Monthly Archives: November 2011

Roast Tomato Soup

What is the long and short of it?

–  The short of It  –

Want an easy dinner? Ripe tomatoes? Dont feel like pasta?  Deep velvety red and wonderfully aromatic soup to the rescue!

2kg of Ripe Tomatoes (I use a mix of cherry and roma)
2 brown onions, roughly chopped
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
Olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt and sugar
Vege stock or vege stock cubes
Fresh basil, to serve

Roughly chop the tomatoes. If you are using cherry tomatoes they dont need to be chopped. Spread out in a large oven tray and generously drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Sprinkle evenly with salt and sugar. This will caramelize and give your soup a wonderful depth of flavor.
Roast at 200C for 20-30 minutes or until skins have split and the house smells wonderful..
Meanwhile…
Put a good 2-3 tbls of olive oil in a large soup pan over a low heat and put in your onions and garlic while the pan is still cold.  Saute for ten minutes, over a low heat, stirring occasionally. You dont want any color. Pour yourself a glass of wine. Potter about, dance if you like.
Scrape all the roasted tomatoes and juices into the onion mix and cover with water or stock by about 1 cm.
Bring to the boil. Turn down a little. Simmer 20 minutes.
Now for the blending. Take some liquid off first and add back if needed. Its easier to thin it out than try and thicken a watery soup.
Season with salt and pepper.
Serve with crusty bread and some fresh torn basil. Feel the Joy.
serves 4-6

(for something a little special put a bowl of grated parmesan on the table for sprinkling)

–  The Long of It  –

A ramble about this soup.. And about tomatoes.

I have been making this soup for years now. It is one of my favorites. It is outrageously simple but tastes wonderful.

I am a bit of a tomato snob. When I was a child we would wander barefoot out into our garden and pluck a ripe cherry tomato fresh from the bush, wrap it in a basil leaf and tada! best snack ever.. But the general tomatoes in Australia are terrible. The skin may be red but the inside is pale and watery with little flavor. A very firm tomato, ladies and gentlemen, is not a good tomato. Dont even get me started on those GM  ‘sandwhich tomatos..’

I like to go the Farmers Market in brisbane where you can buy heirloom tomatoes. Their is a man who looks a little like a tomato himself and he has a table filled with lumpy ones, stripey ones, small ones, big ones, green ones, and yes, you dirty minded people, I am still talking about tomatoes.

And they dont just look different! They taste different too! The green zebra tomatoes are the most flavorsome of the green tomatoes…

But this is not always possible. And so this soup helps to bring out the flavor in even your blander, firmer supermarket tomatoes.

But at the moment I am in Italy!  Ye gods, boys and girls! The tomatoes are fantastico! Your average beef tomato is red and ripe and juicy and cheap!  It is rounded and warm and sometimes I want to put them next to my bedside table for decoration or take photos of them and display them on walls.. But I am a little crazy. You’ll get used to it. So with tomatoes this good, at 1.50 a kg, you see why this soup would be a gift to all.

But if you didnt know that tomatoes are more than j
ust vaguely bland and often crisp vegetables that make your sandwhich soggy or cut in wedges in the obligatory salad on the side of your plate – I suggest you make this soup and then go have a look at some homegrown tomatoes from a nearby farmer. It may just change your life…

A tomato should be like a woman; a little soft,  pleasant to smell and better if left to grow in the sun.. They should be all shapes and sizes  and colors and this just improves on their beauty and the overall experience…

A note on soups…

To add a little secret vavoom! to any soup you make, spend 5-10 minutes on your onion and garlic. This is the base of your flavor.

Put the onion and garlic (roughly chopped ) in a pan with the oil or butter on a low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, without allowing any color. This is called sauteing. But take it one step further. Keep cooking on a low heat till it gets super fragrant but still do not let it color. It will become soft and translucent and palely caramelized and a little sticky. Dont be shy with the oil..

Color  in onion and garlic is wonderful but the flavor changes and is not what we are looking for here. A deep richness and sweetness will come from cooking your onion and garlic this way which will impart its sauve beauty to your soup.

So give it a try on the next soup you make. You’ll see the difference.

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Magical Chocolate Mousse

What is the long and short of it?

