Malaysian Chicken Noodle Soup

Now this is a very old favourite. I hadn’t made this soup in about 10 years as it comes from one of my first ever recipe books purchased way back when. I have no idea how authentic it is either, but delicious it certainly is! I’ve had a horrendous cold this past week and generally felt like a dog’s breakfast, so easy, warm and healthy meals have been the only option and while not feeling very creative, I found myself reaching for the old Farmer Brown Quick ‘n Easy recipe book from 1997.

One of the reasons this is so quick to prepare is that you can use leftover cooked chicken. Add a couple of cups of stock and a tin or two of tomato and it’s almost done. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Malaysian Soup

 

You can, of course, put a little more effort into this dish if you have the time and energy by roasting the tomatoes to get that beautiful deep flavour. Home made chicken stock is also another way to personalise the dish and is really easy to make. If you are using chicken left over from a roast, once you’ve removed all the meat from the bones, put the bones into a large pot. Cover them with water. Add a carrot, a couple of bay leaves, a few peppercorns, some celery and an onion and allow to simmer gently, covered, for about 15 – 20 minutes. Strain the liquid and discard the bones, bay leaves and peppercorns. I like to use the veggies in the soup as they already have the flavours and add a little more depth. Fresh chilli can be used, but we aren’t big on chilli so I always have a bottle of sweet chilli sauce in the fridge. A dollop of this was used instead.

ingredients:
2 cloves garlic
1 cm piece fresh ginger
1 onion
1 carrot
15 ml (1 Tblsp) oil
375 ml (1½ cups) chopped raw boneless chicken (or leftover cooked chicken)
750 ml (3 cups) chicken stock
410 g can tomatoes in their juice
15 ml (1 Tblsp) chilli sauce
50 g noodles
chopped fresh coriander or parsley

  1. Peel and finely chop the garlic, ginger, onion and carrot and fry in the oil in a saucepan until the onion is translucent.
  2. Add the chicken (if using raw), stock, tomato (with all the juice from the can) and chilli sauce.
  3. Bring to the boil then turn the heat down to a constant simmer.
  4. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. If using cooked chicken, shred it and add it now.
  6. Add the noodles and cook until they are al dente.
  7. Serve, garnished with the chopped coriander or parsley.

Enjoy!

 
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Bacon and Lentil Soup with Ham and Cheese Toasts

On the last day of the school holiday I took the day off work to spend with my little man. When I asked if he had anything special he’d like to do that day like go to a movie, play mini golf, skate park, etc. his reply melted my heart: “It doesn’t matter Mum, as long as I can be with you”. Awwww! So we had one of those precious days and just did “stuff” together. He’s really into Dinosaurs and Volcanoes at the moment and I found a show at the Auckland Museum specifically for kids which was a story about a family of dinosaurs and two dinosaur trackers. The excitement in the auditorium was almost palpable and you can imagine the noise from an audience mainly made up of children 12 and younger. He was being a “big boy” and being very cool by opting to sit in the back row (thankfully it’s not a very big auditorium) and kept telling me that it couldn’t be real because dinosaurs are extinct, but it didn’t take long before he was totally engaged and even keen to participate in the show (anyone who has kids knows that these types of shows are very interactive to keep the children focused). He got to go on stage and pat the dinosaur up close.

Bacon, Lentil and Tomato Soup with Toasted Ham and Cheese

I was really impressed with the semi-animatronic dinosaurs and although it very definitely had a human inside it (which my son gleefully explained to me when he realised the legs coming out the bottom weren’t only dinosaur legs, but included a couple of human ones too). The mouths opened and closed, they could bend down to eat something off the ground or reach up really high to the tops of the on-stage forest. Their eyes even roamed the room and blinked! A little creepy I must add, but all in all, very effective. The dinosaur trackers were a couple of bumbling goons so we all learned about the dinosaurs together, and little man was very proud that he could answer a question about when dinosaurs became extinct – apparently it’s around 65 million years ago – who knew?

There’s something to be said about being around the innocence of children, their vibrant energy, blatant honesty, their little voices eagerly directing the goons on their mission. I found it very humbling to be among these gorgeous creatures…the children, not the dinosaurs…and sitting there, in the darkness of the auditorium with my little man clutching me in trepidation, excitement or just plain cuddles, I thoroughly enjoyed the 40 minute show.

