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Tag Archives: cheese

Baked Brie (with Sundried Tomatoes, Parsley, Dukkah)

I am a total cheese platter freak.

And that’s ironic coming from someone who absolutely hated cheese till about ten years ago. I remember my mom used to force me to eat cheese when I was a little girl. I was rather thin and scrawny (still am!) so she thought that she can get some more meat on my bones by feeding me all the high calorie stuff. And I used to detest it so much.

I started enjoying the taste of cheese around the time I was doing Masters. There was a local sandwich shop which sold cheese toasties of all kinds, and the cheese and chilli one really bowled me over. The sharp pungent heat of the chopped green chillies against the gooey creaminess of the cheese somehow won my tastebuds over.

There’s no way you can avoid cheese platters if you live in Australia. It is ‘quintessential’ at almost every kind of party and my world suddenly opened up to the world of cheese.

Slowly, I began to learn more about cheese, the different varieties, textures, and the right way of using each cheese. And that’s when the love affair with the cheese platter began…..

This time, I wanted to try out a baked cheese recipe for the platter, especially after coming across absolutely delicious images on Pinterest. In fact, I have a whole board dedicated to just cheese on my Pinterest page, so if you are a fellow cheese lover, do check it out.

Baked Brie (with Sundried Tomatoes, Parsley, Dukkah) - thespiceadventuress.com

A recipe from ‘Taste and Tell’ really stood out to me; and my version today is simply an adaptation of that.

What I really loved about this recipe is the intense savoury notes from the sun dried tomatoes, parsley and that generous sprinkle of Egyptian dukkah. Think of an extremely creamy cheese topped with a hint of tangy sweetness from the tomatoes, freshness from the parsley and that hint of spice from the dukkah.

Perfect when paired with crackers or toasted sourdough as I did.

Baked Brie (with Sundried Tomatoes, Parsley, Dukkah) - thespiceadventuress.com

Ingredients:

  1. 1 wheel Brie (choose a good quality brand, makes all the difference)
  2. ½ cup sundried tomatoes (with oil); chopped into smaller bits
  3. ½ cup flat leaf parsley; finely chopped
  4. 1 ½ tbsp Egyptian dukkah

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven (fan forced) to 170°C
  2. Line baking/parchment paper in an oven proof dish.
  3. Top the brie with the sundried tomatoes, parsley and half of the dukkah. Drizzle with some of the oil from the tomatoes.
  4. Bake for 8-10 minutes (in most cases, the cheese will start to ooze out from the sides but not necessary as it depends on the rind).
  5. Remove and sprinkle with more dukkah
  6. Serve warm with crackers or crusty/toasted bread.

Baked Brie (with Sundried Tomatoes, Parsley, Dukkah) - thespiceadventuress.com

 

 

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Pasta with Spinach and Goat’s Cheese

Is there something called ‘too many’ pasta recipes?

Well, not in our household. Pasta recipes are often like that almost one-pot meal that is so quick to put together which is what most of us are looking for on a daily basis. And the non-saucy ones make the perfect leftovers for the next day lunch boxes.

In fact, I make the heavy, sauce based pasta dishes only occasionally. I tend to make pesto a lot, several variations of it, depending on what the herb garden is producing in abundance. I also enjoy roasting tomatoes and bell peppers for a thick sauce which is used along with pasta and other veggies. I use cold cuts, sausages and prawns a lot too as these need much less time to cook when compared to other meats.

While I prefer most of my everyday pasta dishes to go easy on cheese, today’s dish intrigued me as I had never paired goat’s cheese with pasta before. I have had it plenty on a cheese board but never with pasta. And when I came across some delicious Yarra Valley goat’s cheese, I knew I just had to try this dish out.

Pasta with Spinach and Goat’s Cheese - thespiceadventuress.com

This is a fairly simple pasta dish with very few ingredients and hence the flavour depends on the quality of spinach and goat’s cheese used. I added some red chilli too, to add another dimension to the overall flavours.

The best type of pasta for a dish like this is the thin noodle like ones, usually referred to as spaghettini. Its light and the perfect shape and texture to absorb flavours especially when there is no sauce or too many ingredients vying for attention.

