For those of you lucky enough to be blissfully unaware, for the second time this month Melbourne is in the throes of another heatwave, with temperatures set to soar above 40 several times this week.
I didn’t cope well in the heat 2 weeks ago. I live in a ground floor apartment by by beach, that normally stays nice and cool till the afternoon sun streams in, then quickly cools down again at night time. However lately it hasn’t been cooling down at all – we’ve either got no breeze at night, or just warm gusty winds. Not pleasant. Especially when you don’t even own a fan, let alone an air-conditioner.
Last time the weather was like this I was working from 2pm to midnight, and actually kind of looked forward to going to work, just to get some air con time. This time I’m on holidays for the week, so no such luck. Tomorrow I do plan on going to buy a fan, however I fear most shops are going to be sold out, with everyone having the same thing on their mind.
At least the shops will be air-conditioned!
In the meantime, my blender has been getting a workout, making endless smoothies and soups. Soups in summer? Gazpacho is the ultimate summer soup – its like a smoothie in a bowl.
Does anyone else associate Gazpacho Soup with Red Dwarf? For many years this was my only knowledge of the soup. One hot day I tried making it myself, and I was hooked. Visiting Spain I had the chance to try it there a few times, and loved every version I tried.
My version is adapted from Jamie Oliver’s recipe, which you can find here. It’s ridiculously easy to make. I like it best served with parmesan cheese and sliced avocado. It’s close to being a bloody mary, without the vodka!
Gazpacho Soup recipe
- 4 or 5 ripe tomatoes
- ¼ loaf of yesterdays bread (crust off)
- small cucumber (peeled & rough chopped)
- 1 red capsicum (deseeded & rough chopped)
- 2 cloves garlic, (peeled)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Sherry or red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- Tabasco sauce
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Prick each tomato with a knife, cover with boiling water for about 30 seconds. Take out and peel.
- Slice bread and place in a bowl.
- Pour over 100ml of water to soak
- Place cucumber, red capsicum, garlic and peeled tomatoes into blender. Blend them together.
- Add the soaked bread, a good glut of olive oil and a small splash of vinegar and tabasco. Blend again.
- Taste soup, season with salt and pepper, and a good splash of water to loosen the mixture.
- Retaste and re-season if necessary.
- Pour into a jug, and keep in the fridge to chill – the longer the better!
No DIY today, and I hesitate to even call this a recipe. Here’s one of my favourite breakfasts of late: hash with egg on top.
Just looking at it is making me salivate.
Basically it’s just a combination of whatever veggies you have on hand, mixed together in a bowl, bound with a little milk if needed. The most common things I include are:
- mashed potato
- mashed sweet potato
- snow peas
…really, whatever you have in your fridge is going to work just fine (as long as you have some sort of vegetables in there). I always like to have either regular or mashed potato however, to help it all clump together.
Then the fun stuff: a bit of a grated cheese and some chopped bacon (completely optional). Mix together add a few spices (basil, coriander, chilli, paprika), then either fry or bake in oven (depending on how much time you have – my oven takes forever to heat up so I often go the frying route if I forget to pre-heat whilst doing all the prep).
Top with a fried egg and its a tasty, filling, veggie laded breakfast. No bread needed! And that’s a big thing coming from a bread-addict like myself!
If I manage to get my act together I may even try to prepare a big batch of this at the start of the week so all I have to do each morning is cook it all up – no chopping and stirring. Mornings are not my strong point so anything that makes them less painful has got to be a good thing.
I could have sworn I’d already posted a polenta fries recipe here, but perusing my scanty archives suggests otherwise. I find that quite surprising because a few months ago I was obsessed by them. I still love them now, but haven’t eaten them for a while due to combination of polenta overload, their relative inaccessibility in restaurants, and the fact that although they are very easy to make at home, they do require pre-planning and are not ready instantly.
And when I say “haven’t eaten them for a while” I mean at least a fortnight. The place I last ate them at was a new discovery, The Sporting Club in Brunswick. I’m always excited when I hear about a new restaurant that serves them, so when a friend told me about it, I was keen to check it out, despite it being on the other side of town.
But tonight I had to satisfy my polenta craving by less convenient means; making it myself. I follow a recipe for polenta fries from allrecipes.com and make a few modifications: I tend to eat a serve as mash rather than fries as I’m making it, just to mix things up a bit. I add everything except the parsley and parmesan before serving it as mash. Also I bake the fries rather than frying them; I find its easier and uses less oil.
Here’s my modified version.
- 500ml whole milk
- 1L chicken stock
- 30g butter
- 600g polenta
- 85 g Parmesan cheese
- handful chopped fresh parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
- paprika, chilli, other spices as desired
- In a large saucepan, combine milk, chicken stock, and butter; bring to rolling boil. Slowly whisk in polenta.
- Turn down heat to medium-low, and continue cooking and stirring until polenta pulls from edge of pan. Eat as mash at this point if desired.
- Mix in cheese and parsley, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Spread polenta evenly over a cookie sheet, and refrigerate until cold.
- Transfer polenta to cutting board and cut into cut 3/4 by 3/4 by 3 1/2 inch sticks.
- Put on baking trays and cook in an oven preheated to 180 degrees until brown and crispy. Yum!
Oh and if you know any places in Melbourne that serves these suckers up, please do let me know. I’m always on the lookout for more!
This recipe is blatantly stolen from The Pioneer Woman. I’m reproducing it with my metricised conversions and a few substitutions – reduced butter, evaporated milk instead of cream and less sugar. If you want to see some step by step instructions and pictures however, go to the original Pioneer Woman recipe.
Please note that the most important step is number 3. I’ve been craving soups like this on dreary, dark pre-winter days as the shortest day of the year soon approaches. It won’t make the days longer, but it creates a warmth in the depth of your belly that makes cold days just that little bit more bearable.
Sherried Tomato Soup
- Chunk butter/olive oil
- 1 whole medium onion, diced
- 3-4 garlic cloves
- 2L tomato juice
- 2 400g cans diced tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon stock powder
- 3 teaspoons sugar
- pinch salt
- black pepper to taste
- 1 cup cooking Sherry
- 1-1/2 cup evaporated milk
- chopped fresh parsley
- chopped fresh basil
- Sauté diced onion and garlic in butter until translucent. Then add canned tomatoes, tomato juice, chicken stock, sugar, pinch of salt, black pepper and stir. Bring to a near boil, then turn off heat.
- Add in sherry and cream and stir.
- Add in parsley and basil to taste. Adjust other seasonings and serve with yummy, crusty bread on a cold blustery, dreary, depressing, rainy, snowy day. Then close your eyes.