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Vegetarian

Healthy Tomato Soup

I love tomato soup. It’s just so wonderfully comforting and filling, and is a wonderful vehicle for consuming a large number of grilled cheese sandwiches. This tomato soup is, if I do say myself, a gorgeous and slightly more grown-up version of the traditional “from a can” stuff that you probably had as a kid. And it’s ever-so-satisfying to the tastebuds as well as the stomach—the addition of red lentils makes this soup heartier and more filling.

Another great thing about this soup is how quickly it can be made; I literally threw it together in fifteen minutes, then just had to let it simmer for a little while. If you have nothing but tinned goods in your pantry but need something warm and filling, this fits the ticket admirably! The soup would also be wonderful with a handful of fresh basil leaves as a garnish.

Tomato Soup

Makes: 8-10 servings
Cooking time: 15 minutes hands-on, 50 minutes total
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 6 14 oz / 400 mL cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups prepared veggie stock
  • 1/2 cup red lentils (optional but recommended)
  • 1 tbsp each dried oregano and basil
  • 2 tbsp each brown sugar and balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp each rosemary, marjoram, and smoked or sweet paprika
  • pinch cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Roughly chop your onions and get them frying over medium heat in a large pot with a few glugs of olive oil. Crush and roughly chop the garlic and add to the onions. Saute until they turn soft and a bit golden, about 5-7 minutes. Meanwhile, add the dried spices, including salt and pepper, and stir through.

Add the tins of diced tomatoes and broth. Stir slowly until the mixture has heated through and begins to simmer. Add the lentils and stir again. Add balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. Cover and simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. After this time, lentils should be quite soft.

Using your blender, food processor, or an immersion blender, puree the soup until very smooth in texture. Careful, it’s hot! Return to the large pot and taste for spices and salt; adjust as needed. Let simmer for about another 10-15 minutes so that flavours can blend completely.

Serve hot, with a dollop of sour cream and plenty of crackers for crumbling over top. Yum!

Gingersnap Cookies

Ahh… here in “sunny” Australia, things aren’t as balmy as they usually are. Winter is upon us, and while the days are starting to get longer, it’s still pretty chilly. Since Christmas falls during the middle of summer in Australia, I had basically no motivation to want to cook the rich, delicious foods associated with the holidays. Now that it’s cooled off, though, I’m craving hot tea and cookies and pie and a good roast turkey. The solution? Christmas in July! Not only are we having a dinner party this weekend to celebrate, but I’ve noticed a small uprising of fellow Christmas in July supporters… ‘Winterland’ markets and ice skating at our local venue (guess what I’m doing on the weekend too!), and festively decorated store windows. It’s subtle, but it’s there, and it feels surprisingly awesome to get into the Christmas spirit in July.

These ginger snap gems are a family recipe. So simple and sweet! There’ll be a few different Christmas-themed recipes up over the next few days, but why not start with these cookies to bring a little bit of holiday cheer to your tummy.

Ginger Snap Cookies

Makes: 2 dozen
Cooking time: 15 minutes hands-on

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter (best at room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (and a bit extra for sprinkling)
  • 1/2 cup black molasses (you could substitute golden syrup or treacle syrup, which I had to do—but molasses is the best!)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • optional: 1/4 cup chopped candied ginger

Blend slightly softened butter and sugar together until no lumps remain. Add in molasses, egg, and vanilla. Measure in the flour, and form a well at the top to add the spices, soda, and salt—blend lightly with the flour, then with the rest of the batter. (This step saves you from having to get a whole extra bowl to blend the dry ingredients, which I find highly annoying and generally unnecessary for cookies.) Combine just until the flour disappears.

Forming the cookies works best if you refrigerate the dough for 1-2 hours, but can be done straight away if you’re in a hurry. Using a tablespoon, form the dough into balls and place 2 inches apart on a lightly greased baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with white sugar.

Bake at 350 F / 180 C for 12-15 minutes, until the tops of the cookies begin to crack. 12 minutes will give you a slightly soft cookie, and 15 minutes will give you a nice crisp one.

Pour yourself a nice big glass of milk and enjoy!

Cheesy Cauliflower Soup

This cheesy cauliflower soup is a Jamie Oliver-inspired dish from his Ministry of Food cookbook. It’s a brilliant thing! The average foodie might pick it up and see all the basic recipes and go, “What do I need this for?” but it’s just darn useful.

The bragging rights for this soup are a bit special for me. Our old roommate Tom—a chronic carnivore and unfoodie—isn’t a fan of soups and is only borderline on stews. Once while he was home sick with a swollen throat (meaning he could only eat soups), I made this.

Upon tasting this soup, he immediately turned to me and went, “This is bloody good!” …so there you go. A soup to please even the most discerning of soup skeptics. Enjoy!

Cheesy Cauliflower Soup

Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food

Makes: about 8 servings
Cooking time: 40 minutes total
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium brown onions
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 medium peeled potatoes
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • about 2 litres prepared vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese, cubed into 1 cm pieces
  • salt, pepper, and olive oil

Roughly chop your onions and garlic and get them sauteing on medium heat in a large, heavy-bottomed pot with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. While those are cooking, chop your celery, carrots, and potatoes into about 1 cm chunks and add once the onions have softened slightly (just toss them in the pot as you go along with the chopping). Stir each time you add something. Chop the cauliflower into smallish florets (no need to be finicky though!) and add, stirring again. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes with a splash of water or white wine.

If you’re using stock powder or cubes, boil about 2 litres of water in your kettle and measure out the amount of stock mix needed for the water—follow instructions on the packet. Pour the boiled water straight from the kettle so that it just covers the vegetables. Add the stock powder or cubes and mix well. If you’re using prepared stock, warm it up before adding to the vegetables.

Add the rosemary and a really generous amount of fresh cracked pepper, cover and simmer gently for about 20 minutes or until the cauliflower and potato are quite soft.

Remove the soup from direct heat and stir in the 1 tbsp of Dijon. Using a blender, food processor, or immersion blender, process the soup until it’s quite silky and smooth (or the consistency you most enjoy). Return to a very low heat and add the cheese cubes. Stir once every couple of minutes until cheese cubes have mostly melted and dispersed through the soup.

Serve hot with a bit more cheese on top!