Butternut Pumpkin Soup

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BUTTERNUT SMOOTHNESS | A silky textured soup bursting with vibrant colours and nutrition to brighten up your day or evening – all without the extra addition of cream or butter. 

Okay, so this was my first time making butternut pumpkin soup and boy was it delicious (not to mention the extreme ease at which it was achieved thanks to my hefty investment in my first Vitamix blender).

For those who tend to get confused between butternut squash and pumpkin, here are the facts: all pumpkins are squash, but not all squash are pumpkin. Squash is a botanic term, while pumpkin is a culinary term. The name ‘pumpkin’ is a derivative of the French ‘pampion,’ meaning sun-baked squash, from the Greek word ‘pepon’, meaning large melon. The English modified ‘pampion’ to ‘pompkin,’ which was changed to ‘pumpkin’ by the American colonists.

Pumpkins are one of the most nutritious of vegetables, being very high in fiber, vitamins A (over 2,500 units), B and C, beta-carotene, and minerals phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and iron. Smaller “pie pumpkins” are of smoother texture.

So seeing it was my dear friend’s birthday I decided to whip out a healthy birthday lunch for him and some of his close friends (after all, we are all trying to lose weight). I have always wanted to experiment making soup with my new Vitamix so here I was experimenting first time with whipping out a dairy-free pumpkin soup (saving the calories from the much un-needed cream and butter).

To brighten the orange color, I added a carrot or two which gave the soup more vibrancy (plus an extra dosage of Vitamin A and beta-carotene). Simply chuck all the ingredients into your Vitamix and turn the setting on the ‘soup’ function. I was simply amazed that within 5 minutes, all the ingredients have combined together miraculously to produce a soup that was steaming hot (due to the fast friction of the blades churning).

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Butternut Pumpkin Soup

INGREDIENTS:

  • 250g butternut pumpkin peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 1/2 green apple
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 1/2 cups of water or vegetable stock
  • pinch of cinnamon, to taste
  • pinch of sea salt, to taste

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METHOD:

1. Place all ingredients into the Vitamix container in the order listed and secure lid.Butternut Squash Soup (5 of 14).jpg

2. Select soup function if using a Pro 750 model. Otherwise select variable 1. Turn machine on and slowly increase to variable 10.Butternut Squash Soup (7 of 14).jpg

3. Blend for 6 minutes, or until hot. Serve immediately. Garnish with mint sprigs or croutons if desired.

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Persimmon Caprese Salad

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PERSIMMON CAPRESE  | A new twist to one of Italy’s most simple and delicious salads.

Sick of the typical heirloom tomato mozzarella salad combo (aka Insalata Caprese)? Fear not, I’ve come up with a new twist to one of my classical summer salad favourites. Why not substitute the tomatoes for the persimmon fruit? Like the bright redness of tomatoes, the luscious orange glow from persimmons will also provide a sharp contrast in color when juxtaposed against the creamy whiteness of mozzarella cheese.

Persimmons are one of those fruits that, when you catch the right moment of ripeness – which is limited to only one or two days – truly offer a culinary experience of perfection.

Honey sweet and so soft that the skin care barely hold their juicy flesh, they make a perfect complement to Mozzarella di Bufala.

untitled (4 of 15).jpgAs for origins, this delicate fruit is native to China. From China, it spread to Korean peninsula and Japan very long time ago, and later was introduced to California during the middle of the 19th century.

In terms of nutrition, persimmon provides a powerful dosage of vitamin A, offering 55% of the daily value. Vitamin C runs a close second with 21%, plus excellent amounts of manganese, a co-factor for the enzyme superoxide dismutase, for healthy mucous membranes and skin, as well as a known protectant against lung and mouth cancers.

For those who aren’t so regular, persimmons are also an excellent source of fiber. B-complex vitamins are present to stabilise the metabolic system, along with copper and phosphorus.

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Persimmon Caprese Salad

Time: 15 minutes | Serves: 3-4 as a side

Ingredients:

  • 1 mozzarella ball
  • 1 persimmon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of maple syrup
  • Bunch of fresh basil
  • A handful of walnuts
  • Sprinkle of cumin and cinnamon

Method:

  1. Rip mozzarella ball into bite-size chunks. Slice persimmon into wedges and then into bite-sized chunks. Tear off the leaves of the fresh basil.
  2. Mix walnuts with the cumin and cinnamon spices in a small bowl. On medium-low heat, slowly pan fry the walnuts until golden brown. Remove from slow and let cool.untitled (14 of 15)
  3. Combine olive oil, balsamic and maple syrup in a small bowl.untitled (15 of 15)
  4. Layer the persimmon chunks, mozzarella and basil leaves on a plate in a rustic fashion. Sprinkle the spiced walnuts on top. Drizzle the olive oil balsamic mix on top. If desired, squeeze some aged balsamic vinegar on top in a zig zag fashion for an extra dose of balsamic sweetness.untitled (7 of 15) untitled (3 of 15)untitled (9 of 15).jpg

Irresistible Blackberry Pistachio Financiers

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PISTACHIO-LICIOUS | A combination of pistachio, blackberries, and a dash of banana gives these financiers a touch of the extraordinary. 

Since having left Paris not too long ago, I’m still going through a financier-crazed phase. This time I wanted to go real lush and experimented with blackberries, pistachios, and a smudge of banana.

Once again, the key is getting the beurre noisette (hazelnut butter in French) right in order to achieve that nutty flavour that makes a financier so distinctive and sets it apart from the ordinary muffin.

For those who aren’t aware, financiers are basically what I consider to be “baller” teacakes. They were so named because they were so “rich” (both in ingredients and in price) that only financiers/bankers could afford to eat them. The cakes were rich with brown butter, shaped into a gold bar, and made small and crumbles for portability – perfect for a busy banker.

