Thursday, 31 January 2008

HotM 12: Stews and Casseroles

It’s that time of the month again! No, not when PMS hormones are raging and I feel like throwing books or other trinkets at LB when he asks me how my day is. It’s time for Heart of the Matter – the much-nurtured blogchild of the lovely ladies, Ilva and Joanna – whereby bloggers all over the world come up with heart-healthy dishes to share. Last month, my co-host Joanna had a great round up you can find here or here, and thanks to all of you, I now have plenty of fabulous soup recipes to get me through the rest of the gray Oregon winter.

Even more importantly, this is February, and if you’re in the USA, this is the month the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute has dedicated as American Heart Month. February 1st, coming up fast (ahem, tomorrow!), is also National Wear Red Day – to promote awareness that heart disease is the leading killer of women in the United States. Regardless of where you are though, this disease kills and it’s a disease that is mostly preventable!! Which is the whole reason why we started this monthly event. This post that I did last year was what first started our conversations about starting the HotM, and next month, we’ll be celebrating the ONE YEAR anniversary of the HotM blog. Can you believe it? It’s very exciting what bloggers can do when they get together, and now we’ve all created a great archive of recipes from all over the world that are heart healthy and delicious!

This brings me to our current theme - for this month, we decided on a theme of Stews and Casseroles. Now, if you’re like me, you grew up where there wasn’t much distinction between a “soup” and a “stew.” Wikipedia, in fact, had a similar idea...

The distinctions between stew, soup, and casserole are fine ones. The ingredients of a stew may be cut into larger pieces than a those of a soup and retain more of their individual flavours; a stew may have thicker liquid than a soup, and more liquid than a casserole; a stew is more likely to be eaten as a main course than as a starter, unlike soup; and a stew can be cooked on either the stove top (or range) or in the oven, while casseroles are almost always cooked in the oven, and soups are almost always cooked on the stovetop. There are exceptions; for example, an oyster stew is thin bodied, more like a soup.

A casserole in our house, however, was an entirely different matter. Casseroles were eaten with a fork and sometimes even a knife, and almost always cooked or at least finished in the oven. But some stews are heavy and hearty and cooked in the oven too - and sometimes served over mashed potatoes or couscous or some other goodness that will sop up all that yummy, thick sauce. So, however you might personally distinguish between a soup and a stew or a casserole, make it, bake it, or interpret it with all the creativity (and health-minded ingenuity) you can muster and send us your recipes for a heart-healthy stew or casserole. You could even surprise your Love for Valentine’s Day on February 14th with this heart healthy dish (if you do, send us the story!) – for what better a gift than protecting their heart?

If you’ve participated before, you already know the basics. If you haven’t, check here, here and here for ideas on what “heart-healthy” means, and we hope that you’ll join us! Again, we ask that this please be a single event entry (please don’t use your post for other events – that way we can keep things centered on healthy heart awareness). Just send me your entry at mphilli4 AT uoregon DOT edu by February 24, linking to my site, The Accidental Scientist (and to the HotM blog if you’d like) and I’ll post the round-up a few days later on both sites. Happy Cooking!!

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Soup, the round-up

Soup isn't an everyday event in this house ... more of a once-a-month thing. As a child, we had soup for supper on a Sunday evening, made by my stepmother from whatever was in the fridge. She's a great cook, so mostly it was delicious, but even she would agree that it was a little hit or miss. She's a Scot, hates waste - and, on one never-to-be-forgotten occasion, she chucked in a little chocolate cake which just happened to need finishing up.

So when I make soup, I like to know what is in it, what it is. If I'm not making one of my standards (minestrone, parsnip soup, lentil and bacon, potato), then I like to follow (more or less) a recipe. Here are loads of new ones ... and enough variations on lentil soup to mean that even I, with a house-ful of lentil-haters, have got to be able to find one soup that they'll all eat ;)

As you'll see from my submission, Lady Westmorland's Soup, I'm in need of a bit of soup inspiration - and there's plenty here.

I'm giving them in the order they came ... there's not much scope for dividing them up scientifically, so it seems fairest. Thanks to everyone who took part - it's been really fun reading all these different takes on heart-healthy soup for a winter's day.

Sophie at Mostly Eating has made a thick chestnut parsnip and orange soup, using vacuum-packed chestnuts. There's interesting nutritional information about chestnuts (not your average nut), and a zesty fresh yoghurt mix to drizzle over the finished bowl.

Franz from Duesseldorf has given us an old family recipe for vegetable soup with - intriguingly - coffee-flavoured buckwheat pancakes. In English & German.

Take a look at these carrots Ann found at her farmers' market. She made them into a carrot and cumin soup, which you can find at Redacted Recipes.

Nupur made her roasted allium soup to keep out the cold of a St Louis winter. It's very low in calories, fat-free and vegan. You'll find it at One Hot Stove

Helene at News from the Kitchen has given us another bi-lingual entry for German-readers to enjoy: it's a three-coloured soup, using fennel, spinach and tomatoes, to beat the grey winter light.

Dhivya at Culinary Bazaar gives us a vegetarian Vietnamese Pho soup, something I've never tried, which is a broth full of floating goodness.

Lisa at Unique Little Bits says she's been reading HotM for a while, but this is the first time she's taken part. Her soup is an earthy mixture of barley and mushrooms with herbs and wine. Mmm

Co-host Michelle, the Accidental Scientist, has made a lemongrass and ginger scented chicken soup for the heart. Lovely flavours to keep out the cold and remind us that there will be warmer days!

