Blueberry Soup

I should have more blueberries than this.  Last year I had oodles and gorged myself on them every morning before work.  Having taken very good care of the bushes over the last months and having watched tiny white flowers turn into mini bulbous berries before my eyes, I assumed this year would be no different.  But as the berries ripened, they just mysteriously disappeared. 

It must be that cheeky blackbird, I thought.  Or perhaps it’s the gorgeous greenfinch getting his revenge for me shouting out the window at him one morning.  (They do have rather irritating cheaps.)  Mice maybe?  Or bats? (They like fruit, don’t they?)  A plethora of rodents and winged things were blamed for my lack of blueberries before I discovered the culprit lay much closer to home. 

In fact, he lay at the bottom of my bed.

 

Yes, it seems that Marco likes blueberries and that next year I’ll have to fence off my veggie patch if I want to eat any myself.  This year, I’ll just have to make do with store bought which exactly what I did yesterday to make blueberry soup.

I first bought mustikkakeitto  or blueberry soup in Finland by accident: I thought it was a carton of yogurt and was rather shocked when a dark red, viscous substance began covering my morning muesli.  For an awful moment I thought I had been transported into a horror movie and backed away from my bowl lest a sinewy hand thrust out and tried to grab me. 

After pouring the liquid into a glass and giving it a cautious sniff and a reluctant taste, the alarm passed and was replaced by whole-hearted approval.  Very quickly blueberry soup (which is more of a hot drink really) became a favourite post-work pick-me-up drink, especially in the icy winter months when colds and other ailments were common.

 

Blueberry Soup

(for 2 mugs)

200g blueberries (fresh or frozen)

500ml cranberry juice (go for the unsweetened or light version as many cranberry juices have a REALLY high added content)

1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

1 cinnamon stick

1 cardamon pod

1/4 lemon

1 tblspn cornflour

2 tblspn water

  • Add the blueberries, cranberry juice, cinnamon, cardamon and sugar to a pan.  Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes, occasionally mashing down the berries.
  • Sieve the  liquid and discard the mashed berries and spices.
  • Mix the cornflour with the water and add to the berry juice. 
  • Heat and stir until the soup thickens slightly.
  • Serve in mugs. 

 

P.S. This is my entry for the No Croutons Required event, hosted this month by the lovely Holler.

An Autumnal Harvest

Autumn’s here.  The leaves look tired and and are very slowly beginning to turn russet and red.  It’s too dark to walk Marco at 6am now and twice last week the temperature dipped to 3oC in the early morning and I had to put on my woolly hat to go to the woods!  Autumn is definitely here.

Must say, I have reconciled myself to this fact better than I thought I would.  Summer this year was lovely and I didn’t feel quite ready to let it go and venture into the months of dark nights and cold noses.  But this weekend I embraced the chill in the air, got my thermal socks out and used the beautiful fall fruit from my garden to prepared a hearty, warming feast to celebrate the engagement of one of my best friends. 

We skipped a starter and went straight for a hearty main course of herby pork sausages baked with cherry tomatoes, rosemary and thyme and served with a luxuriously cheesy mash and a mountain of garlicky green beans.  Yum, yum.  Dessert was the following apple and plum pie served piping hot with an dollop of Mackie’s vanilla ice-cream.  Absolute bliss.

I could definitely get used to autumn.  🙂

 

Apple and Plum Pie

For the pastry:

250g plain flour

50g icing sugar

125g cold butter, cut into cubes

1 tsp cinnamon

1 egg, beaten

2 tblspns milk

For the filling:

6 apples, peeled, cored and cut into thick slices

400g plums (pre-stoning weight), stoned and halved

30g butter

30g caster sugar

1 tspn ground ginger

1 tspn cinnamon

  • Whizz together the flour, icing sugar, cinnamon and butter in a food processor for 20 seconds or so until the ingredients have combined to a crumb -like texture.
  • Add the egg and milk and whizz again until the ingredients form a scraggy lump.
  • Remove from the mixer and, with cold hands (run them under the tap), pat into a smooth ball.  Cover with cling film and rest in the fridge until required (at least 30 minutes).
  • Meanwhile, prepare the filling.  Melt the butter, sugar and spices together.  Add the apples and cook until almost soft.  Add the plums and cook for 5 more minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and spoon the filling into a pie dish or shallow cake tin.
  • Roll out the pastry to 1cm thickness and place over the pie dish, trimming the edges.  Brush the top with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.  Poke a few holes into the pastry then bake on the bottom of a 180oC oven for 45 – 60 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.

