Good old tomato soup

It’s been terribly dark and dreary over here lately. Now, I know I’ve said that I love autumn, but I also adore winter and would very much like to see at least some cold and snow before March, thank you very much! Right now there’s a strange divide in the weather in the Netherlands: the north provinces are all covered in ice and snow, so badly that they have had a consistent weather alarm since Monday and people have been ice skating in the streets, while down here in the west it’s 6°C. It’s unfair, really. Forget ice and snow; down here, it’s raining. And grey. And dreadful. One of the reason my blog has been quiet for so long is that weather, in fact! It gets dark early, and during the day there’s barely any light, so I don’t see the point in setting up my camera for what will  inevitably be a disappointing picture. I post the least disappointing ones I can make with my phone on my Instagram, though. (So you’ll have to forgive me for using one of those, instead of my usual not-so-crappy quality ones.)

In order to give myself a tiny bit of wintery satisfaction, I made roasted tomato soup this week. Nothing quite says ‘winter comfort food’ to me like soup does. All it needs is a crusty piece of bread to become a filling meal that warms you to the bone. And all it takes is a bit of time to really get that dark roasted flavour in your onions and garlic and tomatoes. I made parmesan crackers to go with it but it didn’t even need those, to be honest: just a spoon! And some basil to top it off. The recipe I used is an older one that I’ve made a fair few times, and I’ve changed it slightly by leaving out the cream and adding a dash of chilli flakes to spice it up a notch. Gives it a nice kick!

 

Roasted tomato soup (based on a recipe from A Wooden Nest)

1-1.5 kg tomatoes, crowns removed and chopped in half horizontally

1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped

6 cloves of garlic, rough ends removed

0.5 – 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes (to taste)

salt

pepper

olive oil

2 cups /500 ml chicken stock

(optional: honey)

 

To roast your vegetables, preheat the oven to 225 °C. Place your tomatoes cut-side up on a cookie sheet or in a sizeable baking dish, place the garlic and onions in between, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle the chilli flakes and salt and pepper to taste over the top. Roast for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until your onions are getting dark edges and your tomatoes are nice and wrinkly. Not too long, though: don’t let the juices evaporate. That’s where the good stuff is hiding!

Take the tomatoes out the oven and let cool slightly. Fish the garlic cloves out the bottom of your dish, and (carefully, they might be hot!) squeeze out the garlic into your heavy-bottomed pot. Then wash your hands, because roasted garlic is sticky! Add the tomatoes and the onions and all the juices from the baking dish or cookie sheet and your chicken stock.

Bring the pot to a boil. Once it’s boiling, let simmer for 15-20 minutes. Turn off the heat, and either by using a stick blender or by transferring the contents to a standing blender, purée the soup until smooth. Taste: if your tomatoes were not as sweet, you can add some sweetness to the soup by adding a bit of honey. Don’t overdo it, though! Add just a little at a time and stir and taste in between.

To serve, sprinkle some roughly chopped basil leaves over the top and dig in!

 

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Ham and leek quiches

Who doesn’t love quiche? Show of hands, please. Nobody? Thought so, because quiche is delicious! Quiches are hearty, great with any filling, and they’re delicious warm from the oven and cold the next day. And so easy! All you need is some pastry, some eggs, cheese, milk or cream, some filling, and an oven! When we make quiche for dinner, we tend to stuff it with a plethora of seemingly-random ingredients that normal quiches don’t usually have (trust me, though, when I say that a leek and shoarma quiche, spiced with curry powder, is absolutely delicious!) because that’s the beauty of them. They’re like giant, pastry-encased everything-but-the-kitchen-sink omelettes.

But what I always love the most about the way we make quiche? The pastry. We use puff pastry; it’s airy and buttery and less hard than a crust. It crumbles so nicely and almost melts on your tongue.

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These small quiches were made in a large muffin tin. They’re about the size of a 1 cup measurement-cup, so the perfect size for a small meal with a salad on the side (or, if you’re like me and Tim, you omit the salad and just eat two) or as a hearty, delicious lunch in case you have leftovers! Not only do you get lots of crisp little pastry bites by overlapping the puff pastry squares, it gives your quiches a cute flower-like edge, and everyone knows that cuteness ups the deliciousness factor of any type of food by about ten thousand.

