Soup to share

I make no claims on the recipe for this wonderful, hearty soup inspired by the Italian ribollita.

IMG_8280.jpg

But I’ve been cooking it a lot in this chilly winter weather (well, chilly by Australian standards!) People keep asking me for the recipe so I thought I’d share it here.

It comes from a cookbook by Aussie chef Bill Granger, Bill’s Basics. I have an extensive cookbook collection but this is one of my favorites. Every recipe I’ve made from it has turned out splendidly and they are much in demand from my family. With my background as an editor in food magazines, I can be critical of recipes—I can only praise this collection!

Here it is—a tasty, warming soup.

BAKED BORLOTTI BEAN AND PANCETTA SOUP

Ingredients

  • 375 g (2 cups) dried borlotti beans
  • 2 red onions, diced
  • 100g pancetta, chopped, or a ham hock
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 4 celery sticks, diced
  • ½ teaspoons dried chilli flakes plus ½ tsp extra
  • 2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
  • 1 litre (4 cups) chicken or vegetable stock
  • 200g ciabatta bread, crust removed, roughly torn
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 bunch cavolo nero, shredded
  • Method

Put the borlotti beans in a large bow, cover with cold water and leave to soak for 8 hours or overnight. Rinse the beans under cold running water, then drain well.

IMG_8278.jpg

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Put the beans in a large ovenproof casserole dish with the onion, pancetta or ham hock, garlic, celery, chilli flakes, rosemary, stock and 1 litre (4 cups) water. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Put the lid on the dish and bake in the oven for 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, adding a little more water if necessary.

IMG_7927.jpg

When the soup is nearly ready, put the ciabatta on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with the extra chilli flakes and some sea salt. Bake for 10–15 minutes until golden brown.

If you used the ham hock, lift it out now, shred the meat and return to the soup with the cavolo nero. Put the lid back on and leave for a couple of minutes until the cavolo nero is bright green.

IMG_7946

Ladle into bowls and top with the toasted ciabatta croutons.

Serves six

IMG_7980.jpg

Bill’s Basics by Bill Granger, HarperCollins Publishers

I’ve cooked this recipe several times. I’ve found with Bill Granger’s recipes from Bill’s Basics that if you follow the recipe exactly it turns out perfectly.

One time I didn’t have pancetta so used speck. Cavolo nero or tuscan cabbage isn’t always available where I shop – I’ve used kale instead and it tasted just as good.

I serve this soup with shaved parmesan cheese on top.

It’s so worth making the croutons, they taste fantastic and their crispness is a great contrast in texture. I’ve made them with sourdough bread when I haven’t had ciabatta.

I’ve successfully frozen this soup.

NOTE Australian standard measuring cups are used in this recipe. An Australian standard measuring cup is 250ml, an American one is 240ml so there isn’t much difference in a recipe like this.

One Australian metric tablespoon holds 20mls; a tablespoon in the US, the UK and New Zealand holds 15mls.

100 grams is approximately 4 oz

180˚C oven heat is approximately 360˚F

(For an excellent resource in converting baking measures and ingredients from other countries, visit Joy of Baking.)

KANDY SHEPHERD writes fun, feel-good fiction.

Her newest release from Harlequin Romance is The Bridesmaid’s Baby Bump.

 The billionaire bachelor’s baby! 

When party planner Eliza Dunne meets billionaire Jake Marlowe at a wedding, she decides to finally give in to the sparks that have always fizzed between them! 

The connection is so intense that Jake can’t resist Eliza—but with the divorce only just final after his unhappy marriage, he’s not ready for anything serious. But when Eliza tells him her shocking news—she’s pregnant with his baby!—he has one certainty: he wants to be at the center of his new family, as a husband and father…

Visit Kandy at her website

www.kandyshepherd.com

Advertisements

Blissful Bali

There are few places more romantic than the beautiful Indonesian island of Bali. No wonder it was where I chose to celebrate our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary last year. Just me and my husband in our own private villa at a gorgeous hotel in Seminyak, on the west coast. A week of utter bliss!

A private pool just for two

A private pool just for two – so romantic!

It was one of those vacations that I couldn’t fault. The weather was perfect, the resort* divine and the Balinese people as charming and hospitable as we remembered from our first visit to the tropical island fourteen years previously.

