une nouvelle vie saisonnier au jardin. Passez par la jardinerie et achetez des barquettes de fleurs d’été, qui peut servir pour la décoration de table et  comme cadeaux pour nos invités, voir plantée dans leurs propres coins du jardin.

…pétunias in trays and all things garden…

…serving corners…

…umbreallas at the ready…

Have some colorful umbrellas close by for that urgent run in that rain to the bathroom! And in the same thinking frame…remember some suncream for those who prefer sitting in the sunny side, have an ecofriendly trap for the “gueppes” so you can  lunch in peace and provide lots of cool water if you are lucky to have a blasting hot summers day, but if not…a cozy little throw can provide some body heat if your day is cool and cloudy like we had on Friday!

*N’oubliez pas les jolies parapluies pour les courses sous la pluie ou pour se rendre à la maison. Et pourquoi pas une crème solaire pour ceux qui adorent s’installer en plein soleil. Une piège bio pour les omniprésentes guêpes sera un petit geste attentionné. Voir dans le cas d’une canicule, l’eau fraîche à boire nous éviterons de tomber dans un sommeil impolie. Pourtant, dans mon cas ce Vendredi dernier…cette scenario était impossible, car on est ici en France toujours capturé dans l’âge de glace!

..knee blankets and flowers do go together…

…cherries, freshly picked from a friends garden, a garden hat and pretty flower…

…garden tools and a warming fire…

Have your guests bring their favorite dish to the table. We had delicious quiches and gorgeous salads, which I hope to bring to you soon with the permission of my friends, we finished with magnificent  cheese a friend got fresh from the market earlier the morning and we feasted on local rose’s and homemade moelleux wine with our strawberry soup.

*Les amies apprécient toujours contribuer à la table, n’hésitez pas à demander une bonne quiche ou une salade gourmande, comme elles sont faites pour notre brunch. Puis, on a terminé le brunch avec du fromage du marché, une soupe de fraises pour un dessert et ce festin était accompagné par une bonnes rosé d’Evres et un moelleux fait maison par ma gentille voisine Claudine!

A fete d’ete indeed. More than that. An uplifiting 5 hours spent with lovely ladies, funny ladies, creative ladies. Friends. Summer. Good food. And so traditionally french,  we tasted, examined, commented, complimented, changed the recipe, suggested alternative ingredients, discussed accompanying wines, and simply savored each helping. 

*Voila une vraie fete! En fait, beaucoup plus que ça. C’était quelques 5 heures passées dans la compagnie de femmes très sympas, drôles et créatives. Les amies. L’été. Une bonne table. Et comme la tradition dicte toujours en France, nous avons goûté et fait des propositions de différentes  ingrédients. On a testée, examinée, changée les recettes, discutée les vins comme des pros… bref…un après-midi savoureux et chaleureux!

Then we said our goodbyes and gave our “bisous” with promises of outings to chateaux…and a lunch.. To show gardens…and a lunch. To walks around town…and a lunch. To hiking trails…and a lunch. To painting days…and a lunch. to music concerts…and a lunch. The moral of the story? We have to seize the moment.
So c’mon! Deck the garden, load the table with fresh produce! Call up your friends! Chill the wine! Life is short…grab onto it with in a fork in the one hand and a joie de vivre in the other!

*Nous avons faites nos bisous avec de sacrées promesses de se réunir en visites des châteaux…et un lunch. Des promenades en ville…et un lunch. Des rencontres Van goghe-esques…et un lunch. Les concerts musiques…et un lunch. Alors. On comprend qu’une chose. Il faut profiter de chaque moment!

Allez! appelons nos amies!Ouvrons le portail! Faisons le marché! Décapitons le champagne! La vie passe trop vite…profitons-en avec une fourchette et un joie de vivre triomphant!

…passez une bonne été et à la prochaine!…


Strawberry soup with balsamic and the red tulip.

I am leaving for Oslo, Norway tomorrow. I decided to put up an old post before I leave which I had on Africantapestry two years ago. A little story. A sketch.

To accompany the  ongoing saga of the soon-in-bloom-tulip,  as well as the gardening folie that has me firmly in its hystyerical grip, I made a strawberry soup with the very first strawberries of the season. Not yet tasting of summer and sun though…! But who cares…! Using them in a summer/spring soup with added balsamic vinegar and handsfull of mint and pepper and rose water, is a great way to satisfy that ferocious desire for summer fruits.

Flinging soil and seedlings around in the garden (here  in the northern hemisphere!) and serving early strawberries on our plates and sometimes even catching a warm glimpse of the sun…what more can we wish for?