Let’s get on to the recipe then…and do share your feedback with me if you happen to try it out.

Pasta with Spinach and Goat’s Cheese - thespiceadventuress.com

Ingredients:

  1. 500 gm dried spaghettini
  2. 3 tbsp olive oil
  3. 3 garlic cloves; crushed and finely chopped
  4. 1-2 long red chilli (less heat variety; use less or omit depending on heat preferences)
  5. 150gm baby spinach leaves
  6. ¼ cup basil; torn
  7. 150gm goat’s cheese
  8. Salt, to season

Method:

  1. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water as per packet instructions; drain (reserving ½ cup water) and keep aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pan and add the garlic and chillies; sauté on low heat for a minute.
  3. Then add the spinach leaves and cook on medium heat till just wilted.
  4. Add the cooked pasta with half of the reserved pasta water. Toss on high heat for about a minute.
  5. Remove from heat and fold in the basil and goat’s cheese
  6. Serve immediately.

Pasta with Spinach and Goat’s Cheese - thespiceadventuress.com

Fire roasted Bell Peppers, Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

If you follow me on Insta stories, you would have seen my weekly cookbook series. I do not have a huge collection but a handful of old, new and trusted ones that I cook from often. And last week, I had spoken to you about ‘The Food & Wine Lover’s Guide to Melbourne and Surroundings’.

Whenever we take a holiday in and around Melbourne, I always try to incorporate a bit of food wine experience into it. A visit to a farm, local food store, farmer’s market, restaurant or winery….something unique that celebrates the region. And this book has come handy on so many occasions for this purpose.

The book also features a few recipes from Chefs, restaurants and food producers of different regions. This salad really stood out to me because of the combination of flavours. Tomato and mozzarella is a classic combination but the addition of fire roasted bell peppers, watercress and the mustard dressing takes it to a whole new level.

Fire roasted Bell Peppers, Tomato and Mozzarella Salad - thespiceadventuress.com

What I loved most about this dish is that it can be served as a salad or as a side dish to grilled fish, meat or perhaps some grilled paneer/tofu. It’s warm and so full of flavour that makes it a delight even during the colder months. We enjoyed it as a salad with our Indian thali and also as a side with grilled fish, both times equally enjoyable and delicious.

This salad is all about the freshness and quality of ingredients. And using different varieties of tomatoes makes it all the more delicious. If you have a local deli nearby, then that’s probably the best place to get your hands on the buffalo mozzarella. I prefer fire roasting over oven roasting whenever possible; that burnt smoky flavour is hard to replicate completely inside an oven. But you can roast the bell peppers any way you wish to. Roast just enough to char the outsides but the flesh inside still has a bite to it.

Roasting bell pepper - food photography - thespiceadventuress.com

Enough said! Let’s get on with the recipe….

Ingredients:

  1. 1 heirloom tomato; sliced
  2. 1 ox heart tomato; sliced
  3. 1 medium red bell pepper
  4. 1 medium yellow bell pepper
  5. 1 large mozzarella ball
  6. ½ cup picked watercress
  7. 1 tsp seeded mustard dressing
  8. Olive oil
  9. 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  10. Salt, to season
  11. Freshly milled black pepper; to season

Method:

  1. Roast both the bell peppers over an open flame till nicely charred all around. Cover with a cloth for a few minutes before peeling off the skin (this makes the process easier). Deseed the bell peppers and slice into thin strips. Alternatively, oven roast the bell peppers and then do the same.
  2. Cut the mozzarella ball into wedges and keep aside.
  3. In a bowl, add the sliced bell peppers, mustard dressing and watercress.
  4. Heat olive oil in a pan and flash fry the sliced tomatoes for a few seconds, season with salt.
  5. Cool slightly and add the tomatoes to the bell peppers along with the mozzarella wedges.
  6. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle balsamic vinegar and toss lightly.
  7. Serve immediately.