We filled them with leeks and ham cubes, but anything goes, really. We’ve also made them with shredded zucchini (just make sure you squeeze out as much liquid of the shredded zucchini as you can otherwise they might get soggy!) and salmon and broccoli florets also sounds delicious.

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Ham and leek quiches (makes 5)

Ingredients:

1 packet of puff pastry (ours come in 12×12 cm squares, 10 to a packet)

about 300 grams of leek (2 medium-sized ones)

150 grams of ham cubes

125 ml crème fraiche

2 eggs

90 grams of parmezan cheese

1 clove of garlic

salt and pepper

 

Preheat your oven to 225 °C and grease your muffin tin well, both inside the cups and around the rims. When using frozen puff pastry, lay them out to soften up and defrost.

Halve the leeks lengthwise and chop relatively fine. Quickly sauté the leeks and ham cubes until the leek is soft but hasn’t lost its bite. Set aside to let cool a bit.

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs well and mix in the crème fraiche. Stir in the cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Add the leek and ham mixture to the bowl, squeeze in the garlic through a garlic press, mix well, and set aside.

When your puff pastry has softened, take two squares and place one on top of the other at an angle, creating an eight-pointed star. Place over the muffin tin cup and gently push down into the cup, lifting and easing it along with your fingers as you go, essentially creating a puff pastry cup. Poke some holes in the bottom and put in the oven to bake for 8 minutes.

Take the half-baked pastry out of the oven, gently push down the puffed-up pastry with the back of a spoon, and fill the cups with the mixture. Bake for another 20-25 minutes or until firm.

Enjoy!

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Hummus

Hummus. Is delicious. And anyone telling you otherwise is a great, big liar who cannot be trusted. Or they just haven’t had decent hummus yet. I’ll admit, the first time I had hummus, I was pretty underwhelmed: it was weird in texture, it tasted musty and old, it was a pale, weird colour not unlike old egg salad, and the top layer was slick and icky with old oil. Needless to say, I wasn’t a fan. But then I tasted home-made hummus at a friend’s house, and my life has never been the same! Creamy, thick and silky-smooth, sharp from the garlic and pepper, slightly acidic from the lemon juice, I fell in love!

Now, people say that there are tricks to making the perfect hummus at home. In fact, there was a fervent discussion on the perfect way to make hummus on a forum I’m a member of not too long ago, that boiled down to skinning the chickpeas or not. Personally, I am in the skinning camp, as I find that it makes for a smoother texture. But a lot of people seemed to think that the difference in texture was not that noticeable. See for yourself! Skinning the chickpeas takes some time, if you do it my way. I rinse the chickpeas under the tap, and then pick them up between my thumb and index finger and squeeze them out of their skins. I’ve heard that there are tricks to skinning them quickly, but so far, this is my preferred method.

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This recipe is more of a guideline to making hummus the way you like best. You can adjust pretty much every ingredient in this recipe to your liking: want more acidity? Add some more lemon juice. Add more garlic for a more powerful punch or some more oil if you think it’s too dry. You can even add some other herbs or spices to give it a bit more kick: I once made this with a big handful of fresh parsley added at the same time as the garlic. It made my hummus bright green and tasted amazing! And the beauty of it all is that this is done in a matter of minutes, as all you do is put your ingredients in a blender or food processor and whizz until it’s creamy and delicious!

Ingredients:

1 small (200 gr) can of chickpeas

1 heaping tablespoon to a 1/4 cup tahini paste

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove of garlic

1 lemon

salt and pepper to taste

paprika powder to serve

 

Rinse the chickpeas under the tap. Skin them if you like, then put aside.

Put the tahini paste in the blender or food processor (I use a small one that attaches to my hand-held stick blender) with a bit of olive oil and either stir with a spoon or give it a quick whizz through the machine to loosen it up. Add in the chickpeas, the olive oil and whizz until fairly smooth (at this stage, it can still be a bit crumbly). Squeeze in the garlic through a garlic press and add the juice of half a lemon. Whizz until smooth. Taste: if it needs more liquid, add some more oil, unless it needs more acidity, then add some more juice. Add salt and pepper and whizz to combine.

To serve, scoop into a bowl, drizzle on some olive oil and dust with paprika powder. Enjoy!

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