Afterwards, we wondered around the magnificent building and enjoyed a picnic under the war memorial out front captivated by the view across the city, Hauraki Gulf and an actual volcano, Rangitoto, out in the bay. Thankfully it is dormant and hasn’t shown any sign of activity since it rose out of the sea around 600 years ago, but one of the displays in the Volcano Hall left me feeling rather shaken, literally.

In a makeshift wooden building laid out like any lounge room at home, the sofas facing the TV and looking out what is meant to be a gorgeous floor to ceiling view down the hill and across the water to Rangitoto. The “show” simulates an actual news broadcast on the TV and larger than life display of what could happen if Rangitoto suddenly came to life and erupted. It is very well done and the floor of the room jolts and moves as if an earthquake has occurred and you see the steam rising from the sea water. And then the inevitable eruption sending water and rock and all manor of things airborne. This causes a tsunami which, as it finally dawns on the audience, travels towards our “home” and we see it travelling faster and faster across the water. Finally it hits with a force (the floor violently jolts again) and the screen goes black. When the image returns, it is of utter desolation down the hill and out to sea and Rangitoto has a sister volcano now sitting next to her, the landscape forever changed once more. A great lesson on how New Zealand was formed, but it left me a little concerned living so close to such a dangerous monolith, albeit that we are further away than the house in the simulation.

Arriving home after such a long yet enjoyably busy day, a quick dinner was called for and a quick glance round the pantry allowed this delicious soup to be ready in minutes. I sometimes replace the bacon with Chorizo, it just depends on what I have on hand at the time.

ingredients:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 pack of bacon, chopped (or 2 chorizo sausages, sliced)
1 x 400g can tomatoes
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup brown lentils (or 1 tin lentils)
pinch of sugar
1 litre chicken stock
dried Rosemary
salt and ground black pepper

  1. Heat the oil and fry the onion, celery, garlic and carrot until the onion is soft.
  2. Add the bacon (or chorizo sausage) and fry until cooked.
  3. Pour over the tomatoes, paste and sugar and add the dried rosemary.
  4. Add the stock and uncooked lentils if using. Simmer for half an hour. If using tinned lentils, add them about 10 minutes before serving.
  5. Season to taste and serve.

To make the Ham and Cheese toast:
4 slices ham
any bread, but chunky ciabatta or baguette rolls sliced on the diagonal always look nice
cheese of your choice (Gruyere or Vintage Cheddar adds a bit of zing)

Do we really need instructions for this? Probably not, but here goes:

  1. Preheat the oven grill to 180°C fan forced, or 200°C normal function.
  2. Slice the bread and spread it on an oven-proof tray (covered with baking paper if you want to reduce the washing up).
  3. Grill for a couple of minutes on one side until slightly coloured, then remove from the oven.
  4. Turn each slice of bread and layer the ham and cheese onto the “fresh” side.
  5. Return to the oven for a few minutes until the cheese is bubbling.

Enjoy!

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Prawn and Pumpkin Soup

Soup, Soup, glorious Soup! It has to be one of the easiest meals to prepare and one of my favourite Winter standbys. Simply wack everything into a pot, pour in some stock and let it simmer away until the delicious aromas begin tantalising your tummy juices.

Prawn and Pumpkin Soup

Thankfully my family isn’t fussy and puts up with pretty much anything I give them which allows me all kinds of freedoms in the kitchen that I know many of my friends aren’t able to enjoy. There are, though, a few occasions which stand out in my mind when my family have respectfully yet honestly asked that I not repeat a certain dish, but they are, thankfully, very rare.

I’m not vain enough to think it’s my superior skills in the kitchen, not at all, more likely they’re happy with a warm, hunger-satisfying, healthy “something” at the end of the day. I get the warm fuzzies knowing they’ve enjoyed a meal I’ve lovingly prepared. And what’s not to love about something that takes anywhere between 15 and 30 minutes to make from start to finish?