Fire roasted Bell Peppers, Tomato and Mozzarella Salad - thespiceadventuress.com

 

 

 

Vanilla Cardamom Cheesecake (with Macadamia crumble)

Every recipe has a story and today’s Vanilla Cardamom Cheesecake (with Macadamia crumble) has quite a few.

To start with, I didn’t like cheesecake much till I got to attend this year’s In One Voice Jewish festival and experienced the cheesecake competition. That’s when I realized that I have been eating bad cheesecakes all this while and the real deal is delicious.

Those who follow me on Facebook or Instagram would have seen the pictures from this event, especially the one where I got to have a small chat with Alice Zaslavsky, popularly known as ‘Alice in Frames’ (Masterchef fame). Alice was the judge at the cheesecake competition which saw a delicious array of sweet and savoury cheesecakes. Once the cheesecakes were judged, slices were sold to the public to raise money for Caring Mums, a charity program run by National Council of Jewish Women of Australia (Vic).

Alice Zaslavsky, popularly known as ‘Alice in Frames’ (Masterchef fame) judging the cheesecake competition at In One Voice Jewish Festival, 2016 - thespiceadventuress.com

Alice Zaslavsky, popularly known as ‘Alice in Frames’ (Masterchef fame) with The Spice Adventuress at the In One Voice Jewish Festival, 2016 - thespiceadventuress.com

I decided to try out the winner’s cheesecake and much to my surprise found that it was nothing like the ones I had tasted before that. This one was smooth, creamy with a delicious balance of flavours and that was the moment I decided that I am going to bake one myself.

But that plan didn’t work out for a long time till now which brings us to the second story.

Just like thousands around the globe, I am a huge huge fan of Masterchef Australia. I have not missed a single episode since its inception 8 years ago. For me, this show is not about reality TV, gourmet food, complex recipes, outstanding chefs, creative homecooks or even the amazing hosts. I mean, it’s all of that but for me; it’s all about the basics. It’s all about the Master classes and learning the basics and fundamentals of cooking, be it an ingredient, technique, dish or cuisine. The knowledge that I have acquired from this show over the years has been immense.

And much to my surprise, one of the Masterclasses by Matt Preston turns out to be cheesecake. For me, this was a sign from the culinary God to try my hand at making a cheesecake. As always Matt made it super simple and taught us the secret to a deliciously creamy and simple vanilla cheesecake.

I, ofcourse, had to fiddle with the recipe and make it my own but the recipe is quite similar to his. For that hint of spice, I added crushed green cardamoms to the cream cheese and for the base, I used a mix of macadamias and digestive biscuit crumble for that nutty buttery and toasty flavour.

So, here’s presenting my Vanilla Cardamom Cheesecake with Macadamia crumble.

Vanilla Cardamom Cheesecake with Macadamia crumble base - a creamy delicious cheesecake with the flavours of vanilla and cardamom - thespiceadventuress.com

If it was summer, I would have garnished with some fresh berries but for the chilling weather here, all I could think of was some sort of a caramel sauce. But that would have made it very heavy and I was looking for a light dessert. So I kept it plain and paired it with a glass of sparkling Pinot instead.

Vanilla Cardamom Cheesecake with Macadamia crumble base - a creamy delicious cheesecake with the flavours of vanilla and cardamom - thespiceadventuress.com

Vanilla Cardamom Cheesecake with Macadamia crumble base - a creamy delicious cheesecake with the flavours of vanilla and cardamom - thespiceadventuress.com

If you notice the photographs, you will see a crack on the surface. Well, that’s nothing to do with the recipe but rather my clumsiness while moving the cheesecake to a platter. I had two choices; to photograph the cake with that crack showing or to make another one from scratch just for the photographs. I chose the former, because beautiful and delicious food does not have to look perfect and this is no commercial photography assignment. So enjoy the cake guys, with the imperfections.

Vanilla Cardamom Cheesecake with Macadamia crumble base - a creamy delicious cheesecake with the flavours of vanilla and cardamom - thespiceadventuress.com

(Psst….this has nothing to do with the recipe but this year, I also got to attend the shooting of one of the Masterchef episodes. For those who are following the show, it was the carnival one where I got to meet Nigella Lawson. Yes!)