Egg white, almond meal, and beurre noisette are the key fundamental ingredients that constitute the basic financier. After that, you are free to experiment at your whim and add any addition of fruits, nuts and/or spices.

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For me, financiers are the perfect accompaniment to a cup of earl grey team come five o’clock. Simply relax and unwind with a good book. What’s more, tie two financiers together with a cute ribbon and voila, you will have a perfect treat for a special friend or special someone.

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Simply tie two financiers up in a stack with a ribbon and it’ll make for a perfect gesture of love. 

INGREDIENTS:

Total time: 30 minutes | Servings: makes 6

  • 125g butter
  • 90g icing sugar (plus extra for dusting)
  • 1 tablespoon of mashed banana
  • 1 punnet blackberries
  • 60g almond flour
  • 60g plain flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 freshly grated lemon zest
  • 50g pistachio (shells excluded)

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METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius (or 180 degrees celsius if fan forced). Then prepare the beurre noisette by melting the butter on a pan over medium high heat till it turns amber in colour and smells nutty. After a few minutes, you will see specks of brown bits. Remove from heat and let it cool.   Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (40 of 44) Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (39 of 44)
  2. In the meantime, with a grater, freshly zest one lemon.Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (44 of 44)
  3. Grind pistachio into fine crumbs using a mortar or pestle (or if you are more high-tech and have a food processor, opt for that instead). I purposely left some pistachios semi-grinded only so that I could get more texture.Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (37 of 44)
  4. Mash a portion of a ripe banana to yield ~1 tablespoon. Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (36 of 44)
  5. In a large bowl, mix pistachio flour with the almond and plain flour. Add in remaining sugar, cinnamon, mashed banana, and lemon zest.Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (35 of 44)
  6. Separate egg yolks from egg whites. Place egg whites into a mixing bowl and add a pinch of salt and two tablespoons of sugar. Whisk egg whites with an electric mixer until frothy.Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (38 of 44)
  7. Spoon 1/3rd of the egg white mixture into the flour batter. Fold with spatula until just combined. Repeat process with remaining egg white being careful to fold only and not over mix. Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (34 of 44)
  8. Coat berries lightly with flour. Then add to the batter and fold.Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (32 of 44)Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (31 of 44)
  9. Spoon batter into buttered financier moulds (or muffin tins). Fill each mould with the batter until about 2/3rds full. Press any remaining blackberries on top of each financier (for aesthetic appeal).Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (30 of 44)
  10. Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes. Financiers are done when they turn golden. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack for 10 minutes. Dust with icing sugar to serve.Blackberry Financiers with Pistachio (13 of 44)

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Tahini-Miso Dressed Kale Fig Salad

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For a hearty lunch, you can’t go wrong by opting for a delicious kale salad. Kale pairs perfectly well with a fresh home-made creamy tahini dressing. Add some chunks of avocado to give it more smoothness and toasted walnuts with maple syrup to give the salad the extra crunch and dimension. Throw in some figs for some added fibre.

 Of all the healthy greens, kale ranks no.1. Super high in nutrients and super low in calories, kale is among the most nutrient dense food on the planet. It helps combat inflammation and contains vitamin K, which can help prevent against cancer.

Tahini is mineral rich containing zinc, iron, selenium and copper and also provides omega-3 fatty acids, a source of healthy fat.

Figs are high in natural sugars, minerals and soluble fibre. Figs are rich in minerals including potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and copper and are a good source of antioxidant vitamins A, E and K that contribute to health and wellness.

Walnuts not only taste great but are a rich source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and an excellent source of those hard to find omega-3 fatty acids.

This shredded kale salad with tahini  dressing is also gluten-free, vegan and paleo and can easily be made protein-rich with the addition of fish, meat, tempeh or beans (but I personally like it without the meat)

INGREDIENTS (serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side):

For the tahini dressing:

  • 1/3 cup tahini paste (see below for recipe)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon of miso paste
  • salt to taste

For the salad:

  • half a pound of kale
  • half a large avocado
  • 2 fresh figs
  • handful of walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon of honey/maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon

METHOD:

To make tahini:

1) Toast sesame seeds in frying pan until they turn lightly golden in color. (NB: this is optional but toasting the seeds will give it a nuttier flavour). Transfer seeds to a plate / roasting pan and let it cool completely.

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2) Grind in a food processor fitted with the S-blade. Process for 2-3 minutes until sesame seeds form a crumbly paste. Next, add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil (NB: any neutral oil will do, including grapeseed or sesame oil). Process for 1-2 minutes, scraping down the sides as necessary, until the mixture forms a thick and fairly smooth paste. For a thinner consistency, add more oil. Add salt to taste and process until combined.

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4) Transfer the tahini to an airtight jar (I love the mini Weck ones). It will keep in the fridge for a month or longer (sadly, mine was demolished within two days). If the mixture separates, stir the tahini to redistribute the oil.

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To make the kale salad with the tahini dressing:

1) Wash kale leaves and remove stems. Cut into strips (width according to your liking).

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2) Slice figs and slice avocado.

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3) Toast the walnuts. Turn fry pan on medium heat, pan fry walnuts until they turn light golden brown. Transfer to a bowl and add some honey (or maple syrup), cinnamon, and cumin. Toss until combined.

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4) Make tahini dressing. Add 1/3 cup tahini with 1/3 cup of water until desired consistency obtained. Add the dollop of white miso paste (optional) and shake vigorously until combined.

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5) Mix walnuts, avocado, figs and kale salad together. Dress with the tahini miso dressing.

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