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Cauliflower & Parsnip Soup with Bacon Sprinkle

Cauliflower and Parsnip Soup with Crispy Bacon Sprinkle

This winter the planets aligned to give me an Epic Cauliflower Soup and I insist that you make it at once. See recipe below. The end.

Cauliflower and Parsnip Soup with Bacon Sprinkle

Ok, ok, I am physically incapable of stopping there so before you get off the couch to cook, let me give you the background. This recipe was first handed to me by a friend who was so in love with this soup that she had to share it immediately. I promptly made it and – á la Lyn – swooned helplessly into its warm, mellow, creaminess and the topping of chewy sprinkles. Not long after I spent a week at home in New Zealand, relishing the winter chill, the sodden, muddy ground and roaring fires every night (photos to come – updated, see photos here). At one point Mum made a big pot of cauliflower soup using similar ingredients to Lyn’s recipe but including crème fraîche, which added a delicious cheesy-tang. My nine-month-old nephew loved that soup, opening his mouth like a baby bird to devour spoonful after spoonful. Fortunately his little stomach filled up quickly, leaving enough for us to enjoy it again the next day.

Cauliflower and Parsnip Soup with Bacon Sprinkles

Back in Brisbane I tinkered with Lyn’s original recipe, using crème fraîche instead of cream, skipping the potatoes and adding a bunch of parsnips that were languishing in the fridge. In the third iteration the parsnips stayed because of the sweetness they added and I used Greek yoghurt for that now essential hint of zing. This soup started out great but, in my humble opinion, these slight enhancements mean that it is now knee-weakening, lip-smacking, mind-blowingly good. Happy belly, happy life.

Cauliflower and Parsnip Soup with Bacon Sprinkle

You can eat the soup on its own but I do have to say something about the topping: the bacon sprinkle, which is all kinds of amazing. This is noteworthy because I don’t really like bacon (I’m sorry). They say that nothing will break a vegetarian faster than the smell of frying bacon (it’s not called “the gateway” meat for nothing) but I remained unwaveringly immune to its charms while vegetarian. Even deep into my meat-curious phase when I was sampling most carnivorous offerings, bacon just stressed me out (too strong, too salty, too greasy, too full of preservatives). Happily, it turns out that I’ve spent my entire life eating (or rather, avoiding) the wrong kind of bacon. Backfatters is a local Queensland business that farms free range heritage pigs and uses an extract of celery to cure the meat. I don’t know if it’s the happy pigs or the lack of chemicals, but these guys are onto something. I’m not about to eat a bacon sandwich just yet but Backfatters’ Maple-Smoked Bacon is utterly delectable in these sprinkles. The rind crisps and caramelises in the oven but somehow remains unctuous and chewy. I’m going to say that again…crispy, caramelised, unctuous, chewy. Fork…YES (not sponsored).

Just make the soup, you’ll understand.

Cauliflower and Parsnip Soup with Bacon Sprinkles

Cauliflower & Parsnip Soup with Bacon Sprinkles

Adapted from Taste

1 large onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large cauliflower (about 1 kg), cut into florets
3-4 medium parsnips (about 400g), peeled and sliced
2 bay leaves
1.5 litres (6 cups) chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup Greek yoghurt or crème fraîche
80g parmesan cheese, finely grated
3-4 rashers of bacon, finely chopped
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil

Heat a generous glug of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and sweat for a couple of minutes. Add the celery and garlic and a good pinch of salt and fry for a further 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add three-quarters of the cauliflower, three-quarters of the parsnips, the bay leaves and chicken stock. Cover, bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are cooked to the point where they break up easily when pressed with a spoon – about 15 minutes.

While the soup is cooking, preheat the oven to 200°C / 395°F. Line a large baking tray with foil. Finely chop the reserved cauliflower and parsnip and cut the bacon into tiny dice. Toss these onto the prepared tray and scatter with rosemary (if desired), freshly ground black pepper and a glug of olive oil. Toss to combine and then spread out on the tray. Grate the parmesan cheese and sprinkle 2-3 Tbsp over the vegetables and bacon, reserving the rest. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the vegetable are browned and the bacon is crispy.

Finish the soup by removing the bay leaves then blending the vegetables and stock until completely smooth. Add the Greek yoghurt or crème fraîche and reserved parmesan cheese and stir through until melted and combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve in bowls topped with the bacon sprinkles and chopped fresh parsley, if desired.

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Fire Cider | Horseradish, Chilli & Apple Cider Vinegar

Fresh horseradish, ginger, chilli, turmeric, onions and citrus - ingredients for Fire Cider

Before winter is over altogether I must tell you about Fire Cider – my new favourite tonic to ward off winter ills. Despite all attempts to remain virus-free, I got sick this year. It was nothing but a nasty cold but it left me with a hacking cough for weeks and sinuses so blocked I felt like my head was under water. I work in an open plan office and at the height of my suffering it seemed that everyone else was sick too. For several weeks all I could hear was a chorus of coughing and complaining; rows of desks were half empty, and those who remained stumbled around bleary-eyed pumping hand sanitiser into snotty palms. Even the ABC agrees that it’s been a rough winter for bugs so I’ll take all the help I can get, even if it means swilling apple cider vinegar infused with horseradish, chilli and onion in the name of health (I know it sounds disgusting, but stay with me).