This past week the Sun Gods smiled on Auckland and we enjoyed almost a full week of gloriously sunny days, the no-cloud-in-the-sky type of Winter days that start off at about 1°C and only ever get to about 12°C if you’re lucky, but the crisp sunny freshness is enough to delight even the most grumpy among us and renew our faith that the wet winter will pass and the long warm days of summer will be upon us once again.

I’ve been concentrating on buying seasonal produce and was amazed to discover I could buy 1kg of pumpkin for $0.79! I’ve also been focused on clearing out the pantry, using all those tins that stock up and making sure I don’t overlook any of the frozen items I’ve stashed away in the freezer before the freezer burn sets in and they are no longer the best quality. And this is how Prawn and Pumpkin soup came about. Well, to be honest, it reminded me of a recipe I saw a few years ago and knew I’d stashed somewhere, but it was easier to just use the idea and run with it instead of trying to locate the book I’d seen it in. And all that yellowy orange goodness just screams Sunshine and Happiness and warms the soul just looking at it. So the next few Chocolate Goose posts will be soup, soup and more soup.

ingredients:
2 Tblsp coconut oil (or substitute with another oil if you don’t have coconut)
1 large onion, peeled and diced
2cm piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 Tblsp sweet chilli sauce (or fresh chillies if you have them on hand – remove seeds and chop finely)
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1kg pumpkin, peeled, de-seeded and chopped into 2cm blocks (not squash or butternut – I had one of those big Jack-o-Lantern ones)
3 cups chicken stock
400ml can coconut cream (not milk)
1 Tblsp fish sauce
10 – 15 cooked and shelled prawn cutlets
coriander leaves to garnish, chopped finely
plain unsweetened yoghurt
garlic bread

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot and gently fry the onion, ginger and garlic (and fresh chilli if using) for a few minutes until the onion is translucent but the garlic mustn’t brown.
  2. Add the pumpkin and cook for another couple of minutes.
  3. Add the chicken stock and sweet chilli sauce (if using this instead of the fresh chilli) and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer for about 15 minutes until the pumpkin is tender.
  4. Pour in the coconut cream and fish sauce and add most of the prawn cutlets, reserving a few to use as garnish. Simmer for a further 5 minutes.
  5. Remove the soup from the heat and puree in batches in a blender. You may need to reheat the soup by returning to the pot for a few minutes.
  6. Serve in bowls garnished with the remaining cooked prawn cutlets, a dollop of yoghurt and the finely chopped coriander leaves.
  7. Serve with the freshly warmed garlic bread.

Enjoy!

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Healthy Homemade Beef Lasagne

School holidays and Mother’s Guilt go hand in hand in my book. You see, I’m a working Mum so although I look forward to the school holidays as much as anyone, I always end up with The Guilts about school holiday programmes. I’ve always worked and am lucky that I enjoy working, and I strongly believe it is a personal choice to either go out to work or be a stay-at-home mum, finances permitting of course, but I can’t help envying those mums who don’t have to work and therefore don’t have to worry about packing little ones off to be looked after by strangers when I’d far rather spend the holidays with my family.

Beef Lasagne

I have friends on both sides of the spectrum – some work full-time, some part-time and others don’t work at all (and by that I mean aren’t in paid employment for a certain number of hours per day as I in no way want to imply here that they aren’t working by staying at home – eeek!). Hats off to them for being full-time stay-at-home mums as that has it’s own set of challenges I’m sure. Over the past few years, however, I have noticed that it is the working Mothers who are happy to swap days and look after each other’s children to try to ease the load while some stay-at-home Mums are concerned that they may be taken advantage of by people who choose to work so should pay for holiday care. And they could be right, if it happened regularly, but I think the occasional playdate or offer to help from friends shouldn’t be an issue as its not about the money, well, not all of it anyway as these programmes are expensive, it’s just nice for the kids to see their friends and for working mums to know and trust the people you’re leaving your offspring with. But I have to wonder how I’d feel if the shoe was on the other foot…who knows, easy to say that I wouldn’t mind, but perhaps I would.

Thankfully I am blessed to have a part-time job (school hours only) so I still get to do the twice daily school runs as well as any sporting extracurricular activities during the week. Balancing work and Motherhood can be tricky while still trying to manage a home and feed your family healthy wholesome meals.