At the shooting of Masterchef Australia Season 8 with Matt Preston and Nigella Lawson - thespiceadventuress.com

Ingredients:

Crumble Base:

  1. 175gms digestive biscuits
  2. 175gms raw macadamias
  3. 60gms caster sugar
  4. 60gms melted unsalted butter

Cream cheese filling:

  1. 750gms cream cheese (room temperature)
  2. ½ tsp powdered green cardamom seeds
  3. 230gms caster sugar
  4. A good pinch of salt
  5. 4 eggs
  6. 2 ½ tbsp lemon juice
  7. 1 tsp vanilla essence
  8. 300ml double cream

Others:

  1. 23cm spring form cake tin
  2. Aluminium foil
  3. Roasting tray (ensure that the cake tin fits in snugly)

Method:

For the crumb base:

  1. Preheat the oven to 175°C.
  2. Line the cake tin with baking paper (bottom and sides). I first coat the base and sides with a thin layer of butter and then place the baking paper so that it sticks properly. Take 3-4 sheets of aluminium foil and double wrap the outside of the cake tin like a jacket of sorts. (This is to prevent water from getting in and also add to the bain marie effect while baking the cheesecake).
  3. Blitz the biscuits and macadamias in a processor to a fine crumb and then add the caster sugar. Blitz again to combine and then add the melted butter. Blitz for a few more seconds to combine.
  4. Transfer this crumble to the cake tin and spread evenly. Using a spoon, pat down tightly especially evening out at the edges. (If you prefer a thinner base, use lesser quantity of the crumb).
  5. Bake this for 10 minutes; remove and set aside to cool well.

For the cheesecake filling:

  1. Put on the kettle water for hot water to pour in the roasting tray.
  2. To make the cream cheese filling, add the softened cream cheese to a cake mixer and beat for a couple of minutes until smooth and creamy.
  3. Then add the caster sugar and beat well till the sugar has combined and dissolved well.
  4. Add one egg at a time, making sure each has dissolved well before adding the next one.
  5. Reduce the speed of the mixer and add the lemon juice, vanilla essence, cardamom powder and salt. Beat till combined and add the double cream. Beat again just for a few seconds till the cream has combined well.
  6. Pour into the cake tin with the cooled crumb base. Tap to even the surface and place the tin inside the roasting tray.

To bake:

  1. Place the roasting tray inside the oven and carefully pour the hot water into the tray to atleast half the height of the cake tin (around 2 cm).
  2. Bake for 65 minutes or till golden and cooked through at 175°C.
  3. Once baked, turn off the oven and allow the cake to cook down for at least 1 hour inside the oven (with the door closed).
  4. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before removing from the cake tin.
  5. Enjoy!

Vanilla Cardamom Cheesecake with Macadamia crumble base - a creamy delicious cheesecake with the flavours of vanilla and cardamom - thespiceadventuress.com

Vanilla Cardamom Cheesecake with Macadamia crumble base - a creamy delicious cheesecake with the flavours of vanilla and cardamom - thespiceadventuress.com

Vanilla Cardamom Cheesecake with Macadamia crumble base - a creamy delicious cheesecake with the flavours of vanilla and cardamom - thespiceadventuress.com

Spicy Aubergine Chutney

Cheese platters are my thing!

I find it an utterly satisfying and relaxing experience to bring out my beautiful boards, pop on some delicious varieties of cheese (atleast one new type each time) and then fill up the platter with figs, grapes, crackers, cold cuts and chutneys. And of course, pop open a really good bottle of white….and unwind on a Friday evening.

It’s been a while since I had indulged this way; the past couple of weeks were work hectic which combined with poor time management skills left me thoroughly exhausted and drained out. So mid last week, I was a lady on a mission – to create a delicious platter experience for my small family catching up over some much needed ‘us’ time.

I always stock up on small batch chutneys in my pantry, both homemade and others that I pick up while travelling or from local businesses. But this time, I realized that I had run out of most of them and what was available wouldn’t really go well with the platter I had in mind. So what do you do? Just make one yourself….

