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February 8, 2016

some days I don't miss my family and some days I do | green bean, lemon & spinach soup

It has been a while. I'm not sure exactly what it is that has me writing here again, after so long. Perhaps it was making kefir yoghurt again from grains gifted by C, an ex-Melrose resident. Perhaps it was catching up with a fellow foodie friend A who reminded me of just how much I love food and cooking. Perhaps it was writing a bit about Maitland St and the food we made for the Triangle project of another now-ex-Maitland St resident, B. Perhaps it was J phoning me while in the midst of preparations for a dinner party to impress with a couple of guinness cake questions. Perhaps it is that I now have the challenge of cooking for myself each and every night, so the type of meals I make has changed quite a bit, and finding the motivation to cook can be even more of a challenge than it once was.

So many things have changed. I no longer reside at Maitland St, and neither does J. I'm now living on a different hill in a new but still old (1907) "house" that is really more of a mansion. I live in the old servants quarters with 3 other ladies, on the third floor of the original house; the lower two floors of which is kept as a museum/gallery and open to the public. As much as I love the new place, there are times I still miss Maitland St and my room with a harbour view from my bed. Maitland St was home for a wonderful and also challenging three years, and I'll always remember my time there with a certain degree of sentimentality.

So many things have stayed the same. I still work in a lab, which has taken over my life more and more with each passing month. I still sometimes need to remind myself to cook a proper dinner and eat proper meals. When you don't have the expectation or need to cook for someone else it is much easier to convince yourself that porridge / boiled eggs / cheese on toast is an appropriate dinner. And sometimes it is, but the habit of cooking is a good one to nurture.

I can't promise I will be posting any more frequently than sporadically or whenever I feel the need to write something that isn't scientific or poetry, but you might see a few recipes here over the coming year. Most likely focussed on easy but also delicious meals you can cook for one or two. As much as I miss cooking for six (the default amount as I first started cooking for my family when I still lived at home), when it's only you eating it's best to not let the leftovers situation get too out of control. Not to mention our fridge/freezer capacity is pretty much always at maximum. However, I'm still pretty fond of soups and other easily scaleable things, and so even if you cook regularly for a few more people than I, hopefully you might find something useful.

green bean, lemon & spinach soup

Of course it would be a soup recipe! I often find that it is difficult to use up produce before it goes bad, and soup is an excellent way to use up anything that is looking a bit past it (but not quite at the furry stage). This was inspired by the lemon, lentil and coriander soup I've previously written about, and is perfect for those unexpectedly cool summer southerly nights. 

300g green beans
1 onion
1 cup vegetable stock
1 cup water
2 lemons (or more), zest and juice
200-300g spinach
1 clove garlic
butter/olive oil
about half a can of coconut milk

sunflower seeds
flaxseed oil

Dice the onion and garlic, and trim the ends from the beans. Heat the butter or olive oil in a heavy fry pan and sauté the onions for a while until they start turning golden. Add the garlic and stir so it doesn't burn. Add the beans and lemon zest to the pan, and fry for about a minute before adding the vegetable stock and water in small amounts. You may not need all the water. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the beans are starting to soften a little. Add the spinach - I used baby spinach, but if you've got the big kind just rip the leaves off the stalks first, and remove from the heat while the spinach wilts. 

Blend in batches and transfer to a pot. Heat the soup through. If it's a bit runny, let it reduce on the heat for a while. When you are happy with the consistency, add the coconut milk and lemon juice. I used about 3 lemons because I like the flavour quite lemony. Don't be tempted to add a whole can of coconut milk, it's just there to make the soup more creamy, not add any flavour. Add salt to taste - I added about 1 teaspoon. 

To serve, toast some sunflower seeds, crumble some feta over the bowl, add a spoonful of herb paste and a small drizzle of flaxseed oil. All of these additions are delicious but not necessary. Eat with toast or just by itself. 

This soup freezes well and you can even freeze it before adding the coconut milk and just finish it off when you defrost it. The recipe's vegetarian already, and also appropriate for vegans if you use olive oil rather than butter, and omit the feta. The amounts I've used made enough soup for a dinner for three, with bread, or two dinners and two lunches just for me. If there's more of you, just increase the amounts. 


So, perhaps I will 'see' you again soon. The only recipe I half-wrote in the blog hiatus (really doesn't seem like nearly two years!) was for borscht, something I got mildly obsessed with over autumn, so perhaps that will be what I write about next. Though I have also been testing out our new-ish oven with a few kinds of baking, so, you never know..

The two photos at the top are of a particularly special beach not far from the city centre. 

title from the mountain goats - wild sage