Category Archives: Food Diary

Minted Pea and Watercress Soup

Minted Pea & Watercress Soup

When I first moved to England, I was mystified by the presence of watercress on the shelves alongside more common salad greens like spinach, “baby leaves” and arugula (“rocket”, that is). It’s available all year round, though it’s at its best April through September.

Still, even when watercress is at its prime, I have a hard time dealing with it raw – it’s flavour is bitter, slightly peppery, which I often find overpowering when served in a salad or as a garnish. So I’ve been exploring watercress’s other uses, treating it more as an herb, and in the process have discovered some great ways to use this pungent green outside of the salad bowl.

The sweet peas and refreshing mint in this recipe balance the peppery watercress, and it’s super delicious garnished with croutons, toasted seeds, or a hard boiled egg (or all of the above!).

This soup requires a blender – I use a Froothie power blender which blitzes even the toughest of pea membranes and watercress stems into a fine puree. If you are working with a stick blender or something less powerful, you can strain out any stray solids after blend it to get a silky smooth and luxurious soup. Enjoy!

Minted Pea and Watercress Soup

Serves 4

  • 1 bunch of watercress, large (washed)
  • 800ml of vegetable stock
  • 30ml of sunflower oil or olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 potato, cubed
  • 1 bunch of fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • 400g of shelled peas, fresh or frozen

Method

  1. Coarsely chop the watercress, stalks and all, and place in a small saucepan with the stock. Bring to a simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and leave to infuse
  2. Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onion. Cook on a low heat until softened but not coloured. Add the potato, stir, cover and cook until soft. Add the mint, peas and infused stock and watercress. Season and simmer for 2 minutes
  3. Place the soup in a blender and purée, then return the soup to the saucepan (you can strain the soup through a sieve if you like, to get rid of any tough-to-blend stalky bits, but if you have a powerful blender like a Froothie, it should be able to purée everything into a silky smooth soup)
  4. Serve warm garnished with boiled eggs, toasted seeds, a swirl of sour cream, croutons, or whatever you like – meat eaters might enjoy a sprinkling of crispy bacon

Just a heads up: this post contains affiliate links to the Froothie website – I’m a ambassador for their brand because, well, their blenders rule!  

Grilled Mackerel with Watercress, Fennel & Orange Salad

Mackerel with watercress, fennel and orange salad.

My mackerel flipping skills need work, but otherwise this was the perfect lunch following a tough workout at CrossFit Cirencester: grilled mackerel with a salad of watercress, fennel, orange, spring onions and pomegranate, dressed with a little olive oil and salt (the salt pulls out the juices in the fruit so you don’t need vinegar). Extremely quick to make. Big props to Ben at New Wave Fish Shop who recommended this ingredient combination. I feel restored!

And since I’ve been talking macronutrients lately, this was about 400 calories, 22g fat, 19g carbs, 30g protein.

Asian Inspiration

Caramelised Coconut Mackerel from Uyen Luu's book

I’ve just had a super terrific reunion weekend with three of my great friends, Kavey, Pete and Marie. We’ve been anticipating this meet-up for months (FYI: Pinterest is awesome for brainstorming foodie get togethers) and, as usual, hatched some ambitious plans for our menu. I can always count on Kavey to come armed with fun new cookbooks to try, and this weekend it was Uyen Luu’s My Vietnamese Kitchen, which became the focus of our cooking adventures and also inspired us to go with an Asian theme throughout the weekend. As a result, I’m feeling that dopamine high of having learned so many new things! Steamed fish, Shaoxing wine, fried rice, Vietnamese omelettes, Chinese salad dressings, tempura vegetables, new ways with tofu, not to mention some delicious drinks to go with them, and a few solid GAMES to keep us busy between courses (I. Love. Carcassonne.).

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I thought I’d share a few of the recipes that I particularly enjoyed.

We loved Uyen Luu’s Omelette Bánh Mi with quick pickled carrots; the perfect thing for Saturday Lunch. We also loved her Caramelised Coconut Sardines (which we adapted with mackerel, pictured above).

Saturday Lunch: Bahn Mi and Beer

Warm tofu with spicy garlic sauce, perhaps one of the easiest and most delicious preparations for tofu that I’ve ever come across.