We’ve just come to the end of the first week of the winter two week break and as it’s soccer season, I signed my little man up for the soccer holiday programme. Last Sunday arrived and so did the worst weather we’ve had in weeks – not one of my best ideas. Bad Mother!  Poor boy was drenched to the bone and looked like an advert for washing powder by the time I collected him on the first day. The next few days proceeded to lash our beautiful north island with wind gusts of 100km/hr (worse in some areas), floods, power outages, etcetera etcetera etcetera. My boy stoically went to soccer each day and ended up having fun I’m sure, but I couldn’t escape my feeling that I was subjecting him to all manner of unfair treatments that I didn’t have to endure and certainly wouldn’t do personally if I had the choice. The nice thing about coming home early though is that I have the time to cook healthy hearty meals for my family without too much fuss.

One of our favourites is Beef Lasagne and now I have to admit that I don’t make my own lasagne sheets as I haven’t yet acquired a pasta machine – it’s still on my appliance bucket list. But fresh lasagne sheets work very well, they cook quickly and taste delicious. You also won’t find a bottle of tomato passata in sight, but of course, each to their own and all that, but it honestly doesn’t take much longer cooking from scratch when you weigh up the pro’s and con’s of monitoring what you’re feeding your family. I make a basic Bolognese sauce which is also fantastic with spaghetti – another firm favourite in our home. I think if I served it 5 nights a week my family would be happy. Thankfully they enjoy veggies so I don’t have to mess about trying to hide them in our food, but for those families who do, this is a great way of adding a few hidden ones to the mix and no-one will be any the wiser. Simply grate and add carrots, courgettes, peppers, swedes, leeks or parsnips (I used to call these white carrots when questions were asked); but served with a side salad, I just stick with the simple sauce below.

ingredients:
Bolognese sauce:
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 – 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed or finely chopped
500 g beef mince
1 x 400 g tin pureed tomatoes or 4 – 5 ripe fresh tomatoes, chopped (I don’t bother with peeling them but you can if you want to – see this week’s Tip)
2 Tbsp tomato paste
Italian herbs (oreganum, basil, parsley, etc.)
2 tsp sugar
1 cup hot water
about 2 Tsp chutney
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp Brandy (optional – if using, then leave out the chutney and Worcestershire sauce)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh basil leaves, torn or chopped finely (chopping blackens (called bruises) the leaves, but it won’t matter as you won’t see it)

  1. Fry the chopped onion and garlic over a low heat until onion is soft and translucent. Add the mince, breaking up into small clumps so it cooks evenly.
  2. When the mince has all changed colour, add the herbs, the tin/chopped fresh tomatoes and tomato paste. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the hot water, sugar, chutney and Worcestershire sauce (or brandy) and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer, stirring occasionally for at least a half hour, preferably an hour (longer if possible) to allow the flavours to develop.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and add the chopped/torn basil leaves.

Cheese sauce:
Yes, I do a plain cheese sauce but you can go the whole hog with the traditional Bechamel sauce if you want to.
Regarding the measurements – I use a table spoons of this and a dash of that until I get the texture I want but use the measurements below if you aren’t used to making a cheese sauce.
35 g butter
45 g plain flour
500 ml milk
100 g parmesan cheese

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Don’t let it boil and split.
  2. Remove the butter from the stove and add the flour, stir to combine and ensure there are no lumps.
  3. Return the pan to the stove and gently heat the flour butter mixture, stirring continuously. You want to cook the flour a little before adding the milk.
  4. Slowly add the milk, a little at a time, stirring constantly (I find stirring with a small whisk works well). Continue to add the milk and stir until you have a thin lump-free white sauce. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly so the flour doesn’t settle on the bottom, and when thickened, reduce the heat and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes.
  5. Grate half the parmesan into the sauce and stir. Season with a little pepper if need be, the parmesan should offer sufficient saltiness.
  6. Set aside.