Suggestions:

  • Add red berries like raspberries, blackberries,  blueberries…
  • Serve with a sprinkling of freshly milled black pepper.
  • Use a handmixer instead of fork to break up the strawberries.
  • Use Maroccan mint if you can find, which have a stronger flavour than ordinary garden mint.
  • Or use some lemon verbena instead in high summer.
  • Serve chilled on hot summer days, but at room temperature early in the season.
  • Serve along with a slice of lemon poppyseed cake as accompaniment, or a herbed shortbread.
  • Don’t be afraid to use a lot of mint!
  • Use stevia, which is a herb sweetener, instead of sugar or honey.

…the red tulip…


“Like last year, this single red tulip once again made its appearance in my all white and blue  garden. And like last year, I accept it and welcome it. It has become quite a game and I’m amused by the tulip’s proudness and dedication to defeat me. It reminds me of a guy I once knew at university who wouldn’t give up either.

He was madly in love with me, completely, head over heels..and yes, he was sort of cute too, I thought at that stage. I was staying in a hostel for girls on campus, fourth floor out of six, overlooking beautifully tended campus gardens. And he was staying in a hostel for boys, way off, on the other side of the campus. That’s how it was those days. No men allowed in the girls’ hostels and vice versa, which made for very exciting experiences! Except of course, for visiting hours in the lounge downstairs.

Very regularly, he would show up at my hostel, long after visiting hours, on nights when the moon was showing off in the sky and the stars were sparkling impatiently with anticipation. With his guitar and a red rose and his best friend, I would be charmed with unashamedly beautiful love songs from the garden under my window. Their strong, deep melodious voices, trained from years of singing, had every girl hanging out their windows along with me, losing ourselves in the charm and romance of “old world courting” from down below.  Beautiful beautiful brown eyes, would always be on the list of songs and their voices would fade away in the distance with Goodnight ladies. My red rose, always stolen from an overflowing garden somewhere, would be left on the windowsill downstairs at the front door, for the hostel had already firmly been locked up for the night.

And so it happened that he got caught one night while stealing my red rose. He unfortunately chose the garden of the Professor of engineering, with whom he was very well acquainted…! He was allowed the rose, but had to work the Professor’s compost heap for two weekends. For a while, it was slow on the rose-serenading-scene and we all missed it..all the ladies, that is. Then one night there he was again, with a stolen red rose and guitar and his best friend. The cute guy I once knew. And who I still know. He is my husband.

…fini…


Velouté de brocoli et fleur de sel à la vanille.

We are leaving for Hawaii tomorrow for ten days. I’m looking forward to this break – I am really a bit tired and fatigued! Maybe summer was just too much fun!

I didn’t want to buy extra food for dinner tonight. The point is after all to clean the fridge when leaving. I had broccoli in the fridge. And it is cold and raining. And I still have to pack and clean up. So dinner was to be a broccoli soup. Or rather…a velouté. I always have a problem with broccoli soup. I can never get it to be tasty. It always tastes like over cooked broccoli. Awful.

…velouté de brocoli et fleur de sel à la vanille…

broccoli vanilla soup 2

I sautéed two shalots in olive oil. Then added a big broccoli head with enough vegetable stock to cover the broccoli completely. I let it simmer until the broccoli stems were tender. Removed from the heat and with a hand blender, blended until smooth. I added some milk and a swirl of cream for thickness and mixed through, placed back on the heat and slowly brought back to boil and removed from the heat. I Seasoned with some vanilla salt(fleur de sel with scraped seeds from a vanilla seedpod) and a turn of the pepper mill. Still tasted bland. So I added a handful of chopped fresh tarragon, the grated skin of a lime, some lime juice to taste, and a drizzle of white balsamic vinegar. After mixing the soup again with the  handmixer, I strained it through a fine sieve to get a velouté. Tasted again. Not too bad, but still not what I’m looking for in a broccoli velouté. I served it warm in bowls with a dollop of mayonnaise and a last sprinkling of the vanilla fleur de sel. The maynnaise adds a nice touch to the soup I thought.

I’d love to try a nice broccoli soup recipe, because I DO love broccoli! So, If you’re reading here and you have a nice broccoli soup recipe, please leave a link to your recipe in the comment section, so we can all delight in what’s good! If you don’t have a link, you can shortly describe your recipe in the comments.

I’m off packing now and will be back beginning of October. Until then: Try, Test and Taste…always!

…trying to get to Hawaii…

trying to get to Hawai


Cold tomato and orange soup

Yesterday we had rain here at Coin Perdu in Corréze, where we are restoring our mountain home. So last night asked for something soupy. Because we are temporarily living in the barn for the next year or two, I don’t have an oven, only a stove. So a soup is quite easy. And quick. I am always joyful when hearing the word quick.