Out came my cookbooks and my eyes fell on one which I had borrowed from a friend and totally forgotten about. The title, ‘The Preserving Book’ by Lynda Brown – just perfect! To cut a long story short, I narrowed in on this Spicy Aubergine (Eggplant/Brinjal) Chutney for two reasons. First, I loved the play of spices in this one and second; aubergines do not feature in my favourite list of vegetables so this would be an interesting way of eating it.

Spicy Aubergine Chutney - deliciously sweet and spicy - thespiceadventuress.com

I got a bit lucky while shopping for aubergines at my local veggie store. Found baby aubergines, the deep dark purple variety quite commonly used in India especially in South India. They were ripe and just perfect for the chutney. Remember to get really ripe vegetables when making chutney, also forget about the most beautiful and polished looking ones. (The food waste statistics of Australia scare me so I make it a point to pick up assorted shapes and sizes of vegetables especially if I am going to cut it up for the dish. How do the looks matter?)

A good chutney is all about balance and the perfect play of flavours so while the measurements that I have outlined would give you a delicious end product, I strongly urge you to taste along the way and make adjustments as I did while adapting the recipe from the book.

Apple cider vinegar and a dash of tomato paste add acidity which is counterbalanced by the sweetness form the raw sugar and sultanas. While there are other spices involved, what makes this chutney truly unique in flavour are the Nigella seeds and ginger.

Baby Aubergines - Food styling and photography - thespiceadventuress.com

Spicy Aubergine Chutney - deliciously sweet and spicy - thespiceadventuress.com

This chutney can be left to mature in flavour for a month before using and if preserved in the right manner, will last upto a year. So a great option if you are making in bulk. But I am a small batch person so prepared just 2 small bottles and also opened it within two days.

So here we have the deliciously sweet and spicy Aubergine chutney….the perfect condiment for your cheese platter. In fact, it is the perfect condiment to just about anything…..a dash of it with roast lamb cutlets or as a traditional chutney with your Indian meals. Fingerlickin good!

(The cheese that I picked up for the board include a soft creamy Brie, smoked cheddar with Native Australian pepperberry and a blue veined cheese)

Spicy Aubergine Chutney - makes a delicious addition to your cheese platter - thespiceadventuress.com

Spicy Aubergine Chutney - makes a delicious addition to your cheese platter - thespiceadventuress.com

Ingredients:

  1. 450gm baby aubergines
  2. 1 medium red onion; finely chopped
  3. 3/4 tbsp tomato paste
  4. 220ml apple cider vinegar
  5. 250gm raw brown sugar
  6. 60gms sultanas/raisins
  7. ½ tsp chilli flakes
  8. ½ tsp cayenne pepper/hot chilli powder (optional)
  9. 1 cinnamon bark
  10. 1 tsp Nigella/onion seeds
  11. 1 ½ tsp freshly grated ginger
  12. Salt, to season

Method:

  1. Wash the aubergines and pat dry. Slice the aubergines and place in a heavy bottomed pan along with the onions and salt. Also add the tomato paste and stir well to combine.
  2. Cook for a minute or two and then add the vinegar and sugar; mix well and then add the sultanas, chilli flakes, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, ginger and Nigella seeds. Stir well and cook on medium heat till the sugar has almost dissolved. Turn the heat up and bring to boil.
  3. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible, cover the pan and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
  4. Open the pan and continue to cook on low heat stirring occasionally so that the mixture does not burn or stick to the bottom of the pan. The chutney is ready when it has turned thick and sticky; also taste and make sure that the vinegar has been absorbed well or it will taste acidic.
  5. Remove the cinnamon stick and allow to cool well. Ladle into sterilized jars with tight lids. Refrigerate.

Note – If you want to preserve the chutney, then add the chutney to sterilized jars and make sure there are no air gaps. Cover the lids with waxed paper discs and use non-metallic lids. Seal and label the bottle. Leave to mature for a month in the pantry. Refrigerate after opening.

