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my best pumpkin soup ever !!!

Autumn has arrived, I took my camera out to capture the beautiful colors of the Fall before it dimishes. The different grading of yellow/ orange of the leaves brightens up the surroundings.

 

Ruin Pfeffingen

 

Taken in our garden

When driving around in the countryside, you can find pumpkins decorated outside the houses or some people just put them outside for sale.

 

 

 Taken in Alsace

I like pumpkin soup a lot but had only started making it myself last year. There are a lot of recipes out there but most of them are not my taste until I encountered this one at Jana’s (my ex-colleague) place one day for brunch. It was exactly what I like and she was so kind to share her recipe with me. It is just so comforting when you can find something exactly what you like. I think the secret of this recipe is the curry powder which makes the difference. I have searched a lot of recipes that orange juice is a critical ingredient which is true but curry powder is something not to be missed out. Don’t worry, you could hardly tell that there is curry in the soup when it’s cooked.

as seen in #24109 TasteSpotting, 15.10.08

Serves 6

  • 1000g pumpkin (remove the skin and cut into cubes, the best one is the dark orange one called butternut squash)
  • 2 potatoes, peeled, cut into pieces
  • 1 big onion cut into quarters
  • 300ml freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 700ml broth (vegetable or chicken)
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 50ml red wine (optional)
  • 200ml cream
  • Some parsley for garnish

Method:

  1. Heat a little butter in a pan and fry the onion for 2 minutes, then add the pumpkin, potatoes and stir for a few minutes. Transfer these to a soup pan.
  2. Add in the orange juice, broth and curry powder so that the ingredients are not quite covered (the liquid level should not be hiher than the ingredients). Keep the lid on, let it boil in high heat and then turn to medium heat and cook until everything is softened with the lid on. 
  3. At this time use the blender to make the soup into a thick, soft consistency, add 150ml of cream and a little bit of red wine to reach the desired consistency. If it’s too thick, you can always add more orange juice or broth depending your personal taste as the orange juice will make the soup more sour I find.
  4. Taste the soup when it is not too hot, somehow it tastes not as good when it’s too hot. Season with a bit of salt if necessary.
  5. Serve hot in soup bowl with some fresh bread. You can garnish the soup by drizzle some cream and sprinkle some parsley on top.

 

I hope you will like this recipe too! If you cannot finish in one go, you can always freeze it and enjoy it another day.

quick & easy japanese sashimi rice bowl (kaisendon, 海鮮丼 )

Kaisendon (Japanese sashimi rice bowl)

as seen in #5592 foodgawker/ 25.09.08; #22856 TasteSpotting/ 30.09.08

I love sushi and sashimi!!! Last week I was craving them again. Instead of going out and eating in a Japanese restaurant, I made kaisendon at home, it was a spontaneous decision, I did not want to make sushi rolls this time as it would be rather time consuming but at the same time I wanted to do something different instead of just eating as sashimi. So kaisendon can fulfil my desire, another advantage of kaisendon is that the rice underneath the sashimi is still slightly warm when served.

 

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 300g, two to three types of fresh seafood that is suitable for sashimi (e.g. salmon, tuna and 2 king scallops as seen above) or other white fishes such as yellowtail, kingfish, etc
  • Nori (seaweed) (using a clean pair of food scissors, cut into thin strips)
  • Wasabi
  • Sashimi/ sushi soy sauce
  • Black and/or white sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
  • 150g uncooked Japanese (short grain) rice

 

Method:

  1. Cook the Japanese rice in a rice cooker or a deep pan.
  2. Cut the nori into thin strips with food scissors
  3. Using a clean chopping board & cutting knife (best to rinse with hot water just before cutting and dry with kitchen paper), cut the fish into slices of about 0.7cm thickness and slice the scallops into 2-3 pieces.
  4. Half filled two big bowls with the cooked rice and lay and arrange the pieces of fish and scallop on top of the rice.
  5. Sprinkle some nori on one side of the rice bowls and then the sesame seeds as garnish if desire.
  6. Add a bit of wasabi to both rice bowls and serve immediately with some soy sauce on a small dish.
  7. Serve with green tea and enjoy with some cold/ hot sake if you like.

 

Notes:

  • English –> Japanese: salmon (sake); tuna (maguro); yellowtail (hamachi); scallop (hotate)
  • You can also add some thinly strips of cucumber as well

 

best way to preserve garden herbs: freezing method in ice cube trays

Freezing self-grown basil herbs (basil) in ice cube trays for winter use

as seen in #21975 TasteSpotting/18.09.08; #5524 foodgawker/18.09.08

 

This year the summer was over in Switzerland rather early, I remembered when I first arrived Basel three years ago, also in mid-Sept, it was not this cold. I felt the warm weather just disappeared all of a sudden without any signs or saying goodbye to us, the daytime temperature dropped from 25°C to 15ºC sharply one day to another. I am missing the warm weather, I don’t want to put on winter clothes yet.