– The Short –

No baking, no gelatin, small effort, gorgeous mousse! Tada!

200 gm chocolate, dark if possible
5 eggs, seperated
150 gm butter
 5 tbls sugar

Take eggs out of fridge. Seperate into bowls with enough room for whisking.
Pop chocolate and butter on a double boiler over a low heat. Leave to melt.
Beat egg yolks and sugar till pale and fluffy.
Stir melting chocolate till liquid. Remove from heat and put aside to cool a little.
Beat egg whites to soft peaks.
Check the chocolate. When it is room temperature stir into the yolk-and-sugar mix. Too hot and it will cook the eggs. Mix till smooth.
Fold in whites. Softly. The gentler you are the lighter your mousse.
Set in fridge or pour into lovely little glasses and then set.
Serve with fresh fruit or in hot chocolates or with icecream or as the filling to a cake or eat with a spoon from the fridge…
Enjoy!

(You could easily make this diary free or sugar free by using honey and a diary free chocolate)


What is The Long and Short Of It?

Welcome to the latest evolution of recipes!

Ok, ok, lets be fair, its just a cool idea I had.
A little fact about me; I like to read recipes. I like to read cookbooks.

Everyone can enjoy a beautiful shot of a gooey chocolate cake, a crisp apple, the detail in a buttery crimped pastry tart… But I like the READING of the recipe. Like a novel.

I once read the whole of Nigella Lawson’s How To Eat which is 800 or so pages without any pictures!.. And then I realised! Not everyone does!


In fact many people are simply daunted by a long recipe. Even if it is simply a short recipe explained in depth. Or they put it aside for ‘some day’.
Then, like an oncoming train, it hit me.  You could do both.
Upfront you have the straight forward recipe. Bam! Just ingredients and method.
And then, if you want more; if you desire tips and feedback and clarification you can read on further…  And I can add bits and pieces, modifications I discover later for frequent readers. So, ladies and gentlespoons, the long and short of it is born. Lets test this puppy together.

Disclaimer; the puppy we are testing is not a real puppy, but rather a metaphorical puppy. No puppies will be harmed in the writing or cooking of this blog.


Confessions Of The Florentine Variety

Readers,
I have some confessions to make
Though it may seem as though (from my last post) that I am still in Rome.. I am not.
I have not been for almost a month.
The truth is, dear readers, that I have simply been having too much fun.
And for this I am deeply sorry.
Also I wish to confess that I will not be detailing every single thing that has happened in the last month right away as that is simply too daunting. It has been a stew thick with fantastic new people, stunning old architecture, delicious formaggio and an outrageous amount of walking.
Also wine.
Confession number three;  I dont usually make confessions.

Ok, so now that’s out of the way, lets bring you all up to date.
Scrapbook style…

After a week in the bustling madness that is Rome I felt like a moment of peace.  Enter Chianti. One of the wine growing regions of Italy.
I spent a lovely couple of days relaxing. Writing, having dinner with other travellers at the hostel and  haveing adventures through the olive groves nearby with a girl from taiwan…



I couchsurfed (more on couchsurfing later) with a wonderful woman in Monzuno. A tiny town on the side of a mountain, 650 metres above sea level, you could see halfway across the country from the balcony in my room.
Elena, the woman I stayed with, is a single Mum of such generosity and  warmth that it nearly made my heart explode. We talked and she cooked for me and showed me the mountain in her bright yellow schoolbus…


Next up was Bologna. Ten days of awesome couchsurfing experiences. From a Syrian dinner on helloween to an unexpected capoira lession…

From walking to the church of San Lucca to cooking a feast while dancing to Florence and the Machine…


One of my hosts had a rabbit in their house! A rabbit, I tell you!

I spent a day in Parma (which I love!) and just marvelled at the fact that I was in the part of the world where Parmesan cheese, Balsamic vinegar, Proscuitto, ferraris and Bolognaise sauce are  from…
Food heaven.


Also worth mentioning is the best icecream that I have had in Italy so far.. Check out the fantastic Grom!


Bologna is a diverse city, with the oldest university in Europe. I found it to be laid back and friendly. I will be coming back here, believe you me.

And now, now I am in Florence.
Its Italian name is Firenze, and for any of you people who have read Harry Potter you will understand when I tell you that everytime I see a sign saying Firenze my brain tells me that Mars is looking bright tonight.

