Sunday, 19 June 2016

Celery and corn soup ~ or chowder ~ distinctive and different

~ Recipe updated to include pumpkin ~
My soups tend to be a bit similar to each other.  This one, which is mostly celery, cream style corn (partially liquified corn kernals / maize), and a chickpea flour sauce, is quite different and very flavoursome.  An added bonus is that it is simple to make: 

In the past I've used an ordinary milk sauce as a base, and this was the first time I had experimented with the chickpea flour sauce.  It worked a treat!  Both are good, but I think the chickpea flour sauce is quite a lot better both in texture and flavour.  

This soup can be termed a chowder due to its creamy sauce and chunky vegetables.  (I think that's right!)
Celery is a tasty vegetable, but rather hard to store due to the length and bulk of each plant or bunch. 

I have been told that standing the bunch in a jug of water can work well, but when I've tried this after a few days the whole thing has begun to wilt.  I prefer to store mine in the fridge, carefully wrapped in layers of tea towels and nylon bags to keep it cool and crisp.  My success in this respect has been variable, probably dependent on the freshness when purchased.  This evening when I got out a bunch I had carefully put away a bit over a week ago the whole thing, although still beautifully green, had become rather floppy.  It was time to cook it up.  Celery soup or chowder is a good way to use up a large quantity of this sort. 

I use a lot of milk but like to know what the alternatives are and to experiment with them, which in this instance produced better result than the original recipe.  The use of chick pea flour makes this vegan.  I'm gradually building up my repertoire of vegan food.

Ingredients and method: 
I use two pots / saucepans: one for the soup, and one for boiling up the darker leaves and stalks from which I then use the liquid. 

  • Celery - I used most of one bunch.  500gm of it was suitable to go directly into the soup pot 
    • The remaining darker leaves and stalks, which might have been a bit bitter, I put into the separate pot with 2 cups of water and boiled it all up so that I could add the liquid to the soup later.  If using, strain off the pieces of celery and use the remaining liquid.  If the chowder seems the right consistency without it, you can freeze the stock for use another time.
  • Vegetable oil / margarine / butter - a tablespoon or two - sufficient in which to saute the pale chopped celery.
  • Curry powder (I use mild) - 2 tsp  
  • Pumpkin - 150 grams - chopped - optional extra.  I added this when I last made it and it was even nicer.  I have chopped pumpkin wrapped in waxed paper parcels in the freezer with the weight noted on each one.  I didn't think to check how much this was in cup measurements -  perhaps one, one and half, or two.  The amount isn't all that important unless you wish to replicate what you've cooked, in which case it's very useful indeed.
  • Corn, cream style - 1 tin - 410gm - this is partially liquified corn kernels - 'maize' if you live in the U.S. of A.
  • Cold water - about 2 cups.  The temperature of the water is important - see method below.
  • Chick pea flour (also known at gram flour, besan, or garbanzo bean flour) - half a cup
  • Salt - 1 to 2 tsp - as desired. 
  • Chop the stalks and pale leaves, putting aside the darker outer ones along with the dark leaves.
  • Put these dark leaves and stalky bits into another pot with 2 cups of water, and boil them so that the celery water can be used later.  Keep this separate for the meantime.  This will easily produce 2 cups of liquid which can be added to the soup once the other ingredients have been combined and cooked. 
  • In the second pot melt or heat the butter or oil.
  • Add the remaining celery and cook it gently, stirring it so that it doesn't catch on the bottom of the pot.  Cook only until the celery has softened a little.
  • Add the curry powder to the celery.  
  • Stir in the creamed corn.
  • Into a water-tight container put 2 - 3 cups of cold water filling it no more than two thirds full.
  • On top of this cold water place the spoonfuls of chick pea flour.  The cold water will enable it to combine with the flour which will thicken as it cooks.
  • Close the lid tightly and shake it vigorously.  This will combine the flour and water.  This is the simplest way I know of combining flour and water into liquid form and saves the hassle of fussing around with lumpy and oily messes - never mind that 'real' cooks might faint at the suggestion!
  • Add it to the soup pot while stirring.  
  • Add about 2 cups of celery water to make the soup a good consistency.
  • Have a taste and add a little salt if desired.
The dark celery leaves, boiled with water.  I added some of the water to the soup later, and put the rest in the freezer.

Last time I made this I served it with toasties: toast spread with tomato relish, then chopped tomatoes, lots of fresh parsley and then cheese - grilled until the cheese browned slightly.  It was a very satisfying and tasty meal.

Chick pea flour is higher in protein than other flours, contains no gluten, and is good for thickening.  It has a distinctive flavour and is good in savoury dishes.  I recommend it.  The Wikipedia article linked to says that it can be used as a replacement for eggs in baking, which might be worth trying. 

Meanwhile, enjoy your soup!

Friday, 10 June 2016

Rice custard ~ baked ~ delectable!

This delicious dessert has been enjoyed by everyone who has tasted it.  It is particularly suitable for those who are frail or convalescent as it is easily digestible.  I first tried out the recipe for my frail and elderly mother, whose small appetite challenges us to find new and inventive ways of getting carbohydrates and other nourishing food into her.  She loves it.  It is also great way to use up that cup of left over rice - as long it isn't much salted.  Needless to say, the rest of us made happy inroads into it as well and it has become a favourite!  It's delicious hot or cold, and not too sweet.

Baked rice custard with jam and cream, a special treat.  What an indulgence!
In the photographs I hope you can see that the whole custard has held together well and a thick layer of baked custard formed on the top.

Ingredients and method:
  • Cooked rice - 1 cup.  I use Basmarti
  • Salt - 1/8th teaspoon - if desired
  • Eggs x 2
  • Milk - 2 cups
  • Sugar - 2 tablespoons
  • Vanilla essence, a few drops if desired
From this you can see that the basic custard is a simple ratio of 1 cup of milk with one egg and one tablespoon of sugar, so it's easy to vary the overall quantity.

I start with warm rice and milk so that the mixture is warm when fully combined and placed in the oven.  This ensures a predictable baking time.  If starting with cold rice it can be put it in a steamer or the microwave to heat up a bit.  Just be sure that the rice and milk are not so warm as to begin to cook the eggs before everything is combined and in the oven, or you could end up with rice and scrambled eggs! 

Set the oven to 160 degrees Celsius / 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  
Beat eggs and salt, add sugar and then warmed milk.  
Put rice into a buttered casserole dish and put the liquid over it.  
The dish containing the custard is baked in what is called a bain marie, or water bath.  I have found the best way to do this is as follows:
  • Place a large and empty baking dish into the heated oven.  Mine is enamel. 
  • Place the filled casserole dish into this baking dish
  • Once the oven rack bearing the tray and baking dish has been pushed into the oven and everything is in place use a jug to carefully add warm water to the baking dish until it is perhaps half full.
Bake for about 30 minutes or until gently set.  

Do be careful not to overcook it as if set hard it won't be nice at all.  To test that it is sufficiently set open the oven door and with a carefully protected hand gently lift one side of the casserole dish and tilt it.  It should still quiver or at least move a little.  When removing the casserole dish from the oven take care not to slop the hot water from the baking dish.  This can be removed later when the water has cooled.  Just remember that it is there before you use the oven again - and yes, I've done it: slopped cold water everywhere when whisking the dish out to make way for something else!

I've added another photograph so that you can better see the handsome Temuka pottery bowl I've served it in, a design which has a favourite glaze from years gone by. 

My other recipes and foody articles can be found by following the link below:
Articles in my Elderly and Dependent series can be found by following the link below: