English Pea Chilled Coconut Cream Soup with Lemongrass & Mint – A Singapore Gal Dinner Party

It’s been a while since I made a soup for anyone.

For the last month I was visiting Singapore and had full intentions of cooking there, but the food options eating out were quite tempting and buying food at the grocery stores seemed a bit of a challenge and more expensive than eating out.

But finally on my last evening…I decided to do a special Singapore gal dinner. I was dog/house sitting for a super nice gal named Jennifer (and her husband Neil – but I never had a chance to meet him in person). Jennifer and I had one night overlap to visit and catch up and she invited her long lost friend from high school in Capetown, her name was Flora.

Jennifer on the left and Flora on the right….good times cooking for these gals!

Above is my morning walk everyday while in SIngapore with the adorable Benson boy…he was such a treat to look after!

Great food, wine and laughs was in store for the evening! It was a great pleasure to meet Flora and see her and Jennifer catch up over many years. We did have a few laughs reminiscing the 80’s as well since we were close to the same age. Good times.

For the menu we started with this soup and then I served up grilled caesar salad with fresh anchovies, mushroom risotto with truffle salt (that I never leave home without) and avocado chocolate mouse that doesn’t go to your hips.

The Verdict of English Pea Chilled Coconut Cream Soup with Lemongrass & Mint:

The reason why I decided on a pea soup is that the last pea soup I made and blogged about was so good and I saw this recipe, which had coconut milk and lemongrass. It just seemed relevant as I was in Southeast Asia. Lemongrass will be nice and fresh! I like this soup as much and a tad more than the other pea soup I made, because I LOVE the freshness of lemongrass!

Would I change anything about the recipe in the future? Nope, nothing, but I would double the recipe just so that I would have left-overs the next day! Also, I’m thinking this would be a super fantastic tasting puree (with less stock, of course) to serve under some beautiful grilled BC halibut!

English Pea Chilled Coconut Cream Soup with Lemongrass & Mint Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ⅓ cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 – 1/2 tablespoon lemongrass, finely chopped
  • 1 cup / 8 oz. English peas, fresh
  • 1 cup / 8 oz. English peas, frozen
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup coconut cream
  • 2 cups veggie broth
  • Lemon zest, to taste
  • Salt, to taste

English Pea Chilled Coconut Cream Soup with Lemongrass & Mint Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in pot.
  2. Add onion and garlic to pot and sauté.
  3. Add fresh peas and sauté for few minutes.
  4. Reserve a small amount of peas, onion and garlic for garnish (about 2 tablespoons) on a plate
  5. Add in frozen peas to pot and sauté for 2 more minutes.
  6. Soak cubes in 2 cups of boiling water to dissolve
  7. Add in a cup of veggie stock and bring to boil
  8. Lower heat, add in lemongrass and coconut milk simmer for 10 minutes
  9. Add salt to your liking.
  10. In a blender, add the soup and the chopped mint. Blend until nice and smooth.
  11. Chill soup for at least an hour in fridge.
  12. To serve, pour 4 oz. cold soup into a bowl or pretty bowl
  13. Top each serving with reserved peas/onion/garlic with some lemon zest and a swirl of coconut cream

The following recipe inspired me to make this soup: http://www.hallwines.com/english-peas-fava-bean-recipe

What I Changed From The Original Recipe:

  • Served the soup cold and not hot.
  • Didn’t use fava beans, just used peas (half fresh and half frozen).
  • Used coconut cream instead of coconut milk and more of it.
  • Used about 1-1/2 tablespoon of finely chopped lemon grass (not sure what the original recipe meant by small stalk (that can be relative)
  • Used yellow onion instead of shallots.
  • Did not use any flour, I think the soup was thick enough. I really prefer not adding gluten to a nice soup.
  • Used about 2 cups of veggie stock, it sounds like the original recipe may have been very thick unless they forgot to mention adding water.
  • Added garlic clove
Here’s a pic of our chocolate Avacado Mousse… a great dessert to make!
Get a similar recipe here (I didn’t use the chocolate chunks and I substiutted almond milk for coconut cream, and I made cashew brittle for the garnish with a swirl of coconut cream):
Soup Mistress Rating for English Pea Chilled Coconut Cream Soup with Lemongrass & Mint:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (4.75/5
Presentation: (4.5/5) 

Taste: (4.80/5) 

Summertime Chilled Fresh Pea and Mint Soup

Summertime Chilled Fresh Pea and Mint Soup

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Summertime Chilled Fresh Pea and Mint Soup

It is a wonderful time of year when you see fresh peas! Yesterday was my second time back in a week at the supermarket to get myself a big bag of peas, but this time it is to make a Summertime Chilled Fresh Pea and Mint Soup!

The Verdict of Summertime Chilled Fresh Pea and Mint Soup:

Since it is so hot outside, I fancied making a cold summertime soup. I have to admit, this soup was very tasty before I put it in the fridge to cool, but was unbelievably refreshing and yummy once it was chilled. You can have it either way and you won’t be disappointed.