Spicy Aubergine Chutney - deliciously sweet and spicy - thespiceadventuress.com

Spicy Aubergine Chutney - deliciously sweet and spicy - thespiceadventuress.com

 

 

 

 

 

Hashbrown Muffins with Ham, Cheese and Sundried Tomatoes

Hashbrowns!

Who doesn’t love a good hashbrown….crispy, golden goodness that make our mornings brighter and delicious.

But what could be better? Oven baked hashbrown muffins generously endowed with ham, parmesan and sundried tomatoes. Now we are talking….

Hashbrown Muffins with Ham, Cheese and Sundried Tomatoes - a savoury kid friendly snack perfect for lunch boxes and parties alike - thespiceadventuress.com

 

I have been wanting to make some savoury muffins for a while now but pushed it off till the school term began again. It was #backtoschool today and these hashbrown muffins seemed like the perfect treat to welcome my boy home after his first day in Grade 2.

The idea for a hashbrown muffin came from the blog ‘Recipe Tin Eats’; she used bacon in her recipe but I wanted to create a flavour that Adi enjoys. So it had to be ham and cheese! For that extra flavour punch, some finely chopped sundried tomatoes did the job. And a generous sprinkle of parsley for that refreshing, herby goodness.

A simple and easy to make recipe, these savoury muffins are excellent for parties or when you need to feed a crowd. Also freezes well, so you can make a batch ahead and re-heat it when necessary. And of course, a great lunch box recipe. Do not hesitate to experiment adding flavours that you or your kids enjoy. For a vegetarian version, I am thinking a hashbrown with ricotta and spinach.

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Hashbrown Muffins with Ham, Cheese and Sundried Tomatoes - a savoury kid friendly snack perfect for lunch boxes and parties alike - thespiceadventuress.com

Do you make savoury muffins? I would love to hear about your recipes, so please drop in a comment below. And if you do make these hashbrown muffins, make sure you tag me using #thespiceadventuress so that I would not miss it.

So, let’s get on to the recipe;

Ingredients:

(Makes about 20 muffins)

  1. 100gms ham; chopped finely
  2. 1.2 kg potatoes (any starchy variety); grated
  3. ½ cup sundried tomatoes; chopped finely
  4. 2 tbsp parsley; finely chopped
  5. Salt, to season
  6. Freshly milled black pepper; to season
  7. 1 cup mozzarella; grated (or any melting cheese)

Method:

  1. Sauté the ham on low heat till lightly browned. Keep aside.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C fan forced (180°C for conventional).
  3. Wash the grated potatoes once or twice in cold water to remove excess starch. Squeeze out the excess water in small batches and place in a bowl.
  4. Add the ham (reserve a bit for garnish), cheese, sundried tomatoes and 1 tbsp parsley to the potatoes; season with salt and pepper. Mix well to combine.
  5. Oil the muffin tray well (even if it is nonstick); scoop about ½ cup of the potato mixture and place in each muffin well. Flatten the top lightly with the back of a spoon.
  6. Oven bake for about 20-25 minutes or till the top has taken a golden brown colour.
  7. Garnish with the remaining ham and parsley; serve warm.

Hashbrown Muffins with Ham, Cheese and Sundried Tomatoes - a savoury kid friendly snack perfect for lunch boxes and parties alike - thespiceadventuress.com

Hashbrown Muffins with Ham, Cheese and Sundried Tomatoes - a savoury kid friendly snack perfect for lunch boxes and parties alike - thespiceadventuress.com

 

 

 

Beer and Cheddar Soup

Beer, cheese (loads of it), bacon, jalapeno, cream….no, this soup is not for the faint hearted or the calorie conscious!!

The idea of making a beer and cheddar soup originated on a Facebook group discussion. I had posted a dish with red wine and thus began the conversation of cooking with alcohol. While I may have a bit of experience cooking with wine, I am practically a newborn when it comes to cooking with other forms of alcohol. But the beer soup came highly recommended from a bunch of food buddies who seem to understand my sense of flavours. And so of course, I had to give it a go!

Now, I am not really fond of alcohol especially beer. I have an intense dislike for its bitter flavours. Beer aficionados are not going to take this line easily! But I have never been able to stomach its taste; so how do I cook with it?

