soup

By The Light Of A Scorpion Moon

Halloween falls between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice. As an Autumn festival, many Australian Pagans and Witches celebrate Halloween on the 30th of April. I’m a bit of a traditionalist so I celebrate Halloween on the 30th of April AND the 31st of October. One Halloween a year is never enough!

April 30th is also Walpurgis Night – a night when spirits walk the Earth and witches are thought to fly through the night skies on their way to various celebrations. Bram Stoker hauntingly invokes the spirit of Walpurgis Night in Dracula’s Guest, his short but compelling prequel to the novel Dracula. This quote by Stoker always sends a delightful chill down my spine:  

“Walpurgis Night, when, according to the belief of millions of people, the devil was abroad—when the graves were opened and the dead came forth and walked. When all evil things of earth and air and water held revel.”

Bram Stoker was born in the sign of Scorpio so it’s not surprising he wrote so beautifully of hidden secrets and creatures of the night.

To add more magic, mystery and a touch of Stoker to April 30 activities in Australia, a Full Moon in Scorpio will be shining upon our festivities.

After an evening of celebrating Halloween, Walpurgis Night and a Scorpion Full Moon, I can think of no better way to end my evening than with a bowl of soul warming soup. Pumpkins and apples are traditional Halloween fare and I never say no to a good drop of alcohol, either in a glass or in my soup!

Pumpkin & Apple Cider Soup

IMG_6046

Ingredients
1kg butternut pumpkin, peeled and cut into cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
30g (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into cubes 
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup apple cider
cream for serving

Instructions
Preheat oven to 200C / 400F.
Place the pumpkin into a baking pan.
Add the oil, rosemary and salt.
Toss until combined.
Bake for 30 minutes or until cooked.
While the pumpkin is baking, prepare the soup.
Heat the butter in a large saucepan.
Add the celery and cook until soft but not browned.
Stir in the apples.
Pour in the stock and apple cider.
Bring to the boil then reduce heat to a simmer.
Cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until the apple is cooked.
Add the roasted pumpkin to the soup.
Blend the soup with a stick blender until smooth.
Pour into bowls and serve with a splash of cream.

Soup For The Soulless

Bela Lugosi was born on October 20th, 1882 in Lugos, Hungary. Bela was most famous for his portrayals of the vampire Count Dracula. As an Hungarian actor famous for playing a Romanian prince, it seems appropriate that his birthplace is now called Lugoj and is in Romania.

In honour of Bela’s Hungarian heritage I wanted to make a traditional Hungarian dish for his 135th birthday. I also wanted it to be blood red. Classic paprika dishes like goulash are an option but I wanted something sweet and liquid. That’s when I discovered meggyleves, a sweet(ish) soup made from fresh sour cherries. The name is a combination of the Hungarian words “meggy” meaning sour cherries and “leves” meaning soup.

To make meggyleves, unpitted sour cherries are simmered in spices before adding sour cream. The soup is then chilled and served cold. I was looking forward to making this soup but our greengrocer didn’t have any fresh cherries as they are out of season. When I got home I started thinking of ways of “resurrecting” the recipe. I had a jar of sour cherries, and although the recipes don’t recommend canned cherries, I thought I would give it a try.

Rather than simmering the already soft cherries I decided I would simmer just the juice in the spices before adding the sour cream. The one thing I was really disappointed with was that the flavour of the cherry stones would be missing. Then I remembered that one of my favourite spices is mahleb which is made from ground cherry stones. I added a dash of mahleb and hoped for the best. The soup is pink rather than blood red but I enjoyed the flavour and could taste the mahleb. I would definitely make it again and am looking forward to making it with fresh cherries when they are back in season.

Resurrected Sour Cherry Soup

IMG_5049

Ingredients
600g (21oz) jar pitted morello cherries
1/2 cup water
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves
1/3 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon flour
1/4 teaspoon ground mahleb (optional but recommended!)
cream for serving

Instructions
Strain the cherry juice into a saucepan and place the cherries into a bowl.
Heat the cherry juice, water, cinnamon and cloves in a small saucepan.
Bring to a gentle boil.
Cover and simmer for 5 minutes on low heat.
Remove from heat.
Mix together the sour cream, flour and mahleb in a bowl.
Stir a little warm soup into the sour cream mix.
Pour back into the soup and stir until combined.
Cover and allow to cool before straining over the cherries.
Refrigerate until cold.
Ladle soup into bowls and serve with a dollop of cream.

The Coffin List

No, this isn’t some macabre list of dead people, or people on my hit list. Nor is it a review of coffins. The coffin list is my name for a bucket list. I don’t like buckets – they remind me of work – but I do like coffins 🙂 To celebrate Imbolc, the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, I thought I would do some early spring cleaning and explore my coffin list.

