Autumn Glory

Autumn is my favourite time of year. I love living in Melbourne and seeing the seasons change.  As the days grow shorter ,the trees start to lose their leaves.  The weather gets colder and it’s time to get out warm woollen jumpers, coats and scarves.  Our climate is temperate, we get cold nights but the thermometer rarely drops below zero in the city. It’s when I go to bed with a hot water bottle to keep my toes toasty warm.

It’s also time to start cooking hearty, warming meals.  Soups, casseroles, braises, stews, pies and bakes.  I love this type of cooking. Soup is one of my favourite lunches.  With a slice of good sourdough bread and butter, I could eat (drink it?) every day. Or a toasted cheese sandwich, the perfect accompaniment to a steaming cup of soup.

I’ve already been making soup at the store for a few weeks now.  The weather has been a bit changeable so I may have been a bit premature but they will be a permanent feature on my menu from now on.  Toasted sandwiches will be there too.  The girls at the chemist shop a few doors down from me are certainly enjoying them.

A lot of people tell me they can’t cook.  I think soup is one of the easiest and most nourishing things you can make.  This was one of the first things I learnt to cook when I moved out of home.  I never really had a recipe, I just remembered how my mum Helen made it.  Almost every weekend during autumn and winter there was a big pot of soup made on Saturday morning, this was one of my favourites, even though I didn’t like pumpkin!

The way my mum makes pumpkin soup couldn’t be easier.

Helen’s Pumpkin Soup.

3-4 large leeks, washed and roughly sliced.

A large piece of pumpkin (she usually uses Kent or Queensland Blue), peeled, seeded and chopped into chunks

A few potatoes (a good floury type like Sebago), peeled and chopped in to chunks

Boiling water or hot stock (chicken or vegetable)

Salt and pepper to taste

Leeks usually have lots of dirt inside them.  Remove the tough outer leaves and cut down the middle then cut across into big chunks.  Put them into a large bowl and cover water, give them a bit of a swish and leave while you deal with the pumpkin and potato. When everything is chopped, lift the leek out of the water.  If you try to pour the water off, the dirt will come out with it.  Make sure the leeks are clean, if not put back into the bowl with clean water and rinse again.

Put the vegetables in a large saucepan and just cover with the hot water or stock.  Return to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 10-15 minutes of until the vegetables are tender.  Blend the vegetable with the liquid until they are smooth and there are no large lumps.  If you have a stick blender you can blend the soup in the saucepan you cooked it in.  If you don’t you can use a blender or food processor.

Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve in a bowl with a dollop of cream or sour cream.  It tastes great with some chopped chives sprinkled on top too!

Just right for a cold autumn lunch or easy dinner.

Dinner, the easy way…

The last few weeks have been a bit of a blur for me.  My partner is often away for work. Usually it’s two-three days at the most.  This time it’s different.  He’s in Europe on business (and pleasure!) and he’ll be gone for 4 weeks in total.  Today marks the end of the third week.  He was due to return tomorrow, but is staying away an extra week. Lucky him!

Tonight I had to pick up my eldest from a play date at his friend’s house at 5:30, right in the middle of dinner prep.  Whilst doing the food shop today I picked up some chicken schnitzel at the butcher.  For anyone who knows me, this is unusual.  Normally I would buy the chicken and crumb it myself but after three weeks of solo parenting whilst also going to school three days a week, I was looking for something quick.  So at about 5 pm I decided I should get dinner organised.  Obviously chicken schnitzel was on the menu, but the last few times I’ve cooked it, I’ve found it a bit oily.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about paleo diets and not using processed oils, so I needed another way to cook my schnitzel.  Why not cook it in the oven, so I Googled and came up with this recipe.  It solved both my problems of frying and using oil.  Fantastic, Butter Baked Chicken Schnitzel.

Whilst searching for recipes I came across a Jill Dupleix recipe for Chicken Parmigiana  which took my fancy, so by combining the two recipes, and steaming some vegies, I had dinner on the table in half an hour of arriving home. As I don’t have a microwave, this was a bit of an achievement. I made the sauce from Jill Dupleix’s recipe. It took 5 minutes to chop the garlic (and onion, not in her recipe, as I realised after I’d chopped half of it!).  Then I threw the lot in a saucepan, brought it to the boil and simmered for 20 minutes.  That was done before leaving to collect son number one.

When we got back, I put the potatoes in the bottom of the steamer, covered them with water and brought them to the boil.  I brushed the crumbed schnitzel with butter, put them on an oven tray and baked in a hot oven for 10 minutes.   By the time they were ready to turn, the potatoes were almost done, so I put the broccoli, cauliflower and carrots on to  steam.

The kids all turned up their noses at the idea of chicken parmagiana, so I was on my own. I put the sauce and cheese on one lonely schnitzel and put under the grill while I served up the kids meals.  Being 3, 5 and 8 they like their food to be simple.  I need a bit more flavour.  It turned out to be a delicious meal with a minimum of stress, just what I needed.