Sunday, August 23, 2009

Easy Being Green

Eat your greens! Actually, my Mum never said this because she's not bossy but I have my own bossy little voice in my head that tells me when I need to eat green vegetables. When I was small my parents invented a game specifically designed to get me to ingest broccoli (I was an only child and completely indulged - you got a problem with that?) and now I really like it. In fact, it might be my favourite green vegetable along with peas, lettuce and cucumber. And avocado if that counts.

So eating and enjoying my greens isn't a trial, just a matter of taking the time to buy really nice, fresh vegetables and making them into something yummy. At the moment this time has been lacking and I've had a few days when I got to the end and realised I ate bread, cake and fried potatoes and absolutely nothing green at all. Oops.

So with the hunting and gathering of fresh produce done yesterday and a blissfully unhurried day at home today, I made this soup and got enough greens into me tonight to feel delightfully virtuous and nurtured. I even have little single-serve containers of it in the freezer ready to take to work later in the week. I'm going to domestic goddess heaven.

Soupe au Pistou (that's French for soup with pesto, merci very much)
from delicious Magazine, September

2 tablespoons olive oil
30g unsalted butter
1 leek, pale part only, thinly sliced
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (I used salt-reduced)
400g can flageolet or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
200g green beans, trimmed and cut into 2cm lengths
2 zucchinis, cut into 1cm cubes
500g baby broad beans (I couldn't find these fresh so used frozen and they were fine)
1 cup peas (also frozen which even Stephanie said is okay)
I also added a big handful of snow peas, trimmed and sliced

Pistou (apparently this one hails from Provence but you could also use pesto if you like)
2 garlic gloves
1 cup basil leaves (nearly a whole bunch if you pack 'em in tight)
50g pine nuts, lightly toasted in a dry frypan (don't burn them!)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup (25g) grated parmesan cheese

For the pistou, place the garlic, basil and pine nuts in a mortar or food processor and pound or process to a coarse paste. Stir in olive oil and parmesan or add and process until blended. Pistou will keep, covered, in the fridge for up to one week (it might discolour a little but it's fine, chillax).

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saucepan and cook leek over medium heat until soft -about 5 minutes. Add potato and stock, bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, season with salt and pepper and simmer for another 8-10 minutes until vegetables are tender (but don't overcook - you don't want mushy greens).

Serve in bowls with a big dollop of pistou on the top. It melts into the soup and adds a beautiful garlic-y, basil-y flavour.

* * *

Okay, so now that I've got that little sermon outta the way, here are some pictures of the Very Hungry Caterpillar cake I made for my dear friend Matty's 3rd birthday. The shredded coconut is green! I put it in a snap lock bag with green food colouring and voila! The copious amount of butter, sugar and lollies that make up the rest of the cake were definitely not green (except the green smarties and jelly beans of course, der).

After we'd sung the song and blown out the candles, Matty spent a long time contemplating which bit of cake he wanted. I had made complimentary 'garden themed' cupcakes (marshmallow and smartie flowers with mint leaves for greenery; butterflies from freckles, a jelly bean and tiny little banana sweets; freckle snails with piped on smiles, etc) and Matty inspected them all to see which one had the most sugar per square millimetre. In the end he went for the caterpillar's head.

(The cake and icing recipes I used are from The Women's Weekly Kids' Party Cakes book which is brilliant and a must for every home. It also contains the flower and butterfly cupcake designs. The V.H. Caterpillar was of my own design and I used a friand pan to get the oval shaped cakes...)

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