I love wheat….and I love Italians. I am fascinated by the way Italians eat and the way they cook – it is the simplicity and the flavours, their history and the la famiglia. I grew up with wheat on our table and have always loved the earthy crunchiness of wheat, its healthy and nutritious in so many forms, its cheap and then of course it is also grown just around the corner from us in Malmesbury. What got me thinking about Italians and wheat was a fabulous foodie get-together with #chicksthatchow (see below)* at the Italian restaurant, Zibaldone. It was a spectacular feast of Italian cuisine and the kind of atmosphere that makes a South African like me feel part of the greater La Famiglia…
What stole my heart and took my gastronomic spirit on a wheat journey was the lamb tortellini with creamed pearl barley. Out of my endless curiosity when it comes to food, I had to explore wheat as a risotto ingredient. I went back to Jamie’s basic risotto recipe that I use every time I make risotto and tweaked it somewhat by replacing the risotto rice with wheat and added some martini and mascarpone cheese. It is so delicious and crunchy. It has such a proud and distinctive nutty undertone of flavour and can be enjoyed as a main meal or accompany any beef or lamb dish.
*About #chicksthatchow: we are a group of “taste, tipple and tweet” women who celebrate life, happiness and all things good over a serving of fabulous food and a glass or two of the best pressed grapes whenever or wherever the mood or the menu may take us. #chicksthatchow was founded by the inspiring and enchanting Errieda du Toit, aka @huiskok and now the presiding President of #chicksthatchow.
1 Cup of wheat – pre-cooked for 25 minutes without salt in the water
1T Olive oil
1 T Butter
1 Medium onion – finely chopped
1 Celery stick – finely chopped
2 Cloves garlic – grated
60ml Martini Bianco
450 ml Stock of your choice
40g Grated parmesan
2 Generous tablespoons of mascarpone cheese
500g Mushrooms – any sort – thinly sliced
2T Olive oil
2T Fresh thyme –leaves picked
2 Cloves garlic – grated
Pinch of chilli powder
Big squeeze of lemon juice
30g Chopped parsley
Prepare the mushrooms first: Cook the mushrooms, thyme and garlic in the olive oil and butter in batches in a very hot pan – season each batch with salt and black pepper. Do not let the mushrooms become soggy; they should be a beautiful nutty and brown colour.
When cooked add the chilli powder, a squeeze of lemon juice and the chopped parsley and then set aside.
Melt the butter over medium heat in a pot and add the olive oil.
Add the onion and celery and fry for about 5 minutes till translucent.
Add the garlic and let it fry for another few minutes then add the cooked wheat. Slowly fry the wheat for a minute or two.
Add the Martini – and stir till the martini has evapourated.
Now start adding the stock ladle by ladle – allow each ladle to be absorbed by your ingredients in the pot before you add the next one.
Continue until all stock has been added to the saucepan. Remember… your wheat needs to stay moist and creamy.
Now add the mushrooms – give it a good stir.
Then add the parmesan and mascarpone.
Taste for seasoning – it is not normally necessary to add salt – but I always give it an extra pinch of black pepper.
Serve with beautiful fresh Italian bread and a glass of good red wine.
Vegetable Soup – A couple of weeks back I invited a few foodie friends over to watch the finale of Mastechef SA, as it was winter I thought it would be appropriate to put on a large pot of my vegetable soup for the occasion. It went down a treat; the problem came about when they all asked me to share the recipe. This proved to be quite difficult as I don’t have a recipe for this soup. The way it works in my house is that I make soup on Sundays. I open the fridge, take out all the veggies + herbs that I did not use over the previous week and make a steaming pot of soup with it. So…to be frank, the recipe below is a list of all the items leftover in my fridge from last week…
If you think the recipe seems a bit long, do not be put off, once you get the hang of it and taste of it you will be making this soup for generations to come. The thing about soup is, you have to make it your own … put in the effort and spend that little extra time…I can promise you it is worth every little spoonful. Enjoy making it and remember to serve it with love.
I do have 10 tips that I have picked up along the way that I would like to share with you when making this soup:
1. Don’t be in a hurry – take your time… and love the process – that is why I normally do it on Sundays – it takes time to grate and chop. Make big bowl of this soup… the soup freezes very well and will never go to waste!
2. Use the veggies + herbs – even lettuce, rocket – whatever you have in your fridge or veggie basket…..the stuff you did not use during the week and want to throw away.
3. Look in your freezer and use all those small packets of frozen veg that you still have not got around to using…
4. The five basic vegetable ingredients that you have to put in to your pot are the following: potatoes, carrots, onions, celery + tomatoes.
5. I always leave the skin on all my vegetables.
6. I grate my vegetables …that is if they are grate-able – it cooks faster and I feel the flavours infuse just that much better.
7. Veggies like broccoli and cauliflower – use the stems – cut them into thin slices – it adds to the beautiful chunkiness of the soup.
8. Parmesan skins – when you buy and use parmesan – don’t throw the skin or rind away – keep them in your freezer and use this in your soup – it adds a wonderful richness.
9. The secret ingredients of my soup : cloves, pesto (any flavour), whole pepper corns, parmesan cheese skins and grated, instant tomato cream soup, oats, good stock to cover the veggies, Worcestershire sauce, sun-dried tomatoes and always a bit of butter.
10. To serve always finish your soup with a drizzle of olive oil , chopped parsley and some parmesan shavings.
350 g Tomatoes either chopped or rosa tomatoes halved
200g Baby marrows - sliced
150g Cauliflower - cut into chunks
130g Broccoli - cut into chunks
2 Long pieces of celery - chopped
80g Cucumber - chopped
300g Frozen peas
50g Sundried tomatoes - chopped
10g Fresh coriander - chopped
25g Garlic - grated
20 Black peppercorns
20g Fresh parsley - chopped
1t Chillie flakes
410g Tinned chopped tomatoes (1 tin)
2 Stock cubes (Vegetable or chicken)
75-100g Parmesan skins
3L Water (or 3L of good stock – then omit the stock cubes and remember to add more salt)
100g Dry pasta (I use spaghetti and normally break the spaghetti up into small pieces)
2x 410g Sugar beans (drain the fluid) – you can even replace this with tins of baked beans
60 ml Olive oil
1 Packet cream of tomato soup mixed with 500 ml cold water
1T Worcestershire sauce
100g Pesto (any basil or rocket pesto)
100g Parmesan cheese grated
1t Black pepper
Put all A ingredients into a large pot and bring to boil. Simmer for 30 minutes on medium heat. Please remember to stir frequently. As this is a big pot of ingredients, it can easily burn if you don't keep a watchful eye on it.
Now add all the B ingredients and simmer for a further 20 minutes.
Then add all the C ingredients – stir well – and simmer for 10 minutes.
At the end please taste for seasoning – adding salt and pepper as per your individual taste or preference.
To serve: Drizzle some olive oil over the soup, add some chopped parsley and some parmesan shavings.