I always hated having a list of things to do before I die, so I never made a coffin list. But when I had a few health scares in my mid thirties, I took time to look at my life and see if there was anything I really wanted to do. Only one thing came to mind – visit Romania. A diet of vampire mythology from a young age meant I was entranced by Transylvania – the land beyond the forest. I realised I would actually be sad if I never visited. So, for my fortieth birthday, I made the trip to Romania. You can read about this memorable trip in “An Archetypal Homeland” and “In the Footsteps of Jonathan Harker“.

Emboldened by having put a nail in the coffin of my first and only coffin list dream, I thought I would add Whitby to the list. Whitby is an English seaside town in Yorkshire and a major inspiration for Bram Stoker when he was writing his novel “Dracula.” I planned to go there for my fiftieth birthday as part two of my Dracula adventure. That birthday has come and gone and sadly I didn’t get to Whitby, but it’s still on my list!

Happily I did mange to hammer three very important nails into my coffin list recently. This July my partner and I took a journey to the USA to visit a dear friend on Whidbey Island, celebrate July the 4th in Salem the Witch City and visit puffins in Maine. As a bonus, we also got to meet a baby sloth in Boston.

Over the next fews weeks I’ll be sharing this exciting trip with you including recipes inspired from my travels.

For now I would like to share an earlier recipe of mine for Coffin Bread. I think it is most appropriate for a Coffin List post 🙂

Coffin Bread

IMG_8442c

Ingredients
for the soup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons plain flour
3 cups chicken stock
450g cauliflower florets
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
pomegranate molasses for drizzling

for the coffin bread
1 small rectangular loaf of bread (approximately L 15cm, W 10cm, H 10cm)
olive oil

for the garlic croutons
leftover bread pieces from the coffin bread
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup olive oil
pinch of sea salt

Method
Preheat oven to 180C / 350F.
Make the soup by melting the butter in a large saucepan.
Add the onion and cook until softened.
Mix in the flour and the chicken stock, stir until combined.
Add the cauliflower and salt.
Simmer for 15 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft and cooked.
Puree the soup then return to the saucepan.
Simmer gently until the bread and croutons are cooked.
Make the coffin bread while the soup is simmering.
Using a sharp knife, carefully cut a lid off the top of the bread.
Cut out most of the bread inside, creating a basket to hold the filling.
Lightly brush outside and inside the bread and lid with olive oil.
Place bread basket on a baking tray. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden on the inside.
While bread basket is cooking make the croutons by tearing up the leftover pieces of bread and placing in a bowl with the garlic, olive oil and salt. Toss through and place on an oven tray with the bread lid. Bake in the oven with the bread basket until golden.
The lid and croutons may cook quicker than the basket so check and remove when ready.
When bread basket is cooked, place on a serving plate.
If the soup isn’t ready yet, switch off the oven but leave the bread in the oven to keep warm.
Pour the soup into the bread basket.
Drizzle with pomegranate molasses.
Serve the bread lid and croutons on the side.

A Very Sheepish Year 

The Chinese Lunar New Year begins on Thursday, February the 19th, 2015. That’s the easy bit! As for what animal it is, that’s the confusing bit. It’s either the Goat, Sheep or Ram. It is the only confusing one of the Zodiac. The confusion comes from the translation of the Chinese character for the 8th animal of the Zodiac which is yáng 羊

Yáng is used interchangeably for sheep, goats and, even more confusingly, some antelopes such as gazelles. To distinguish between these animals, the Chinese add a character in front of the yáng character. As the character on the Zodiac wheel is just yáng, it is up to you what animal you choose. This is what the Chinese do. Some parts of China are celebrating the Year of the Goat, some are celebrating the Year of the Sheep, while others are celebrating the Year of the Ram. The Eastern countries that have adopted the Chinese Zodiac have made a choice of which animal they believe represents the 8th Zodiac. Some have chosen the goat, others the ram or sheep. In the West, there is still debate about which animal should be celebrated. To the best of my knowledge, no-one is celebrating the Year of the Antelope 🙂

Whether you are Team Goat, Team Sheep, Team Ram or Team Antelope you must try these delicious Chinese Lion’s Head Meatballs. The meatball is supposed to resemble the head of a lion while the cabbage is its mane.