I am staying in a Villa! Amongst Olive Groves!
I climbed to the top of the Duomo… And then ate a two course Italian meal; Honeydew melon and proscuitto salad followed by homemade Papperdelle with rabit ragut and homemade bread. And then a coffee.
This is a big deal for me as I am normally full after 1 course. Project ‘Expand Miss Noms stomache’ was working!

Got silly in the gorgeos Graveyard of Mitiano.. (but really, what do you expect from me?)

Had a picnic with sausages and wine and cheese on a bridge one down from the Ponte Vechio with an American gal and a Mexican guy named Jesus…

Caught up with my fantastic american girlfriends who I met in Rome, to explore the medieval town of Arezzo and again to see the Textile museum in Prato…

Next up will be Sicily and yet more adventures.. I will eleborate on my first month as I have more time – until then.. stop living vicariously through me and go and have some adventures of your own! I want to hear about them!

But for now its getting cold.. So Ill put on my alpaca gloves and enjoy a cup of vanilla tea while staring at Olive trees…



Spanish Eggs


The below ingredients are per person. Multiply as necessary..

 2 eggs
1/2 capsicum
1 large ripe tomato
1/2 spanish (red) onion
1 clove garlic
splash of olive oil
fresh basil or thyme or both
kalamata olives – a few
tomato juice or water
salt and pepper

*Put a wide frypan on a low heat. Throw in your garlic, onion and olive oil. Saute for 3-4 minutes intil translucent with no color. Be patient. You are building flavor here.
*While it cooks, cut your tomatoes and capsicum and kalamatas into small rough pieces. Throw in the pan.
*Add 100 ml of liquid (tomato juice will give you better flavor but water will do in a tight spot), season with salt and pepper and a little smoked paprika if you have it on hand.  Tear your basil and strip the little thyme leaves and stir through.
* Make small indents in the chunky sauce and crack your eggs in here. Pop a lid on and let cook for 1-2 minutes.. keeping a close eye as you dont want them to overcook. If you like them fully cooked through wait a little longer (and please dont tell me about it!)
*Toast some bread, put out some plates and prepare to be adored by everyone.

 

  


Rome – An Adventure in Parts – Part 3 – Touching History



Dear Jetlag,
You are a vicious and powerful beast.
Why did you make me sleep my whole first night of Rome away?
Do you hate me? Do you hate Rome? Are you just selfish, Jetlag?
*peers at the Jetlag beast with a quizzically raised eyebrow*
Well, I’ll make a you deal Mr. Lag. You leave me alone and I wont tell anyone how selfish you really are…
What do you mean they already know?
Dang.

                                                                       Miss Nom

I awoke at some point in the evening, got up, had a shower, sat down for a moment to moisturize my legs then promptly fell straight back to sleep.

I awoke for a second time at about 5.30 on tuesday morning. Hot Damn! That is a lot of sleep!
About 13 hours.
I lay in my small bad and stare around at the room. It is bare. Very simple. This hostel is in an old nunnery. I think its about 400 years old. Just a baby, by Roman standards.
The walls are whitewashed and there are long blue curtains that fall from the high ceiling to the ground in stately folds. Everything is pristinely neat and quite austere.
I like it though. There is a stillness here, just a few streets away from the hustle and bustle of everything. I sort of feel like this would be the place to come and meditate if that was what you felt like.
I sneak out of the room and hop on the computer. Breakfast is not until 8 and everyone is sleeping like logs.
I talk to my friends back home, check my emails, have a shower. People begin to stir and walk sleepily into the breakfast room.
The breakfast is your standard hostel breakfast; continental. The bread though, is horrible. Its presliced and in individual sealed bags. I eat some yoghurt and begin talking to this older woman about the standard of bread. I say I wouldnt expect it from Italy. Before long we are talking about everything.
There is a fire in this woman. But also a tiredness. She tells me of how she just came back from a hostel in Iceland where it was very warm. Fresh food, little flowers, welcoming, like a home. She tells me of the corruption in Italy. She comes from L’ Aquila, a city that two years ago was rocked by an earthquake that killed many and left thousands homeless. But the city is so mired in corruption that you have to pay people to even get permission to rebuild your house. That they raised money to help the people, but the people saw nothing of it. And two years later there are still people living out of their homes.
She works for an organization called the International Womens Association that fights for the rights of women across the globe.
She is bold and brassy and educated. Half Italian and half english.
She writes articles that often dont get published because they come just a little too close to the truth. She has made a movie about Gandhi and Mandela and the anti-violent movement called ‘Together we lit up the sky.’
We decide to find some nice bread. So we walk and talk she teaches me a little Italian and I tell her about my childhood. She is off to a meeting but she shows me a bakery and we buy some biscuits and some nice (homemade!) bread and she shows me the Victor Emanuel Monument whichs she tells me conspiratorially the Italians called ‘The Wedding Cake’ because of its over the top frothiness.

