What Matters Most

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On Friday, a very dear friend came to visit me. We have been heartfelt mates for over 25 years. We studied natural therapies together, as well as other very interesting things, as you do when you step into the alternative lifestyle! It’s probably been more than ten years since we have seen each other. It’s actually hard to remember the last time we met, as even though we only speak a few times a year, we are always present in each other’s life. Much has happened during that time, and as true friends do, we have shared the sorrow and the joy. Yes, we indeed have a special friendship, and it seems to weather every storm.

We had spoken to each other earlier in the week to organise the day, but we didn’t set a time. And as we’re quite a distance from where she and her lovely new man were staying, they set out rather early. The result was that they arrived mid-morning ~ just as I was starting to prepare lunch! The kitchen was covered with uncooked food, there was stuff everywhere, and the vacuum cleaner was still sitting unused in the hallway … definitely not my style when greeting guests! Generally, I am Mrs Organised. The only thing we had managed to do before they arrived was set the table!

But you know what? We were so happy to see each other it didn’t matter a scrap! Between hugs, introductions, laughter, non-stop talking, the chopping of vegetables and the clanging of pots and pans, it all got done. I’m usually not good with people in my kitchen space. I like to get the cooking done on my own, by myself! So I created an imaginary no-cross line, and fortunately, they hung with Hubby on the other side of the kitchen counter while I got on with it.

When lunch was finally cooked, my humble offering was a winter vegetable soup served with beef rissoles, bread buns and chutney, and for dessert, we had chocolate cake with ice cream and strawberry sauce. When it comes to cooking I’m a taster and I add seasoning and flavour as I go along, so my recipes are never quite as exact as they should be, however, here they are:

Winter Vegetable Soup

I think everyone knows how to make vegetable soup ~ it’s pretty basic cooking. I generally make it with whatever I have in the fridge ~ the vegetables I used were as per the ingredients below, but I often also add peas, zucchini, and bok choy about 10 minutes before it’s cooked. It’s really up to you as to what you use and the quantities. I generally like lots of greens, but I used what I had. You can top each bowl with your favourite grated cheese and add sun dried tomatoes as shown below on the right, or add cooked sliced sausages, pork belly or chicken. That’s the beauty of a big pot of vegetable soup ~ you have an excellent base for a different meal every night from the leftovers in the fridge.

Veg Soup1

Veg soup with Sun Dried Tom and Swiss CheeseIngredients:

  • 3 parsnips
  • 1 smallish turnip
  • ½ large butternut pumpkin
  • 5 small new potatoes
  • 3 large carrots
  • 3 sticks of celery
  • 200-300 grams green beans
  • 1/4 cauliflower
  • 1 small broccoli
  • 20 snow peas
  • 1 large leek
  • 20 asparagus spears trimmed
  • 2 bay leafs
  • A few peppercorns
  • Enough water to cover the vegetables
  • Your favourite stock ~ mine is Marigold Swiss Organic Vegetable Bouillon Powder which is available at most health food stores and also online.
  • 1 tin of baked beans ~  butter beans are also good
  • 1 tin of creamed corn ~ if you want to use fresh corn then add it at the beginning with the other vegetables
  • Bunch of chopped flat leaf parsley

Method:
Chop all vegetables to about the same size, except for the leek which should be cut into half rings. Place all the vegetable bar asparagus, broccoli and snow peas in a large pot and add the water. Add a few tablespoons of stock powder and then taste about half way through the cooking to see if it needs more. Alternatively you can use pre-prepared liquid vegetable stock if you’re happy with the flavour. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 30 minutes, then add the asparagus, broccoli and snow peas and cook until tender. When ready mix through the baked beans and creamed corn. If you want to thicken the soup a little, blend some of the pumpkin and the potato. I served each bowl topped with flat leaf parsley, or as mentioned above, you can add almost anything you like! Also, note that soup is generally better the next day when all the flavours have had a chance to meld, and had I been energetic enough the night before, I would have made it then!

My Mother’s Rissoles

These are very yummy and also very tender. You can use any minced meat, even chicken mince, and add your own flavours and spices.

The Buns and The Chutney

My Mother's RissolesIngredients for 16 Rissoles:

  • 500 grams of medium minced beef
  • 4 slices of bread ~  either white or wholemeal
  • Enough milk to cover the bread ~ if you have dairy issues, use oat or soy milk
  • 2 eggs ~ I usually whisk them before adding to the mix
  • 1 large onion finely chopped ~ either brown or white
  • Seasoning to taste with stock powder, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce
  • Flour for rolling the formed rissoles ~ I generally use rice flour
  • Olive oil or butter for frying ~ butter, of course, is more flavoursome

Method:
Soak bread in milk till it’s very soft, then squeeze out all the moisture. If the crust is not soft enough or a bit lumpy, then remove it. Cook the chopped onion till tender. When the onion is cooled slightly combine it with the bread and all the remaining ingredients, and mix together well with your hands. The mixture must be a sticky consistency. If it seems a bit sloppy then add some flour. Also, now is the time to taste it for seasoning. The mix needs to be fairly well seasoned, or the rissoles will be bland. Form mixture into rissole size balls and roll each one in flour. You can season the flour if you feel you want more flavour. If you will be cooking them later, then don’t flour them yet. This must be done just before cooking. Melt enough oil or butter (or both) on a medium to high heat to cover the base of the pan, add 4 to 6 rissoles at a time depending on how large your pan is, flatten them with a spatula, and brown on both sides. Then cook them on low heat for 3 minutes until cooked through. I served my rissoles on buns with the soup, but if you’re serving them on a plate with vegetables, you may want to make them a little special. When they are cooked, pour the fat off the pan, add back all the rissoles, and then add enough double cream to make a sauce. Be warned, everyone will love this so don’t skimp on the cream. Simmer covered on low for a few minutes. Taste the sauce to see if it needs seasoning. Generally it doesn’t. This makes a very rich, but beautiful, sauce.

Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Sauce and Ice Cream

This is so easy. It’s my favourite chocolate cake, and it’s a bought mix too ~ just follow the directions on the box. I always choose the ‘full fat’ ingredients as below, as I find the reduced fat option is a bit springy, and I don’t like it.

Choc Cake and Strawberry SauceChocolate CakeIngredients for Cake:

Ingredients for Strawberry Sauce:

  • 2 punnets of chopped strawberries
  • Water to cover half the strawberries
  • Castor sugar to taste
  • Squeeze of lime juice

Method:
Place all ingredients into your saucepan and cook for a couple of minutes till strawberries are soft but still have their shape. Remove strawberries and reduce liquid by half. Add strawberries back into the reduced liquid and blend with an electric hand mixer. Taste, and add more sugar if required. Serve warm or cold with chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream.

So that’s what we ate, and it was delicious! I must admit that I’ve never been caught out before not ready to greet my guests, but as I said, it didn’t matter. We spent our time lost in laughter and memories, and not for a second did we focus on our surroundings or how the meal came to the table. What matters most is the friendship ~ it’s what made our time together special. My friend lives in another state, and it’s quite likely it will be another ten years before we see each other again, but that’s OK! We had enough hugging and joy to last us a very long time.

P.S. We finished the soup three days later and the very last bowl was definitely the best!

Inara Hawley © 2013

2 thoughts on “What Matters Most

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