IMG_2392c

Ingredients
for the meatballs
500g ground pork
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine*
peanut oil

for the broth
peanut oil
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ginger, finely minced
1 teaspoon garlic, finely minced
1 + 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon sugar
4 large Chinese cabbage leaves (wombok)
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

Instructions
For the meatballs:
In a bowl, mix together the pork, egg, cornflour, spring onion, salt, soy sauce and wine. Form into 4 large meatballs. Flatten slightly so they are not completely round.
Heat peanut oil in a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. Brown the meatballs on all sides until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and keep warm.
For the broth:
Heat peanut oil in a saucepan large enough to hold the meatballs in one layer over high heat. Fry the spring onion, ginger and garlic until fragrant. Add the chicken stock and sugar and bring to the boil. Carefully place meatballs in a single layer in the stock, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Place a cabbage leaf on top of each meatball. Cover and simmer for another 15 minutes or until dumplings are cooked through and there is no pinkness in the middle.
Serve one meatball covered with a cabbage leaf in each bowl. Ladle with stock and drizzle with some sesame oil.

* you can substitute Chinese rice wine with pale dry sherry or dry white wine.

Remembering Halloween

As the Northern Hemisphere winds its way towards Halloween I cannot help but get caught up in all the excitement. As a Southern Hemisphere Witch I should be getting ready for Beltane, but I can’t. There’s just something about Halloween in October that feels so right for me – especially now that more Australians are celebrating!

flying witch - one of the houses near me has gone all out in decorations

flying witch – one of the houses near me has gone all out in decorations

When I was growing up I was one of the few Aussie kids that really loved Halloween. As a big fan of Bewitched, I looked forward to their Halloween specials. I always wished we celebrated it more here. There were some Aussies who held Halloween Parties but the spirit of the holiday just wasn’t there. You didn’t see streets filled with Trick or Treaters that I would see in the American shows.  And each year I lamented the lack of Halloween paraphernalia available in the stores. In the 80’s, a friend came back from a trip to England and surprised me by bringing back a whole heap of Halloween souvenirs for me! I was so happy 🙂

death by a thousand toothpicks - voodoo doll toothpick holder

death by a thousand toothpicks – voodoo doll toothpick holder

It’s been about 30 years since I received my coveted Halloween haul and happily things have changed. Now, when I walk into a store in October, I See Dead Things! Halloween decorations delight my eyes and Halloween candies make my mouth water. I know there will be Trick or Treaters coming to my door so I’ve stocked up on chocolate treats including an “emergency” pack of mini Turkish Delight Chocolates in case I run out. They’re really for me, as I don’t think many children actually like Turkish Delight, and I love them.

chocolate skeleton in Las Vegas, USA - where they really know how to celebrate Halloween!

chocolate skeleton in Las Vegas, USA – where they really know how to celebrate Halloween!

Some say that the acceptance and participation by Australians in Halloween festivities highlights the commercialisation of the holiday, others argue it symbolises the Americanisation of Australian culture, I just think about bloody time! While, the commercialisation of holidays to sell products is definitely a reason for Halloween gaining popularity, and Australia is also heavily influenced by American culture, it is important to remember that Halloween is not a traditionally American holiday but a Celtic one. Although America has made Halloween what it is today – and I thank them for that 🙂 It is ironic that a country so identified with Christianity has kept one of the most Pagan holidays alive and has spread its popularity throughout the world.

witchy cup and saucer - souvenir from Iceland

witchy cup and saucer – souvenir from Iceland

So when I think of Halloween becoming popular in Australia I don’t think of it as rampant commercialism, nor an Americanisation of our culture, but rather as a subtle re-Paganising of the world. Behind all the costumes and sweets is a memory of what this holiday is all about and who first started it – Pagans and Witches! We have been tortured and vilified throughout the centuries and our rituals and holidays appropriated by others. But Halloween is one holiday that has remained stubbornly Pagan.

So whatever you are doing this Halloween just remember that from the ashes of the fires we witches are returning, one cackle at a time!

witches convention? no just some broomsticks lined up at the panda reserve in Chengdu, China

witches convention? no just some broomsticks lined up at the panda reserve in Bifengxia, China

And now for a Halloween recipe 🙂

trick or treat?

trick or treat?

Coffin Bread

A variation on the aptly named Taiwanese street food filled with cauliflower soup, served with pomegranate molasses and garlic croutons.

