It’s getting hot in here

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.

Rimmer

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

Gazpacho soup

Gazpacho Soup recipe

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

  • 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!

Overspiced

I am a big fan of flavour and spice, particularly chilli. In general I’d say I tend more towards the heavy-handed end of the spice spectrum when it comes to flavouring foods.

However it really is true you can have too much of a good thing.

This morning I was seasoning my morning bowl of muesli with cinnamon. Unfortunately in my pre-coffee haze I didn’t carefully check which end of the spice jar I was opening.

Instead of a healthy sprinkling of cinammon, I got 2 giant clumps of cinnamon, sitting happily on my yoghurt.

It was edible, but only just. I’m now sitting drinking my long-awaited coffee, and all I can taste is cinnamon.

First world problems, right?

Plu-what?

Until a few days ago, I’d never even heard of a pluot. Blissful in my ignorance of this apricot-plum hybrid, I idly perused the aisles of my local fruit & veg shop.

The first thing that caught my eye was a peach that looked like a miniature pumpkin (sorry can’t remember the name). Second thing was a pluot, which I initially thought was a nice big looking plum.

Pluot

After seeing the weird name, I was intruiged and bought 2. And the verdict? Yum. To be honest I think it tastes more plummy than apricotty, and if I didn’t know otherwise I’d just assume its a variety of plum.  But its nice and firm and juicy and sweet, so what’s to complain about?

Here’s some other ideas of what to do with pluots, other than gobbling them down after walking the dog and before procrastinating on going for a run.

Five ways with Pluots

Corny

One hot summer’s afternoon in early December, I joined Nadine for a late afternoon swim at Brighton beach.  It was about 30 degrees even as the sun was setting, but the highlight of this jaunt was not the deliciously refreshing water, nor the gorgeous sunset over the bay, the tantalising views of the Melbourne skyline.

No; the highlight was sitting on the warm sand scoffing down corn on the cob doused with chipotle sauce, that Nadine had kindly brought along.

Corn has to be one of my favourite vegetables ever. Sweet, juicy, crunchy – what’s not to love? And this new version doused with spicy sauce rocked my world.

Since then I’ve thought about that corn more than once. I’ve made my own, however the delicious combination of butter, salt and pepper paled in comparison to the spicy goodness of the chipotle sauce.

Does that make me unfulfilled?

No longer. Tonight I was browsing through the aisles of my wonderful local fruit & veg shop, and found a jar of chipotle sauce hiding amongst various condiments. Needless to say I snapped it up faster than you can say “yum”!

I was already planning on cooking corn for dinner tonight, but this addition really made my night.

Chipotle corn

Here’s the end result in it’s full glory: garden salad, corn cob and lamb cutlets. Happy camper here.

Chipotle corn

Mmmmm….polenta

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.

Polenta Fries

Here’s my modified version.

Polenta Fries

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan, combine milk, chicken stock, and butter; bring to rolling boil. Slowly whisk in polenta.
  2. 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.
  3. Mix in cheese and parsley, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Spread polenta evenly over a cookie sheet, and refrigerate until cold.
  5. Transfer polenta to cutting board and cut into cut 3/4 by 3/4 by 3 1/2 inch sticks.
  6. Put on baking trays and cook in an oven preheated to 180 degrees until brown and crispy. Yum!

Polenta Fries

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!

Sherried Tomato Soup

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.

Sherried Tomato Soup

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

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. Add in sherry and cream and stir.
  3. 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.