21 February 2012

Perfect Carrot & Coriander Soup

My dad says that I "attack life."

For my 16th birthday, I got a puppy. He was this really happy, sweet little dog that was full of kindness and excitement. That is, however, until he would smell some kind of chaseable/eatable animal, whereupon he instantly turned into a hunting machine. He'd dive into a river chasing a beaver into it's den, dig up the earth persuing a rabbit down it's hole, and torment raccoons who were twice his size. He dreamed big. He'd go running off after something, and we'd shout to call him back to us - to protect him. But the switch had flipped in his brain and he was no longer our sweet little pup. He was a predator on the attack. He was fearless and absolutely insane when it came to getting what he wanted. Dad says that this is what I am like.

I can't really argue with his logic.

I've been off on my own trail lately. My goals have grown and changed with time -- but mostly just grown ever bigger. First it was my MSc, then PhD, and I've become rather used to my personal goals increasing at an alarmingly exponential rate. The last time I told my dad about everything I'd been up to recently, he laughed HARD. I could hear the smile and sparkle in his eyes as he asked me, "Jeez, Kristen, who ever made you think you could have it all?" I laughed, too, but more softly than he. "Um, you did, don't you remember?" We laughed a moment more and then changed the subject, since this was the closest thing we've had to a serious conversation in about 10 years, and it was all getting just a little too awkward.

So, because life keeps getting bigger and busier, and because I might not actually know how to slow down, it's easy for me to forget how passionate I am about cooking my own food. I have a job which requires not just my working hours (there are 20 of these in a day, right?), but also a good heaping of stress and tears and possibly also my soul - and sometimes I just plain forget to eat. Then, I look up and realise it's 4pm and there's a hole in my stomach because I haven't eaten since the previous evening. I just get a bagel out of the freezer and go to town since it's the fastest thing to do, and if I try to stand in front of the stove and cook something, I'll likely fall over and burn my face on the skillet on my way to the floor.

The solution? Soup. Soup is fast and low-maintenance. Soup is healthy. It'll feed my brain and keep me from passing out during my workaholic benders.

I was reminded of why I love to cook with my first bite of this soup. Delicious, comforting, easy and nutritious - these are some adjectives that describe this stuff. Another one: balanced. All the flavours are just right, and while carrot & coriander soup is a classic, it's not boring. It's incredibly far elevated above the stuff you've eaten from a can. It actually made me feel good to eat it. I even slowed down for a while, stopped working, and savoured it.

I have great things in my life, and I am a thankful lady. I wouldn't trade any of it... I can't help it, I just WANT IT ALL. Totally do-able.

Carrot & Coriander Soup
Adapted from Delia

25g butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tbsp ground coriander
900g chopped carrots
700ml vegetable stock
sea salt (I used Maldon) + pepper to taste
chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
greek yogurt or crème fraîche for serving

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic and coriander, cook until foamy and fragrant. Add carrots and cook in the butter mixture until they are beginning to soften. Add stock and 2 big pinches of salt. Simmer until carrots are cooked through, 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat and purée with hand blender - I like to leave some chunks but you can do this to whatever consistency you prefer. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Mix chopped coriander into soup, leaving some aside for garnish. Serve with a spoonful of greek yogurt or crème fraîche and the reserved coriander.

15 February 2012

Individual Chocolate Soufflés for two!

Valentine's Day is over. Did you survive? Whether you have a valentine or not; whether you got mushy and romantic or bitter and cynical - I hope you at least ate some chocolate.

Me and bf had a great night. We stayed in and had a lovely meal without having to dodge wedding proposals at the table next to us. Because there was no table next to us. There was only us, dining slowly, for hours on end. It was kind of perfect.

Once we finished our meal proper, we made dessert. That's we, as in, we made dessert together, the pair of us. It was easy. It was delicious. And it was SO MUCH FUN!

And yes, those are heart-shaped ramekins. Cue eyerolls right about now.

I know it's late for Valentine's Day. But maybe you're waiting for the weekend to celebrate? If so, consider making these soufflés for you and your love. Even make them together. Steal a kiss while they're in the oven. Definitely do that.

Rich Chocolate Soufflés
Recipe by Gordon Ramsay
This recipe actually makes 3 soufflés, which is really perfect. After all, who wouldn't like a bit with coffee in the morning?

10 g unsalted butter for greasing dishes

Crème pâtissière:
10 g cornflour
100 ml whole milk
100 g dark chocolate 70% cocoa solids, chopped
2 egg yolks

Egg white mixture:
3 egg whites
75 g caster sugar

Preheat oven to 180°C/gas 4/350°F

Coat 3 small-medium ramekins (8cm in width, 4-5cm in height) with the softened butter & set aside.

Make the crème pâtissière:
Slake the cornflour with a little of the milk, then gradually add the rest of the milk until you have a smooth mixture. Pour into a small saucepan, and slowly bring to the boil, stirring continuously. Boil for 30 seconds then off the heat, add the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Beat in the egg yolks until smooth before transferring to a bowl to cool.

Make the egg white mixture:
With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually start to add in the sugar, whisking well in between each addition. Once all the sugar has been added, continue to whisk until you have a thick and glossy mixture.

Add one third of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and mix well. Now add in the remaining egg white and gently fold into the mix. Do not over work the mixture as it will become too hard and stiff.

Divide the mixture between the ramekins, filling each completely full. Bake for 6-15 minutes, depending on the size of your ramekins. The souffles are done when they are well risen and have a slightly wobbly centre. Serve with pouring cream, custard, or vanilla ice cream.