Curried Butternut Squash Soup

As I wrote the other day, I received a birthday postcard from one of my Postcrossing friends in Germany. The curried butternut squash soup I am posting here is based on her recipe she had shared with me earlier. (In return for the recipe, sent her a tourist postcard while in Scotland, and then the birthday card reached.)

Oh, what a timing! Just received another mail from her – with a cutting of newspaper article on a German pumpkin festival on the very day of Halloween!! Danke!!

Have to study German really hard, don’t I??

I followed her recipe with some simple alterations: used butternut, shallot, coconut sugar and vegetable bouillon instead of pumpkin, onion, white sugar and chicken bouillon, added ginger and coriander, and also sauté process. Quantities of the ingredients were not specified, so I prepared them according to my taste.

Ingredients

3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ginger root, freshly grated
50 g French shallot (eschallot), finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh coriander/cilantro stalk, finely chopped
1 ½ tsp curry powder
1 kg butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cubed
150 g potato, peeled and cubed
800 ml water
2 tbsp no sodium vegetable bouillon
1 ½ tsp fine sea salt (adjust according to the bouillon package instructions)
¾ tsp ground cumin
½ tbsp coconut sugar
a smidgen – a pinch of cayenne pepper, to adjust
ground black pepper, to taste
fresh coriander/cilantro, coarsely chopped (optional)
crème fraîche
fresh coriander/cilantro leaves, to garnish

Method

 ( For 3 -4 servings)

  1. In a large saucepan, put in 2 tbsp olive oil and the ginger and fry over low heat stirring consistently until fragrant. Add the shallot and coriander stalk, and sauté for a few minutes but not brown. Spoon in the curry powder, then carry on until fragrant. Add the rest (1 tbsp) of the olive oil and increase the heat to medium. Add the squash and potato, and cook stirring constantly until it starts to soften but not brown.
  2. Pour the water into the pan, stir in the bouillon, salt, cumin, sugar, cayenne and black pepper, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and cover to simmer for about 20 minutes or so until the vegetables have softened.
  3. Purée the soup in a food processor or a blender until completely smooth. Return to the pan and reheat over low heat. Pour in some water if the soup is too thick. Taste and add more seasoning if needed. (optional: Stir in the chopped coriander and ) remove from the heat.
  4. Serve the soup in bowls with swirls of crème fraîche and coriander leaves.

Mmmmm so tasty! I like the soup so much that I can eat this enough for two, or even three! 😀  Thank you, my dear Postcrossing friend  in Germany. I will write you back later on. 🙂

with my Rhine postcard collection
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Birthday Cards 2016

Received a Russian birthday card for the first time. Thank you, dear my Postcrossing friend!

And lots of kuchen from Germany – We’ve just started swapping postcards.  Danken!

 

 

 

Ukrainian Borsch

Still playing with beetroot at weekend 😀

beetroot flipped (sig)

The Ukrainian school girl, who sent me a birthday card last October, kindly gave me a Borsch recipe with a ‘Ukraine National Dish’ postcard. Her recipe doesn’t have ingredient quantities, so I tried as follows:

 

Ingredients

[soup stock]
1 liter water
200 g beef
200 g pork

1 large or 2 small beetroot, shredded (stems and leaves, chopped)
1 large carrot, shredded
1 medium onion, sliced
vegetable oil (to fry)
1/2 tbsp tomato paste

600 cc water
salt & pepper (to taste)
1 large potato, diced
4 cabbage leaves, thinly chopped (make double if no beetroot stems and leaves available)
200 g cooked or 1 tinned haricot beans, drained
1 clove garlic
1 bay leaf

fresh parsley (to sprinkle)
sour cream (optional)

Ukraine Borsch

Method

  1. For stock, wash the meat in cold water and place in a large soup pot with 1 litre water. Then bring to the boil and simmer on low heat for one hour and a half skimming off the scum when it appears.
  2. Meanwhile, fry the carrot and onion until the onion becomes translucent. Set aside.
  3. Fry the beetroot for a few minutes. Spoon in the tomato paste, mix well and fry for another 8 mins.
  4. Remove the meat from the stock. Put in the potato with 600 cc water and bring to the boil again.
  5. Add the cabbage with some salt, then cook for 5 mins over low heat. Stir in the beetroot and simmer for further 10  mins. Add the carrot, onion and beans, and cook for a few mins.
  6. Put in the raw garlic and bay leaf. Taste, and season with salt and pepper. Cover and turn off the heat and let stand for a while.
  7. Ladle into serving bowls, and serve with a dollop of sour cream and the parsley.
  8. Enjoy the result!