Lush tropical growth everywhere

Lush tropical growth everywhere

No wonder I chose Bali as the setting for my fourth book for Harlequin Romance, From Paradise to…Pregnant!— released in print and e-book on June 02 in North America, the UK and Australia and New Zealand. How could I resist such a perfect place for a romance?

Sunset on the beach at Seminyak is spectacular

Sunset on the  beach at Seminyak is spectacular

My heroine Zoe and hero Mitch knew each other at high school—he the jock, she the nerd—but their friendship didn’t end well. When an earth tremor hits Bali, they meet again as they’re both staying at the same hotel. (Yes,  I was inspired by the area where we stayed. No, we didn’t experience an earth tremor when we were in Bali!)

The frangipani tree in Zoe's hotel courtyard is significent

The frangipani tree in Zoe’s hotel courtyard is significent

IMG_6269

And the sweetly scented frangipani flowers…

As they comfort each other after the shock of the earthquake, a private villa with its own pool became the perfect place for Zoe and Mitch to make amends for the past and become aware of their intense attraction to each other.

Afternoon tea - Balinese style. Beware the fiery green chili hiding in that pastry!

Afternoon tea – Balinese style. Beware the fiery green chili hiding in that pastry!

We loved the food in Bali, so of course I had to have the newly reunited couple share a meal. I wish I could recreate some of the delicious dishes we had there. I’ve looked up recipes online but they don’t taste the same. Next time I go to Bali, I’ll do a cooking course!

Fresh pineapple juice by the pool - perfect!

Fresh pineapple juice by the pool – perfect!

Of course, as is the way of romance novels, a lot happens between Zoe and Mitch’s reunion and the end of the book where they have a happy-ever-after ending. They leave Bali behind them as they travel home to different ends of the world — but the memories stay with them.

The memories have stayed with me too —  I can’t wait to go back to Bali.

From Paradise to…Pregnant!  has two covers, one for the North American market with the same image used for the Australian cover, and one for the UK. I think both reflect the feel of falling in love in a tropical paradise. The first one could be in that very pool in the villa in Bali and the second one on the beach.

 

9780373743438_LP-1

North American cover

 

UK cover

UK cover

 

From Paradise to…Pregnant! is available where Harlequin books are sold and at onlinebook retailers.

 

*We stayed at The Elysian in Seminyak and can highly recommend it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My favorite lemon cake

I’ve been baking cakes since I was ten years old and, as you can imagine, have amassed quite a collection of recipes.

I made this Lemon Sour Cream Cake for the first time just last year—but it has already become one of my very favorites. (And my family and friends like it, too!)

 

Lemon Sour Cream Cake - my new favorite cake

Lemon Sour Cream Cake – my new favorite cake

 

It’s a fabulous cake with a wonderful texture and flavor. I just love pine nuts, but before baking this cake I’d only ever used them in savory dishes.

I serve the cake with vanilla-bean yogurt and blueberries—though it tastes great just on its own.

This is quite a big cake and I usually freeze half of it for later. It freezes beautifully, with or without the honey drizzled on top.

 

IMG_1604

Fresh from the oven

 

The recipe is from a marvelous Australian cookbook: Bake: Celebrating the time-Honoured Tradition of Home Baking by The Australian Women’s Weekly, published by ACP Books.

My well-used copy of BAKE

My well-used copy of BAKE

I spoke to the publisher, Pamela Clark, who is one of the doyennes of cooking in Australia, about this cake. She advised me to follow the recipe exactly, use the correct size cake pan, not to be tempted to use a higher oven temperature, and to leave the cake in the oven for the full hour.

Her advice was spot on because the cake has turned out perfectly every time I’ve baked it!

Here’s the recipe.

LEMON SOUR CREAM CAKE

Preparation time 15 minutes

Cooking time  1 hour (plus cooling time)

Serves 16

250g butter, softened

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind

2 cups (440g) caster sugar

6 eggs

¾ cup (180g) sour cream

2 cups (300g) plain flour

¼ cup (35g) self-raising flour

½ cup (80g) pine nuts

1 tablespoon demerara sugar

¼ cup (90g) honey

1 Preheat oven to 170˚/150˚ fan-forced. Grease deep 23-cm square cake pan; line base and sides with baking paper, extending paper 5cm over sides.

