Search This Blog

Monday, March 25, 2013

Fabulous Fennel

The veggy patch is in full production. We picked 3 kg of runner beans yesterday, ate some with dinner last night and I blanched and froze the rest. There's another similar amount of beans almost ready to pick. I can see us getting sick of beans fairly soon.

The Florence fennel is getting quite big ~ so today I picked 3 bulbs that were bigger than a clenched fist and decided to make soup. It was a great way to use up some home grown potatoes, onions and spinach too. I made fresh chicken stock from yesterdays roast chicken carcass, celery, onion, carrot and a bay leaf but I have used stock cubes/powder in this recipe before and you still get a good result.

Creamy Fennel Soup:
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
a knob of butter
3 large fennel bulbs, cleaned and chopped
reserve a few of the fennel fronds
600g potatoes, peeled and chopped
900ml chicken stock
100 ml milk or cream or a mixture of both
salt and white pepper

a handful of spinach or silver beet leaves, shredded
3 rashers of streaky bacon, chopped

Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan (or stock pot). Add the onion, garlic and fennel then sprinkle with a little salt and stir. Put the lid on and cook gently just to sweat them, you don't want to colour them, just soften them up. It will take about 10 minutes.

Next add the chopped potatoes and the chicken stock, bring to the boil and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for 20 minutes or so until the potatoes are tender.

Remove the pot from the heat and using either a stick blender (my preference) or a jug type blender process until the soup is smooth and free of any lumps. Return to the pan, add the milk/cream and stir whilst gently warming. Avoid boiling the soup at this stage as it could split. Taste and season well with salt and white pepper. Add a few snipped up fennel fronds and stir through.

Keep the soup hot while you make the topping:
Dry fry the streaky bacon until it's crispy, then add the shredded greens. Stir for a few minutes until the greens are wilted. Pour the soup into bowls and top with the bacon garnish.
Makes 6 servings.

If you are making the soup you could go the whole hog and make this bread to go with it:

I used the same recipe but divided the dough into 2 rustic cobs and proved until doubled in size, then baked them for 15 mins each in my mini oven (I still don't have the proper oven installed).

Thursday, March 21, 2013

I'm back....

It's been a long long time since I have had the time or chance to write anything. Life here has been total mayhem ~ the house repairs are still not finished, the kitchen is still half fitted. The saying 'anything that can go wrong, will go wrong' has become my mantra over the past 6 months. I used to be a glass half full type of person but now I find myself leaning to the glass half empty side more and more.

I would not wish this EQ repair process on anyone. I knew it would be a major upheaval and in my mind I could easily cope with it (hey, we used to move house/county sometimes country every 18 months when my hubby was in the RAF). We were lucky in that we had an extremely good team of tradesmen, but unfortunately it was the organ grinder who didn't listen. Hence we are still waiting to have the chimney, fireplace and surrounding walls taken out in the kitchen. Heaven knows when this will happen.

Because of this we can't have the remaining parts of our new kitchen installed, but as it happens that's no problem as things went wrong yet again. The kitchen cabinets were ordered way back last year, when delivered in December 3 crucial cabinets were missing. One being the oven housing unit. Me being me, although feeling extremely annoyed, thought it's no biggie, worse things happen ~ I will just go buy a bench top oven and make do for a few months until the other cabinets arrive in February.

February turned to March and still no cabinets, I rang the shop and they said they had arrived but I would have to pay an outstanding invoice before they could deliver them. WHAT? We had paid in full for the entire kitchen on order day. I searched through bank statements and invoices to prove the payment had been made. After emailing copies of these to them I waited and waited. No apology, no confirmation, nothing. Zilch. I rang the shop to ask if they had clarified that it had been paid for. It had, which I knew anyway. It was like pulling teeth. Still no apology.

The delivery truck arrived last week and after unwrapping the cabinets I saw that the wrong oven housing unit had been ordered. I saw red. I rang and told them there was NO WAY I was willing to wait another 3 months for another replacement being ordered (from Germany). It seems they made a mistake on the latest order, even though I had confirmed twice with them that this one (showing them a picture) was the cabinet on order and was assured that it was.  As it turned out they had the cabinet I was wanting in stock, unfortunately it was a shop model one. Did I get a discount? Don't be silly, refunds/discounts don't exist here. Once they have your money there's no way you would ever get a penny of it back. You have to think yourself lucky that they managed to get you the items you had ordered and paid over the odds for to start with!

Sorry if I'm sounding negative about New Zealand today, but the place really tests my patience sometimes. Life is not a bed of roses here as friends and family overseas like to think. It seems everything has to be put through the Kiwi Complicator machine at least once and sometimes twice.  Sometimes I feel life here is just a big battle.

On the positive side, there are little things that are making me happy, such as food and flowers from my garden:

These colours tell me it's Spring, yet it's Autumn.
Easter approaching tells me it's Spring, but it's not.

A pre-loved Ashford Traveller wheel that I finally found the time to lavish with TLC, it's like new after a good rub down with furniture oil, a new drive band, tensioning system and a few tweaks here and there. It spins lovely ~ not that I've had the time to do much spinning:

We have a completely renovated, beautiful bathroom that's waiting for some new flooring laying tomorrow, (finally we have a 'finished' room, yay!) my organic vegetable garden has kept us in potatoes, salads, berries and vegetables over the past 6 months. I walk my dogs most days and as I turn to go back up the driveway and look over at the mountains I know I've got it good. The problem is life can stop you seeing it that way sometimes!