Last week, I have harvested and preserved the basil leaves from our garden so to enjoy them in the winter. My neighbour, Philly gave us two different species of basil that I had not come across in the supermarket: small leaves basil (Fig. 1) and purple leaves basil (Fig. 2).

 

Fig.1 Small leaves Basil

 

Fig.2 Purple leaves Basil

I have searched in the internet, there are so many different ways of preserving herbs that I did not know which method is the best, so I could only use my best guess. In the end, I have chosen the ice cube method (see below for details) for the small leaves basil as I do not need to chop them into smaller pieces, this seemed to be the most convenient and cleanest method.

As for the purple leaves basil, I divided the leaves in batches and wrapped them in cling film and then I used kitchen paper as separator between each batch so they will not stick together. Lastly I put them in a zip-lock bag and placed in the freezer for winter use.

 

Freezing Basil using Ice-cube method:

  1. Harvest the basil leaves, pick the healthy ones (Fig. 3).
  2. Wash, pick the leaves off the stalk and then use the salad spinner to spin out most of the water (Fig. 4 & 5). 
  3. Pat dry with kitchen towels (Fig. 6).
  4. Stuff the herbs in ice cube trays.
  5. Fill the tray with water. Using your finger push the leaves down into the water as much as possible as they tend to float. Place the ice cube tray in the freezer (Fig. 7).
  6. Once the ice cubes are frozen, remove them from the tray and transfer to zip-lock bags.
  7. These cubes are now ready for use, simply add the whole ice cube into your dish during cooking.

a perfect steak & mooncake on mid-autumn festival

Yesterday was Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, this is one of the most important Chinese festivals, it falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. We usually take this opportunity for family unions, therefore it is also known as “Festival of Reunion”. As the moon is supposed to be the brightest and fullest this night.

On this day we take this opportunity to have dinner together, after dinner, we will go outside enjoying under the moonlight, eating mooncakes and lighting the lanterns.

This night, my hubby has given me a treat that I could have a little rest that he would like to cook something nice for me, his signature dish: a perfect steak, medium cooked or rosé in French and a nice bottle of French red.

During our summer holidays in France, I learnt how the French described the different states of ‘doneness’ of a steak. However, when you order medium in France, it is less cooked than most other countries. If you are interested, here are the terms of grading of doneness I learnt in France this summer, it can become handy when travelling in France.

Grading of doneness of steak in English vs French:

  • Rare: bleu
  • Medium-rare: saignant
  • Medium:  à point or rosé (probably this is more a regional used word?, I have consulted my French ex-colleague who is from Bordeaux, I have included his response as a separate comment as below)
  • Medium well: cuit
  • Well done: bien cuit

as seen in #21817 TasteSpotting/16.09.08

 

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 pieces of approx 300g US Entrecote steak
  • salt
  • freshly crushed coarse pepper
  • butter

Utensils required:

  • Heavy frying pan
  • Roasting pan

Method:

  1. Make sure the steaks are rested to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 70°C.
  3. Season the steak on both sides with salt and pepper.
  4. Heat a heavy frying pan that can place both steaks in, add a big knob of butter into the pan, when the butter is melted, pan-fry the steak for two and half minutes on each side. This will sear and seal the juice inside the meat.
  5. Transfer the steak to a roasting pan and place it in the oven for 10 mins.
  6. Ready to serve with your favorite vegetables.

Notes:

  • It is very important to rest the steak to room temperature so it is easier for you to control the cooking time.
  • With good quality of steaks, we usually prefer not having any sauce to go with it as the sauce may dominate the flavor of the steak.
  • The recipe above requires the steak to be put in the oven briefly because the steak we had this time are rather thick. If you choose to have a thinner steak, you will only need to pan-fry them.

 

 

After dinner, we had mooncake for dessert on our terrace and enjoy the moonlight. I was very happy to be able to buy a box of Hong Kong made white lotus seed and double yolk mooncakes here in Basel.

As seen in #21792 TasteSpotting/16.09.08

perhaps the easiest way to make Guotie or Potstickers: chinese panfried pork dumplings

 as seen in #21146-TasteSpotting/07.09.08

 

Yesterday feeling a bit homesick and have made Guotie* (chinese version) or Gyoza* (Japanese version), a type of Jiaozi* (chinese dumpling).