 

borsch postcard

 

I followed her recipe with some simple alterations. It doesn’t specify ‘what’ beans, so I chose haricot – red kidney beans might be better because of its colour. The Borsch is deeper in colour than the soup I usually make – more reddish and beautiful! Maybe because I add some lemon juice or vinegar, and don’t fry tomato paste but just put into broth. It doesn’t have meat itself but satisfying enough – with lots of vegetables and beans. I like this so much that I will follow this recipe from this time forward.

Thank you again, my dear postcrossing friend  in Ukraine. I will send you something later on 🙂

 

borsch postcard stamps

 

Ukrainian Borsch image

 

Kutia – Ukrainian Christmas Eve Pudding

In early December, I received an ideal postcard for this time of year from a Postcrosser in Ukraine – a recipe card of Kutia or Kutya, a traditional Ukrainian Christmas Eve dish. I picked this out for the fifth try (as for the 4th, pls read Grechka Soup), and have saved it until today.

kutia postcard

As usual, browsed the unfamiliar dish on the internet and learnt that:

Kutia is a sweet grain pudding, traditionally served in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and some parts of Poland. Sochivo, a dish similar to kutia, is very popular in Russia. Kutia is often the first dish in the traditional twelve-dish Christmas Eve supper (also known as Svyatah Vecherya). It is rarely served at other times of the year.

Kutia was also part of a common Eastern Orthodox tradition in the Russian Empire….  (from Wikipedia)

The Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on 7th of January, so Kutia is supposed to be eaten on 6th January. The sweet dish seems like dessert, but served first out of the twelve! Kutia is very auspicious because the ingredients such as wheat berries, poppy seeds and dried fruits symbolise abundance, fertility and prosperity.  (This is like we eat Kazunoko, or herring roe for New Year’s.) Someone mentions on the web that the dish is traditionally eaten with a wooden spoon, but not clear if it’s a special one for Kutia….

It sounds like ‘porridge’ rather than ‘pudding’…. I’m fond of porridge and eat it for breakfast whenever in Scotland, so I happily gave it a try.

 

Ingredients

( For 2-3 servings)

125 g pearl barley, well rinsed and soaked in water overnight
400 cc water (plus 100 cc to adjust)
a pinch of salt
25 g raisins
30 g poppy seeds
50 g honey
50 g walnuts, roughly chopped
25 g dried apricots, chopped

kutia

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 150 C.
  2. Drain and put the barley in a pan with salt and 400 cc water, then bring to the boil over low heat.
  3. Place the barley into an uncovered baking dish with the boiled water, and cook in the oven for 60 mins or until the barley becomes tender. Stir occasionally and add 100 cc water little by little as required to prevent sticking and drying out.
  4. Meanwhile,  place the poppy seeds in a pan with adequate water and bring to the boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 mins.  Drain through fine sieve, then grind the seeds with a food/coffee grinder (or something). Set aside.
  5. Rinse the raisins and soak in boiled water for 10 minutes, then drain and dry.
  6. Combine everything and mix well.

 

kutia

 

I basically followed the recipe, but altered a bit: reduced quantities of the ingredients, and added some procedures and ingredients. Pearl barley was used instead of wheat berries, which I couldn’t find anywhere, and a baking dish as a substitute for a cray pot.

I should have ground the seeds more finely! They are so tiny that my Suribachi, a Japanese mortar and pestle for sesame seeds, didn’t work well 😦 Anyway, it doesn’t matter as it tasted good. Not sweeter than imagined – omitted sugar from the recipe! – and the sourness of the apricot gives it a good kick. I like the crispy and chewy texture and nutty flavour of the walnuts in the slightly sticky and soft ingredients.

