Spiced Cauliflower Soup

Like so many others – if social media is anything to go by – I’m somewhat struggling to eat well during this time of social isolation and lack of routine. This week was particularly hard for a multitude of reasons, but while those reasons are understandable (a crash of emotions, a huge change to my routine, or what passes for one these days, into one that is significantly more stressful, and one which I find even more challenging than it’s predecessor… my husband’s birthday… finally being allowed out to see people… the list goes on), they’re irrelevant. The fact of the matter is, I feel so much better both mentally and physically when I eat well and exercise. The dog helps me with the latter, but I have to take responsibility for the former. Of course, that’s not about restricting food, it’s just about upping the plants and being mindful of what I’m eating and how it’s affecting me. This week I’ve felt slumpy and grumpy, and at least some of that feeling like crap is related to the fact that I’ve been eating like crap. There’s a chicken/egg element to it, too, but it’s a cycle that isn’t too hard to break once you identify it.

Which brings me to this soup. Not an atonement (because I didn’t do anything wrong – food isn’t a moral compass), not a punishment (food is a blessing, NEVER a punishment!!), just a step back into what makes my tastebuds, mind and body feel good: simple, delicious, nutritious food. A kickstart out of the doldrums and back into mindfulness to all aspects of my life. Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, it is a bowlful of flavour and comfort that tastes divine, fills you up, makes your house smell like heaven, and brings some sensory interest to a very strange yet boring world. All for 10 minutes of easy prep, 20 minutes of simmering away, and a handful of really simple, nourishing ingredients that you probably have stashed already (you can definitely use frozen cauliflower for this). At 211 calories a bowl, it’s also a very low calorie option, perfect if (again, like me) you’re leaning on bread for a little emotional support right now. I can attest that an English Muffin with just a smear of cottage cheese is a perfect companion to this soup.

Serves 4, rather generously

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon whole fenugreek seeds

1 medium onion, peeled and diced

2 baby chat potatoes (about 200g), washed and diced

2 teaspoons minced ginger

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes (more to taste)

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 small cauliflower

400g tinned tomatoes

3 cups vegetable stock

Salt and pepper, to taste (I ditched the salt and went to town with the pepper)

Yoghurt (coconut if you’re keeping it vegan) to serve

Method

  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add cumin and fenugreek seeds, and wait a few seconds for them to pop.
  2. Immediately add onion and potato, and stir to coat with seeds. Stir in garlic and ginger and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Reduce heat to low and add cauliflower and spices. Cook, stirring, for a further 5 minutes, ensuring the vegetables are evenly coated.
  4. Stir in stock and tomatoes, season, and bring to the boil. Reduce back to low, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes, until everything is very tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  5. Use a stick blender to blitz to desired consistency. I like to blend about half way to smooth – I like some texture, so ensure that tiny bits of florets and at least a few small cubes of potato are left intact.
  6. Ladle into bowls and season. Top with yoghurt, if using, and serve.

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Spicy Cauliflower and Potato (Aloo Gobi)

In the interminable search for vegetarian lunches, I have found yet ANOTHER spicy roasted cauliflower dish. Who’d ever have thought that I’d be tripping over myself to roast cauliflowers constantly? Sometimes, I don’t even recognise myself. But as with most veggies, roasting cauliflower to sweet perfection is the most wonderful way to avoid the soggy blandness that comes from steaming (or gods forbid, boiling!) them. I wish I’d learned this earlier, I was choking cauli down until I was 30. Now I can’t get enough of it!

I’m really hesitant to call this Aloo Gobi: the spirit is there, but I don’t think we’re talking authenticity here. However, what we ARE talking is a delightfully fragrant bowlful of vegetable goodness that keeps you satisfied both physically and emotionally, and makes your little corner of the world smell like heaven. AND IT’S VEGAN, so we can all feel a little smug on this coolish Meatless Monday. Or not. The vegan-ness isn’t really a selling point for me, and I didn’t even bother mentioning it to the husband. At any rate, it’s healthy and delicious. And low calorie – 250 calories per serve, and chock full of nutrition. Winner winner vegan dinner!

Serves 4 (smallish, but not ridiculously so, serves)

Ingredients

1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
600g baby chat potatoes, diced
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2tbs olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed under the heel of a knife
2 teaspoons minced chilli
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 cup water

Parsley, to serve.

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200C. Spray two baking trays with oil.
  2. Arrange cauliflower and potatoes on trays, spray with oil and sprinkle with cumin seeds. Season.
  3. Roast vegetables, turning halfway through, for about 30 minutes until until cauliflower is tender and browned in spots (just a little char isn’t a bad thing) and potatoes are just cooked.
  4. Meanwhile, cook onion, garlic, chilli, and ginger in olive oil over low heat in a medium sized pan for 8 minutes or until it begins to turn golden and soft. Stir frequently.
  5. Add ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, and cook, stirring constantly for a minute or so. Stir in water, scraping any caramelised bits from the pan. Allow to thicken slightly
  6. Stir in roasted vegetables, turning to coat in the spice mixture.
  7. Serve, sprinkled with parsley.

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Grilled Kangaroo with Agrodolce sauce

Meat as rich and gamey as kangaroo just begs to be paired the syrupy sweet and sour cherry sauce, all sitting atop a bed of peppery leaves, and is simply a match made in heaven. Use a good wine for this one; you can taste it. I used a Pepperjack Cabernet Sauvignon, and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the bottle with the meal.  


