Our Top Five Comfort Soups for You

That bowl of soup—it was dearer than freedom, dearer than life itself, past, present, and future.  

~ Aleksandr SolzhenitsynOne Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich

 

Hi Everyone!

Nicole could not come to write her blog post today due to lack of stable internet connection, but sends her love with top five comfort soup recipes from Cauldrons and Cupcakes to warm your hearts.

1. Heal-All Chicken Soup

The beauty of this soup is that it’s a bone broth, and over time all of the fat and water soluble minerals and good bits dissolve into this magical elixir.  One of the things this soup is chock full of is glycine. The amino acid glycine is great for liver detoxification and regeneration.  Chicken soup is rich in collagen and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), one of which you’ve probably heard of – glucosamine – stunning for artery, bone and joint health.  The gelatin produced from dissolving bones and cartilage in the making of this soup helps heal leaky gut, and also reduces your need for meat and protein.

In Chinese Medicine, bone broths are considered to support the kidneys and kidney meridians, and as such are also useful for healthy teeth, bones and adrenal gland function. So if you have adrenal fatigue this is a super recipe for you!”

 

2. Creamy Corn and Potato Chowder Recipe

“This one’s a household favourite – quick to make, hearty and satisfying – and it can easily be made as a vegan, gluten and/or dairy free, vegetarian or bacon-y delight. Just adjust the ingredients according to my suggestions and your preferences.”

 

3. How to make Bone Broth

Bone broth is essentially bones and vegetables simmered together over long periods of time to produce a rich flavoursome liquid. I make a big pot of this nourishing broth weekly, and it’s an important part of my healing regime. I’d always made my own stock, but after I began to understand the benefits of consuming bone broths I made them much more central to my regular meals. Maybe you should too!

 

Soup is one of those all-time comfort foods for a very good reason. Problem is, so many soup recipes take hours to cook. That’s why I love this one. It’s fast to make, economical, and entirely delicious. It takes less than ten minutes to prep the soup ingredients which magically merge together in just twenty minutes cooking time to produce a hearty, nutritious meal in a bowl.

 

“This soup can be made as vegan, vegetarian, low carb or paleo. I encourage you to experiment. It’s soup, people, not rocket science. Taste as you go, and adjust if necessary. Soup is nutritious, economical and easy. I hope that you’ll soon be making super and adventurous soups as a regular part of your household management plan.”

 

We hope you enjoy our little offering today.  Chelsi (Nicole’s VA)   xx

Black Sticky Rice Pudding Recipe – Gluten Free, Vegan, Yum!

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“I like rice. Rice is great if you’re hungry and want 2000 of something. ”
~ Mich Ehrenborg

 

This is truly one of those comfort-in-a-bowl dishes. Black sticky rice pudding is popular in Thailand and parts of Asia. It can be eaten warm or cold, and makes a delicious dessert, but it’s equally good for breakfast or as a snack.

To serve I use a splodge of coconut cream or coconut yogurt, some fresh seasonal fruit, and sometimes a handful of nuts or seeds as well. It’s endlessly versatile.

Black sticky rice pudding is a great recipe – gluten free, dairy free, vegan and full of fibre, anti-oxidants and nurture-y goodness.  Black rice is a source of amino acids, iron, zinc, copper and according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is great for supporting and nurturing the liver and kidneys, two organs/energy centres that get very depleted during times of stress, illness or depression.  It’s great food for people with burnout or adrenal fatigue as it is warm and easy to digest.  Coconut is also good for low thyroid function and boosting slow metabolisms.

I usually make double this quantity and keep some in the fridge.  I reheat in a saucepan with a little extra water, but if you are a microwave user, I guess you could go there…

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Ingredients

1 cup of black glutinous rice (you can find this in most Asian grocery stores or good supermarkets), 2.5 cups of water, 2 tablespoons palm sugar or soft brown sugar, salt, vanilla essence, 1 cup of coconut milk/cream

Note – If you are sugar-free use Natvia, stevia or your favourite sugar substitute.

Method

Soak the rice overnight (or at least 6 hours)  in the water in a ceramic or glass dish. It’s really important to soak your rice well, so please don’t skimp on that part of the cooking process. The water will go a nice shade of purple – try not to get it on you as it will stain some fabrics. Many people suggest you discard the soaking water, rinse and start over, but then you’d lose many of the minerals and anti-oxidants that have leached from the water overnight.

Transfer to a suitable saucepan and place on the heat.  Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally, and then reduce the heat to low, and cover.  Cook for a further half an hour to forty-five minutes, until the rice is soft and the mixture has thickened.  You need to play this by ear a bit, as you might need to add a little more water and cook longer. It all depends on the rice.