I remembered the time when I used beer to make the batter for fish and chips; that was a delicious experience. Though this was nothing remotely similar, I still decided to give this soup a try….after all, there’s plenty of cheese and bacon in it right!

And my…what a delicious experience was it! All my skepticism vanished with the first taste of the soup. My 6 year old absolutely loved it; he called it the best soup ever. Don’t worry about giving it to your children; most of the alcohol is cooked off so you are not feeling boozy or tipsy drinking this one.

Beer and Cheddar Soup - thespiceadventuress.com

This beer and cheddar soup is autumn in a bowl. Flavours that are strong yet comforting……

Good quality cheddar can make a huge difference to the flavours of this soup. I used a mixture of vintage cheddar and flavoured cheddar (onion and chive). But it is not necessary to stick to these flavours; the only important thing is to use one or two types of real good cheddar with at least one being vintage or aged cheddar for that sharp punch.

Beer and Cheddar Soup - thespiceadventuress.com

This beer and cheddar soup is not just about flavour, it’s also about texture. Every spoonful gives you the soft onions and celery along with the salty, delicious bits of browned bacon. And just when you are lulled into a safe sense of flavour, the fresh jalapenos pop up for that vibrant heat which explodes on your taste buds.

Like you figured, I can rave about this soup but you know what….let’s just get cooking.

Recipe adapted from this site.

Ingredients:

1. 150gm bacon, chopped
2. 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
3. 1 onion, finely chopped
4. 1 jalapeno, finely chopped
5. 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
6. 2 sprigs thyme, finely chopped
7. 1 bottle pilsner (300 ml)
8. 2 ½ cups chicken stock
9. 4 tbsp unsalted butter
10. ¼ cup plain flour
11. 250 ml cream
12. 100 gm flavoured cheddar (onion and chive), grated
13. 150 gm vintage/aged cheddar, grated
14. Salt, to season
15. Freshly milled black pepper, to season

To serve:

16. Garlic toasts
17. 1 jalapeno, finely sliced into discs
18. Browned bacon

Note – I used pilsner, but you can use ale also.

Method:

1. In a large pot, cook the bacon pieces till browned. There is no need to add any extra oil as the fat of the bacon will render and crisp up the pieces. Remove and keep aside leaving the remaining oil in the pot.
2. To the same pot, add the chopped onions, celery, jalapenos and thyme. Cook till softened which should take around 8 – 10 minutes.
3. Once the veggies have softened, add the beer and cook till the liquid has been reduced by half; this will take you around 5-7 minutes.
4. Then add the chicken stock and continue to simmer on low heat.
5. In another pan, make the roux by melting the butter and whisking the flour into it. Whisk till the mixture has lightly browned and then add this to the stock and mix well to combine.
6. Continue to cook till the stock has thickened and then add the grated cheese and cream.
7. Cook for another 5 minutes and then add the bacon (reserve 2 tbsp for garnish); taste and season with salt and pepper.
8. Serve warm with garlic toasts

Do you cook with alcohol? I would like to learn more about your experience……

Beer and Cheddar Soup - thespiceadventuress.com

Creamy Tomato Soup with Brown Butter Garlic Croutons

Some days my photography really suffers and today is one such. No matter how much I tried, the photographs refused to come to life. Frustration soon reared its ugly head and I quit trying.

Frustration – the enemy that silently creeps in when we are trying so hard at something. He comes in and soon takes over us, whispering words of despair and that we are anyway bound to fail, so why try?

And we all struggle with him, reasoning out that we ought to work harder, try harder and then success would come. And he would hush it all up, waging war with commonsense in our heads and he wins, most often……

Frustration blocks our ability to push ourselves, to step over that boundary that seems so near at hand. We know that there is light at the end of the tunnel, we have come so far and there’s only a bit more to go. But frustration tells us that it is not meant to be. Give up…..it’s so easy, he says.

And give up I did.

These photographs are going to remain here as a memory of the time I let frustration control me. Instead of trying harder a couple more times, I kept the camera down and quit.

The only saving grace is this tomato soup!