When I researched on the web for pea soups, most recipes called for rich creams. I don’t think you need cream especially if you use a Vitamix as it makes any soup creamy with the killer smooth blending. I did though use a dollop of my homemade cashew cream. Also instead of pureeing all the soup, I made sure that I reserved a few spoonfuls of the fresh peas and leeks before blending and used them for a wonderful garnish.

This soup was probably the easiet and fastest soups to make outside of shelling the peas out of the pods.

There is no doubt that I will make this soup again a few times before the end of the summer if I keep on seeing those pretty little pods at the market!

Summertime Chilled Fresh Pea and Mint Soup Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups leek, chopped fine (white and light green parts)
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, divided
  • 5 cups shelled fresh peas (from about 5 pounds pods) or frozen peas, thawed
  • 2/3 cup fresh mint leaves
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup cashew cream
  • Handful of hopped fresh chives

Summertime Chilled Fresh Pea and Mint Soup Instructions:

Heat  butter over medium heat. Add onion and leeks and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 6-8 minutes. Add 3 cups broth and bring to a boil. Add peas, reduce heat, and simmer gently about 5 minutes (less is you are using frozen peas). Reserve about 4 teaspoons of peas/leeks for your garnish.

Remove pot from heat. add mint, and remaining 1 cut broth to pot. Purée soup in a blender until smooth. Add some more water if soup is too thick. Season with salt and pepper.

Chill soup in fridge for at least an hour.  Ladle soup in bowls and top with reserved peas/leeks, chives, and dollop of cashew cream. Enjoy!

The following recipes inspired me to make this soup are here:

For our dinner, we paired this soup with some tofu walnut lettuce wraps with homemade hoisin sauce, some fine red wine and pear cashew cream phyllo pastry with blackberry coulis. A delightful party for the tastebuds and all pretty healthy!!

Soup Mistress Rating for Summertime Chilled Fresh Pea and Mint Soup:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (5/5
Presentation: (4.5/5) 

Taste: (4.75/5) 

Three Lipstick Soups – Pretty Darn Thai-a-licious!

I’m currently visiting Thailand and one of the things I wanted to do was take some authentic cooking classes here. I  signed up for Pum’s Pigtails 5 hour Cooking Class which is in Patong, a 35 minute drive from Rawai Beach where I was staying.

I was welcomed by Pum and started my class with a nice Russian gal who has plans to open up a Thai Restaurant back in Russia. It was a great day learning about Thai Food, culture and cooking. We also had an informational tour at the fresh Banzaan Market and our guide (Pum’s second-hand fella in pic below), he was so fun and knowledgable. I learnt a lot from him about different fruits, herbs veggies and seafood.

For our full day of cooking class, myself and the Russian gal had to pick 5 dishes each to make that day. Of my five, I picked 3 soups (Pum calls them Green Lipstick, White Lipstick and Red Lipstick). The soups were the highlight of my day. I think I want to make them all together at one time in the future as a soup trio whenever I have some friends over. They look so pretty – just like makeup!

 

We had the opportunity to make green curry right from scratch (which was used in the Green Lipstick soup). It sure beats jarred green curry any day! Below is the final output after we mortar together green chilies, galangal, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, garlic, Thai shallot, salt, Thai sweet basil with vegetable oil. Looks so good and rustic doesn’t it?!

And making the green curry got me super excited to try when I am back home. The Green curry paste can also be used for many other dishes in Pums wonderful cookbook (Lazy Cuisine), you can get it here online. Here’s a video on how we mixed it all together – fun stuff!

Our school kitchen was very clean, modern and functional (pic below). It can accommodate up to 6 students at a time. We were fortunate to have it to ourselves, but most times it is a full class, I heard.

I do recommend taking her Pigtails cooking class or any others – Pum is very passionate and cute..even when she reprimanded me to “be patient” when I was jumping the gun on some areas.

 

Below are the three wonderful soups I made with my personal ratings for each. My favorite was the Green Lipstick, then the Red Lipstick and then the White Lipstick. All of them had great freshness and goes well with Jasmine rice on the side.  Pum showed us how easy and fast it is to make all three. The key is to have the ingredients and mise en place!

Important Note: The recipes below are a single serving. Also , if you don’t have a Chinese spoon, the measurement is approximately 1.5 tablespoons, so adjust accordingly.

Gaeng Kheo Wan Gai – Green Lipstick Soup
(Green Curry Soup)

Ingredients:
  • Chicken (sliced) 1 handful
  • Coconut Milk 100ml
  • Water 100ml
  • Vegetable Oil 1 Chinese spoon
  • Green Curry Paste 1 Chinese spoon
  • Fish Sauce 2 Chinese spoons
  • Sugar 1 Chinese spoon
  • Green Beans 1 handful
  • Kaffir Lime Leaves 2
Instructions for Gaeng Kheo Wan Gai – Green Lipstick Soup:
  1. At low heat in a pot, mix well the oil and green curry paste.
  2. Then add the chicken (or vegetables: Green beans, carrots, baby corn)
  3. Stir until all is half-cooked.
  4. Add the coconut milk, fish sauce and sugar. Stir well.
  5. Add the water and green beans. Bring to a boil and immediately pour into a bowl and garnish with kaffir lime leaves.