Kutia is one of the twelve-dish supper, which represents the 12 apostles, containing no meat or dairy…. Well, it’s not 6th or 7th January yet, so I unhesitantly poured some heavy cream over the pudding! 🙂

Thank you so much for the wonderful recipe, dear Postcrossing friend in Ukraine! I’m wishing you blessings and joy this Christmas, and hope your dream comes true.

And also thanks a million to another friend in Ukraine for the information and advice. I’m looking forward to your letter!

 

Ukrainian stamp

 

kutia on table

Vinegret Revisited (+ Borsch)

 

I’m really into beetroot these days….

 

beetroot

 

I’ve been making Borsch every single weekend for the last one month since I obtained fresh beetroot for the first time in my life  😀

Here in this country, the vegetable is not that common and not easily available, but I luckily found it IS available during the winter from a farmers market near my workplace, which opens every Friday! That’s why I’m cooking the soup at weekends.

 

Ukrainian Borscht w/ Russian Black Bread
Ukrainian Borsch w/ Russian Black Bread (Borodinsky?)

 

The other day, while I had been addicted to the dish, I received an exactly the same postcard from another Postcrosser in Russia: the Vinegret recipe postcard.

 

two vinegret postcards

 

Hmmmm… seems as if it had been sent on purpose to remind me to make Vinegret again, not with tinned one but with fresh beetroot!! Yes, I wrote “I’ll definitely make this again, and it’s a must if I could run into fresh beetroot” on my 10th of September post! (As for the card and cooking, please read Vinegret.) Well, I was too obsessed with Borsch, and it had slipped out of mind….

 

vinegret russian salad
My first Vinegret in September 2015

 

So I was urged to make the Russian salad again. Not reluctantly, of course!! 😀

 

vinegret
My second Vinegret in December 2015

 

vinegret

 

How beautiful…. I like the magenta colour, which is more vivid than of tinned beetroot salad. This tastes more fresh and tasty, and its earthy flavour is less intense. I wish it were obtainable in summer as well!

Thank you so much for the reminder, dear Postcrosser in Russia!

 

vinegret stamps

 

Grechka Soup – Russian Buckwheat Soup (and a bit about Japanese Soba)

The fourth try (as for 3rd, pls. see Apple Pandowdy), the recipe of which from St Petersburg, is a Russian dish again. The simple but nutritious buckwheat soup is ideal for winter, so I gave it a try on a chilly, rainy Sunday in late autumn.

buckwheat grains
buckwheat groats

I had learnt from PetersFoodAdventures that buckwheat is a common crop in Eastern Europe, and Russia is one of the largest producer and consumer. Buckwheat is consumed a lot in Japan as well; however, I don’t think I myself have eaten the grains – actually, it’s not a grain but a fruit seed though – or groats themselves (of course cooked ones!) except a tiny amount in buckwheat tea. I might have had some cooked with rice…. Hmmm… I can’t remember.  I like Gallete, a crepe from Brittany, but that is made from the flour.

In Japan, the large amount of buckwheat production/import volume is consumed as Soba. Soba is the Japanese name for buckwheat crops, and also refers buckwheat flour noodles, one of the most popular noodle dishes in Japan. For me, to be honest, Udon, thick white wheat flour noodle, is more familiar. There exist many food cultures in Japan, but basically it can be divided roughly into two groups based on regions: Eastern or Western Japan – you can find the most obvious differences in soy sauce or Dashi, soy sauce based broth. I’m not from Soba culture or Soba growing regions in the East, so this might be the reason I hadn’t had the grains themselves??? 😀 Well, it’s just because ground buckwheat products are much more commonly used for dishes in Japan. Actually, the grains cannot always be purchased from any shops, and it was a bit difficult for me to obtain them.