2 Beat butter, rind and caster sugar in medium bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in sour cream and sifted flours, in two batches. Spread mixture into pan; bake 15 minutes.

3 Meanwhile, combine pine nuts and demerara sugar in small bowl.

4 Carefully remove cake from oven; working quickly, sprinkle evenly with nut mixture, pressing gently into cake. Return cake to oven; bake further 45 minutes. Stand cake in pan 5 minutes; turn, top-side up, onto wire rack.

5 Heat honey in small saucepan; drizzle hot honey evenly over hot cake. Cool.

BAKING TIPS

NOTE Australian standard measuring cups are used in this recipe. An Australian standard measuring cup is 250ml, an American one is 240ml so there isn’t much difference in a recipe like this.

One Australian metric tablespoon holds 20mls; a tablespoon in the US, the UK and New Zealand holds 15mls.

100 grams is approximately 4 oz

170 degrees C oven heat is approximately  340 degrees F

You can use light brown sugar instead of demerara sugar   Caster sugar is also known as superfine sugar   Regular rather than light sour cream works best   Plain flour is also known as all-purpose flour   Self-raising flour can be made by mixing  1 cup of plain/all-purpose flour with 2 teaspoons of baking powder   Baking paper is also known as parchment paper  • A metric sized 23-cm square cake pan is equivalent to a 9-inch square pan.

For an excellent resource in converting baking measures and ingredients from other countries, visit Joy of Baking.

MY NEW RELEASE ON SALE!

KandyShepherd_ReinventingRose800

Reinventing Rose is an e-book special at Amazon for the bargain price of just $US0.99 until May 31.

Kandy Shepherd writes fun, feel-good fiction. Her new release is the contemporary women’s fiction (aka chicklit!) Reinventing Rose, where the characters don’t get much of a chance to eat cake let alone bake it…

Kandy’s romances include The Castaway Bride, Something About JoeLove is a Four-Legged Word and Home Is Where the Bark Is

Chocolate on tap

IMG_2620What is it about writers and chocolate? With a name like Kandy, I was predestined to have a sweet tooth, and chocolate is my favorite sweet treat by far. But I don’t have to look far among my author colleagues to find an abundance of writerly chocoholics.

Is there a link between creativity and chocolate consumption? It’s said eating chocolate releases endorphins—feel good hormones—in the brain, so that might help kick along the creative process. Chocolate is also said to affect serotonin levels in the brain, which could help relieve stress (deadlines?) and depression (writer’s block and deadlines?)

Who knows? I’m not really looking for an explanation—more likely an excuse for the scatterings of chocolate wrappers around my desk!

I loved the strawberry and pistachio the best from this delectable array

Lindt chocolatiers’ taste experiments – I loved the strawberry and pistachio the best from this delectable array

Being a self-confessed chocoholic, I didn’t hesitate to accept an invitation to the “chocolate carpet” launch of the Lindt Chocolate Café concept at the site of the original Martin Place site in the heart of the city of Sydney, Australia.

Okay, so the carpet was actually red, not chocolate, but the second my “plus one” daughter and I got inside we were surrounded by chocolate, chocolate, chocolate!

IMG_2587

Lindt Master Chocolatiers at the Maître Station

I’ve visited the Lindt Café before (what self-respecting Sydney chocoholic hasn’t!) but  now it looks quite different. The most prominent new feature is the Maître Station where you can watch the Lindt Master Chocolatiers at work creating their delectable creations. The scent of so much chocolate so close is intoxicating!

The Mocha Macchiato were a hit

The Mocha Macchiato were a hit

There’s also the Chocolate Tap, an outsized metal tap from which Lindt Chocolate copiously flows. I nearly swooned! On the launch night, the baristas made use of the chocolate tap to create potent chocolate shots, as well as Mocha Macchiato comprising dark chocolate, milk and espresso coffee topped with a chocolate shard.

LIndt Australia Master Chocolatier, Thomas Schnetzler, tempting me with the best macarons I've ever tasted

Lindt Australia Master Chocolatier, Thomas Schnetzler, tempting me with the best macarons I’ve ever tasted

Highlights of the evening? Meeting Lindt Australia’s charming Swiss-born Master Chocolatier, Thomas Schnetzler; taste-testing experimental new chocolates; and eating the best-ever macarons, which Lindt calls délice. I also watched, amazed, as a fellow guest emptied out some of the abundant displays of Lindor Balls to fill a bucket to take home. Who could blame him!