Soup Mistress Rating for Gaeng Kheo Wan Gai – Green Lipstick Soup:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (4/5
Presentation: (4.25/5) 

Taste: (5/5) 

Tom Kha Gai – White Lipstick Soup
(Coconut Milk Soup)

Ingredients:

  • Chicken (sliced) 1 handful
  • Coconut Milk 100ml
  • Water 170ml
  • Galangal (sliced) 4-5 slices
  • Lemon Grass (cut as an inch) 1/2 stalk
  • Kaffir Lime Leaves 2
  • Thai Shallot (pressed gently) 1
  • Small Red Chilies (pressed gently)
  • Fish Sauce 2 Chinese spoons
  • Sugar 1 Chinese spoon
  • Lime Juice 2 Chinese spoons
Instructions for Tom Kha Gai – White Lipstick Soup:
  1. In a pot, add the coconut milk and bring to half boiling, the  add the chicken and stir until the meat is half-cooked.
  2. Add the fish sauce, sugar and lime juice. Stir well.
  3. Add all the herbs and wait until it boils. Serve in a bowl
  4. (For vegetarians use green beans carrots and fresh baby corn – cut as an inch)

Soup Mistress Rating for Tom Kha Gai – White Lipstick Soup:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (4/5
Presentation: (4.25/5) 

Taste: (4/5) 


Tom Yum Goong – Red Lipstick Soup
(A Thai Hot & Sour Prawn Soup)

Ingredients:

  • Prawns 1 handful
  • Water 270ml
  • Galangal (Sliced) 4-5 slices
  • Lemon Grass (cut as an inch) 1/2 stalk
  • Kaffir lime leaves 2
  • Thai Shallot (pressed gently) 1
  • Small Green Chilies (pressed gently) 2
  • Chili Paste 1 teaspoon
  • Chili Oil 3-4 drops
  • Fish Sauce 2 Chinese spoons
  • Sugar 1 Chinese spoon
  • Lime Juice 3 Chinese spoons
Instructions For Tom Yum Goong – Red Lipstick Soup:
  1. Add the water to a pot and bring to half boiling, then add the chili paste and mix well.
  2. Add the prawns or meat (or vegetables for vegetarians) and let boil until it is half-cooked. Then add the fish sauce, sugar and lime juice. Mix them well.
  3. Add all the herbs and wait until it boils. Serve in a bowl and garnish with chili oil.
  4. (For vegetarians use green beans, carrots, and fresh baby corn – cut as an inch).

Soup Mistress Rating for Tom Yum Goong – Red Lipstick Soup:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (4.75/5
Presentation: (4/5) 

Taste: (4.5/5) 

Winter Soup Olympics in Whistler A Gold Delight!

One more day till the end of our 2 month stay up at Whistler. It’s been a great journey with downhill and cross-country skiing, biking, and walking around trails in British Columbia’s winter wonderland. With all of the outdoor exercise came a few apres ski sessions, fresh track morning buffets, some mighty fine cooking sessions at home and visiting various restaurants in the main village and creekside.  For many meals I had soup, and there were a few to be mentioned and one a sure winner that was a gold delight!

The following are three notable soups and I ranked them as Gold, Silver and Bronze for overall taste and presentation:

Gold Soup Medal

The Gold Soup Medal goes to Alta Bistro’s with their Rootdown Farms Organic Carrot Soup ($10) with roasted chickpeas, fried celery, goat cheese & orange cream, black cumin seeds, fresh thyme, corn bread. What a playful looking soup and great presentation. The orange cream gave this soup a tiny burst of greatness. The fresh thyme was delightful and the bowl seemed to be a great choice for serving soup – it seemed to conduct heat for quite sometime after I was served it! Brilliant!

Silver Soup Medal

The Silver Soup Medal goes to Nita Lakes’ Lodge Aura Restaurant Mussel Chowder ($10) with honey mussels, diced house cured pancetta, Yukon gold potato, onion, ginger, lemongrass bisque. Wow! The service overall at this restaurant was very outstanding. The waitress brought the bowl of morsels to our table and poured in the broth – that was so classy and a nice experience indeed – love when restaurants do that with soups! The large pieces of potato were perfect and gave it a rustic feel. The lemongrass bisque was light but very tasty! And oh my, the honey mussels were good, I wish I had more though, but for $10 this soup really rocked!

Bronze Soup Medal

The Bronze Medal goes the Roundhouse up on Whistler Mountain with their Mushroom Soup. The roundhouse is a huge cafeteria style restaurant and probably serves a few thousand people for lunch between 11 – 2pm easily. We had this mushroom soup a few times in the last two months. I also heard a few other people mention that this soup is one of their favourites as well! The tiny chunks of mushrooms and onions we so very good (really made the soup) and kudos to a cafe style restaurant to use pea shoots as a garnish. If you are ever up there, go for the soup, salad and half sandwich – it’s the best deal in the house! I think it was $12.45 for the combo.