Warm Tofu with Spicy Garlic Sauce

Miso Sesame Dressing, a sauce so nice we made it twice! First to go with panko fried vegetables on Friday night, and we liked it so much that we did it again on Saturday for veggie tempura.

Crispy Salad with Grated Carrots and a Ponzu Soy Dressing from Harumi Kurihara’s Everyday Harumi (another stellar book find).

Harumi Kurihara's Crisp Salad with Grated Carrots and Ponzu Soy Dressing

Steamed Sea Bream with Ginger and Spring Onion, adapted from Fuchsia Dunlop’s sea bass recipe on matchingfoodandwine.com (we couldn’t get a hold of whole sea bass so used sea bream fillets which worked a charm). This was very simple to make and totally outstanding. Plus, it added a new ingredient to my cooking repertoire: Shaoxing wine!

Steamed sea bream with ginger and spring onion

Spicy Peanut Noodles, another Fuchsia recipe and a perfect side dish for the fish. I’ll definitely be making the peanut sauce again to use on all manners of tasty things (veggie “noodles” come to mind).

Dutch Baby Pancake with Green Tea Ice Cream.

Clafoutis with Whisky-Soaked Dates (adapted from Kate Hill‘s recipe), served with Uyen Luu’s Vietnamese Frozen Yogurt.

Made @katedecamont's clafoutis last night, with whiskey-soaked dates. Leftovers going down well for breakfast with @lovelulu's frozen yogurt.

 

Do check out Uyen Luu’s book, My Vietnamese Kitchen, and while you’re at it, check out my friends’ awesome websites too: Kavey EatsPete Drinks and Lanyon Cottages.

There’s also a few more awesome pictures from our weekend (Banangrams, Pina Coladas, Yahtzee!) on Flickr.

Clean Detox Day 21: The end – or the beginning?

Clean detox day 21

Breakfast: Creamy fig and cardamom smoothie. 3 figs, 50g avocado, 1 tsp flaxseed, 7g almonds, 1 prune (from Gascony!), ice, water and a few crushed cardamom seeds. ~260 calories. I was hoping for a more vibrant purple than I got but the taste was nice.

Lunch: A curried soup made by pureeing leftover dal and curried courgettes with some veggie stock. Garnished with cilantro and coconut chutney.

Dinner: Mexican night. Refried black beans, roast butternut squash, cumin-spiced zucchini, guacamole, green salad.

Thus marks the end of my detox. I’m not exactly eager to finish this thing because I’ve been feeling so good on it so I don’t expect my diet will change very much. I am very much looking forward to re-introducing “nightshade” vegetables back into my diet (tomatoes and peppers!). But I’m not pining for coffee or alcohol as much as I thought I would. And I’m also really looking forward to my next breakfast smoothie. Detox for life? We’ll see… more to come in a follow-up post…

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Clean Detox Day 20: Never mind the bread bowl

Clean detox day 20

Breakfast: Beetroot, apple & ginger smoothie. It kicks butt: 1/2 apple, 1/2 raw beetroot, 1 prune, 1cm piece of ginger, 30g spinach, 40g avocado, 2tsp flaxseed, fresh mint, ice, water.

Lunch: Black bean soup in a roasted butternut squash “bowl” with avocado and sprinkled with Piment d’Esplette. This was awesome!

Dinner: Middle eastern food with my Airbnb guests. Quinoa salad with raisins, olives and quinoa (adapted from Ottolenghi’s chermoula aubergine with bulgar and yogurt recipe, which I served to my guests). Plus hummus, green beans and salad. Enjoyable!

Related Links:

Clean Detox Day 19

Clean detox day 19

It is with SOME disappointment that I finish my days on the detox with Airbnb guests in town – they’ve wanted dinner each night of their stay. Good fun, but it also means I’ve been having my solid meals in the evening. No big deal.

Breakfast: Beetroot, avocado and date smoothie with cumin, cocoa & mint (inspired by Sumayya’s Chocolate Chilli Lassi. Recipe: 1 raw beet peeled and quartered (~100g), 50g avocado, two dates, 30g spinach, pinch of cinnamon, a few cumin seeds, a few mint leaves, a dash of cayenne, 1/2 tsp cocoa, ~1cup ice, ~2/3 cup water, small pinch of salt. Blitz on high until creamy and smooth!

Lunch: Black beans soup with avocado and pumpkin seed garnish. Ugly but tasty.