We took home lots of treats

We took home lots of treats

We went home with a goodie bag which kept the Lindt experience going for several days afterwards. I didn’t need to be persuaded  to “Surrender to Indulgence”!

Oh, and my beautiful university student daughter had her photo taken for a foodie blog and the Sunday newspaper social pages—she was beyond thrilled!

Visit the Lindt Chocolate Café, 53 Martin Place, Sydney, NSW, 2000. (What a great place for a writers’ meeting!)

KandyShepherd_ReinventingRose800Kandy Shepherd writes fun, feel-good fiction. Her new release is the contemporary women’s fiction (aka chicklit!) Reinventing Rose, where the main character indulges in chocolate at the merest hint of feeling down!

Kandy’s romances include The Castaway Bride, Something About JoeLove is a Four-Legged Word and Home Is Where the Bark Is.

Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb

Do you have a food you loathe? Until quite recently my reply would have included rhubarb. Sharp, stringy, nasty tasting stuff (or that’s what I used to think!)

When I was a kid my grandmother tried to trick me into eating it set in red jelly (Jello). I wasn’t fooled.  Rhubarb stayed on my food-hate list for years and years. Then we bought our farm and inherited two magnificent rhubarb plants. For years visitors admired them; for years I replied, “I hate the stuff.” For years my husband said, “I like it.” But I still didn’t harvest it or cook with it. Poor husband! (Not that he isn’t a good cook himself, but only if he has a recipe to follow.)

This rhubarb plant dies down to nothing in the winter

Would you believe this rhubarb plant dies down to nothing in the winter?

Then a writer friend started to bring a rhubarb cake with her when she visited. It tasted so good! Maybe, just maybe I should try cooking my own rhubarb from my own rhubarb plants?

So I harvested—gingerly, as those big leaves are poisonous. And stewed some with sugar until it was way too mushy. Not just my husband, but also my daughter loved it. They pleaded for more. So I tried again. This time no water, just sugar and a piece of vanilla bean, and a not-so-long cooking time. Success!

Freshly picked from the garden

Freshly picked from the garden

It’s become the family’s second-favorite breakfast treat, served with yogurt. (The first favorite is the plums from our ancient tree, but they’re only around in January in the Down Under summer.) Rhubarb is a source of vitamins, anti-oxidants and dietary fibre so that’s all good.

One of these rhubarb plants flourishes all year round. The second one is gone at the first hint of frost, but emerges in spring as beautiful ruby-red sprouts pushing up from the ground and rapidly unfurling into the so-valued stalks and the huge  leaves. The experts say not to let the white flowers bloom as they take nourishment away from the stalks, but sometimes I let them bloom, and it doesn’t seem to diminish the quality of the stalks.

I know spring is here when the rhubarb plant starts to sprout

I know spring is here when the rhubarb plant starts to sprout

And me? Did I fall in love with my rhubarb? Not really. I like it, but I don’t love it like my family does. How I enjoy it is in muffins where the slight tartness of the rhubarb puts a pleasing edge to the sweetness of the muffin. I make my favorite muffin recipe, put half the muffin mixture in the muffin tin hole, add a teaspoon of the rhubarb-stewed-with-vanilla, cover with the rest of the mixture and top with more rhubarb and a teaspoon of brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon. The streusel topping becomes all crunchy and the caramelized fruit juice drips down into the muffin. Now that’s the way I love to eat rhubarb!

Rhubarb streusel muffins just out of the oven

Rhubarb streusel muffins just out of the oven

And my writer friend who brings me the marvelous rhubarb cakes? Two springs past, I dug up some of the new-growth rhizome to take home with her. She now also has a flourishing rhubarb plant—and when she brings me cake, it’s made with “my” rhubarb, transplanted and thriving in her garden.

Kandy Shepherd writes fun, feel-good fiction. Her books include The Castaway Bride, Something About Joe, Love is a Four-Legged Word and Home Is Where the Bark Is—and while food plays a part in her stories, so far rhubarb has not made an appearance!

A taste of chocolate

What fun to be invited to a chocolate tasting!

The lovely people from the  Australian office of Swiss chocolate maker Lindt  invited me (wearing my magazine editor’s hat) to a tasting of some scintillating new dark chocolate flavors in Lindt’s Excellence range sold in Australia.

