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Caveman Soup

One of my favourite things ever are lime and black pepper chips. I remember seeing them in the shops, thinking “who on earth would eat those” and then being bullied into trying them, loving them, and pretty much living on them and Blue Costello cheese for a year while I did honours.

So the other day when co-worker mentioned (nose upturned) her friend was raving about lime and sweet potato soup, instead of joining the general flavour confusion, I begged for the recipe, and now I want to share it with you.

Soups are fantastic and filling, and as you may be noticing from recent posts, I pretty much live on them during winter. I think this particular soup makes a great addition to the winter repertoire because while the sweet potato keeps it filling, the lime gives a fresh zang, which is such a nice break from the heartier fare I tend to during this season.

The recipe is originally from the paleo (or caveman) diet. Which is quite possibly the most stupid diet ever.  For those who don’t know the paleo diet argues that our bodies and metabolisms evolved for conditions thousands of years ago, and haven’t adjusted to modern conditions. This far I agree with. As anyone losing weight would know, a lot of our bodies responses to calories were designed for times of scarcity and famine in the cradle of humanity somewhere in Africa, that’s why we crave dense energy sources (like that stable of the traditional African diet, potato chips) and why our metabolism assumes famine and starts conserving energy and eating muscle  if we don’t eat within 30 minutes of getting up.

But the paleo diet responds to that assumption by declaring we should cut out any foods that didn’t belong on the pre-agrarian menu. Which means grains, white potato, sugar… I don’t know, that’s when i decided it was stupid. I’m just going to assume anyone who is reading this blog agrees that the whole point of the evolution of human civilisation has been to get the fire inside houses and into ovens and the wheat into flour so we could make cakes. Though I guess Paleo would still be pro almond meal, and therefore pro sugarless macaroons… which were obviously every caveman’s favourite treat and what they used to make their sweethearts to make up for dragging them round by their hair.

Also, I’m pretty sure cavepeople were just gettign the hang of burning thir meat – they didn’t make soup.

I basically disagree with any diet that claims if you just cut out 1 thing (or several) you can otherwise eat what you want and be happy, healthy and thin. Diets like that are not sustainable in the long term, and they’re not accurate. Yes, there is a lot wrong with how we eat now, but the problem is how we eat, not what. Sugar is not actually poison. Humans would be extinct if it was. Carbs do not magically make us fat, having “fries with that” or two cups of pasta covered in cream does. And any diet that thinks not eating fruit or vegetables for 10 days is “good for you” just seems to fundamentally miss something about nutrition.

Anyway, diet rant over. What I mean to say is don’t hold the origin of this recipe against it. It was really yum, really light, really filling, and really easy. It did not however make me want to grab a big stick and go hunt dinner.

Sweet potato lime soup recipe

3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks;

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

3 thin slices fresh ginger;

2 lime leaves;

¾ cup coconut milk;

½ cup water;

2 tbsp lime juice;

A dash of sea salt and good grind of black pepper;

In a large sauce pan over a medium-high heat, combine the sweet potatoes, stock, ginger and lime leaves. Allow the contents to come to a boil and then turn the heat down to medium-low and continue to simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender to the touch.

Remove the lime leaves

Remove the soup from the heat and use a hand-mixer or a blender to blend the soup until completely smooth.

Return the soup to a low heat and mix in the coconut milk, water and lime juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir well. You will know everything is mixed correctly once the coconut milk is completely blended in.

Poached Chicken

I poached a chicken breast for the first time last night – and it was such a great result I wanted to suggest that if you’re not already poaching chicken, you should consider it.

Michelle Bridges, that Aussie guru of weight loss, is very keen on poaching chicken breast, and I’ll rave about, or eat, poached eggs till the chickens come home to make me feel guilty. However despite making a lot of changes to my diet this last 9 months, I’ve always, always avoided poaching chicken, because the idea of it makes me feel icky and gross and distrustful, it’s defrosted meat, but worse (and that’s an insight into my weird food phobias you probably didn’t need). Seriously, I won’t eat chicken soup because I didn’t trust it as a cooking method. But last night I took the plunge and the result was moist and yum and not at all, not even a little bit pink. It also boiled the fat right off, which saved me trimming it like usual,

So, put the chicken breast in a saucepan, cover with water. Get a stick of lemongrass, cut off the bulby bottom and a few of the outside leaves, cut into 7cm lengths, bend to bruise. Put in water. Bring to boil.

Simmer for 5 minutes, then leave remove from heat and leave to sit for another 10 to cook the chicken through,

Easy and moist and healthy. And quicker than roasting in an oven bag like I usually do.

It’s pictured here with Bok Choy stirfried with penut oil, garlic, ginger and a small amount of soy sauce.