There are many varieties of Soba dishes, and the below in the photos are two of them:

Zaru Soba - chilled buckwheat noodles
Zaru Soba: chilled buckwheat noodles with soya based dipping sauce (above right: Tempura Maitake Mashrooms)

 

Soba - buckwheat noodle soup
Tempura Wakame Soba: buckwheat noodle soup topped with Kakiage (mixed vegetable tempura) and Wakame seaweed

There is another way to enjoy Soba. I mean it’s not the noodles but the hot water in which Soba has been boiled, which is called Sobayu (‘yu‘ means ‘hot water’). Sobayu is sometimes served when you order Zaru Soba (see the photo above) which comes with dipping sauce. After you finish the noodles, you can add some Sobayu to the remaining sauce, and drink it. It is not only tasty but also good for your health.

Buckwheat is rich in vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber etc. and very nutritious. Its beneficial effects are to lower blood pressure, control blood sugar levels, and increase liver function.  Lots of the nutrients are dissolved in Sobayu, so you cannot waste the liquid!!

Soba Cha - buckwheat tea
Soba Cha: roasted buckwheat tea – caffeine free – is also good for your health. You would love the toasty flavour!

Oops, sorry for the long introduction. Grechka soup in which the super grains are cooked must be as much nutritious and beneficial as Sobayu.  Here is the recipe:

Ingredients

(for 3-4 servings)

1,250 cc water
250 g chicken breast
1 bay leaf
1 large potato, diced
1/2 carrot, diced
1/2 onion, diced
50 g buckwheat groats
salt and pepper (to taste)
dill, parsely or chervil

Grechka Soup w/ postcards from St Petersburg

Method

  1. Put the chicken breast in a pan with the water and bring to the boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 mins.
  2. Take the chicken out of the pan. Cut the meat into small cubes and set aside.
  3. Add the vegetables and the buckwheat groats into the chicken stock and cook over low heat for 20 mins.
  4. Return the cubed meat to the broth and season salt and pepper.
  5. Ladle into deep bowls and scatter with dill, parsley or chervil.
  6. Bon appetite!

stamps from St Petersburg

I followed the recipe (almost), but halved the quantity of the ingredients as none of my pans are big enough for 2.5 liters water 😦   and added onion, bay leaf and fresh herb.

Thank you so much for the winter recipe, dear Postcrossing friend in Russia! I like the grains very much, so will put in some more next time I cook it. Maybe double? 😀   I will also try Kasha, buckwheat porridge, and Kasha Varnishkes, kasha with farfalle bow-tie pasta I came across while I was browsing the soup on the web.

Grechka Soup w/ bread

Vintage Stamps 2

‘The unexpected is fun to get.’

Before my postcard was delivered, unexpected one reached me from the recipient of my card. Hmmmmm the recipient was supposed to unexpectedly receive mine first….  Coincidentally and unintentionally, we exchanged unexpected postcards and airmail stamps 🙂
vintage stamps 2

Apple Pandowdy

Apples, apples, apples…. I was thinking what to make with the fruit in season. Then happily, the right recipes reached me from a Postcrosser in Canada. This time I sent a postcard first with the address of this blog hoping to swap recipes with the recipient of the card, who suggests the trade on her Postcrossing profile. Generously enough, she gave me two: Apple Pandowdy and Apple Crisp.

What is a Pandowdy, by the way??? As usual, checked with Wiki and found that it is a Canadian Maritimes and New England variety of Cobbler as well as ‘Grunt’ and ‘Slump’ (both also unfamiliar to me!). I love apple crumble and had wanted to bake cobbler, so I chose it as the third try (for 2nd try, pls read Adobong Manok). I followed exactly the recipe:

Ingredients

1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup water
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon juice
4 cups washed, peeled cored, and sliced tart apples
1 cup flour
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp shortening (trans free palm shortening)
1 beaten egg
1/3 cup milk

(* Canadian measurement: 1 cup = 250 cc/ml)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375F/180C.
  2. Blend together first 4 ingredients in a saucepan.
  3. Stir in water. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil and has thickened slightly (8 to 10 mins).
  4. Stir in butter, vanilla and lemon juice. Set aside.
  5. Arrange the apples in a greased 9 inch square baking pan that is 2 inches deep. Pour the sauce over apples.
  6. To make the sweet biscuit dough for the topping blend the 1 cup flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut the shortening in finely.
  7. Add egg and milk. Stir with a fork to make a drop batter.
  8. Drop by spoonfuls over top of the apple mixture. Do not  stir.
  9. Bake for 35 to 45 mins.