 PS No photo of the pie, I’m afraid.  A real downside of the darker months is the trouble getting a good picture. 

Gourds

Two of my colleagues had a gourd growing competition.  This is one of the competitors’ offerings. 

Very pretty.

Think I’ll join in next year.  🙂

Working Girl

Still busy, still knackered and still training for that bloody 10k.  As a result of all this, I’m also still eating a lot of pasta.  That’s no hardship for this girl though, I love the stuff and have a trillion tried, tested and adored recipes using it.  The following recipe for Pasta Puttanesca is one of my all time favourites which, really, is quite impressive out of a trillion recipes, don’t you think?

The name Pasta Puttanesca translates as “prostitute’s pasta” though there is some confusion as to why.  Some suggest it is simply because the sauce’s flavours are bold, others claim it was a favourite speedy supper of Italian ladies of the night and others still assert that the dish used to be placed in the windows of brothels to lure customers inside.  The latter idea sounds utterly ridiculous to me.  Anchovies and lust?  Really?

Anyway, forget the confusion over the name and just try this out sometime.  It’s fabulous.  🙂

Pasta Puttanesca

(serves 2)

1 tblspn olive oil

3 anchovy fillets

2 small garlic clove, chopped finely

Pinch of chilli flakes

1 red pepper, sliced

2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes, left whole but slit slightly with a sharp knife to let the juice out

1/2 tspn oregano (dried)

Handful of black olives

Heaped tablespoon of capers

200g spaghetti

Handful of parsley, chopped

  • Melt the anchovies gently in the olive oil in a frying pan.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  • Add the pepper, tomatoes, olives, capers, chilli and oregano to the pan.  Cook over a medium heat for 15-20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti.  Drain, reserving a little of the cooking water.
  • Toss the pasta with the sauce and the fresh parsley.  Taste for seasoning and serve.

Spinach and Lamb Curry

I’m pretty tired just now.  So tired, in fact, that the other night I forgot what kind of car I owned and had to call a friend to remind me.  How awful is that?

Being this tired, it is very nice to have some ready-cooked meals waiting in the freezer for me to just defrost and warm in a pan.  The following is one such meal and, as with all curries, it’s easy to double the quantity needed in order to freeze portions for sleepy Tuesday nights.  Tuesdays are the worst, don’t you think?

Oh dear.  I’m being rather negative, aren’t I?  Let me fix that by saying that this is by FAR my favourite curry at the moment.  Adapted from a Madhur Jaffrey recipe, it is wonderfully nourishing, supremely tasty and perfect for feeding a crowd.

Promise you won’t be disappointed.  🙂 

Spinach and Lamb Curry

(Serves 4)

600g spinach

2 onions

1 tblspn chopped ginger

6 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 red chilli

2 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil

700g lamb (I use neck but shoulder would be good too), cut into large cubes1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 bay leaf

4 cloves

4 cardamon pods

1 tablespoon coriander

1 tablespoon cumin

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

50ml plain yogurt

Salt

  • Drop spinach into a pan of boiling water and cook for 30 seconds until wilted.  Drain well, squeezing excess moisture out with hands.  Chop and set aside.
  • Whizz together the onions, garlic, chilli and ginger to create a pungent paste.  Set aside.
  • Brown the lamb in the oil.  Remove from pan and set aside.
  • Add the bay, cardamon and cloves to the same oil and cook for 30 seconds. 
  • Add the onion paste to the pan and cook over a medium heat until mixture starts to darken.
  • Add the rest of the spices and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the tomatoes and yogurt.  Cook for another minute before adding the lamb.  Stir well to combine before adding the spinach and stirring again.
  • Season well with salt then cover and cook over a low heat for an hour and a half.  There should be plenty of moisture from the tomatoes and meat and spinach but if the curry looks dry, add a little water to moisten as it cooks.
  • Serve with hot naan or pita or chapatis to mop up the juices.