Add a pinch of salt and 1/4 to 1/2 cup of  coconut milk/cream, then sugar to taste. Add in a splash of vanilla essence too. I use about 2 heaped tablespoons of palm sugar, but if you prefer it sweeter, add more.  Stir occasionally over the next ten minutes until the rice is thick and pudding like. (I sometimes omit the coconut milk as a variation, which gives a nuttier flavour.)

Cool slightly and then serve in bowls with the remaining coconut milk/cream drizzled over the top.  Sliced banana or tropical fruits such as papaya or mango are also good.  In winter I may use berries.  Right now I am using a big dollop of coconut yoghurt (yoghurt made on coconut milk!) from a company called Co Yo, which is divine.

If I have made a less-sweet pudding, I will sometimes also add a sprinkle of palm sugar or a dash of maple syrup when serving.

Enjoy ♥

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sticky rice pudding

 

 

Easy Chilli Con Carne Recipe

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“I think preparing food and feeding people brings nourishment not only to our bodies but to our spirits. Feeding people is a way of loving them, in the same way that feeding ourselves is a way of honoring our own createdness and fragility.”
~ Shauna Niequist

 

Chilli con carne is one of those great comfort food dishes. I usually make a big pot, and it does us for two or three meals, depending on how many mouths I am feeding. It can be made in a slow cooker, it freezes well, and left-over mince can be used as a nachos topping, in burritos, on toast or in jaffles.

Want to pad it out a bit more? Add in another can of tomatoes and a drained can of tinned corn. Chuck in some vegetables if you want. That’s the joy of country cooking. You work with what you have to hand. I will often add a second can of tomatoes and some extra beans into whatever is left-over after our first meal to make another big pot if I need to.

It’s also easy to adjust the seasoning to suit your family’s taste. Like it hot? Add more chilli. Less hot? Just add a touch, or leave it out altogether.

Ingredients:

1 large onion, 1 large red capsicum (bell pepper), 4 garlic cloves – peeled and crushed or chopped finely, 500g of lean beef mince,  2 rashers of bacon chopped in small dice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tspn smoked paprika, 2 tspns cumin, 1 tspn dried oregano, 1 400g tin of diced tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, 1 400g tin of red kidney beans – drained, 1 heaped teaspoon of beef stock powder or one large stock cube, 1 tablespoon of dark chocolate (about four squares) salt and pepper to taste, 1 long red chili (or your favourite chilli paste, powder or sauce), fresh coriander (cilantro), lime wedges and cooked rice to serve.

Method:

Dice the onion and capsicum. Add to a large saucepan with the oil over medium heat. Stir until the onion is soft and slightly translucent. Add spices and garlic and keep stirring.

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Chuck in the diced bacon. Stir well to prevent sticking and add another slug of oil if necessary. When the mixture is warmed, fragrant and the bacon is slightly browned add in the mince.

Brown mince well. Now throw in the tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, drained kidney beans, beef stock, salt and pepper and mix well. Taste and adjust chilli if necessary.

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Add the dark chocolate. Trust me – it adds real depth of flavour. Don’t go crazy. You want to adjust the sweetness without making it taste noticeably of chocolate!

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Turn down heat and simmer for a minimum of thirty minutes.

Serving:

Serve on a bed of rice with fresh chopped coriander sprinkled over the top and a wedge of fresh lime. Additional accompaniments include salsa, grated cheese, guacamole, sour cream or yoghurt, and corn chips.

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Remembering Tropical Pie

Image from Etsy

Image from Etsy

“Sometimes you have to travel back in time, skirting the obstacles, in order to love someone.”
~ Frances Mayes, Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir

 

When I was a kid, growing up in the seventies, there was this pie Mum used to make.

‘Tropical Pie’ it was called, if memory serves me correctly.

I loved that pie.

Mum only ever made it in summer, if we had friends coming over for a party or a barbeque, or if we were invited somewhere and she offered to bring a dessert.

Mum was a great cook, and we looked forward to birthdays, events and parties when she would always make something that was a little bit special.

MattBirthday

Family, neighbours and my mum, clustered around my little brother’s birthday cake in the backyard of my childhood home. That’s me with the blonde hair standing beside Mum, my sister Simone is sitting on the left with her hair in two pigtails, and Matthew is cutting his cake!

 

By the eighties my parents had split up, and we didn’t go to parties or barbeques anymore. Mum stopped making that pie.

By the time I was brave enough to remind her about it, Mum had lost the recipe.

I spent years searching for it amid the kitchen drawers, the old exercise books with the hand-written recipes and pages torn from women’s magazines. But it was no good. I never found that recipe again.

That recipe came to represent the essence of my childhood – a time when I still felt happy, loved and safe. I found myself yearning for Tropical Pie, and the ability to make it for myself. Last year in a pique of nostalgia I trawled the internet looking for it.

Nothing.

And then, yesterday, as I was sorting through a bag stuffed with recipe clippings and old cookbooks that once belonged to my grandmother I found it!