Apple cider vinegar infused with horseradish, chilli, onion, garlic and turmeric - a great winter tonic

Yes, we are deep into hippy territory now, but don’t fret, I’m not about to go all Gwyneth Paltrow on you and insist on the benefits of putting steam and jade eggs inside your vagina or $200 smoothies that contain enough weird mushrooms to sound a bit like microdosing (go Gwyneth!). Coffee enemas, rose quartz and mandalas aside, you’ve probably already guessed that I’m a bit alternative at heart. I’m no stranger to homemade remedies and have always been partial to nutrition and herbal medicine over doctors and pills. I make my own kombucha, treat indigestion with aloe vera juice and always have a bottle of tea tree oil in the cupboard. Nothing too fringe, I swear; just small efforts to limit my exposure to chemicals and maintain a sense of balance in a rush-rush world. Now excuse me while I go order my ground fossils, also known as Diatomaceous Earth powder (no really, I just did that).

Turmeric, horseradish, chilli and lime

Making Fire Cider - winter herbal health tonic for the immune system

Who am I kidding? I’m a sucker for self-medication and it’s a bonus if I can concoct it myself. As published in Martha Stewart Living (and we all know how trustworthy Martha is) Fire Cider was created in the 1970s by US herbalist, Rosemary Gladstar, as a home remedy for winter colds and flu. The principle is simple – take naturally fermented apple cider vinegar and a selection of herbs and vegetables known for their medicinal properties, macerate together for several weeks, strain, mix with honey and drink. It’s all stuff you can get at your local supermarket and nothing weird at all (see recipe below). You can drink it straight (although be careful, as vinegar is extremely acidic), or do as I do, and mix 1-2 Tbsp in a small glass of water. The dilution has the effect of making the mixture surprisingly tasty in a spicy, onion-y, savoury way; in fact, a bit of vodka wouldn’t go amiss if you wanted to turn your morning health tonic into a herbaceous martini (no irony intended).

Fire Cider - immune system tonic based on apple cider vinegar and herbs

Look, roll your eyes over this one if you must, but I can tell you that each dose of this pungent, fiery, garlicky liquid was heaven to my clogged sinuses, or maybe that was the phenylephrine that I was simultaneously ingesting in a desperate bid for relief…? Since I confounded my own experiment I’ll never really know but I’ll try it again next year as a preventative. Until then, because winter isn’t entirely over yet, I’ll continue to start the day with a swig of medicinal vinegar and yes, I feel pretty virtuous about that.

Disclaimer: I am not a trained health professional, just a regular human being. Make up your own mind how to live your life (except for jade eggs – can we all just agree not to do that?).

Update 24/9/17: currently shot down with September colds (both of us) but having Fire Cider in the fridge is almost as good as having our Mums cross the Tasman Sea to do the laundry and make some soup. Thanks for the foresight, past self.

Apple cider vinegar infused with horseradish, chilli, onion, garlic and turmeric - a great winter tonic

Fire Cider

  • Servings: makes about 1 litre
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Adapted from A Year in Food

1 cup diced, fresh horseradish root (buy a piece that weighs about 125grams)
1 cup diced, fresh ginger
1 cup diced, fresh turmeric root
1 cup diced onion
2 small heads garlic, cloves peeled and diced
4-8 hot chilies, sliced
2 lemons, quartered and sliced
2 limes, quartered and sliced
750ml to 1 litre raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
2 litre jar, with a lid
Runny honey, optional (1/2 cup)
1/2 tsp sea salt

This is a guide rather than a strict formula so adjust the quantities and ingredients to fit what you can get (and organic or spray-free if possible).

Clean, dice and slice all of your ingredients, layering them in the jar as you go. It really doesn’t matter how you fill the jar, but I couldn’t help alternating bland coloured ingredients with brightly coloured ones to increase the visual appeal.

Once all of the ingredients are in, fill the jar with apple cider vinegar, leaving a couple of centimetres space at the top. Screw the top on the jar (if you only have a metal lid, place a square of baking paper between the jar and the lid, otherwise the vinegar will cause the metal to rust slightly). Place the jar in a dark corner, out of the way of direct sunlight but in a place where you’ll remember to give it a shake now and then. Let the mixture brew for two weeks, or longer if you prefer.

After two weeks, strain the liquid from the solids through a sieve lined with fine cheesecloth. Stir runny honey and salt into the liquid until dissolved. Use a funnel to fill sterilised bottles, and store in the fridge. I used about 800ml vinegar to start with and ended up with just under one litre of Fire Cider, once the runny honey was incorporated.