Hmmm… Should I have used a pan instead of a plate as the name, Pandowdy indicates? And also, I should have made the drop batters smaller?

Anyway, as you can easily imagine, it’s so good! with the delicious sauce and the crispy topping – I like the scone/biscuit dipped in the syrup. What is better, less fat and much healthier than my apple crumble! but how could I have resisted spooing some vanilla ice cream on??? 😀  Seems better to eat when it gets a little bit cool so that you can fully enjoy the taste of the apple and the sauce.

The pandowdy recipe is from a cookbook that the Postcrosser wrote for a fund raising event, and  there is a line at the bottom of the page:

We can’t always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.

It reminded me of the saying, ‘We are what we ate.’ I cook myself but I appreciate the people who have cooked for me, esp. my mum who fed me and make dishes I love whenever I go back to my parents’ place.

maple buiscuits 1 (sig)

Thank you so much for the apple recipes, dear Postcrossing friend in Canada! I will try the crisp as well.

Vintage Stamps

 ‘tiny works of design and art’

The sender describes so. Indeed, and they delight the eye.
(The stamps date from 1920’s to 40’s, 60’s, and 80’s-90’s.)

I don’t normally swap postcards but this is an exception, and replied with airmail stamps issued between 1952 and 1962.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Adobong Manok – Filipino Chicken Adobo

The second try (for 1st try, pls read Vinegret) was offered by a Postcrosser in the Philippines. Actually, I had never heard of the dish before although it has been known as ‘the world’s best chicken dish’ since Mark Bittman described it in his How to Cook Everything.

Googled and learnt Chicken Adobo is considered as the national dish of the Philippines. The unfamiliar name ‘adobo’ is derived from Spanish word ‘adobar’, which means ‘maninade’, ‘sauce’ or ‘seasoning’. The name comes from Spanish, but the cooking method is native, which had already existed before the Spanish colonisation in the late 16th and early 17th centuries (from wikipedia).

Both the ingredients and the process are quite simple despite so-called ‘the world’s best chicken dish’, so I decided to give it a try. There arose, however, two questions: If shoyu, Japanese soy sauce would work instead of Philippine one. Also wondered if pineapple chunks go well with Adobo as the sender of the recipe wrote, ‘you can add pineapple chunks’. Hmmmmmm, so I shot a message for some advice to one of my work colleagues from the Philippines who used to work in Japan. He had tried it with shoyu and commented, ‘it doesn’t taste the same, but not too bad’. He had neither eaten nor heard of the dish cooked with pineapple, but added, ‘every family has its own recipe’. Hmmmmmm, the solution applicable was… four experiments!! to cook with:

1. Chinese dark soy sauce (similar to Philippine soy sauce)
2. Chinese dark soy sauce and pineapple
3. Japanese soy sauce
4. Japanese soy sauce and pineapple

Ingredients (for 2 servings)

400 g chicken drumstick or thigh
salt and black pepper
2 small cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp ginger root, minced or ground
1 tbsp vegetable oil (used sesame oil)
150 cc/g water
1 bay leaf
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp vinegar (used rice vinegar)
(optional: 100 g fresh pineapple chunks; 1 boiled egg; boiled string beans)


Method

  1. Prick the chicken all over with a fork. Then season well with the salt and pepper and leave for 10 mins.
  2. Place the garlic in the oil on medium low heat, and stir constantly. Add ginger and cook until fragrant.
  3. Add the chicken and saute over medium heat until brown all sides.
  4. Pour in the water with the bay leaf and bring to boil.
  5. Stir in the soy sauce along with the boiled egg and cover with foil (on top of the liquid and chicken) or drop-lid so as to circulate heat and the liquid, which cooks the ingredients evenly, and simmer on lower heat for 20 mins.
  6. Add the vinegar and simmer for another 10 mins, and remove from heat.  *To help the liquid penetrate the chicken better, leave it for at least 1 hour and turn the chicken over every once in a while *.
  7. Bring to boil again over lower heat. When the ingredients warmed through, put in the pineapple and string beans, and cook for 3 mins stirring occasionally. Then turn the heat off.
  8. Serve the chicken with the sauce over steamed white rice. Enjoy!

