On one of those balmy, yet Cape wintery type days my husband and I were invited to lunch at some lovely friends of ours in their beautifully renovated old family home. It was one of those blissful afternoons spent cooking, sharing and laughing in the kitchen in between glasses of champagne. Whilst my friend and I nattered about this and that, the men drank beer, talked rugby and entertained the young kids as they excitedly ran in and out the house, chasing rugby balls, soccer balls and even the resident rooster. You know it was one of those special few hours where you completely forget about the troubles and stresses of the week, the chores or the unfinished laundry back at home. It was just one of those perfect afternoons.
Back in the kitchen, my friend made this amazing dish of ham hock, beans, chorizo and tomatoes – her husband was quick to say that despite his wife’s considerable resume of cooking qualifications and accomplishments that it was actually his dish – yes he claimed it! I was duly informed that there was no actual recipe and they just throw things together– it was thick and rich and perfect with a piece of bread at the bottom. This is my type of cooking. This is cooking at its best – it’s slow, it’s full of flavour and full of love.
Most of the time, I too cook without recipes but being a blogger I have since forced myself into the discipline of writing everything down. So here you go – this is my version of this splendid ham hock soup pot – it is so delish and so nurturing and perfect for a cold winter’s night. To make matters and preparation simple I decided to use three ingredients of everything – and it worked out perfectly. You need about 4 hours for this so it may be a good idea to make it the day before.
There is also no doubt that this soup needs to be prepared with love and working your way through a few glasses of good red wine, swapping stories and spending some carefree idle hours in the company of good friends.
ham hock soup pot + wine + friends = perfect winter's day
3 Tins of beans (butter beans or black eyed beans etc)
30g Chorizo sliced thinly (optional)
Fry the onions, carrots, celery and garlic over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
Then add all the other ingredients except the beans + chorizo + oats and simmer for 3 hours.
After 3 hours add the beans, chorizo and oats and simmer for another hour.
Take the hock out – shred the meat and discard the skin and fat. Throw the meat back in the soup and serve piping hot with a delicious gremolate and some chopped chillies. Oh, yes and some chunky freshly baked bread.
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.
Derick Henstra is the Chairman of the company that I am very fortunate to work for. He is an amazing individual, architect, artist, food lover and wine connoisseur. A while ago he told me about a cauliflower soup with brie, smoked paprika and crostini (“little toasts” in Italian) that he ate in Durban. I immediately decided that I would have to make and taste this – I made it a bit different…choosing to roast the cauliflower … well, I cannot tell you how amazing it tasted. The smoked paprika certainly compliments the roasted cauliflower and the melting brie inside gives it just that extra edge. There is not one flavour that overpowers the other and all seems to come together in perfect harmony … it is a simple + beautiful bowl of joy! This one is for you dh … carpe diem.
Note: Smoked paprika is a wonderful ingredient but please use it sparingly + with respect. You can easily overpower the dish with its strong flavour. I bought the smoked paprika at Newport Deli in Cape Town.
roasted cauliflower soup with brie + smoked paprika + little toasts
2 Cups full-cream milk (if you want it richer you can replace one cup of milk with cream or you can use fat free milk as a more healthier option)
20g Butter (or more 🙂 )
1 Large pinch of salt
Black pepper to taste
125g Brie cheese – cut into 6 pieces
Smoked Paprika to sprinkle over the soup.
Preparing the "little toasts"
Cut a French loaf into thin slices and toast in toaster.
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.
Put cauliflower and onion in bowl – pour the olive oil over it and swirl the contents around in the bowl until all the vegetable pieces are lightly covered in oil. Place on baking tray and bake in the oven for +- 25 - 30 minutes until roasted and browned.
Take a pot, add the water and the stock cube.
Add the cauliflower and onion and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Add the milk and liquidize. It will have a nice thick consistency. If you find the consistency too thick just add a bit of extra milk.
Add the butter and season with salt and pepper. Please taste and use more salt if needed.
Pour piping hot soup into bowls. Put a wedge of brie in each, then add the "little toasts" on top and sprinkle lightly with smoked paprika!
This is my all-time favourite winter soup recipe. It lies very close to my heart for two reasons – I was introduced to this recipe by my wonderful chef friend, Louis Verwey (the recipe was very different then and I developed it as I went along into what it is today) and secondly this recipe took me through to the Top 50 of Masterchef SA and earned three overwhelming and resounding yes’s from judges Andrew, Bennie and Pete. My Masterchef journey was an incredible experience, it was an amazing roller coaster ride of emotions, nerves and sheer excitement but the best part was meeting all the fantastic people who all share a common passion – cooking! This adventure re-ignited in me the fire and a burning desire to learn and share in the fun, frivolity and sheer pleasure that comes with cooking and everything culinary. I am very proud to have made it into the Top 35 only to be booted out on the potato challenge. Needless to say I have not cooked or peeled a potato again – but that is a story for another day…enough about me…back to this exquisite soup …
1 onion, cut in half (I keep the skin on - I only peel the onion if I want to make a clear stock)
1 carrot, chopped (…again keep the skin on – didn’t we learn that all the nutritional value lies in the skin?)
5 black pepper corns
2 cardamom pods
1 clove of garlic cut in half
1 small bunch of parsley
350g white fish – I use small whole hakes which I cut into chunks
1 clove garlic, finely grated
24 mussels in ½ shell
400 g kingklip (or any other firm white fish), cut into cubes of +- 2.5cm x 2.5cm
12 de-veined prawns with shells – I love to keep heads on – if you do take the heads off, don’t discard these….add them to your stock
45 ml flour
10 ml masala (I mix my own from the following ground ingredients: 15 ml turmeric, 15ml cumin, 10 ml coriander, 10 ml fennel, 15 ml hot “curry powder” this you can get from your local spice shop or supermarket)
30 ml tomato paste
1 ½ chicken stock cube, crumbled
2 large tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
Juice of ½ small lemon
For the gremolata
30 ml chopped parsley
1 clove garlic, finely grated
Zest of one lemon
One big squeeze of lemon juice
30 ml olive oil
Prepare your stock by adding the first 9 ingredients in a pot and let it simmer for 20 minutes.
Take the mussels and place them in a sieve and then put it in the stock to cook for 2 minutes. I do this to infuse the juices in the stock (and to defrost if still frozen). Take out and leave aside.
Repeat the same process with the prawns – leave to simmer for about 3-4 minutes in the stock. Take out and set aside
Take the stock and strain through a very fine sieve. Set aside. (You can discard the stock ingredients but it does make for a very nutritious and fishy treat for my two canine children!)
Add the finely grated garlic to this stock.
Now, melt the butter in a pot. Add the flour to make a roux. Stir for about 2-3 minutes. Then add the tomato paste and masala. Stir well.
Add the warm stock - ladle by ladle - whisking briskly to make sure it does not form lumps. Once you have added the stock, bring it up to simmer - you will see that it has now thickened.
Add the stock cube and the chopped tomatoes. Cook for about 5 minutes. Stir well.
Now add the raw fish and let it simmer for +-3 minutes, then add the prawns and mussels.
Add the lemon juice and stir lightly – be careful not to break the fish! Season for taste by adding salt and pepper, lemon juice.
Simmer for a 5-10 minutes.
Lastly, mix the last 4 ingredients together to make the gremolata and set aside
To serve – in the bottom of a soup bowl put a dollop of the gremolata. Take the prawns out of the soup and place 2 prawns on each plate, add 3 or more pieces of fish. Strain the fish soup through a sieve and pour in the bowl around the fish and prawns. Add 3-4 mussels on top.
Garnish with a few drops of gremolata on top. Serve immediately.