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My Grandmother’s Spinach Soup Served with Hard B...

My Grandmother is an excellent cook and I absolutely adore her food! Every meal she prepares is done so with love and care and is always full of the most beautiful flavours. A few years back when my husband and I were visiting Canada, she made this spinach soup and it has been on our minds ever since. I finally got a hold of the recipe and thought this Canadian Thanksgiving weekend was the perfect opportunity to give it a try. It was just as good as I remembered although I did go a tad heavy on the salt. Never mind, next time I will be much more careful!

This soup makes a great lunch or light supper and it can even be used as an elegant starter – although I haven’t quite mastered the art of making a pretty flower out of hard boiled eggs yet (but I will keep working it!)

So here it is Raija’s Spinach Soup.

Ingredients

1 large Spanish onion finely chopped.

350 – 400 grams of fresh spinach well washed.

1 ½ – 2 tsp butter or a drizzle of olive oil (for sweating the onion).

2 Tbsp butter for making a roux.

2 Tbsp flour.

Chicken stock (approx 2 ½ – 3 cups) – I used Vegetable stock for mine.

Double cream.

Pinch of nutmeg.

1 clove minced garlic (optional).

Pinch of white sugar which helps give the soup some smoothness.

4 hard boiled eggs.

Directions

Melt the 1 ½ – 2 tsp or drizzle of olive oil in a pan. Be careful not to let the pan get too hot if you’re using butter as it may burn.

Add the finely chopped onion and mix well. Put a lid on the pot and allow the onion to sweat for a few minutes. Don’t let the onion get any colour. (I read somewhere that adding salt will prevent the onion from colouring and this is where I went wrong with my seasoning – I added too much salt at this stage! – so be careful).

In a second pot heat the spinach carefully – don’t add any water, butter or oil to the pot. The moisture in the spinach will be enough. The spinach should just go very slightly limp.

Once the spinach is just limp remove it from the pot and squeeze out as much excess liquid as you can.

Chop the spinach into small pieces and set aside.

Now it’s time to begin the roux. In another pot melt the 2 Tbsp of butter and then add the flour.

Do not let this mixture turn brown. Keep it on a moderate heat and gradually add the stock.

Mix it well and allow it to cook for approximately 3-5 minutes as you stir continuously.

Add the chopped spinach and onion to this mixture. Allow it to cook gently for another 5 minutes or so.

You can grate some nutmeg into it, or add some minced garlic at this stage. Also a pinch of white sugar will help give the soup some smoothness.

While the soup is cooking you can prepare the hard boiled eggs. Peel them and cut into halves or quarters.

When you just about ready to serve the soup stir in a good drizzle of double cream and mix well.

Serve with some freshly ground black pepper and the hard boiled eggs pieces arranged in the form of a flower.

Enjoy!

Or as my Grandmother would say in Finnish

Nautiskella!

Spinach ready – now it’s time to make the roux!

Picnic Success: Spicy Cucumber, Carrot and Cashew ...

I am still recovering from last Saturday when my husband and I went on our first ever road trip since passing his driving test. We got some supplies the night before, namely an extra large cooler box. Perfect for keeping our picnic cool and also providing a great storage place for any treats we happened to pick up along the way. It is cherry season after all!

I woke up early and set about making the Spicy Cucumber and Cashew Salad. I had planned on making it the night before but got carried away watching several episodes of Burn Notice (Bruce Campbell is my hero!). Fortunately it is a very simple dish to make. The most labour intensive part is chopping and mixing.

We did make some adjustments to the original dish that chef Bill Granger showed on Saturday Morning Kitchen. He made a marinade for some chicken thighs and used half for the chicken and the rest as a base for a spicy salad dressing. As we just wanted the salad we followed his recipe for the salad dressing but added a few extra bits to compensate for the lack of marinade.

To view Bill Granger’s fantastic original recipe courtesy of the BBC Food website please click here.

This is how we made our version of this tasty salad.

Luna Raye’s version of a Spicy Cucumber, Carrot and Cashew Nut Salad with Vermicelli Noodles.

Ingredients

3 tbsp fish sauce

2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

2 large red chillies, finely chopped

2 tsp of fresh ginger, minced

4 tbsp sugar

4-5 tbsp of fresh lime juice

250g of vermicelli rice noodles

1 large cucumber halved and thinly sliced

1 medium sized carrot halved and cut into thin strips

4 spring onions, sliced finely

Small handful of fresh mint leaves (we used apple mint from our garden)

3-4 tbsp unsalted cashews, crushed.

Directions

Put fish sauce in large bowl with lime juice and sugar.

Stir until all the sugar has dissolved.

Add the chopped garlic cloves, chillies and minced ginger to a pestle and mortar and crush and blend until you get a nice paste (it won’t be a smooth paste but everything should be blended up well).

Add this mixture (it should smell fantastic!) to the liquid in the bowl and give a gentle stir.

Cut the cucumber, carrot and spring onions into thin strips and set aside.

Cook the vermicelli noodles by putting them in a heat proof bowl and adding enough boiled water to cover them. I gave them a quick stir as I did this just to make sure they didn’t clump together.

I also snapped the noodles in half before cooking them – to make them a bit more manageable in the salad.

Leave the noodles to cook for 4 – 5 minutes. Once they have softened drain and rinse them in cold water.

Once cooled, add the drained noodles to a large bowl and gradually start to mix in the liquid (fish sauce, lime juice and dissolved sugar) and the finely chopped vegetables.

Toward the end add the finely chopped fresh mint and continue to mix until well combined.

Just before serving add the crushed cashew nuts.

Enjoy!

NOTE: I also wanted to mention a really helpful tip that Bill Granger shared as he was preparing his dish. Limes can be difficult to squeeze, and even rolling them on the countertop before hand sometimes doesn’t help. He suggested cutting the lime in half and then taking the very end of the lime off. This leaves you with a rather large ‘slice’ of lime which is much easier to squeeze. I tried it and it worked a charm!

We had a fantastic day out and really enjoyed our picnic. The salad made a refreshing change and in the current heat wave we have been experiencing it was just what we needed.
In our eagerness to tuck into the salad we forgot to put the cashew nuts on. Luckily we brought the bag with us but we hadn’t crushed them. My husband not having the patience to wait dumped a handful of cashews onto each plate. It still tasted great but I think in future we will crush them, if we can remember that is!

As we continued with our driving adventure (Ok we got lost!) we passed a sign saying cherries for sale. We turned down a lovely country lane and found a mother and daughter selling the most beautiful cherries out of their back yard, which led into their orchard. We got a pound of cherries and ate them all on the way home. It was a successful day and a very successful picnic. We did make it home eventually and it was no thanks to the sat nav!

Spicy Cucumber, Carrot and Cashew Nut Salad with Vermicelli Noodles

Underneath a Willow Tree, The Perfect Picnic Spot.

Perfect Picnic Food But We Forgot the Cashew Nuts!

French Onion Soup A Delicious Vegetarian Version....

French Onion soup has to be one of my all time favourite lunches. It has everything you need; sweet caramelized onions in a rich broth, crispy garlicky croutons and lots and lots of Gruyere cheese. Comforting, nourishing and flavoursome – it always scores 11 out 10 with me!

It’s the perfect meal for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Check out this great recipe for the vegetarian version I used.

The only changes I made to the recipe was using 1 cup of grated Gruyere cheese rather then the Swiss cheese she used. I also used a small baguette and cut 3 pieces for each bowl of soup. I lightly grilled them with a garlic butter mixture before placing in the soup and topping with the cheese.

Delicious!