To layer up the lasagne:
1 pack (about 250 g) lasagne sheets (how much you use depends on how many people you’re cooking for/the size of the lasagne)
a large rectangular or square oven-proof dish with deep sides

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Spoon a little of the cheese sauce onto the base of the dish and spread it around to cover the bottom.
  3. Lay out the first layer of lasagne sheets, trimming where necessary so it doesn’t overlap but covers the full area.
  4. Cover with a layer of the mince sauce.
  5. Spread over a layer of the cheese sauce.
  6. Repeat steps 2 – 4 until you’ve used all the ingredients, ending with a layer of cheese sauce.
  7. Grate the remaining parmesan cheese and sprinkle over the top.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 – 40 minutes until evenly browned on top and you can see it bubbling enticingly.
  9. Serve with a side salad and garlic bread.

Enjoy!
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Blue Cheese and Mushroom Pasta

Blue Cheese, also referred to as Gorgonzola, Roquefort or Stilton depending on where it originates from and the type of bacteria used, is believed to have been discovered by accident many years ago (and by that I mean close on two centuries ago) when, you guessed it, mold began to grow and someone decided to eat it – Why? Who knows. Why do humans do many of the things we do. Probably because we can. Our innate curiosity has led to many wonderful and life changing discoveries through the ages.

I’ve never been a fan of any type of blue cheese. Just trying to get to grips with the idea that I’m meant to be eating something with bacteria on it, that I can actually see, was always sufficient to quash any curiosity I had growing up, never mind the smell. Wikipedia likens the smell of some blue cheeses to “foot odour and other human body odours”. Er…doesn’t sound fabulous, does it? But what I have discovered, is tantamount to pure genius. Melt it into a creamy sauce and the smell, bacteria and blue colour disappear and you’re left with a creamy, delicious yet slightly tangy yumminess that is delightful to the tastebuds on anything from steak to burgers to pasta. It even turns a good old cauliflower/broccoli dish into a heavenly treat…and no-one even needs to know :).

Blue Cheese, Mushroom and Spinach Pasta

Being Winter, it was a cold wet rainy afternoon in Auckland so we unpacked the Monopoly, gathered round the dining table and proceeded to prove, once again, that I’m absolutely rubbish at the game and there purely to make the rest of my family look good. I’m so bad, in fact, that I eventually clicked onto the fact that my dear darling husband had been sneaking money onto my rapidly reducing pile of notes in an attempt to try to prolong my presence in the game before all my properties were mortgaged and I was declared bankcrupt. My kind of Monopoly luck means I get all the “Go to jail, move directly to jail, do not pass Go, do not collect your money” cards and have the knack of landing on everyone else’s properties but my own. I have also mastered the art of landing on the “pay tax” spaces just after I pass Go so I have the joy of holding my $2 million notes for a total of about 2 seconds before I have to return them to the bank, but at least it’s worth a good laugh and I get to have my family all in one place focused on the same thing for as many hours as it takes until someone is triumphantly declared the winner. I tend to end up hovering and serving up snacks and drinks for the duration. One game last December lasted 3 days!

So last night, things ran a little behind schedule until we realised it was dark, late and we were all hungry. A quick check on the contents of the pantry and fridge meant I was able to produce a delicious vegetarian pasta within about 20 minutes.  Almost the same amount of time as it takes to cook the pasta. Even my 7 year old had two helpings of this spaghetti so I know it’s good! Anything that gets that kind of compliment is definitely a keeper.

ingredients:
pasta of your choice
200g portabello mushrooms
1 clove garlic (optional)
150 ml full cream
150ml dry white wine (optional)
1 100 g wedge creamy blue cheese
spinach leaves
frozen peas
parmesan shavings (optional)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the packet. Add the frozen peas to the boiling water about 2 minutes before the end.
  2. Slice the mushrooms and peal and crush the garlic, if using. Gently fry in a little butter until softened but not coloured.
  3. Add the white wine, if using, and allow to reduce by about half.
  4. Add the cream and turn down the heat.
  5. Crumble the blue cheese into the creamy mixture and stir. The cheese will melt beautifully.
  6. Add the spinach leaves and allow to wilt. If using frozen spinach, cook it separately first and squeeze out any water before adding it to the sauce.
  7. Pour the sauce over the cooked spaghetti and peas and make sure all spaghetti is well covered coated with the sauce.
  8. Dish up and add a few parmesan shavings (use a potato peeler to shave it thinly).
  9. Season to taste and serve hot.

Enjoy!

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