Late Summer Minestrone

minestroneetePodded beans….  Shelled beans ……  Légumes…..

I never know what to call these beauties (in English or French for that matter), but I do love them !  I’m becoming a kind of collector, happier to just look at them and run my fingers through a bowlful of dried, pretty beans …..  I grow quite a few varieties. Some shared by friends, some bought in heritage seed catalogs and some even come from markets in Spain, where they also love their dried beans.  The great thing is that once grown in the garden, they can be saved to plant the following year, becoming “FREE FOOD” !

DSC_8919In France podded beans (lets just call them that) are often braised with stock, carrots, onions and herbs and served alongside meat such as roast or grilled lamb.

Minestrone is one of my favorite things to make and I change the ingredients with the seasons.  As you can see by my (vague) list of ingredients, this type of soup can really be adapted to what you have or what you feel like.  I had a hard time even putting it into a written recipe.  Exchange beans for chickpeas, pasta for rice or leftover risotto, any other veg will do as well.  To jazz it up a bit, a grating of strong sheeps cheese and a dollop of pesto just makes this soup irresistible !

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late summer minestrone

  • Servings: 4 with leftovers
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  • 1 medium onion or 3 medium leeks sliced or grated
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • a tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1.5 L chicken or veg stock (homeade is good)
  • 1 or 2 medium courgettes (zucchini), sliced
  • green beans, cut into bitesize pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked podded beans (if using totally dried beans, soak overnight first) or a tin in a pinch
  • 2 or three tomatoes, chopped
  • a handful of orzo pasta (or other small dried pasta)
  • a handful of fresh herbs (such as basil, dill, oregano….)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • grated flavourful cheese and pesto (if you wish at the table)

As with most soups, start by slowly softening the onions and carrots in some olive oil (try not to brown).  Add garlic and tomato paste then the stock.  Next goes in the courgettes and green beans.  Once almost cooked to your liking, add the beans, pasta and tomatos.  When the pasta is cooked ajust the liquid adding more stock or water, thow in the chopped or torn herbs, season with salt and pepper and serve.   Bon Appetît !

TIP:  I once read that when making soup…  add just enough liquid to cover the veg and add more as needed instead of adding the total amount the recipe calls for right away !  I find this really works to concentrate the flavours….

DSC_8922My current favourites, purchased from a biodynamic farmer on Vancouver Island…  Scarlet Runner beans (eaten as runner beans or left to get nice and big as seen below)  Pretty non?

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Bulgur Summer Salad

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The first day of fall was a beautiful summer day this year….  A great occasion to have friends around for a Sunday Lunch !  On the menu:  Roast chicken, cucumber with dill and yoghurt, fresh tomatoes from the garden and this salad. This was definately our summer salad this year !  Surely inspired by my new Yotam Ottolenghi cookbook 🙂

Eaten with slow roasted (solar oven) pork, braised green beans, or just on its own.  Served at room temperature (not cold from the fridge) or even warm, with its difference in textures coming from gooey slow fried peppers, crunchy nuts or seeds and fried onion, just delicious !

Bulgour Summer Salad

  • Servings: 4 as a side dish
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  • 250g organic bulgur wheat
  • red or yellow peppers (as few or as many as you like, I like lots)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (or 1/2 and 1/2 with ghee)
  • tablespoon chopped preserved lemon peel (or juice of 1/2 a lemon)
  • something  crunchy (toasted almonds, pinenuts or pistachios)
  • loads of chopped parsley and coriander
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • thinly sliced onions
  • flour
  • 2 tsp ground sumac (optional)
  • a good drizzle of pomegranate syrup (optional)

summer13I find the easiest way to prepare Bulgour Wheat is by dropping it into boiling water and cooking like pasta until done.  Mine takes about 5 to 8 minutes.

Put your drained, cooked bulgour into a large bowl.  Cut up  your peppers into chunks and slowly fry them in the oil.  Nice and slow to start so they cook then up the heat a bit to get a nice cararmelised edge.  The thing here is that the oil will be the dressing for the salad.  Take off the heat and let cool in the pan.

Meanwhile, thinly slice the onions and cut the slices in half so they separate nicely. Heat up a cupful of your favourite oil for frying and after tossing your onions in some flour, fry until crisp. Do this in batches and scoop out the fried onions using a slotted spoon and place them in a bowl to be put aside.

Toast your nuts or seeds in dry pan and bash them up a bit in a mortar and pestle if needed.  Put into the bowl with the onions.

In the pan with the cooling peppers, add the Pomegranate molasses and the sumac, if using.  Also add the preserved lemon or juice and some salt and pepper.

Just before serving add the chopped herbs, nuts and onions and adjust the seasoning.

One of the nicest seasonal ingredients I’ve added to this is crispy fried chopped “garlic RAMPs” from the garden.  These are the shoots the come up from the garlic plant that you cut just before they flower. Thanks to Brie the garlic expert and owner of Wildslope Farm on Vancouver Island for that tip !.   Fried green beans are also a nice addition.

Bon appetît !

Fish Tagine in the Solar Oven !

Yes, we have  a Solar Oven !  Thanks to a pretty “handy” man at home who built it 😉

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four solairefoursolaireAicha is a lovely woman that came from Morocco years ago to take our soapmaking course for a Humatarian Organisation she worked for.  She spent a few days with us after the course and one afternoon, she wrapped her hair up in a scarf and announced that she would be cooking dinner.  A traditional tagine….

We actually had the proper clay tagine dish with its cone-like lid that we had purchased in Morocco the previous year including the special flat bit of metal to place in between the clay dish and the gas flame, so she felt right at home.  The only meat we had in the house that day was Duck Breast so she made a beautiful Duck Tagine….  A perfect image of the Moroccan / French freindship.  Today, after finding some gorgeous fish in the market we came up with this dish, directly inspired by the recipes that Aicha left us before heading back to Morocco.

taginefishI have since given away the Tagine, in a hastefull spring cleaning one  year, and now miss it terribly since we have a solar oven, and it would be a perfect “vessel” for slow cooking !  So, without the Tagine, we managed to make a pretty tasy fish Tagine !

Aicha's Fish Tagine

  • 500 – 600g white firm fish (choose sustainable bien sûr !)
  • marinate the fish pieces in a bit of oil, juice of 1/2 a lemon and a heaped teaspoon each of paprika, cumin (toasted and freshly groun), grated garlic and ginger and turmeric.  Add 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and freshly ground pepper.
  • Oil “generously” a baking dish (round shaped pie type dish is nice) and cover the bottom with long slices of steamed carrots.  Sprinkle with a bit more of the above spices.
  • Add a layer of rings of red pepper and sliced tomatoes.
  • Top with the fish and more tomatoes and peppers.  The idea is to “layer”.
  • Top all of this with a couple of lemon slices before pouring over any leftover marinade mixed with a bit of water and a heaped teaspoon of tomato paste.
  • Put a lid (or cover with foil) on your “tagine” and either cook on the stove top or in a moderate oven for at least 20 minutes or until the fish and veg are cooked through.  If YOU are clever enough to have a solar oven in your garden, ours was done in 30 to 45 minutes without “pre-heating”.  Top with lots of chopped parsley and coriander before serving with nice crusty bread or couscous if you are really hungry 🙂

Bon Appetît !