I can’t wait to come back and try more soups next season! Whistler is the premium place for Soup Olympics I am sure!

Roasted Cauliflower and Parsnip Soup or Vice Versa

Serve up[

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Serve with a few pieces of fried sage and a swirl of cashew cream.

After a few recent visits to Nuba restaurant in Vancover-  it has inspired my Scottish sous chef and I to create more cauliflower dishes lately. Nuba has a killer Cauliflower Najib’s special, if you ever make it there, do make sure you order it. My Scottish sous chef decided to make this yummy soup for us after a beautiful day of cross-country skiing in the Callaghan Valley, BC, Canada.

The Verdict of Roasted Cauliflower and Parsnip Soup?

This soup is tasty and very much filling – the parsnips dominate the cauliflower and we both liked the parsnips. I think the soup should have been called “Parsnip Cauliflower Soup” instead of “Cauliflower Parsnip Soup”.  No herb stood out that much either, but that being said, the herbs and spices worked well in this delightful bowl of liquid! I would make it again.

Roasted Cauliflower and Parsnip Soup Ingredients:

  • 1 small head cauliflower, chopped
  • 4 large parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 shallots, cut in half
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp sage
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • dash of sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
Roasted Cauliflower and Parsnip Soup Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking tray or two with tin foil.
  2. Lay cauliflower, parsnips, shallots, and garlic, out on foil, and drizzle with olive oil, thyme, sage, salt and pepper.
  3. Roast veggies for about 35-40 min, or until they’re soft and golden brown.
  4. Place veggies in a high speed blender (you may have to work in batches) and add broth and almond milk. Blend until soup is smooth and creamy, adding more liquid if you need to. We added about 2 more cups. Alternately, you can use an immersion blender.
  5. Transfer soup to a pot and re-season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6.  Serve with a few pieces of fried sage and a swirl of cashew cream.
Original Soup Recipe: http://www.choosingraw.com/roasted-cauliflower-and-parsnip-soup/

What My Scottish Sous Chef Changed From Original Recipe:

  • Used almond milk instead of rice, soy, or coconut milk
  • Used 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Added fried sage as garnish
  • Added a dollop of cashew cream
  • Used more vegetable broth – 5 to 6 cups. Was originally too thick.

Soup Mistress Rating for Roasted Cauliflower and Parsnip Soup:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (4.75/5
Presentation: (4/5) 

Taste: (4/5) 

Vegetable Meal-in-a-Bowl-Caldos at Chicago’s XOCO is all xoxo’s!

Just this weekend I ventured to Chicago for a layover on my way to Winnipeg to visit my family. I’ve been in Las Vegas for the last 3 months with beautiful warm sunny weather and holy moly my body was in shock when I got outside in Chicago!!! it was windy and very wintery freeze your butt off weather. Everyone on the streets were bundled up in big bulky jackets, hats, scarfs and gloves. I had a tiny leather jacket and leather gloves…not good enough for my walk to check out XOCO for some mexican fare.

By the time I got to the restaurant, I changed my mind of trying one of their famous Tortas. The Meal-in-a-Bowl-Caldos (AKA soup) fancied me way more – I really needed some hot broth to thaw out my insides and extremities!

I ordered the Vegetable Meal-in-a-Bowl-Caldos and it had: black beans, woodland mushrooms, zucchini, potato-masa dumplings, greens, avocados, and serrano chile.

The Verdict of XOCO’s Vegetable Meal-in-a-Bowl:
I felt the love big time with this this Meal-in-a-Bowl (AKA soup)…. it should be called xoxo Soup! My tummy had a genuine almost cuddling-like affair with this soup and was very grateful to the warm tasty broth! The big chunks of avocados, lots of onions, tasty mushrooms, deep flavourful broth and black beans that weren’t mushy made up this delightful meal-in-a-bowl. The broth was unique and not like all other Mexican soup broths, I couldn’t pinpoint what all of the spices were.  And the healthy greens were nice and fresh added on top. XOCO’s soup puts the tortilla mexican soup I had two days ago at El Segundo’s in Vegas to shame.

XOCO had a superb ordering process and great customer service experience. A sweetie of a gal who gave me a seat number, asked me when seated  if I’d like sparkling or still water. The sparling water was for free – a nice touch for so-called street food in a restaurant that did not break the bank!

Here’s a spoonful of all the scrumptious chunks of love and lot’s of onions oh my!

If you are going to check out XOCO’s Meal-in-a-Bowl-Caldos make sure you also order the Roasted Garlic Tomotilo Guacamole with choice of 2 toppings, tomatillo salsa, 3 chile salsa and just-made chips. I had the queso fresco and grilled onion!
Soup Mistress Rating for XOXO’s Vegetable Meal-in-a-Bowl-Caldos:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (5/5
Presentation: (4/5) 

Taste: (4.5/5) 

Oh So Very Creamy Tomato Cashew Soup Sans Cream!