…cold tomato and orange soup…

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…summer says outside…

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Cold cucumber and kiwi soup

I’ve never been a big fan of cucumber. I find them rather tasteless and watery. But it is those exact reasons that make them a perfect base for a cold summer soup. I use cucumber with different herbs, or combined with other fruits or vegetables to make a light soup, especially on a warm summers afternoon or dinner. In this case I used kiwi, an excellent source of vitamin C.

…cold cucumber and kiwi soup…

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It may seem very “light” for a meal on its own, but we are eating way too much and our portions are way too big. This is an ample meal, if seved with some grilled seafood, like shrimps or langoustine tails, then followed by a cheese platter and a crusty grain bread and finished off with a seasonal dessert, or even only fruit.

It is custom in our house to eat “3 courses”. Now doesn’t that sound pretentious! But in fact, it is actually only “one course” that we serve seperately in 3 stages, or even more! A salad would serve as a starter, in it’s own bowl or plate, then followed up with maybe a fish/meat and a small vegetable, like a cherry tomato or two, or a bundle of french string beans tied with some tasty ham,  and afterwards maybe a slice of 2 cheeses  with baguette and finish off lastly with some dessert like a fruit, or joghurt.  A small espresso. Maybe a chocolate. That’s it.

Another rule of thumb is: When you start light, you can go heavier OR start heavy and go lighter. And try to keep the portions small, served on small plates!  That way, each serving gets centre stage, each flavour is appreciated on its own – no fighting flavours and colours all on one plate. With all the money you save on buying smaller quantities of food, you can invest in some interesting plates, making meals attractive and appealing. The stomach(and brain) is also cheated into thinking he has been given a five course meal, so the feeling of satiety and satisfaction is still rich! Serve the food on plates each individually as well, so you don’t get seduced into second helpings when the bowls stare longingly at you on the table,  right in front of you! Men are usually resistant to get up to serve themselves and women are embaressed to have everybody see them get up for MORE FOOD!

So. Let’s eat less. Smaller portions. Around a table. Attractive table ware. Colourful. Light. Lets’ talk about our food. About its colours. The tastes and smells and flavours, textures. Let’s enjoy it and rise from the table, still having room and energy left for a brisk walk.

…the sunflower; Micheln 3 star restaurant…

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Roasted pepper and red lentil soup

I couldn’t decide which to post..the lentil soup or lentil salad. The weather here in France finally decided for me. The trees are in bud, the tulips are in bloom, the daffodils are nodding their heads and the strawberries are sweet. But we still take to the streets with our coats and scarves en walk head first into the wind. I’m not complaining…like my wine maker neighbor says; “C’est normal”. It gives me a little longer to enjoy a bowl of soup, easy and quick and filling.

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Roasted pepper and red lentil soup

  • 2 red peppers
  • 200 g red lentils
  • 500 ml vegetable stock
  • red wine vinegar
  • 1 onion
  • olive oil
  • parmesan cheese
  • parsley/coriander
  • 2 bay leaves
  • tablespoon red pesto
  • salt and pepper
  1. Remove the seeds from the peppers, cut into strips and place in an oven pan, drizzle with olive oil. Roast at 200 degrees C for 30 minutes or until tender.
  2. Sauté the chopped onion in some oilive oil until tranlucent, add the vegetable stock, lentils and the two bayleaves and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Add the peppers and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  3. Let it cool down, remove the bay leaves  and puree with a handmixer until smooth and creamy. You can also press it through a fine sieve if you want it smoother.
  4. Taste for salt and pepper, add some red wine vingear for a little tartness and I add a tablespoon of red pesto for flavour.
  5. Serve with shaved parmesan and decorate with some parsley or coriandre leaves.
  6. Optional: Stir in some cream for a richer version.
  7. Alternative: The peppers can be halved, then roasted with the skin side up and the skin can be easily peeled off after roasting.

Suggestions:

  • You can try and add more, or larger red peppers and lessen the red lentils. You can add up to 4 or 5 large red peppers. Add a little bit more stock if it gets too thick.
  • Don’t overcook the lentils, cook them until just tender.
  • Instead of the red pesto, which is usually a sundried tomato paste, use only a heaped TBSP  concentrated tomato paste or even more, to add color to the soup.
  • Add some chopped ripe red tomatoes or a small can of chopped tomatoes to make it more liquid.
  • If you don’t like thick  soups, try the following recipe where nothing is blended:                                                                     Red lentil, carrot and pancetta soup… just add the red pepper and leave out the carrot or play around with the recipe.

Serves 6

This is an entry for WTSIM, hosted by Jeanne at cooksister.