If no time, skip * * part.


I added some process (also changed each cooking time a little bit) and ingredients (seasonings, bay leaf, egg) to the recipe I received. And also quantities of the ingredients as they are not referred, but followed the ratio of vinegar to soy sauce (1:1). The sender mentioned Adobo varieties such as vegetable, esp. string beans, and pork, so I garnished the beans.

Conclusion:
I’m familiar with shoyu, so No. 3 is pretty good for me, but prefer not with pineapple. The Chinese dark soy sauce is very deep in colour – really black! – thick and rich but a bit sweeter than regular sauce. I totally agree with my work colleague. Pineapple? The fruit gives it good sourness and sweetness, which makes the sauce milder and the dish more tasty. I also like the pineapple itself – very fresh and juicy (Do not overcook!), and goes well with the sauce. Strangely, the pineapple cooked in the dark soy sauce has a slight coconut flavour although I didn’t use coconut oil, cream or flakes, and I like it very much.

So the conclusion is …… I like No. 2 most!!
If Philippine soy sauce isn’t available, I highly recommend to use Chinese dark soy sauce as substitute.

Thank you very much for the recipe, dear Postcrossing friend!

Philippine Stamps

Vinegret – Russian Beetroot Salad

I joined Postcrossing about two months ago.
It’s a joy and a little excitement to receive/write postcards from/to random people around the world.

Even choosing suitable cards for the recipients is enjoyable. It’s not a request, but many refer in their profiles to the postcards they would like to receive. So I followed them:

SOMETHING ABOUT FOOD

You know, it’s not my only preference! I am obsessed with food though. 😀

I have sent 15  (4 more travelling now) and received 18 cards so far. Not all, but some of the cards delivered to me are food-related, for example, one from the Netherlands with a photo of chips dipped in mayo, and a few with a food recipe I hadn’t come across in my life. Out of curiosity, definitely out of appetite, I decided to try them and to blog for the record hoping it also stirs someone’s interest or satisfies his/her appetite.

So the first try came to a Vinegret, Russian beetroot salad, recipe travelled from Moscow. The beautiful bright pink colour caught my eyes and appetised me, and I thought the sourness would be perfect for summer.

vinegret recipe postcard I received

Pare cooked beet and shred it, dice (or cut into strips) cooked carrots (pared), and dice cooked potatoes (in their skins). Cut cucumbers into strips or dice them, slice onion (finely). Then, join  the ingredients obtained, add peas, salt, sauerkraut, a bit of vinegar, sunflower oil, and mix everything well. Put the vinegret into a salad-dish and decorate with parsley (twigs).
 (‘cooked’ indicates ‘boiled’)

I followed the recipe with some changes:
Halved the quantity of ingredients (on the photo above). As substitutes, used gherkins (3 pieces) for cucumber, olive oil for sunflower oil, and a tinned beetroot because it’s difficult to obtain the fresh vegetable where I live in. Soaked finely chopped onion in water for a while and dried with paper towel to reduce its strong and sharp taste. Then added some liquid from the tin to colour the salad and from the jar of gherkins to taste. Instead of parsley, sprinkled with fresh dill as the postcard shows. For better taste, refrigerated for a couple of hours.

I made the salad mildly sour, and before serving, mixed in chopped dill, which gave it pleasant aroma and flavour. Not sure if it properly tasted, as I haven’t had the authentic dish, but I believe it was pretty good. 🙂

vinegret russian salad

I’ll definitely make this again, and it’s a must if I could run into fresh beetroot.

russian stamps