Creamy Tomato Cashew Soup

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The completed Creamy Tomato Cashew Soup with Goat Brie Pesto grilled sandwiches,

Lately I’ve been using cashews in recipes for replacement of sour cream or cream cheese (in savoury dishes as well as sweet dessert toppings) and all have turned out so wonderful. I have a fair bit of almond milk in soups to date, but wanted to try cashew cream in its place. This particular recipe grabbed my attention because it had a range of spices that I would not normally use together in one recipe. I was first a little septic because I never thought of using cumin, curry, dill and basil together with cloves. I thought “what the heck”, let’s risk it and give it a shot.

The Verdict of Creamy Tomato Cashew Soup

Wow, let’s just say it is a home run! If I was served this soup in a restaurant I would definitely think that it had a ton of fatty cream and butter!

I must say that my scepticism was wasted thinking time. The mix of spices played very well together. Not one spice was overpowering and they all seemed to be in perfect harmony!

The soup had delightful hint of heat…not too much either.

And oh so awesome creaminess!!!

This soup goes very well with the goat brie pesto grilled sandwiches I made with yummy gluten-free bread!

I also think this soup is very versatile and tasty for any kind of pasta. The next day I simmered it down a little and added in fresh cooked gluten free pasta with jumbo shrimp, smoked salmon and a bit more pieces of fresh basil.  Who would know that this delectable pasta sauce was a soup the previous day?!!


Note: Cellery is missing in the above ingredient picture – I did add it in the recipe though!

Creamy Tomato Cashew Soup Ingredients:

  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups onions,
  • chopped
1/2 cup celery, sliced
  • 1/4 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon chipotle, dried
  • 3 tablespoon fresh basil
 , finely chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3 whole cloves 
(or ground)
  • 2 28-oz cans chopped or diced oragnic tomatoes
  • The juice from one lemon or lime
  • basil for garnish

Creamy Tomato Cashew Soup Instructions:

  1. In a blender (I used a vitamix) blend the cashews and water until smooth.
  2. In a large sauce pan, heat the oil, and add the onion, celery and salt. Cook slowly, partially covered. Stir occasionally. When onions are soft and translucent, add the garlic and chipotle and cook until fragrant. Add remaining spices and continue to cook another minute or two.
  3. Add tomatoes, and stir. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until soup begins to thicken slightly, about 10 minutes.
  4.  Blend using an immersion blender, or in batches in a blender (be very careful when blending hot liquids!), until soup is smooth.
  5. Add cashew cream into soup.
  6. Add the lemon juice and fresh basil
  7. Reheat gently, watching carefully as it’s easy to scorch the bottom.
  8. Ladle into bowls and garnish with the optional basil leaves.
  9. Enjoy!
I made a pesto with nutritional yeast instead of parmesan for a lactose-free alternative for the brie goat grilled sandwiches, here’s the recipe:

 Basil Pesto Ingredients:

  • 1 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cloves garlic
  • 1/8 cup pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/8 cup Nutritional yeast

Combine the basil, garlic, nutritional yeast, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

The Original Creamy Cashew Tomato Soup Recipe Here: http://www.yummly.com/recipe/external/Cashew-tomato-soup-346120

What I Changed From Original Recipe:

  • Used olive oil instead of canola oil
  • Did not use fennel
  • Used fresh basil and added it at the end.
  • halved the recipe
  • Added a 1 1/2 cup of water, it seemed to thick

Soup Mistress Rating for Creamy Tomato Cashew Soup:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (4.75/5
Presentation: (4/5) 

Taste: (4.25/5) 

Curried Squash and Red Lentil Soup With Quinoa

Curry Squash Lentil Soup

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Brrr, can someone turn up the heat please? I’m in Vegas and it has been chilly and rainy for the last few days – I feel very much like I am back home in rainy Vancouver, BC!

Soup is on my mind more lately and since there seems to be abundance of squash at the supermarkets – I asked myself “why not make a soup with it?”

I found this recipe online (link below) but I adjusted it a tad to my liking.

The Verdict of Curried Squash and Red Lentil Soup With Quinoa

This soup’s broth turned out pretty tasty with just enough curry.  The original recipe called for only water in the base – I think adding in vegetable stock in place of the water made the broth much nicer! I liked how the cilantro oil floated on the top and gave a nice herbal flavour. The quinoa was hearty and filling and a great source of protein. If I was to make this soup again in the future (and I think I may), I would add a little more celery. I think the soup had a little more room for some chunky vegetables like celery and carrot if you like. I also liked the fact that I substituted coconut oil for olive oil – it added a little bit of a Thai flair to the curry broth. My soup tester fella really liked the souo as well and only commented that it needed a little more ginger in the next batch!

I found it interesting that the red lentils sort of dissolved into the soup. I am sure they added to the tasty broth even though I could not distinguish them in my spoonful of goodness!

We ate the soup two days in a row and on the second day, we added some torn up kale – it worked very well in the soup!  I never felt healthier after soup as I did with this one!