 

We try to buy some cheese and the guy ignores us for a while, serving other costumers that come in after us and chatting to some men in uniforms until we actually have to get his attention.
He then puts far too much cheese in a bag and tries to charge us 20 euro. Bettina laughs at him, and then tells him in no uncertain terms that that is enough mozzarella for a family and that we wont pay and that he should be ashamed of himself. And with that we leave the store.
She explains that you still get this sometimes in Italy.. Men who will ignore you in favor of serving men and then try to treat you like a tourist. She apoligizes for her speach. I tell her that I find her attitude refreshing.
We have morning tea together even though she is running late. Because, in her words, ‘When you’ve misbehaved this badly, you may as well be late with style.’
I bid her goodbye and head out on the streets alone.

I get a little lost.
It is nice to get lost in Rome.
At least its nice when you’re not dragging your entire life worth of luggage with you.
When hunger strikes I find a place filled with Italians and order the Gnocchi with baby clams and a glass of white wine. They bring me a jug. Its a small jug, but a jug none-the -less.
The food is good. Really good. I mean seriously.. look at this…

Makes me want to eat it again. Pretty sure that sauce is just butter and garlic and wine. Mmmm.

I devour it all and then drink the wine cause I feel too akward to send it back and then head back to the hostel feeling a little silly.
I find some properly priced cheese from a polite fromagerie and also purchase some tomatoes and garlic from a fruit and vege store. (frutta e verdura)
I spent the evening having beers at a bar nearby with some ladies from the hostel. Two gals from the states, a lady from France and a woman from Canada who is originally from Russia.  We talked and beered and listened to the people speak Italian and then we went looking for food. We found a place that was small and filled with ropes of garlic, bunches of chilli and bustling with locals.
Our choice was good. I tucked into pasta with cream, peas, mushroom and pancetta.  Simple, well down and perfectly seasoned. Not to mention cheap.
The owner was a humerous guy who was very proud of his decorations. Near the end of the meal the chef came out, and, apon seeing Meradith drinking coffee WITH her soup he threw his hands in the air and yelled, “No! No! Caffe? E soup? No!” And he took her coffee away. Only once she had finished her soup did he bring her coffee back.
“Now..’ He says. ‘Caffe.” I hid my coffee and was glad he didnt notice.
We were all laughing and they braught us out giant rolled up pieces of card about 1/2 a metre each and proclaimed, “Bill.” With a huge grin.
In fact they were posters for the restaurant. And they gave us a discount . We all left laughing. I will be going back there, let me tell you.

My next few days are spent hanging out with Meredith and Meggie from the states. They are Wwoofing in Italy. We visited the catacombs of San Callisto and the Pantheon (serious OMG Factor – see below) and a the Cuppachin crypts (art made out of the bones of 4000 cupachin monks).

I spend a day with two awesome girls  from australia where we TRY and see the inside of the Colluseum, but due to large rains in the city it is closed. Closed I tell you! We dont let this stop us from taking some rediculous photos before checking out the Ancient Roman Forum.

As you can see, we are behaving like serious adults..


Here I

am wearing my best ‘Italian hands’ while Grace just thinks Im rediculous…

We see some interesting pasta decorations outside of a restaurant and stop her for the best Gnochi I have had in a long time. The waiter is charming and the wine is good.
Rome is  in my blood…

 


Slow Going..

Listening to my michel thomas audio lessons and learning some Italian.. Im like a turtle, though.. Slow…