Winter and I have a love hate relationship. I love winter because, from a cooking point of view, it means comforting foods such as soups, stews and hot puddings are on the menu. Is there anything better than sipping a steaming hot soup on a cold winters day? Ok, maybe eating a piping hot pudding with lashings of cream is better, but eating piping hot food when it’s cold outside is infinitely comforting.
But I hate winter because it means cold, cold mornings, where you get frostbite the minute your toes hit the bathroom tiles and you begin to crave going to bed early just for the comfort of being under a warm doona. While there’s always the option of turning on the heater, the heat it generates is a horrible dry heat, and it’s never quite the same as being in front of an open fire, which as we all know is not particularly environmentally friendly.
While I’m lucky enough to live in Queensland, where winter is much milder than Tasmania, where I grew up, I still don’t like being cold. Tasmanian winters were bitingly cold, and I remember when I first moved out of home with my best friend we would wear coats, gloves and scarves around the house because the unit we rented never seemed to get warm enough no matter how high we turned up the heat.
So when it’s cold I make soup. Lots of soup! And I love to experiment with different flavours and styles. I love broth based soups, but on a cold winters night I tend to favour a thick vegetable soup, like this Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup. The sweetness of the carrots and sweet potato work well together, and the addition of ginger fills the kitchen with the most wonderful scent when you’re making it. But perhaps the best thing of all is the speed at which you can put together this soup. All you need is about 25 minutes, of which perhaps 10 minutes is prep time and the remaining time you can sit down with a glass of wine while the soup bubbles away.
As I was making the soup I was thinking of what to serve with it. A dollop of yoghurt or cream is always a winner, but I wanted something a little different, and this is where the Hazelnut Dukkah came in. What I love about the dukkah, apart from the lovely spices, is the contrast of the smooth thick soup and the crunch of the spices, nuts and seeds. I wasn’t quite sure how the dukkah would go down with my fiance, who is a simple man who likes simple foods, but he loved it. The left over dukkah is also great served with olive oil and crusty bread.
So tell me, what is your favourite winter food?
- 1 tbs of olive oil
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 large brown onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 tbs of freshly grated ginger
- 2 tsp of ground cumin
- 6 or 7 large carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
- 1 litre of vegetable stock
- ½ cup of natural Greek yoghurt
- HAZELNUT DUKKAH
- ⅓ cup of hazelnuts
- 1 tbs of sesame seeds
- 2 tsp of cumin seeds
- 2 tsp of coriander seeds
- 1 tsp of fennel seeds
- ½ tsp of sea salt flakes
- Place a large saucepan over a medium heat and once the pan has come to the heat add the olive oil and onion. Sautee the onion until softened before adding the garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring, for a few minutes.
- Add the carrot and sweet potato and cook for 5 minutes before adding the stock. Cover with a lid and allow to simmer for 15 minutes or until you can easily pierce the carrot with a fork.
- Remove from the heat and use an immersion blender to blend until smooth. If you like your soups a little runnier add some water or more vegetable stock to thin the mixture out.
- While the soup is simmering make the dukkah. Place a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the hazelnuts. Toast for 2 to 3 minutes before adding the sesame seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds and fennel seeds. Cook for a further 2 minutes. Set aside to cool for a few minutes before placing in the bowl of a food processor along with the salt flakes. Process until finely crushed, but there is still a bit of texture to it. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
- To serve the soup add a dollop of Greek yoghurt and top with the dukkah and serve with crusty bread.
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