Dinner: Indian feast. Red lentil dal, cabbage and carrot sambhara, courgette curry, besan cheela and coconut chutney. (I forgot to take a picture of the meal so I’ve included a picture of the leftovers instead!)

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Clean Detox Day 18: Peach smoothie, curried courgette soup and baked falafel

Clean detox day 18

Breakfast: Peach and mango smoothie with avocado (fie for shame I cannot remember what else went into this, but probably some nuts and/or flax seeds).

Lunch: Courgette soup again, a redux of Simi’s Curried Courgette Soup, this time with loads of coriander and lemon juice.

Dinner: One of my favourite things, detox or otherwise: Baked Falafel with a fattoush salad (sans pita), tahini sauce and pickles.

Related Links:

Clean Detox Day 17: Indian spices everywhere

Clean detox day 17

Breakfast: “Peachy green” smoothie. 200g fresh peaches, 50g avocado, 20g kale, 7g almond butter, 1 tsp flaxseed, 1 date, ~1 cup ice and enough water to blend. The peaches could have been riper/sweeter – hence the date. But pretty good nevertheless!

Lunch:  Besan cheela with sambhara (Gujerati-style cabbage and carrots) and green coconut chutney . A delicious mess on the plate. But note to self: leftover besan cheela have very little structural integrity.

Dinner: A soup good enough to be blog-worthy: Indian-style pumpkin soup adapted from the ever reliable How to Cook Everything: Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. (A good use for a spare can or jar of pumpkin puree.)

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Clean Detox Day 16: Green apple smoothie, roast salmon and broccoli soup

Clean detox day 16

Breakfast: Green apple smoothie made with 1.5 apples (~150g), 50g avocado, 1 date, 30g kale, 5g almonds, 100ml water, ~1 cup of ice, a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg. Very autumnal and no doubt the destiny for many of those apples ripening up in the OC orchard! I think some fresh ginger needs to come into play next time.

Lunch: Roasted salmon with sautéed vegetables, dill and lemon. Until now I haven’t been thrilled with my fish creations, but this I really liked. The lesson: keep it simple, stupid! I followed this very basic technique for the oven-roasted salmon. Also, I’m really into dill at the moment.

Dinner: Broccoli soup with avocado, wild garlic pesto and lemon. Another simple soup but I liked it. Another bonus to these pureed soups is you can make them all about ONE vegetable, one flavour profile, rather than a hodgepodge of veggie mush. And here, the wild garlic pesto is perfect with the broccoli (it’d probably also go well with cauliflower soup, too).

Snacks: Fresh figs, nectarine

Figs.

 

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Clean Detox Day 15: Cream of all the soups!

Clean detox day 15

Breakfast: A variation on the black and blue smoothie, made with blackberries, mango, avocado, kale, flax seeds plus a dash of cinnamon and a couple drops of orange flower water.

Lunch: Besan cheelas (Indian chickpea flour pancakes) with Indian cabbage salad and coconut coriander chutney. Not sure why I took so long to make these pancakes – they’re quick, easy and awesomely delicious, plus that have that eat-with-your hands delight that makes them all the more satisfying. You can also make them non-Indian style (the Italian version is called farinata). I love to wrap the cabbage salad inside the besan cheela and eat with chutney, so I made some coconut coriander chutney following this recipe but it was a little mealy (the recipe uses desiccated/dried coconut). Maybe I should have soaked the coconut first? Or maybe I need to face a real coconut and bust out the hammer.

Clean detox day 15

Dinner: If I’ve learned one thing on my detox, it’s that if you saute any kind of vegetable with onions and garlic, then puree it with cashews and veggie stock, you get the most amazing silky smooth soup that’s basically a vegan version of all those “Cream of” style soups that I have such fond memories of. Today’s was a “cream” of celery soup inspired by my friend Sharon, garnished with that crispy kale I’m so into at the moment.

Clean detox day 15

I’m now scheming all kinds of other creamy soups I can make… cream of cauliflower… cream of broccoli… cream of asparagus! And let’s just give a shout out to the whole vegan protein bonus that the cashews bring to the soup. I reckon other nuts will be worth trying… almonds, brazil nuts… pistachios!

When tomatoes and peppers are back in my life, I’m thinking an almond version of the classic African peanut soup will be worth a try. Next week!

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