STEVE MANFREDI beats the winter chill with the ultimate comfort food.
It's winter. It's cold and often wet. I suspect that at this time of year, a lot of people's thoughts turn to comforting bowls of steaming soup with thick pieces of crusty country bread.
For the cook, preparing soup can be just as satisfying as sitting down with friends and family to eat it. It's a dish that is economical in both ingredients and time.
Many soup bases consist of everyday ingredients such as carrot, onion, celery and herbs, as well as leftover carcasses of roast chicken and gelatinous bone joints that are indispensable for broths and stocks.
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Time-wise, a hearty soup provides an economy of scale that, although taking extra minutes in chopping ingredients, is rewarded by two, three and even four ready-made meals in the following days.
And it gets better each day.
To make a good vegetable stock for the radicchio and polenta soup (right), dice a small onion, carrot and celery stick, slice a garlic clove and a small leek, then place everything in a pot with three litres of cold water. Add a bay leaf, a handful of parsley stalks and 150 grams of chopped, peeled tomatoes. Simmer for two hours, occasionally skimming any scum. Strain and it's ready to use.
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus 6 tbsp for serving
Salt and pepper
6 chicken drumsticks, skin on
2 leeks, trimmed and chopped into
1cm-thick half rounds
1 onion, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 celery heart, chopped
½ savoy cabbage, tough leaves discarded
2 bunches cavolo nero, de-stemmed and finely chopped
300g can tomatoes, mashed
Crusty bread, to serve
Heat 4 tbsp olive oil in a soup pot. Salt drumsticks and fry - turning often - until well browned. Remove drumsticks. Add leeks, onion, garlic and celery heart to the pot and lightly fry for 2 minutes, continually stirring. Add cabbage and cavolo nero. Stir well. Cover vegetables with cold water and add mashed tomatoes and drumsticks. Season with 2-3 good pinches of salt and stir well. Bring soup to the boil then reduce heat to a low simmer. Simmer for 1 hour then turn off heat. Season to taste. Leave for 1 hour. Serve with plenty of grated parmesan, a drizzle of olive oil and crusty bread. It's even better the day after - and the day after that.
Wine A medium-bodied red, such as a tempranillo.
RADICCHIO AND POLENTA SOUP
Adapted from the Phaidon book Vegetables from an Italian Garden
100g dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight in water then drained
1 carrot, peeled and chopped in chunks
1 small onion, peeled and halved
1 stick celery, chopped into 1cm rounds
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
80g pancetta, finely chopped
3 radicchio heads
1.5 litres vegetable stock (or water)
100g fine polenta
Salt and pepper
Put beans, carrot, onion, celery and bay leaf into a large pot. Cover with water. Bring to the boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 2 hours until beans are tender. Meanwhile, heat oil in a pan and gently fry pancetta for a few minutes. Drain, reserving pancetta. Parboil radicchio heads in a pot of water for 15 minutes. Drain, cool and chop finely. Pour vegetable stock into a large pot and bring to the boil. Add chopped radicchio. When it returns to the boil, sprinkle in polenta in a fine stream, stirring constantly. Cook for 10 minutes at a simmer then add pancetta and cooked, drained beans. Stir well and cook for a further 15-20 minutes. Season and serve.
Wine Spicy, medium-bodied red, such as a pinot noir or pinot meunier.
I was in town for an appointment and went in early so my hubby and I could have lunch somewhere. It's hard to decide where to eat but we decided to try something new after walking up and down lower Crown street Wollongong.
I kept being drawn to Ha Long Bay and their $9.50 lunch specials so we decided to venture in. There is something thrilling about stepping out of you comfort zone and trying a new restaurant rather than going to your favourite. I was excited by the menu in the window and something I had never tried before - yellow curry.
Intrigued, I checked into Ha Long Bay Vietnamese Restaurant on Facebook.com only to find another person had checked in as well. It was the first time I had been in a location with a fellow Facebook diner and said hello :)
My hubby and I sat at a table at by the window to take advantage of the soft window light to help with the photos taken when the meal came out.
After much agonising over what to choose hubby settled on the combination stir fry with crispy egg noodles. He didn't want rice, noodles or soup so the crispy noodles was a nice change.
We ordered a pot of green tea ($4 for two people) and sat and chatted whilst we waited for our meals.
Mine arrived first - yellow curry seafood. It was absolutely delicious! A creamy and very mild curry with assorted seafood and perfectly cooked vegetables with a serving of rice. I struggled to finish it but enjoyed each and every bite.
Hubby was equally pleases with his stir fry combination which was tasty and included a mixture of meats and vegetables.
Again he struggled to finish but we left full and content as we headed out to the Crown Street Mall.
I now have a new favourite foodie treasure with many menu items I will be returning to sample. Even better I have now found a mild curry I can recommend for those that like Thai / Vietnamese curries but have a low tolerance for chilli.
My husband informed me that red curry was the hottest, followed by green curry and then yellow curry. I did a google search for "yellow curry" and learned that it is customary for it to include coconut cream and coconut milk, garlic, cumin, chilli, turmeric and other ingredients. Definitely something to try when spicy foods are off the menu.
A photo journal by Vanessa Pike-Russell. Focused on food in the Illawarra Region. The Illawarra is the area just south of Sydney and north of the South Coast of New South Wales. I believe in promoting local businesses and enjoy sharing my food journey with you.