Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sweet potato, roast garlic and rosemary soup

The cooler weather finds me yearning for comfort food and fewer dishes are more comforting and warming than a big bowl of soup. This is my favourite soup because it looks great, tastes delicious and, given that all the cooking is done on a baking tray in the oven with minimal preparation, it practically makes itself. Accompany with some crusty sourdough, a savoury roll or slice for a hearty winter meal.

Sweet potato, roast garlic and rosemary soup

Serves 4-6

2-3 large/medium sweet potatoes (approx 1.5kg)
5-8 garlic cloves
1 large, good quality vegetable stock cube (I use Swiss Nature Organic Vegetable Stock Cubes)
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Using a knife, cut an 'x' into the ends of the sweet potatoes. Place them on a baking paper lined tray and bake in their skins for 40 minutes. Meanwhile, wrap the garlic cloves (leaving skins on) in some foil. When the 40 minutes is up, add the garlic to the baking tray with the sweet potatoes and bake for 20 minutes more. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10-15 minutes.

Fill the kettle and boil some water. Remove the skins from the sweet potatoes and garlic cloves - they should slip off easily. In a large saucepan, place the soft, cooked flesh of the sweet potatoes, garlic cloves, rosemary, crumbled stock cube and enough boiling water to cover (1.5-2 litres). Mix gently with a wooden spoon until stock cube is dissolved. Using a stick blender, blend the contents of the saucepan until smooth, adding more boiled water if required, until desired consistency is reached. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Monday, May 2, 2011

"Me on a plate"?

I find competitive cookery terribly compelling. As such, I'm a devoted fan of Masterchef Australia, which commenced its third season yesterday. Vegetarian contestants have participated in previous seasons but none have lasted long. This is unsurprising given the animal-protein-centric nature of most of the challenges, including one of my favourites, the Mystery Box, where the contestants must each conjure up a gourmet dish from set ingredients.

This year I have set myself the challenge of coming up with appealing vegetarian dishes for each weekly Mystery Box - something I have always done in my head while watching previous seasons. These represent what I would try to cook if I were a contestant facing the Mystery Box challenge (leaving aside the pressure and challenge of executing my menu). So here goes:

Week 1: Most popular Australian supermarket items.

From the look of the dishes, these included:

mince, onions, potatoes, truss tomatoes, lettuce, eggs, bacon, peas, garlic, mushrooms, vegetable stock, lemons, fresh mint, flour (pantry item?), butter (pantry item?), olive oil (pantry item?).

I would have attempted one of the following:
  • potato pancakes with caramelised onions/onion jam (not sure if sugar is allowed)
  • lemon, mint, pea soup with mushroom ravioli
  • spanish omelette with fire roasted tomato salsa
  • potato-stuffed pierogi in lemon brown butter sauce
and it would have blown the judges' collective palates (in a delicious, vegetarian way)!