It was so unexpected that I burst into tears. Silly, I know, but at that precise moment I felt Marga looking down on me, wisely and kindly guiding me as she had always done in life.

I’ve gone and bought the few ingredients I did not have in the house, and I shall share the recipe with you tomorrow.

Who knows how it shall really taste? How can anything ever live up to those rose-tinted memories of old?

Still, I shall bake my Tropical Pie, and eat it with my husband, and feel with every bite that my world has come full circle.

My maternal grandmother, Marga, and me - back in the   late eighties.

My maternal grandmother, Marga, and me – back in the late eighties. Marga taught me almost everything I know about cooking, being gracious and being kind.

Is there any food that takes you right back to happy memories of your childhood? Do you ever make or buy it for yourself or your family now that you’ve grown? Or is there a food your children or grandchildren have come to request and think of as special?  I’d love to hear your stories either here in the comments, or over on my facebook page.

Nana’s Apricot Chicken Recipe

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“If nothing is going well, call your grandmother.”
~ Italian Proverb

My beloved Nana was never a fancy cook. Her food was simple, tasty, quick to prepare and always economical. I have missed her so much since she passed in late 2012, but whenever I make one of her recipes I always feel that she is here with me in the kitchen.

Today I’m sharing one of her best-loved recipes – Apricot Chicken.

I also have a jazzed-up version of this humble fare, but right now I’m in the mood for her traditional recipe. Served with rice and vegetables it’s a great family dinner. It also freezes and reheats well and is terrific for feeding a crowd cheaply and well.

This recipe will feed four hungry adults easily.

Ingredients:

1 kilogram of chicken thigh fillets, 1 large onion, 2 rashers of bacon, 1 tablespoon of oil or butter, 1 x 40 gram packet of French Onion Soup mixture, 1 x 420 gram tin of Apricot Nectar (or about 2 cups), 1 x 410 gram tin of apricots in juice, salt and pepper.

Method:

Chop the bacon and onion. Remove skin from chicken thighs and cut meat into chunks. Place bacon and onion with the oil/butter in a heavy-bottomed large frypan or saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the bacon and onion become fragrant and begin to brown a little.

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Add the chicken pieces and continue cooking, stirring every so often, until the chicken is seared and has also begun to colour. This will take about five minutes.

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Combine the apricot nectar and onion soup mix in a jug and stir well.

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Pour nectar over chicken pieces, and then add the apricot halves and juice. Stir to combine. Bring to the boil, stirring so that nothing catches on the bottom.

Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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Serve the chicken on a bed of rice, making sure to ladle plenty of the sauce over the meat.

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It also tastes delicious with some chopped fresh shallot (green onion) or parsley sprinkled over the top.

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Add some fresh seasonal vegetables or a salad and you’re ready to go!

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Osso Buco Recipe with Beetroot and Rosemary

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“The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies.”

~ Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

Slow-cooked real food. Is there anything more nourishing, more heart-warming and soul comforting?

This recipe came about by happy accident, as I was debating what remnant vegetables in the bottom of my crisper drawer would be relegated to the soup pot or the worm farm. A fist-sized beetroot was begging to be used up.

The seasons are doing their slow slide from summer to autumn here at the farm. The days are still warm but there’s a chill in the air come late afternoon, and I’m airing the blankets ready to put on the beds now that the nights are cool again.

Osso Buco is a cut of meat ; traditionally cross-cut veal shanks that expose the marrow bone. The meat is best cooked slowly, and the bone marrow and cartilage from the osso buco will create a velvety sauce with all the benefits of bone broth.

I’ve diverged from my traditional osso buco with a few simple ingredients that bring an earthy rich sweetness to this humble but classic dish. The beetroot really makes this recipe.

Enjoy! 🙂

Ingredients:

6 pieces of osso buco, 1 tablespoon of oil or ghee, 2 stalks of celery, 2 large carrots, 1 large beetroot, 1 large onion, 3 cloves of garlic, 2 cups of fresh tomato (or one can of diced tomatoes), 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary, 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley, 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, 2 cups of good quality chicken or veal stock, 1 tablespoon of cornflour (cornstarch), 1/2 to 3/4 cup of white wine (or use stock instead), 2 tablespoons of Davidsons Plum jam or your favourite ‘tart-sweet’ jam such as rosella, cranberry or cherry, salt and pepper. (The jam is optional but it really does give this dish a little something extra!)

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Method:

Preheat oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit). If you’re using a slow cooker, put this on to warm up.

Place a tablespoon of oil into a heavy-bottomed pan and bring to a medium heat. Lightly pan fry the meat in batches until brown. Then place the meat into a large baking dish. Don’t wipe the fat out of the frying pan. You’ll be needing it again in a minute.

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Now chop all of your vegetables and the parsley. Top and tail the beetroot and then peel before cutting. Crush or finely chop your garlic. Keep the tomatoes aside for later.