Mum’s Pumpkin Soup

The weather has turned and its feeling somewhat freezing right now. I need a plan to deal with the ice on my windscreen most mornings. At work we sit with Nana blankets on our laps. The leaves are a mosaic of orange and the crisp air seems to freeze on my lungs when I jog round the lake (something I’d never imagine doing in a more hospitable climate). Mother’s day is almost upon us, and every catalogue reminds us that that means it’s time to buy new slippers.

Butternut pumpkins are selling for 99 cents each. Its soup weather.

Its one of the great tragedies of my life that I haven’t inherited my mother’s knack for soups. Mum’s one of those people who can make “what’s in the fridge, let’s throw it in the pot” soup that turns out consistently delightful. I was not born with that skill. What I have inherited is mum’s pumpkin soup recipe (in so far as she ever uses a recipe). Absolutely nothing is nicer on a chill winter’s day than a snuggling bowl of piping deliciousness. And for me, this soup is like a hug straight from mum. I know everyone thinks their (or their mum’s) pumpkin soup is the best, but my mum’s actually is, I couldn’t stand pumpkin as a kid, and I devoured this soup like it was going out of fashion (the folly of youth, pumpkin soup is never, ever, going to go out of fashion). The secret is to use a 3/1 ration of pumpkin to potato – It takes some of the edge off the pumpkin (though this is not so important if you’re using the easier to cut, conveniently sized, on-trend butternut like I do) and more importantly, adds a velvety richness to the texture, moving the soup from the watery fate that seems to befall so many other pumpkin soups. I know I’m not the only one to think this because people used to ask quite pointedly which soup mum had brought whenever we did the “pot luck” soup and sandwich thing in the church hall when I was a kid.

So in honour of Mother’s Day, I share with you my mum’s signature pumpkin soup.

Pumpkin Soup:

1 tbl spn olive oil

Diced onion

1 clove crushed garlic

Cubed pumpkin and potato (or sweet potato if you prefer a complex carbohydrate) in a 3/1 ratio

2 cups vegetable or chicken stock.

water

Heat oil in pan on a medium heat, gently sauté onion and garlic in pan until translucent, 3-5 minutes.

Add pumpkin and potato to pot, stir through onion and heat slightly, pour in stock and add water to just cover the pumpkin.

Place lid, slightly ajar to allow the steam out, and bring to the boil.

Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, or until pumpkin is mushy and disintegrates to the touch.

Stand until lukewarm.

Use a bar mix to blend soup into a smooth consistency.

So, there – its super easy, super yummy, and you should make your mum a pot for mother’s day, proximity and family tradition allowing.

Because I’m a brat – I have been known to make a few additions.

  • I love nothing better than a big bowl of soup by itself for lunch. Unfortunately pumpkin soup, while rich in vegetable and carbs, offers no protein. I briefly considered the flavour possibilities of bacon, but it seemed to defeat the purpose. My solution instead is to soak a cup or so of red lentils for a few hours (the ratio will depend on whether you adore red lentils, or like mothers everywhere are trying to slip something healthy or different past the palates of your kids, or yourself). Add the lentils to the last 15 minutes of cooking. This not only ups the protein and tastes yum, but is particularly helpful in retaining the rich depth of texture I love when substituting potatoes with the improved GI but reduced creaminess of sweet potato.
  • To warm things up even more, add a teaspoon or two to taste of yellow curry paste when sautéing the onions. Then, once you’ve blended the soup, swirl in a small tin of coconut cream. I never add cream to my soups generally, partially for health but also because in my experience a good soup doesn’t need it, the flavours will speak for themselves. But in this case it adds a delicious, decedent dimension and helps make you feel like you’ve escaped on an exotic getaway. Be warned however that the dimensions of the curry will intensify in the fridge over night – so if you’re planning to live on a pot for a week you might want to be carful not to overwhelm the pumkin.
  • I have a strong memory of having this with chicken noodle soup mix stirred through when I was young and sick – Mum has no recollection of this – but I do find that a handful of spaghetti, broken into 2 cm lengths, added after the blending stage and cooked through by the soups moister during reheating (the slow old fashioned way on the stove, not in a microwave) produces a comforting addition when sick and miserable.
  • When cooking for one you seem to always acquire just under ½ a bunch of celery you have no idea how you’re going to use. Celery and soup have a long and glorious association – and while I’d love to be the type of person to use such a quandary to make my own stock – I’m not. Instead I find that it’s quite effective to add a stalk or two of celery, sliced, after the onions and before the pumpkin. You may or may not notice any difference, depending on the strength of the pumpkin, but I certainly don’t think it hurts, and I like to think it’s a step towards sprucing up store bought stock.