Chocolate tasting

In a room at the beautiful Art Gallery of New South Wales, a tasting plate with a square of each new flavor was set up in front of each of the media guests. Before we were allowed to taste them, Lindt’s Master Chocolatier, Thomas Schetzler, explained to us we needed to use all our senses to fully experience the chocolate.

We examined the smooth, glossy look of the chocolate; felt its soft smoothness; inhaled the rich aroma; listened to the snap as we broke a piece; and then finally savored the different flavors. We tried 70% Cocoa, Strawberry Intense, Coconut Intense, Passionfruit Intense, and A Touch of Sea Salt. It was difficult to nominate a favorite–the strawberry was the sweetest, the coconut amazing, the passionfruit an enticing blend of sweet and sharp, and the sea salt truly a pleasant taste surprise.

Chocolate tasted

I looked around the room and, like at a wine-tasting, everyone just tasted the chocolate without devouring each piece. Much as I would have liked to behave like a greedy pig and eat it all, I refrained–just murmured my appreciation in a quiet way I hoped sounded professional. (Lucky I went home with a goody bag containing each flavor!)

Lindt Master Chocolatier, Thomas Schetzler, explains the chocolate-making process

I’m a total chocoholic with my tastes running with the majority in favoring milk chocolate. However more people are becoming switched on to the joys of dark chocolate. I left the evening’s tasting a convert!

Years ago, when I was first taken to a Lindt chocolate shop in Berne, Switzerland, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Lindt wasn’t as easy to get in other countries then and my luggage went home weighted down with big bars. Now it’s much easier to indulge if you live outside of Europe.

The characters in my novels also like chocolate. In The Castaway Bridethe hero and heroine are shipwrecked on a tropical island with their only food supply a panic bag packed with chocolate. No wonder they have so much fun!

Sharing Butterscotch self-saucing pudding

When I posted a photo on Facebook after I made this wonderful Butterscotch Self-saucing Pudding, people asked me for the recipe.

It’s from the Winter issue of Coles Magazine, a free magazine from the major Australian supermarket chain Coles. My “day job” is editor of the magazine, and I get the privilege of tasting the wonderful recipes as they are developed and tested. This pudding is so delicious, I’ve made it twice. Once with walnuts, as in the recipe, and once with pecans instead. Just writing about it is making me want to make it a third time!

Australian readers can pick up a copy of the Coles Magazine in store right now. Or the recipe is on the Coles website.

BUTTERSCOTCH SELF-SAUCING PUDDING

COOK TIME 35-40 minutes

SERVES 6-8

1 and 1/3 cups Self-raising Flour

1/3 cup Brown Sugar

100 g Butter, melted and cooled

1 Egg

1/2 cup Milk

1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste

1/3 cup Walnuts, chopped

Cream or Vanilla Ice Cream, to serve

Sauce Mixture:

1/4 cup Brown Sugar

1/4 cup Golden Syrup

40 g Butter, chopped

1 and 1/2 cups Boiling Water

 

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180°C or 160°C fan and grease a 6-cup capacity ovenproof dish. Sift flour and sugar into a mixing bowl and make a well in the centre.

2. Whisk together butter, egg, milk and vanilla with a fork and pour into the dry ingredients. With a wooden spoon, fold together until evenly combined, then fold through the walnuts. Spoon into prepared dish and smooth the surface.

3. For the Sauce Mixture, combine brown sugar, golden syrup, butter and boiling water in a jug. Slowly and carefully pour over the back of a spoon evenly onto the batter. Bake for 35-40 mins, until the pudding has risen, browned and is firm to touch in the centre (it will move a little due to the sauce underneath). Serve immediately with cream or ice cream.


NOTE: Australian standard measuring cups are used in this recipe. An Australian standard measuring cup is 250ml, an American one is 240ml so there isn’t much difference in a recipe like this.

100 grams is approximately 4 oz

40 grams is approximately 1 and 1/2 oz

If golden syrup (a thick sugar syrup) isn’t available, I think  maple syrup or corn syrup could work as a substitute,  though I haven’t tried it myself.

160 degrees C oven heat  is approximately  325 degrees F

180 degrees C oven heat is approximately 350 degrees F

For an excellent resource in converting baking measures and ingredients from other countries, visit Joy of Baking