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No, it’s not a rustic, humble tomato soup; this one’s creamy and luscious with havarti and mascarpone and crunchily garnished with brown butter garlic croutons.

For those who haven’t experimented much with cheese, here are two varieties to try – havarti and mascarpone. Why haven’t I dared to try havarti before? It’s creamy yet firm, delicious – I can’t even begin to describe it. Now a participant on my cheese board, always.

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This tomato soup is happiness in a bowl…..and you can join in the happiness too. Here’s how…..

Ingredients:

For the soup:

1. 2 tbsp olive oil
2. 2 tbsp unsalted butter
3. 1 yellow onion, chopped finely
4. salt, to season
5. freshly milled black pepper, to season
6. 1/4th tsp dried basil
7. 1/4th tsp dried oregano
8. 1/4th tsp dried thyme
9. 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
10. 3 garlic cloves, minced
11. 3 tbsp tomato paste
12. 5 large ripe, red tomatoes (use canned ones if you would like to)
13. 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
14. 1/3 cup freshly grated havarti cheese

For the brown butter:

1. 3 tbsp unsalted butter


For the croutons:

1. 2 cups white bread, cubed
2. Brown butter
3. 2 garlic cloves, finely minced

Method:

To prepare brown butter:

• Place a saucepan on low heat, and add the butter. Allow it to melt slowly on low heat stirring continuously. As soon as you notice brown flecks beginning to appear at the bottom of the pan, remove from heat and continue to stir. The butter continues to brown due to residual heat. (Make sure to remove the pan from heat at the right time or you could end up burning it).


To prepare the croutons:

• Preheat the oven to 180°C.
• Add the minced garlic to the brown butter, mix and allow to sit for a minute.
• Place the cubed bread pieces in a large flat bowl, pour the butter/garlic mixture over top, lightly toss through and bake for 8 to 10 minutes or till the bread pieces get golden.
• Make sure to check in between and toss through to ensure even cooking.
• Keep aside to cool.

Note – These can be prepared ahead and stored in an airtight container. If you do not have an oven, dry toast the bread pieces in a pan on the stove top for 3 minutes and then pour the butter/garlic mixture on top. Continue to toast till the golden colour is achieved.

To prepare the soup:

• In a large pot, heat oil and butter. Saute the onions with the herbs, paprika and season with salt and pepper.
• When the onions are translucent, add the garlic and tomato paste. Cook for another 6-8 minutes.
• Add the chopped tomatoes and bring to boil.
• Then lower the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes, occasional stirring to break any lumps.
• Turn off the heat and cool lightly.
• Puree the soup in a blender (remember it’s still hot!) or use a stick blender.
• Return the soup to heat and add the mascarpone and havarti, stirring continuously till the cheese has completely melted.
• Check seasonings and adjust.
• Serve hot with a dollop of mascarpone and brown butter garlic croutons.

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The recipe for this bowl of goodness comes from here.

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Cheese Tomato Omelette Sandwich

A favourite with kids….the flavours of the three ingredients work so beautifully together that this combination has become a classic. This one hardly needs any intro, so let’s get cooking….

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Ingredients:

1. Eggs – 2
2. Cheese – 1 slice or ½ cup shredded
3. Tomato – 1 small, chopped finely
4. Salt – to taste
5. Pepper – to taste
6. Dried herbs – ¼ tsp
7. Bread – any kind, 2 slices
8. Olive oil
9. Tomato sauce/Tabasco sauce – depending on how hot you like it

Method:

• In a bowl, beat the eggs along with chopped tomatoes and cheese pieces.
• Season with salt, pepper and dried herbs
• Beat well to get a fluffy and soft omelette.
• Heat olive oil in a pan and when hot, pour the egg mixture.
• Bring down the heat to medium; cover and cook for 1-2 minutes so that the egg mixture can rise.
• Do not overcook the omelette.
• Turn over the omelette to cook on the other side for a second or two and no more. This step is optional.
• Turn off the heat and cut the omelette into slices.
• Place between the bread slices and pour tomato or Tabasco sauce as to your liking.

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