Curried Squash and Red Lentil Soup  Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped small
  • 2 carrot, chopped small
  • 2 celery rib, chopped small
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced peeled ginger
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1 quart water
  • 1 quart (32 oz) vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup quinoa

For cilantro oil:

  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 3 tablespoon coconut oil
  • salt
I like to chop the vegetables really nice and small so it presents well in the soup!

 

Curried Squash and Red Lentil Soup Instructions:

  • Heat coconut oil in a large heavy pot,  on medium saute squash, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, ginger, and 1 teaspoon salt, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, 10-15 minutes.
  • Stir in curry powder and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring frequently, 2 minutes.
  • Add lentils, broth and water and simmer, covered, until lentils are tender, 25 to 35 minutes. Stir in lemon juice into soup and season with salt and pepper in the soup.
  • In a separate pot while soup is simmering, boil 1 cup of quinoa with 2 cups of water, simmer until fluffy.
  • Ladle soup into bowls, add in a scoop of quinoa and drizzle cilantro oil.
  • Enjoy!

Make cilantro oil: 
Purée cilantro, oil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a blender.

Serve soup drizzled with cilantro oil.

Original recipe from here: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Curried-Squash-and-Red-Lentil-Soup-351416#ixzz2l7gwR653

What I Changed From Original Recipe:

  • Replaced butter and vegetable oil with cocnut oil for soup base and cilantro oil.
  • Changed basmati rice to quinoa as the accompaniment.
  • Replaced half the water with broth – I like always using a vegetable broth for more depth.
  • Added 1 more carrot and celery rib.
  • Added salt to cilantro oil. It tasted too bland without the salt. Salt lifts the flavours very much so!

What I’d Do Next Time to Make it Even Better:

  • Add one more celery rib.
  • Add one more teaspoon of minced ginger.

Soup Mistress Rating for Curried Squash and Red Lentil Soup:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (5/5
Presentation: (3.5/5) 

Taste: (4.25/5) 

Jaleo, A Sopa De Ajo Spectacle in Vegas!

Just this last weekend, I had the opportunity to go out with three wonderful gals two evenings in a row in Las Vegas. The first night we dined in The Paris Hotel at Mon Ami Gabi and the second night we decided to walk on over to the Cosmopolitan Hotel and check out the options. And Jaleo was our choice for the evening – we all loved the fact of sharing Spanish Tapas!

When I first glanced at the menu, it was a no brainer to start with a soup. Jaleo had three wonderful soups: A Gazpacho, An Anjo Blanco and a Sopa Ajo. I have had the former two soups on other occasions, so I decided on trying a new soup. And Soupa Ajo (a black garlic soup with black garlic and egg) it was!!

The Verdict of Sopa Ajo?:

No need to go to a show in Vegas to get a spectacle! Wow, just go to Jaleo and order soup! When the waiter arrived at the table with my soup I was very impressed, this is how it was presented to me:

Then the waiter had a mini carafe in his other hand which was full of broth. He was going to pour it over the soup bowl canvass! This is it in action:

The soup had many flavourful depths to it. First the wonderful crisp crustini kept up quite well for a few bites in. The broth was so delicate yet very oozing with creamy delight. When I sliced into the very soft and delicate poached egg, it started to run in my soup and bring different spoonfuls of taste each time I lapped it up! The garlic broth was a licker candidate for sure.

I lapped the soup up in no time and could have lifted the bowl up to finish the last of my lovely liquid, but I resisted from embarrassing my gal friends and gracefully pushed it aside for the waiter to take away.

Soup Mistress Rating for Sopa De Ajo

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (4.25/5
Presentation: (4.75/5) 

Taste: (4.75/5) 

San Francisco and Napa Valley – A Souper Duper Culinary Crawl

For the last week and half I have been in San Francisco, Napa Valley and then to San Mateo for work. It has been a wonderful culinary experience and a souper duper time. And especially so, because I had a partner in crime who likes food close to or a tad more than I! For probably half of our meals, if a soup fancied me on the menu, I just had to try!

Below is a list of soups I tried during the past week and half. I ranked them from the highest in taste. I definitely have no major complaint about any of the soups. The choices of restaurants were fine choices indeed in the first place, so no run ins with dud soups what-so-ever.

  1. French Onion Soup (Bouchon Cafe)
  2. Spring Suppa (A16)
  3. Asparagus Soup (Auberge Du Soliel)
  4. Beer Crab Soup (Kingfish Restaurant)
  5. Panna Cotta Chilled Carrot Soup (French Laundry)
  6. Tofu Soon Dobu (Sesame Korean Cuisine)
  7. Tom Yum Pak (Lemongrass Thai Cuisine)
  8. Wild Mushroom, Farro and Thyme Soup (Foreign Cinema)
  9. Potato Leek Soup (Cindys Kitchen)

Rank #1: Bouchon Bistro: Soupe a L’Oignon

A perfect afternoon in Napa Valley first started with a quick stop at Bouchon Bakery for a coffee and Monkey Bun and then over to Gotts for a lighter lunch. Shortly after sitting outside at a picnic table eating some mighty fine tacos from Gotts, we headed for a superb tour at a winery. After our wine tour we found ourselves back in Yountville at Bouchon but instead at the Cafe for second light afternoon snack!