Ingredients

for the coffin bread
1 small rectangular loaf of bread (approximately L 15cm, W 10cm, H 10cm)
olive oil

for the garlic croutons
leftover bread pieces from the coffin bread
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup olive oil
pinch of sea salt

for the soup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons plain flour
3 cups chicken stock
450g cauliflower florets
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
pomegranate molasses for drizzling

Method

Preheat oven to 180C / 350F.
Using a sharp knife, carefully cut a lid off the top of the bread.
Cut out most of the bread inside, creating a basket to hold the filling.
Lightly brush outside and inside the bread and lid with olive oil.
Place bread basket on a baking tray. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden on the inside.
While bread basket is cooking make the croutons by tearing up the leftover pieces of bread and placing in a bowl with the garlic, olive oil and salt. Toss through and place on an oven tray with the bread lid. Bake in the oven with the bread basket until golden.
The lid and croutons may cook quicker than the basket so check and remove when ready.
When bread basket is cooked, place on a serving plate. If the soup isn’t ready yet, switch off the oven but leave the bread in the oven to keep warm.
Make the soup while the bread is baking by melting the butter in a large saucepan.
Add the onion and cook until softened.
Mix in the flour and the chicken stock, stir until combined.
Add the cauliflower and salt.
Simmer for 15 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft and cooked.
Puree the soup then return to the saucepan.
Simmer gently until the bread and croutons are cooked.
Pour the soup into the bread basket.
Drizzle with pomegranate molasses.
Serve the bread lid and croutons on the side.

No Trouble Brewing

I celebrated my Name Day last week by going to a short barista course. It was a hands-on workshop on how to use an espresso machine. We learnt how to grind coffee correctly, how to tamp it, which was surprisingly difficult, and how to brew it. I was okay at making coffee but excelled at frothing the milk! Something about controlling that steaming hot pipe and watching the milk heat and foam appealed to me. My frothed milk was so good the teacher used it to do some latte art. Sadly my attempt at doing bamboo latte art didn’t work so well. The class have asked her to run a workshop on that. Hopefully she will.

A few weeks before the course I checked out a local coffee shop with spectacular results. The biblically named Corinthians is a typical coffee lovers’ place featuring the usual coffee paraphernalia – syphons, drip filters, pour overs and my favourite – a cold dripper. This is the one piece of coffee paraphernalia I don’t have and want. Oh wait – I also want a home coffee roaster, and a proper espresso maker and … And that’s the problem with coffee! It’s not just the coffee that’s addictive but everything that goes with it!

Coffee Syphon

a prized possession – my coffee syphon

Managing to tear my eyes away from the cold dripper I scanned the chalkboard menu for the brews on offer. When I asked which coffee would be best for a flat white they suggested one from Rwanda. It was the best coffee ever!! For once I could taste all the flavours on the tasting notes – especially the blood orange. They asked my thoughts and I said it tasted like an orange creme brulee. Imagine my surprise and delight when I saw the waitress climb on a ladder and make an adjustment to the chalkboard menu. Under the tasting notes for my coffee she wrote – (+milk= orange creme brulee). Naturally I have been back for many more coffees!!

coffee chalkboard

my tasting notes immortalised for .. well until the next brew arrives!

When I’m not drinking coffee I am experimenting with it in my culinary pursuits. Two of my favourite recipes are my Coffee Soup

Ingredients
1 slice sourdough bread
unsalted butter for spreading
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup strong freshly brewed coffee

Method
Toast the sourdough bread and lightly butter.
Cut the crusts off.
Cut remaining bread into cubes and place in the bottom of a soup mug.
Heat milk in a saucepan with the sugar and cinnamon until almost boiling.
Pour the freshly brewed coffee into the milk and stir through.
Ladle soup over the bread.

Notes:
Replace sourdough with different types of bread.
Try soy milk for a nutty difference.

Coffee Soup

piping hot goodness

and Coffee Lamb Cutlets

Ingredients
for the marinade
1 tablespoon ground coffee
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
6 lamb cutlets, French trimmed

for the crumbing
1/4 cup plain flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon fresh mint, finely chopped
olive oil for shallow frying

Method
Place the coffee and boiling water in a heatproof bowl. Stir until the coffee has dissolved. Add the salt and pepper. Allow to cool.
Lay the cutlets flat on a board and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Gently tenderise with a mallet.
Place the lamb in a glass or ceramic dish. Pour over the cooled coffee mix. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Mix flour and salt on a plate. Whisk the egg in a small bowl. Combine the cornmeal and mint on another plate.
Remove lamb from the marinade and wipe off most of the marinade.
Working with one cutlet at a time, coat cutlet in flour, shaking off excess. Dip in the beaten egg. Dip in the cornmeal mix, pressing firmly to coat. Repeat with remaining cutlets.
Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Pour enough oil to cover the base of a large frying pan. Heat over medium heat.
Working in batches, cook the cutlets for 3-5 minutes each side or until they are golden brown and cooked to your liking.
Drain on paper towels before serving.

coffee lamb cutlets

a marinade made in heaven

Let me know if you have found new ways to use coffee in your cooking or if you know of interesting coffee paraphernalia I can add to my list of wants.