Escaping to the Blue Mountains: two soups and a spicy curry

For the past few days we have been staying in an adorable cottage in the Blue Mountains. We’ll staying the entire week.

Reading a lot, writing a lot. And taking photos.

Today it’s about zero degrees (or so it feels to us, softies that we are), and drizzling rain.

We’ve been pottering around the house in flannelette shirts, red wine in hand, nibbling rum’n’raisin chocolate and playing rummy in front of the fireplace.

While confined to the house, I’ve had the luxury of simmering soup for hours, slow-cooking a curry, and generally appreciating all that is warm and comforting.

Today I’ll share with you the hot and sour soup I whipped up yesterday, a more traditional vegetable and bean soup that sat on the stove for a good two hours before making it’s way into our tummies at lunchtime, and a spicy, creamy, slow-cooked mushroom and eggplant vindaloo.

First up, hot and sour soup.

La Dolce Vegan, you’ve done it again. This soup was delicious, and I didn’t even have all the right ingredients. I’ll tell you what I used, and what I would have used had I brought up all of the ingredients, and you can do with it what you will. I personalised the recipe even further by bulking up the vegetables and ditching the tofu. Why eat tofu when you can eat the real thing, edamame? Tofu doesn’t even look like a soybean. Anyway, that’s a story for another day.

No slow-cooking required here; this soup is quick to make and very easy. We walked up to the local fruit and vegetable grocer yesterday morning, got home loaded with fresh veggies, then I cooked the soup and had it for brunch before rushing out of the house to catch the train to explore Katoomba.

Hot and sour soup (serves 2)

Adapted from La Dolce Vegan. I put the stock and water on to boil and added ingredients as I prepped them, and it worked out just fine. Way to go for a quick, easy lunch.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups chicken-style stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 ½ tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
  • 1 scant tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp minced chilli
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1 small celery stem, chopped
  • 3 handfuls mushrooms, chopped (I used button, but I’d say a mix of Asian mushrooms would be better)
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar (or rice vinegar – I didn’t bring any with me)
  • 2 heads baby bok choy, chopped

Method:

  1. In a medium pot on high heat, bring stock and water to the boil.
  2. Add soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sugar and chilli. Lower heat and simmer for a few minutes while you grate the carrot and chop the celery.
  3. Add carrot and celery, and simmer for another few minutes while you chop the mushies.
  4. Add the mushies, simmer for 5 minutes, then add the vinegar and bok choy, and simmer until the bok choy is wilted.
  5. Serve and slurp.

————-

Next up, we have the vegetable and bean soup.

I used a bit of smoked paprika to lift otherwise traditional flavours, and added chilli for extra oomph. I used to pigeon-hole chilli as an Asian, Mexican or Indian ingredient, but since discovering that chilli often features in traditional Italian dishes, I’ve realised the error of my ways. It lifts this soup from tasty-but-ordinary to damn-that-warmed-me-right-to-my-bones. But not enough to burn your mouth.

I cooked up enough to make leftovers to re-stock the freezer. Mmmm.

And I apologise for the lack of photos. The camera has finally run out of steam so the battery was charging while this was being cooked and eaten. Trust me when I say that it is pretty.

Hot vegetable and bean soup (serves 6)

I’ve added a new page to my tips section, telling you how to sauté without oil. Using water, stock, or a mixture of water and soy sauce or vinegar, you can sauté or stir-fry vegetables without any added fat. Better to eat fat in the packaging nature provides – fibre and nutrients – such as in the form of nuts, seeds and avocado.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water, mixed with 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 onions, 1 diced, 1 halved and sliced
  • 2 carrots, 1 grated, 1 chopped
  • 1 big celery stalk, chopped
  • ½ head garlic, smashed and chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1.5 litres chicken-style stock
  • 2 tsp minced chilli
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1.5 cups cooked legumes (I used something that looked like a black bean when I bought it but when cooked looked more like a mung bean. The label was in some Asian language. So you know, use whatever. White beans would work well too.)
  • 1 head baby bok choy, sliced finely and chopped

Method:

  1. Heat a large pot on high heat, and sauté the onion, carrot and celery in the water mix for 5-10 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.
  2. Add the garlic, tomato, stock, chilli, paprika and legumes. If there is any water mixture left throw that in too.
  3. Bring to the boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, for at least 15 minutes, but better if it’s an hour or two.
  4. Just before serving, stir through the bok choy and simmer until it’s wilted.
  5. Serve with crusty bread if that’s your thing.

Last but most certainly not least, creamy, slow-cooked mushroom and eggplant vindaloo.

Vindaloo is traditionally a drier curry, the hottest dish on an Indian menu. So it’s usually served with rice and lassi, a yoghurt drink. Given that we’re not in the habit of drinking the milk of other mammals, I’ve instead made the curry itself creamy with the addition of coconut milk, to help offset the chilli punch. And Ash requested a saucy curry. In the end we found it quite mild.

Instead of serving it with rice, which personally I think is a bit of a waste of empty calories, we piled mixed salad leaves in bowls and spooned vindaloo goodness over the top. The leaves seemed to just melt into the curry sauce, and it meant we were each still eating a bowl of salad greens with dinner.

Slow-cooked creamy vindaloo (serves 4)

Adapted from the Australian Women’s Weekly Cooking School.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water, mixed with 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 onion, diced finely
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp garum masala
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 tsp minced chilli
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 10 cup mushrooms, halved
  • 1 medium eggplant, cubed
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 cups beef-style stock
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 handfuls green beans, ends trimmed and chopped
  • 1 head broccoli, chopped into florets and bits of stalk
  • 1 bunch greens, sliced and chopped (I used Tuscan cabbage because it’s delicious and insanely nutritious)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Method:

  1. If you’re going to slow-cook this, preheat your oven to 120C.
  2. In a large ovenproof pan sauté onion in a bit of the water mixture until the onion is translucent (I brought my chef’s pan with me. If you don’t have anything suitable, you can transfer everything from a skillet to a casserole dish and back again).
  3. Add the garlic, spices, chilli and ginger and sauté for a minute or so, adding more water mixture to stop it sticking. It’s a good idea to measure the spices etc out into a small bowl beforehand so that you can just throw them all in at once.
  4. Add the mushrooms and eggplant and sauté for 10 minutes or until the mushrooms have coloured and shrunk a bit.
  5. Add any leftover water mixture, the vinegar and stock and either pop in the oven, covered, or lower the heat on the stove and cover.
  6. If you’re slow-cooking it, leave in the oven for 4-5 hours, stirring each hour. If you’re cooking it on the stovetop, just simmer for 30 minutes.
  7. Take the pan out of the oven, add the coconut milk, cover and simmer on the stovetop for 30 minutes.
  8. Take the lid off, add the carrots and beans and simmer for 15 minutes.
  9. Add the broccoli and greens, put the lid back on and simmer for another 15 minutes.
  10. Stir through the lemon juice and serve.

Finally, did you know Hardy’s wines are vegan? No? Well they are, and they sell at Dan Murphy’s for just a few dollars. Winner!

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