About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Monday, November 28, 2005
From The Garden
I love this time of the year. Spring has well and truly sprung and all sorts of new season fruits and vegetables are appearing in the shops. Bought some raspberries last week, they were sweet with a tart edge, but at $5.00 for a 150 g (punnet size), they always seem expensive. Still, earlier in the season they have been as high as $15.00 a punnet and completely inedible, hard and acid. So its off to the berry farm for pick your own at $8.50 kg.

Daughter M. loves pick your own, as do her sister P. and brother A. Roaming up and down the rows M. always manages to consume more than are going into her container; mum has taught her well. Its fortunate for us that we are not weighed before and after picking or we would never be able to afford to go. For the first time we went on a Saturday and the picking is much better than Sunday when the canes have already been well and truly picked over.

There is something awesome about having kilos of raspberries to eat instead of those stingy little punnets. All kinds of ways to do them, but our fave is to whip up some cream with vanilla extract (essence is good too) and icing sugar to taste. The French call this Chantilly cream and very good with raspberries it is too. Chantilly cream has a dark side- provoking all kinds of wars over who will get to lick the bowl.

We have several friends who have gardens with a veggie patch so all kinds of bounty comes our way. Last week it was a huge bunch of parsley, the curly leaf kind. Most cookbooks books will tell you that flat leaf parsley has a better flavour, but I wouldn't care to put my life on the line in a blind tasting between flat and curly leaf. Parsley is one of those herbs that everyone seems to have sitting in a little glass of water on a kitchen bench slowly going yellow because somehow nobody ever needs a whole bunch and here I was with the equivalent of two bunches.

There are only two recipies that I know of that will use two bunches of parsley in one hit.

Tabouli and parsley soup.

Tabouli is a traditional Middle Eastern salad that was a big hit in Australia in the 80's, but now no-one, except middle eastern people, makes it anymore. How do I know this? Because I had run out of burghul (cracked wheat). Off to Coles I went and searched and searched and searched. It was nowhere to be found. In frustration I asked a Coles person where to find the burghul and was told that it was six months since it was stocked and that in the last four stores this person had worked not one of them had stocked burghul.

So off to the health food shop where they had two kinds, organic and not. Why is it that organic can sometimes be sooo expensive? The difference in price was more than three times. Its not true of all organics but sometimes I feel a little bit touched.

Burghul is a bit like parsley in that I know of only two recipies for it, tabouli and kibbe; both of them are a lot of work and I think this is why no-one is making tabouli anymore, its too much effort all that chopping and no-one can be bothered. Another problem was that there were too many dodgy recipies that contained far too much burghul: tabouli is primarily a parsley salad and the other ingredients have to be in balance. No self respecting middle easterner has a recipe for tabouli but they all know how to make it.

Start with two bunches of washed parsley, picked from the stalks. Whiz in a food processor until finely chopped or if like me you don't possess a food processor, chop with a knife. I've been meaning to buy one forever- really. Take four tomatoes and with your very sharp knife chop into about 10 mm dice or as small as you can manage and mix with the parsley. If it doesn't look right chop and add another tomato or tomatoes until the mix looks right- trust yourself. Take two maybe three spring onions (green onions) and finely chop, green part and all, add to mix, some people like to add a few finely chopped mint leaves as well. Take some burghul which you have pre-soaked in boiling water for about twenty minutes until soft, squeeze out the water and add to mix; it should just fleck the salad. My own son A. has ticked me off for adding too much - beware there are critics lurking everywhere. Squeeze the juice of two lemons- I know this sounds a lot but the mark of a good tabouli is that it is lemony- add with a good splash of olive oil- it must be olive oil- and salt and a bit of pepper.

Traditionly tabouli is served with lettuce leaves, just spoon tabouli onto the lettuce, roll up like a taco and eat, but I am perfectly happy to eat it on its own.

After demolishing an entire bowl of tabouli I immediately regretted not making parsley soup so on the way back from the berry farm we stopped at one of those farmer stalls beside the road and bought all the makings for the soup. There has been so much iron in my diet this week that I am positively magnetic.

Parsley Soup

2 bunches parsley (about 200 g in total)
2 leeks, white part only
75 g butter
3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 litre chicken stock (store bought is fine)
half litre water
100 mls whipping cream
salt and pepper

Wash parsley and pick the leaves off one bunch and reserve. Roughly chop the rest, stalks and all. Clean the leeks by making a cross with your knife where you cut off the green part, separate the layers and rinse well under running water. Slice leeks and add to large pot with the rough chopped parsley and all the butter. Sweat for five minutes then add the chicken stock, water and potatoes and cook at a simmer for twenty-five minutes. Add the reserved parsley and cook for another two minutes- this will improve the colour of the soup. Blitz the contents of the pot in batches in a vitamizer until smooth. If your vitamizer is not powerful you may need to strain the soup. Return the soup to cleaned out pot, add cream, salt and pepper. Warm and serve.
  posted at 11:31 am


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