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Broccoli, leek and tomato soup

A quick, simple and healthy Monday night dinner. Followed by fresh kiwi’s for dessert. This soup, like all other soups, can be either served blended smoothly with added cream/milk for a creamy version, or served chunky and rustic, topped with croûtons.

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Broccoli, leek and tomato soup

  • 5 leeks
  • 1 shallot
  • coconut oil
  • 4 tomatoes
  • a big head of fresh broccoli
  • 1 cube organic vegetable stock
  • 500 ml hot water
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • extra milk/cream
  1. Peel and finely chop the shallot. Sauté in a pan with some coconut oil/olive oil.
  2. Peel and clean the leeks, add to the shallots.
  3. Rinse the broccoli, add to the pan along with the leeks and shallot.
  4. Cut a cross in the skin on the top of the tomatoes, leave in boiling hot water for a minute, remove and peel off the skin. (I leave the skin on) Chop and add to the vegetables.
  5. Dissolve the stock cube in the hot water, pour over the vegetables and let simmer gently until tender.
  6. At this stage, you can either leave the soup chunky and just taste and rectify seasoning, add some lemon juice and grated nutmeg.
  7. For a creamy soup, blend the vegetables with a blender until smooth, add some lemon juice, salt and pepper and grated nutmeg to taste and pour in some milk/cream to your liking. I use 2% milk for a lighter version.
  8. Serve with a crusty bread and a sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg.

                                           Serves about four people

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Chunky vegetable soup

I’ll eat soup any day. A consommé or creamy, spicy, rich, hearty, chunky, nutritious…nothing more satisfying than slowly sipping a hot soup spoon by spoon.

A quick, nutritious vegetable soup for an ordinary week night. Or for that time when you’re alone at home and feel like snuggling in front of the fireplace with a book or an old movie. And you make a big enough quantity, because tomorrow it will be even better.

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Chunky vegetable soup.

No quantities are given. Just open up your veggie basket and throw a peak in the fridge, fiddle in the pantry and put together what you have available or feel in the mood for. I can tell you what I did.

I sauteéd some chopped shallots and leeks. I then added the chopped vegetables I dug out of the pantry –  2 tomatoes, 2 carrots, a handful of green beans, 1 sweet potato and a few mushrooms. I boiled about 3 large cups of water with 2 organic vegetable stock cubes and poured it over the vegetables, leaving it to soflty simmer for about 45 minutes.

Then I decided to give some substance to the soup, by throwing in a fistful of quinoa, a tablespoonful of sundried tomato bits. I also found some spinach leaves which I couldn’t leave behind and added them at the last minute. After some 10 minutes more, I tested for seasoning and drizzled lemon juice, wine vinegar and salt and pepper to my taste.

The fire was ablaze with invitation and I quickly cleaned the dishes, lit my tealights, called the cats, served myself a a generous helping of soup, drizzled some olive oil and cuddled up to watch “Fiddler on the Roof”, while sipping my soup spoon by spoon. 

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Velouté de topinambours(Jerusalem artichokes)

I love topinambour, for their quirky shapes as well as their earthy smell and somewhat different, slightly sweet taste.  Delicious are they in a cocotte or pureed as a side dish and just as wonderful are they as a soup. Unlike a chunky vegetable soup or earthy legume soup, we rarely have only a creamy soup for dinner. I don’t find it substantial enough, unless you eat a huge bowl or two, which makes it too rich. So I’ll normally serve this soup as a starter and then follow up with something like maybe a warm salad or chicken filet with a tomato sauce.

See also Zlamushcka’s version of a topinambour soup.

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Velouté de topinambours(Jerusalem artichokes)

  • About 400 g topinambours
  • 3 shallots
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 750 ml organic vegetable stock(or chicken stock)
  • 1 bouquet garni(parsley stems, thyme, bay leaves & lemon peel wrapped and tied in the green part of a leek)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cream to add to taste(milk for a lighter version)
  •  a drop or two of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1. Peel the topinambours and the sweet potato and cut into slices.
  2. Peel, chop the shallots and sauté in some olive oil until translucent.
  3. Add the sliced the stweet potato, topinambours, the stock, the bouquet garni and let it simmer for at least 30 minutes or longer. The topinambours needs to be well cooked and very tender.
  4. Take off the heat, remove the bouquet garni and mix until smooth and velvety, adding milk or cream to your preferred consistency.
  5. Heat up gently, add some lemon juice and salt and papper to taste.
  6. Serve in warmed bowls and finish off with a drizzle of fruity extra virgin olive oil and a a turn of the pepper mill.
  7. Serve warm with toasted bread triangles or a grainy baguette.

                                                                               Serves 4 – 6

This is an entry for WHB nr 111, hosted by Kalyn at Kalyn’s kitchen. For more info on weekend herb blogging read here.

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