We had the Soupe a L’Oignon (French Onion Soup) and Moules au Safran (Mussels) with French Fries with some nice white wine (can’t remember what wine exactly, but I’m pretty sure it was a local one).

Bouchon Bistro
6534 Washington Street, Yountville, CA, 94599
http://bouchonbistro.com

The Verdict of Bouchon Cafe Soupe a L’Oignon?

The onions were probably one of the best carmelized onions I had in an French Onion Soup. I asked the bartender if there were any special secrets to the soup. He said that the onions were first dredged in flour then caramelized slowly with red wine. I’m betting that they used some mighty fine red wine to caramelized these sweet babies in.

The soup had a lot of onions, and the bread in the soup kept it’s texture and not to mushy unlike some french onions soup may be guilty of.

The Gruyere cheese was the super star of the dish, I do wish that they used way more of it and had it oozing over the side of the bowl so that I could have peeled the crispy browned cheese off. I was sharing the soup – I do believe that my culinary partner in crime ate more cheese than me when I wasn’t looking! Doh!

Soup Mistress Rating for Bouchon Cafe Soupe a L’Oignon:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (2.5/5)
Presentation: (3.5/5) 
Taste: (4.5/5) 

Rank #2: A16: Spring Zuppa

A16
2355 Chestnut Ave, San Francisco, California
http://www.a16sf.com

The Verdict of A16 Spring Zuppa?

The soup was not your stuffy high end soup with heavy cream. It had a wonderful tasty and delicate broth. Actually probably one of the top broths I’ve had. It had very thinly sliced asparagus morsels and oh so fine crispy fried croutons. The herbs seemed very fresh, and they definitely used some fresh English Peas – oh my, I liked how they popped in my mouth! The soup seemed simple yet very elegant and oh so tasteful. It seemed as though the soup is an au natural for your tastebuds. No need to glamourize and heavy it up with fat and cream! I am guessing that the broth was a vegetable base – the roasted spring onion oil gave a really good depth to the broth that a meat based broth may have done. Brilliant. Overall, my tastebuds felt very satisfied with A16s Spring Zuppa and my hips didn’t feel guilty what-so-ever.

Soup Mistress Rating for A16 Spring Zuppa:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (4.5/5)
Presentation: (3/5) 
Taste: (4.5/5) 

Rank #3: Auberge Du Soliel: Asparagus Soup

Auberge Du Soliel
180 Rutherford Hill Road
Rutherford, California
http://www.aubergedusoleil.com

The Verdict of Auberge Du Soliel Asparagus Soup?

The soup was wonderful and the swirls of oil and cream were a very fine touch to the eye as for taste. Seasoned just right and no complaints. I do wish that there were a tad more morsels of asparagus in the soup.

Ok, I must confess. I didn’t take much notes of this soup nor did I pay attention to the exact  ingredients. Perhaps my culinary dropout mishap was because I went on a wine tour prior and my attention to detail was impaired due to alcohol and the breath taking view sitting on the deck looking down at the hills and vines. Best view ever of our trip dining for sure!

All I remember is that I really loved this soup (and it deserves this rating) and the grilled artichokes were awesome!

Soup Mistress Rating for Auberge Du Soliel Asparagus Soup:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (3.5/5)
Presentation: (4/5) 
Taste: (4/5) 

Rank #4: Kingfish Restaurant: Crab and Beer Soup

Kingfish Restaurant
201 South B Street, San Mateo, CA, 94401
http://www.kingfish.net

The Verdict of Kingfish Restaurant Crab and Beer Soup:

For my first spoonful, I thought this soup was very strong and had too much of a bold taste. Thinking that it was the beer itself in the recipe that made it so. But after my second and third spoonful, it really grew on me. I loved how it also was bitter yet spicy. I think when my soup came to life is when my chardonnay arrived to join the party. Somehow the wine tamed the bold taste and the really complimented it a ton. The soup had wonderful crab pieces and even some whole claws. Yum! I would order it again.

I loved the little drops of oil in the soup, I do wish that the soup had a dollop of creme fraiche and that they used chives instead of green onions though!

Soup Mistress Rating for Kingfish Restaurant Crab and Beer Soup:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (3/5)
Presentation: (3.5/5) 
Taste: (4/5) 

Rank #5: French Laundry: Panna Cotta Chilled Carrot Soup

The French Laundry
6640 Washington Street, Yountville, California
http://www.frenchlaundry.com

The Verdict of French Laundry Panna Cotta Chilled Carrot Soup:

This is one of the many dishes we were treated to above and beyond the tasting menu at the French Laundry last week. My culinary partner in crime seemed to have a good connection with Thomas Keller indeed. I felt like royalty and oh so lucky!!