The recipe I used is adapted from a cookbook I recently bought called ‘Harumi’s Japanese Cooking’. Harumi used prawns in her recipe which is not so common in Gyoza, maybe that’s why she called her version as Chinese Style Dumpling. It’s hard to say if this is pure Chinese version or Japanese version as it consists elements of both countries’ cooking styles. No need to debate on this point really, as long as they taste good, isn’t it?

This version, unlike the typical dumplings, is not sealed which makes it very easy to prepare. My hubby all of a sudden said they were like Chinese Tacos and I said that was a very good description. However, there is one small drawback of the opened mouth dumpling, since it is not sealed, the filling inside does not stick to the wonton wrapping very well, so you have to turn them carefully to keep it in one piece.

 

Makes 18 dumplings

Ingredients:

  • 200g minced pork
  • 100g prawns (fresh or frozen)
  • 18 round chinese dumplings skins (they are white in color, don’t mix up with wonton skins which are light yellow, another tip is to wrap the dumpling skins with a clean damp kitchen towel to avoid them from being dried out)
  • 100 ml hot water
  • a clean kitchen towel

   Marinade:

  • 1 tbsp sake or chinese cooking rice wine (doesn’t matter which you use really as the alcohol will be evaporated when cooked)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • a few pitches of white pepper
  • 1 tsp chicken stock powder
  • 1 tsp of sesame oil
  • 1 tsp of sunflower or vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 50g finely chopped chinese chives (I used chinese chives flower this time, you can also subsitute with spring onion)
  • 2 tbsp of grated fresh ginger

   Dipping sauce:  

  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp chinese dark vinegar
  • 3 tsp of sugar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • some chopped fresh chili (optional)

Method:

  1. Mix the ingredients for in a bowl, stir until the sugar is dissolved, leave aside.
  2. Remove the shell and vein of the prawns if needed. Briefly mince the prawn so you can still see small pieces of them when mixed to the minced pork.
  3. Marinate the minced pork, prawn and chinese chives together with the marinade above with ginger being added last. When this is done, the ingredients should stick together to a paste.
  4. Using a spoon or chopsticks, put a spoonful amount minced meat onto a dumpling skin and then fold it into half. Repeat and put the folded ones onto a clean big plate. Cover with a clean damp kitchen towel to avoid from drying out.
  5. You should have 2 plates of folded dumplings now.
  6. You would need to cook in 2 batches.
  7. Heat some cooking oil in a big flat pan, place the dumplings (in rows if possible) into the pan without sticking them together and turn to medium heat. Cook until they turn golden brown and crispy.
  8. Turn them over to cook on the other side for a few minutes in the same way and then add in half of the hot water (50 ml) slowly, the water should be shallowed covering the bottom of the pan. Cover the lid of the pan immediately and let the dumplings steam for about 5 mins.
  9. The water should almost be dried up by this time, remove the lid, shake the pan slightly to make sure the dumplings are not sticking to the pan. You can remove the dumplings from the heat when they become crispy again.
  10. Serve immediately.

 

Suggestions:

  • You can eat the potstickers with noodle soup, ramen or green salad.
  • It’s best to cook the potstickers immediately shortly after wrapping. If you cannot finish them all in one go, you can keep the minced meat in the fridge and cook them the next day. The unused dumpling skins can also be kept in the fridge by wrapping wth a clean damp kitchen cloth and use the next day immediately.  
  • I have another chinese dumplings recipe here, please feel free to visit.

 

*Source from Wikipedia:

Jiaozi (Chinese transliteration), gyōza (Japanese transliteration), or mandu (Korean), is a Chinese dumpling, widely popular in China, Japan, and Korea as well as outside of East Asia, particularly in the United States.

Guotie (simplified Chinese: 锅贴; traditional Chinese: 鍋貼; pinyin: guōtiē; literally “pot stick”) is pan-fried jiaozi, also known as potstickers in North America. They are a Northern Chinese style dumpling popular as a street food, appetizer, or side order in Chinese, Japanese and Korean cuisines. This dish is sometimes served on a dim sum menu, but may be offered independently. The filling for this dish usually contains pork (sometimes chicken, or beef in Muslim areas), cabbage (or Chinese cabbage and sometimes spinach), scallions (spring or green onions), ginger, Chinese rice wine or cooking wine, and sesame seed oil.

The mixed filling is sealed into a dumpling wrapper, pan fried until golden brown, then steamed for a few minutes. If done correctly, they don’t stick as much as their name suggests, if a non-stick frying pan is used, they do not stick at all.

An alternative method is to steam in a wok and then fry to crispness on one side in a shallow frying pan.