I need to give a big shout out to The Australian Womens Weekly Low Carb Clean Eating cookbook for this one. It’s been a fantastic source of inspiration since I bought it just after Christmas. I love it, because while it CLEARLY has a focus on clean eating, low carb recipes, it doesn’t bemoan missing anything. It celebrates what the recipes DO showcase, and gets the reader excited about the ingredients that are in the recipe, not what could be in there if it weren’t focused on clean eating. I really appreciate that, and find a lot of clean eating books/websites follow a similar tone, which is great. It makes healthy eating so much easier when your resources are proud of what they are, and don’t apologise for not being something else, or over compensate for anything. In a world of detoxes and punishing people for loving food, it’s refreshing.

There are so many recipes from this book that will make it on here, because I’ve only come across one or two so far that aren’t amazing. But I always adapt to suit myself, so I’ll be posting them here so that I don’t forget what I’ve been doing. For example, I used pretty much all the ingredients from the book to make this sensational kangaroo dish, but mine looks absolutely NOTHING like the recipe suggests. But, oh, the taste! The flavours are beyond anything I’ve ever made in my kitchen before. So complex and deep, it’s the best thing I’ve cooked this year.

serves 4 (400 calories per serve)

Ingredients
800g kangaroo filet, marinated in 2tbs olive oil for 30 minutes if not bought pre-oiled
1tbs olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 red capsicum, thinly sliced
300g cherries, pitted (feel free to use frozen or canned)
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup good red wine
1tbs honey very good quality golden syrup or honey
60g baby spinach, washed
¼ large red cabbage, thinly sliced

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200C. In a frypan, heat oil on medium heat and cook onion and capsicum until softened but not coloured – about 8 minutes.
  2. Add cherries, wine, vinegar and honey/golden syrup and bring to a simmer. Cook, covered, for about 8 minutes.
  3. Heat a grill pan on high and cook kangaroo for 2 minutes. Transfer to oven tray and roast for 8 minutes while the agrodolce sauce simmers away. Stir occasionally.
  4. Remove from oven, cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, increase agrodolce sauce to high until it reduces and is thick and syrupy – about 3 minutes. While it is bubbling away, reheat the grill pan and stir fry the cabbage until softened, but not soggy or losing its purply hue – no more than 1 minute.
  6. Arrange plate with baby spinach and cabbage, top with kangaroo meat and drizzle with the agrodolce sauce.
  7. Serve with a good crack of black pepper, and sprinkle of salt, and a glass of the remaining wine.

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Spicy Cauliflower and Chickpea Salad

I’ve mentioned before that I’ll never make it as a vegetarian, and certainly would fail miserably as a vegan. I’d give myself until my second meal until I slipped up on something minor (like the time I put sprinkles on vegan cupcakes for a vegan family member – luckily, I caught myself just in time to decorate the second half with berries), and just give up altogether.

In saying that, I’m playing around with vegetarian lunches a lot – not for any real ethical or health benefits (although I do recognise that there are both, and the hipster hiding inside me tempts to say that’s the case!), but because there are so many delicious options. I still don’t see myself giving up animal products for more than a few hours, but I’m REALLY digging meat free meals more and more these days.

I’ve had Nigella Lawson’s book Simply Nigella since it came out. I’m not sure if I’m the only one who does this, but when I get a new cookbook, I read it cover to cover, then attack it with post-it notes to indicate what recipes I want to cook, and ideas on how to make them my own. Yes, I’m a little crazy, and it’s hereditary, because even at 7 years old, my daughter does the same thing. How Nigella’s recipe for warm spiced cauliflower and chickpea salad with pomegranate seeds wasn’t instantly post-it-ed is a mystery, but the page flicked over while I was looking for her chilli recipe for later in the week, and I haven’t been able to think of anything else since.

As always, I’ve made the recipe a little more calorie-conscious, and to suit my taste preferences. I also skipped some olive oil, because 3 tablespoons was it was just too much – I like extra virgin olive oil as much as the next foodie, but I have my limits, both for taste and caloric intake. I also switched the parsley that Nigella recommends for my beloved baby spinach, and used sambal oelek instead of harissa. The results were phenomenal, and I’m so looking forward to leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

Serves 2-3, at 312 calories for a third.

Ingredients

1 small head of cauliflower

1tbs olive oil

1/2 tsp allspice

1tsp cumin seeds

400g can chickpeas, drained

2 tomatoes, chopped

1tbs sambal oelek

60g baby spinach

75g pomegranate arils

Method

  1. preheat oven to 220C.
  2. Cut cauliflower into medium sized florets.
  3. Combine oil and spices in a large bowl. Add cauliflower and mix to coat. Tip onto a baking tray and keep bowl aside, uncleaned. Bake cauliflower for 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, add the chickpeas and tomatoes to the oily bowl, and mix to coat. Add sambal oelek and stir to combine well.
  5. When cauliflower is ready, remove tray from oven, and tip the chickpeas and tomatoes over the cauliflower. Return to oven for another 15 minutes.
  6. Lay the roasted vegetables over a bed of baby spinach. Scatter pomegranate seeds over the top and serve.

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