Wonderful eye candy – the best of my soups for presentation by far for the week! It’s where culinary presentation meets performance art! Loved how we first got a peek of the Panna Cotta in the bottom and then experienced the server pouring the chilled soup over top. This beautiful tiny serving looked so delicate yet had the flavour of many garden fresh carrots! The soup was so velvety good and had just the right amount of sweetness and I think it had a tiny dash of curry. I loved digging down and getting the Panna Cotta with a pop of fine herbs (I think there were some finely chopped chives).

This is one chilled soup I would love to recreate at home – and yes, even making my own Panna Cotta may be in store! Thomas Keller’s establishment is top notch indeed, no wonder it can take months to get a reservation there! Check out their kitchen below – a sparkling perfection!!

Soup Mistress Rating for French Laundry Panna Cotta Chilled Carrot Soup:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (3.5/5)
Presentation: (5/5) 
Taste: (4/5) 

Rank #6: Sesame Korean Cuisine: Tofu Soon Dobu

Sesame Korean Cuisine
1355 Broadway
Burlingame, CA 94010

 

The Verdict of Tofu Soon Dobu :

This is the first of a Korean Tofu soup I ever tried. A very good friend of mine introduced me to this kind of cuisine. We were first served the small dishes, which is also known as Banchan. Then shortly after our bubbling hot soups arrived in little clay pots, the server walked away and we kept talking for a few minutes. Just as I was ready to dig into my yummy looking soup the owner came up and explained that the new server messed up and she needed to make the pots all bubbly again for us. And poof! they were taken away just as I was salivating at the smell of the broth!

Doh! What? Why?…. The new server forgot to crack in an egg in each of our bowls!

It was well worth the extra minutes of wait because when the owner came back, she had two eggs in her pocket with our bubbling soups and cracked the eggs in right away. Nice touch!

I stirred in my egg and watched it cook then dug in!

OMG, who needs meat and seafood?! This soup was very good with tofu and I loved how eating the Banchan between spoonfuls made a great marriage. I especially loved the pickled components because they brought out the soup broth even more.

I’m now going to keep a look out for this sort of soup back in Vancouver. Surprised that I never experienced before.

Soup Mistress Rating for Tofu Soon Dobu :

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (4.5/5)
Presentation: (3/5) 
Taste: (3.75/5) 

Rank #7: Lemongrass Thai Cuisine: Tom Yum Pak

Lemongrass Thai Cuisine
2348 Polk Street, San Francisco, California
http://www.lemongrasssf.com

The Verdict of Lemongrass Thai Cuisine Tom Yum Pak?

We didn’t scope out this place before hand, but just stumbled across it after walking up and down very steep hills in the Russian Hill area of San Francisco.

Two thumbs up for this soup. The broth was sweet and tangy just like any Tom Yum broth should. But the choice of the veggies and the way better than average broth made this stop so very delightful and unexpected!

Soup Mistress Rating for Lemongrass Thai Cuisine Tom Yum Pak:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (4.5/5)
Presentation: (3/5) 
Taste: (3.75/5) 

Rank #8: Foreign Cinema: Wild Mushroom, Farro and Thyme Soup

Foreign Cinema
2534 Mission Street, San Francisco CA 94110
http://www.foreigncinema.com

The Verdict of Foreign Cinema Wild Mushroom, Farro and Thyme Soup?

Foreign Cinema is a very neat restaurant nestled in a yet to be gentrified neighbourhood. When we first got out of the cab, I thought we were taken to the wrong place. But once we entered, the entrance was quite elegant with a red carpet and then we entered a large bustling place!

We decided to have the Wild Mushroom Farro and Thyme Soup for one of our appies. It was a good soup, but I was puzzled about the absence of mushrooms. There was no hint of mushrooms per se, but I am guessing it was a part of the broth perhaps? Loved the Farro and the broth was very tasty and seemed light and healthy (good in my books btw). The use of the thin crusty bread was elegant and it kept its crispiness quiet good. Kudos to the kitchen to split the one order up in two bowls. That was very nice of them!

The use of fresh thyme made the soup and I think another green herb (larger than thyme) was used, but I couldn’t pinpoint what it was.

Soup Mistress Rating for Foreign Cinema Wild Mushroom, Farro and Thyme Soup:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (4.5/5)
Presentation: (3/5) 
Taste: (3.5/5) 

Rank #9: Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen: Potato Leek Soup

Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen
1327 Railroad Avenue, St Helena, CA
http://www.cindysbackstreetkitchen.com

The Verdict of Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen: Potato Leek Soup?

This soup was good tasting, but seemed plain jane to me when comparing to the rest of soups above. Not really any wows from myself. Nothing outstanding stood out for me. It most likely had cream, butter and the use of chives is expected.

One dish that did blow the soup away that is notable from Cindy’s was a wonderful Rabbit Tostada with red chile salsa, black beans and feta. I felt really naughty since my diet is usually 90% vegetarian with some sort of bacon.

Soup Mistress Rating for Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen: Potato Leek Soup:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (3.5/5)
Presentation: (3/5) 
Taste: (3.5/5)