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Add the chopped vegetables into the frying pan, and stir over moderate heat for a few minutes until the vegetables soften and brown slightly. The beetroot will stain things pink, but that’s okay.

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Now add your chopped tomatoes and the rosemary. Stir for another few minutes over medium heat and then pour in the wine. Keep stirring every so often. Let the tomatoes soften slightly (if using fresh ones).

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Finally, take some of the stock and mix in the cornflour until it makes a smooth milky paste. Tip into the pan to thicken your mixture and then add in the tomato paste, stock, and jam. Give this all a good grind of black pepper and a little salt to taste. It should taste GOOD!

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Carefully tip the beetroot mixture over the meat, making sure that everything is well covered.

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Cover with a lid, or place some baking paper on top, followed by a ‘lid’ of aluminium foil tucked in around the sides. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, and then turn the heat down to 150 degrees celcius if fanforced (300 degrees fahrenheit) or 160 degrees celcius (320 degrees fahrenheit) if not. Cook for a further 2 hours and thirty minutes.

If using a slow cooker, cook for 3 to 5 hours, testing after 3. The meat should fall easily off the bone and be soft and silky.

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Serve on its own, or on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes with some fresh seasonal vegetables. Make sure to ladle plenty of the gravy over the meat. That’s the best bit!

As you can see from the picture below I served ours with mashed Nicola potatoes and some pan-fried fresh green beans and sweet cherry tomatoes with a little garlic and olive oil to dress them.

And it was YUM!!! 🙂

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Slow Cooker Italian Lamb Shank Recipe

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“There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.”~ Jane Austen

 

I’m totally in love with my slow cooker right now. Just ten minutes of preparation in the morning and the slow cooker does all the work so that by nightfall I have a luscious, melt-in-the-mouth dinner, brimful of goodness and with next to no effort. It also makes for wonderful left-overs!

This recipe can just as easily made with lamb neck or lamb chops.  The flavour is wonderfully Italian; the orange gives a hint of sweetness and the herbs, garlic, bacon and tomato create a rich sauce to ladle over the meat.

I served my lamb shanks with roasted cauliflower (have you tried this? seriously addictive and good!) and a sweet potato mash for Wednesday’s dinner, and used the leftovers last night for a delectable ragu sauce with rustic pasta.

This recipe also freezes well, and is easily reheated for an easy meal later in the week. If you don’t have all the ingredients, feel free to experiment. Slow cookers make everything taste good!

Ingredients:

6 to 8 frenched lamb shanks (or other lamb cuts with bones in them eg chump chops or neck), 1 large onion, 8 to 10 cloves of garlic, 1 cup of olives with the seeds removed (kalamata olives are good!), 1 large carrot, 2 sticks of celery, 2 tins of diced tomatoes or 4 cups fresh chopped tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, 1 cup of red wine, 1/2 cup of red capsicum (bell pepper), 1 teaspoon of mixed dried Italian herbs,  1 cup of rich chicken or vegetable stock, 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley, 2 thick slices of orange with the skin on, 2 rashers of bacon or 3 tablespoons (75 grams) of pancetta, salt and pepper to season.

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Chop onion, carrots, celery, capsicum (bell pepper) and bacon or pancetta. Chop parsley finely.

Brown your lamb shanks in a large frypan over medium heat. Place the lamb shanks in layers, alternating with a sprinkle of the vegetables, garlic, herbs, bacon and olives.

Add the stock, orange slices, tomatoes, tomato paste and wine. Give a good grind of pepper and a little salt. Cover and cook.

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Don’t be put off by the long cooking times.  The longer you cook the meat the more tender it will be, and the more nutrition will be imparted to the sauce. Slow cooked meats are very good for you – packed full of fat soluble minerals, amino acids, easily digestible proteins, gelatin and other health-promoting things!

Cook on low in a slow cooker for 6 hours.

Cook on low heat in a saucepan on the stove for 4 to 5 hours.  Turn your shanks at least once during this time, and re-baste with sauce.

Cook in a moderate oven (180 degrees celsius/ 350 degrees fahrenheit) for 30 minutes, and then reduce heat to 150 degrees celsius/ 300 degrees fahrenheit) and cook for 3 hours.  Turn your shanks at least once during this time, and re-baste with sauce.

Serve with your favourite seasonal vegetables, and some mash, rice or pasta if it suits you. Perhaps a slice or two of rustic sourdough bread to mop up those juices?

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When cooked low and slow the marrow and gelatin from the meat help thicken the sauce. Don’t waste any of it!  Whatever is not eaten with dinner can be used as a basis for a pasta sauce, or as a gravy over other meats or vegetables.

Leftovers?

Strip the meat from the bones, add back into the sauce, heat and serve with cooked pasta as another meal. This is comfort food at its finest!

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