Sunday, 20 October 2013

spicy parsnip soup

It's been a bit quiet in the world of Live Local Greens for the last week or so. Hope you haven't missed me too much! But time is just flying by before me and I don't seem to have had a chance to stop and think, let alone cook.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I've recently started a great new job but it does mean that I've been focusing all my energy on that, as well as starting to look for a new home for me and my boyfriend, and by the time I get home it's all I can do to make a vague attempt at something half decent for dinner, followed swiftly by bedtime. Combine that with a busy busy weekend last weekend, full of family, birthdays and babies, and here I am one week later finally getting some down time. Phew!

I'm not very good at doing nothing, and always feel like my time should be filled with some kind of productive task. Even if I know that I'll just be chilling at home, I still have to schedule in 'brunch and papers' time, or 'read my book on the sofa with a cup of tea' time. But after the blur that has been the past couple of weeks, I was very glad to arrive at the weekend with very little plans made. The truth is, it's so important to have those free days, and to let yourself relax without the need to do something 'constructive'. How often do we give ourselves the opportunity to just stop, unwind and reboot? I'm definitely going to start making a conscious effort to do so.

And with the heavens opening on Sunday and scuppering all plans of going for a walk, what else to do but make soup? When it's raining and miserable outside I do love pottering about in the kitchen with the radio on and a mug of tea by my side, coming up with tasty food to warm the cockles and the soul.

We got lots of (soil covered!) parsnips in the veg bag last week. I love parsnips but only really know two ways with them; roasted as a tasty party of a Sunday lunch, or in a soup. And soups are great but I did think that the parsnips might need something to jazz them up a bit, so added a bit of spice and the result was a lovely, warming, parsnip-y soup with a bit of a kick!

I hope you've had some time out too this weekend!

Spicy parsnip soup
(Makes 4 servings)

glug of olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp of chilli flakes
tsp garam masala
thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
5 parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped into smallish chunks
1 litre of vegetable stock
black pepper
natural yoghurt (optional)

Heat the olive oil and fry the onions on a medium heat for about 10 minutes, until starting to soften. Add the ginger, garlic, chilli flakes and garam masala and fry for another 5 minutes.

Add the parsnips and fry for a couple of minutes, making sure they are coated with the spices.

Add the stock and black pepper to taste. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until the parsnips are very soft.

Blend in a food processor or with a hand held blender. I tend to blend it so there are still a few chunks still in there for a bit of texture, but you could blend it until completely smooth if desired.

Serve with extra black pepper and a dollop of yoghurt mixed through and some tasty bread for dunking!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Comfort food

So I got ill.

I've just started a new job which is great and very exciting but taking in all that new information means I've been absolutely shattered for the last two weeks. Couple that with the change in weather, the fact that I've not been sleeping well and have been neglecting my (somewhat poor anyway) exercise regime as a result of being so tired, and BAM- here comes a cold.

I always seem to get whatever bug is going around. I still to this day cannot comprehend why as I eat healthily, exercise fairly regularly and get a lot of sleep (a lot. I luuuuuurve sleep.) But I have previously suffered from anemia and figure I must just have a pretty lousy immune system.

There are a few things I turn to when I'm feeling a bit grotty and sorry for myself. Either to wallow in that feeling if I'm going for extra pathetic, or to try to kick myself straight out of it. As the weather was turning chilly and I had a lot of the ingredients in my fridge that needed using up, I went for the old faithful minestrone soup.

There's nothing better than a hot bowl of wholesome, tasty, slurpy soup when you're feeling under the weather or just a little blue. It's like a hug in food form. And minestrone is great as it's so filling, a good way to get some veg in you and you can pretty much just wack anything you happen to have in it!

So I made a huge batch of this and have been eating it all week. And I'm pleased to say I'm feeling much better. Just in time for the weekend! Hope you all have a good one, and stay healthy!

Makes enough for 4 (generous) servings

1 onion, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 leek, sliced
200g chard (or you could substitute kale, cavolo nero or cabbage), stalks removed and sliced, leaves roughly chopped
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 litre of vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
2 tsp of dried parsley (or handful of fresh if preferred)
50g broken spaghetti or mini pasta
1 tin of cannellini beans

Slowly fry the onions, carrots and celery on a medium heat with a glug of olive oil until soft and starting to brown. Add the garlic and chard stalks and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, stock, bay leaf and parsley. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. You may need to keep an eye on and add more stock if necessary.

Add the pasta, chard leaves and 2/3 of the beans and cook for a further 10 minutes, until the pasta is cooked. Blitz the remaining 1/3 of the beans in a blender until smooth, and add to the soup.

Serve hot with a sprinkling of vegetarian Parmesan or cheddar.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013


I'm really not a morning person. Every morning, as my alarm goes off, I mutter some kind of expletive and hit snooze..."just another 10 minutes!". Once I do finally drag myself out of bed, I'm pretty much incapable of any kind of conversation until I actually have to walk out of the door and head to work.

One thing I do love about mornings though, is breakfast. I always make sure I factor in time for it in my morning routine, and as I sit in our kitchen with lovely huge windows looking out over the garden, it's my moment of peace and quiet and reflection before the busy day begins.

I think it's so important to have moments like these in our crazy hectic lives. We get so caught up in to-ing and fro-ing and always having to do something or be constantly stimulated, it's nice to just stop, take some time out, and spend some time with yourself. Morning is the perfect time for this. If you start the day with a calm, clear mind you can aim to keep it with you for the rest of the day.

And of course eating a decent breakfast is important too. I've never understood those people who skip breakfast. How can you function?! If I don't eat breakfast it's like I might as well have not got out of bed at all.

I go through phases with breakfast of eating the same thing every morning for weeks on end. Mainly some kind of oat based something- so good for that slow release energy. I'm trying to avoid any processed food at the moment, which involves making everything from scratch. Shop bought cereals are some of the worst culprits for high amounts of sugar and salt, so I thought I'd have a go at making my own granola. And I'm converted! This is delicious and so easy to make, plus you can sub in whatever type of nuts, seeds or fruit you fancy. I will definitely be making again.

Coconut & fruit granola
Makes enough for 10 servings

300g rolled oats (not instant oats)
50g sunflower seeds
50g pumpkin seeds
50g flaked almonds
4 tbsp of coconut oil (can use olive oil if preferred)
3 tbsp honey
1 tsp cinammon
50g coconut flakes
50g raisins
50g dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 150C/Gas mark 2.

In a large bowl mix the oats, seeds, almonds, oil, honey and cinammon. Tip the mix onto a large baking sheet   and spread evenly (the mix needs to be spread fairly thinly so you might need to use two baking sheets). Bake for 15-20 minutes, until starting to turn golden in colour. You might need to check on it occasionally and mix it to avoid it burning.

Mix in the coconut and fruits, and bake for a further 10-15 minutes. It will get crunchier as it cools!

Store in an airtight container for up to one month.

I like to have mine topped with plain or Greek yoghurt and fresh fruit. Yummy!