Doodles at Peanut Butter Etouffee has made a lovely lentil soup, packed full of flavours and goodness, and a little wilted spinach or kale to finish - an idea which could be used in a number of the soups featured here.

Chris at Melecotte has made a chunky tomato soup which she finishes in a variety of ways - I like the sound of grated lemon zest, another combination I might not have thought of, but which I will definitely try.

Diane at Gluten-Free Journey gives us a recipe for a quick cock-a-leekie - a Scottish classic soup based on chicken broth. She promises haggis if we come back again!

Over at Thyme for Cooking you'll find Katie's fabulous post on winter soup: is it vegetable soup? or beef vegetable soup? You decide - and if you've never made beef stock before, you'll find clear instructions in her post.

Lisa at Food and Spice has made a lightly-spiced soup of black-eyed peas and vegetables, which is also finished with wilted greens for extra goodness.

Anke at Vegan Bounty has made three soups ... this roasted pepper with cinnamon and ginger was a New Year's Eve treat (made the day after she got back from her honeymoon). Then there's Caldo Gallego a la Scarborough Fair, lots of beans, potatoes, herbs. Finally, broccoli-cauliflower-yin-yang-soup, complete with really useful and clear instructions for making vegetable stock. She asks if she went over the top ... I don't think so, they're so unusual and beautiful.

At Green Gourmet Giraffe you'll find a chunky beetroot soup with kidney beans, originally created by Anthony Worral Thompson. Johanna says it's summery, but that it reminds her of winter days huddled round the fire in Scotland. Low GI as well as low fat.

Pumpkin notchilli
soup got it's name after a family row about whether chilli should have beans or meat, what vegetables there should be ... well, you get the picture. They grumbled, but they ate it up - and then asked for more.

Christine Cooks a heart-healthy lentil soup: loads of vegetables, a little tuna if you'd like, and a good squeeze of Meyer lemon.

Laurie at Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska gives us a traditional Turkish soup, Ezo Gelin Çorbasi - Red Lentil and Bulgur Soup with Mint and Lemon. She also tells us the beautiful story of this dish, which, she explains, is sold in most kebab houses, eaten for breakfast, and used to cure hangovers. It is low in fat, full of legumes and grains, and very heart-healthy.

Last but not least, David at Book the Cook, gives us a flavourful and earthy Brown Lentil, Smoked Bacon and Swede Soup. He says he's feeling jaded because of the weather, and isn't up to creating new dishes, but regular readers of his blog will know that David has very high standards ... and won't be surprised to find that this traditional-sounding soup is full of modern twists - I bet his granny didn't put garlic or chilli flakes in hers!

Did I say last but not least? Here's Ilva's lovely hot broccoli soup, which I saw at the time, but she forgot to send me the link, and I would have forgotten to include it except that we were emailing each other about next month's HotM. Phew!

Thanks to everyone for taking part ... as always, lovely recipes, beautiful pictures, some great posts and moving stories. Next month ... well, Michelle will be posting about that in the next day or two.

PS somehow, not at all sure how, this delicious recipe got left out: labelga's beautiful and fragrantly-spiced red pepper soup, which you'll find at Leafy Cooking.

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Thursday, 3 January 2008

HotM 11: Soup

Hard to believe that it's nearly a year since Ilva and I set up Heart of the Matter to gather together heart-healthy recipes from around the blogosphere (& thanks Michelle for joining us as you promised at the start). We've tried to keep it topical - so this month it's soup to keep us warm in winter ... or chilled and cooling if you are in the southern hemisphere ;)

I don't really start thinking about soup until after Christmas, and then for me it's a natural - all that turkey stock; although, in this house, stock is mostly used for risotto. Our New Year's Eve celebration dinner always starts with consomme. In a good year I make it; this year it came courtesy of Cross and Blackwell. If it's tinned, then you should float something in it - lovely mushrooms, a few herbs, a little spice. One year I added chopped chilli, far far too much chopped chilli, and it flavoured the soup so that it was inedible. Everyone stopped being polite after the second mouthful.

I haven't yet made any soup this year, but I'm planning .... French onion soup will be much better in this house now that I have a grill and can finish it off with a cheesy croute. I want to experiment with lentil soup, as it really irritates me that everyone in this house goes irrrrrrr when they find lentils on the menu: I suspect that mixing them with potato will be the way forward, and would be very keen to hear from anyone who has been experimenting along these lines.

Obviously the key thing for Heart of the Matter is that the recipe should be heart-healthy - and soup is such a good food here, because it can easily be made of vegetables, which are on the must-eat list for anyone watching their cholesterol. No butter, not too much unsaturated fat either, no cream. Listing no-nos makes the heart-healthy diet sound austere, but I have never found it so ... just fresher, and full of herby, spicy flavours. Here's a couple of useful links for anyone in doubt.

I'm sure many of you know the HotM "rules" by now, but here's a recap: all you have to do is to send me the link to your entry at joannacary AT ukonline DOT co DOT uk by 24 January, make a link to Joanna's Food and to the HotM blog as well if you like. I'll post the round up on both blogs. In order to keep this focused on heart health we ask you to consider this as a one-entry event, i.e. we prefer that you don't use your post for other events as well.

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