Take your Fire Cider at the rate of 1-2 tablespoons per day, straight down the hatch or diluted with a little water.

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“Art broke into everyday life” | The Street Art of Valparaíso

Street art by Anis in Valparaiso, Chile

If we loved the street art in Santiago and Buenos Aires then our little minds were blown to smithereens in Valparaíso. It was like falling down the rabbit hole: colours flashed, otherworldly beings loomed, and the twisting, turning stairs and alleys echoed the expansion and contraction of our minds. Valparaíso is a haven for street artists and tags, throw-ups and murals are literally everywhere. Artworks cover entire buildings and fill the smallest gaps, even overlapping when space gets really tight. Subject matter varies from political to whimsical and styles from brutal to delicate. As viewers, we were amused in one moment, uncomfortable in the next; pure delight kept us rounding one more corner (just one more) to see what treasures we would find.

Street art in Valparaiso, Chile - mural by Inti

Above: Large mural by Chilean artist, Inti.

Eyes_Mural_possibly_by_Charquipunk_Valparaiso

Casting about for an historical account of street art in Chile (see here and here for a good start), I learned that it emerged as a form of protest under the regime of Augusto Pinochet. Although political murals had appeared earlier (Salvador Allende used street art for promotion during his 1963 presidential campaign), under the Pinochet dictatorship murals were used to criticise and question the authoritarian government. Furtively painted under the cover of night, street art was a safe way to speak out about the unemployment, poverty and torture experienced by the community, even if these subversive acts were painted over by day. One website recounts the activism of the group, Collective de Acciones de Arte (CADA), which used small airplanes to drop 400,000 fliers over Santiago one day in 1981. The flyers urged people to appreciate the role of art in “expanding the usual levels of life” and as explained by Michele Wiesen:

The text was not an advertisement for consumers but an invocation that appealed to reflection on life and art, and the identity of the individual and the group… Appealing to the union of art and life in this repressive reality was an openly rebellious act, from a poetic and formal metaphor: airplanes can drop fire not only of pain but also disguised in words in order to open up new spaces of meaning… Art broke into everyday life, raised its voice, and subverted language structures to activate the collective’s memory.

As the dictatorship collapsed during the late 1980’s, artists became bolder and by the 1990’s Valparaíso was emerging as a hub for street art – but not without controversy. Some members of the public viewed street art as vandalism, but as styles and skills grew, artists relied less on tags and throw-ups and began to explore modern and avant-garde styles, using painterly techniques and developing larger, more complex murals. The street art scene was buoyed further by a government ruling that supported graffiti provided that the artist had obtained the owner’s permission (this is the same concept that has stimulated the growth of street art in Buenos Aires more recently). Today it is impossible to imagine Valparaíso without its art, which is legitimised and embraced as an expression of the city’s unique culture.

Street art in Valparaiso Chile - mural by Anis

Above: large mural on Cerre Alegre, painted by Anis from Abusa Crew. Abusa Crew is a group of street artists, whose work is inspired by women and informed by efforts to liberate women throughout South America. Anis also painted the mural in the first photo for this post.

Old_eyes_mural_Artist_Unknown_Valparaiso

Between the two of us, Colin and I took hundreds of photos and whittling them down was difficult. I’m only able to share this selection (a handful of the best) by promising myself to share the rest on my Instagram page over the next few months. In addition to selecting and editing, I’ve spent hours searching Google images in an attempt to identify the artist for each piece. The majority of pieces remain unattributed (please leave a comment if you can identify any of the artists), but most prominent artists were easy to find. Chilean artist Charquipunk paints with a distinctive style using lines and colour to suggest movement (see the three images below). He is also fond of painting birds, so it wasn’t long before we could pick out his work:

Charquipunk_collage_Mural_Valparaiso_Chile.jpg

Charquipunk_Hummingbird_Valparaiso_Chile

Street art in Valparaíso isn’t always high quality and for every stunning mural there are a hundred hastily spray-painted tags. Some pieces that were once great have been long neglected; walls revealing a mish-mash of peeling pasteups, layers of images, fading paint, rust, grime and decay. It’s messy at times, but it’s all part of the scene – every street artist makes their debut with a tag and the exposure of artworks to sun and rain means that they can never be static images. Like the community itself, street art lives and breathes in a precarious cycle of creation and degradation, appreciated for a time but eventually replaced or removed to make way for something else.

Throw_ups_and_tags_Valparaiso_Chile

Collaboration_Mural_Cern_LRM_Inti_and_others_Valparaiso

Above: collaboration mural by the artists Cern, LRM, Inti and others.

Cats_and_Rats_Artist_Unknown_Valparaiso

Street art in Valparaiso - large mural by Teo Doro

Above: tags and stickers in the foreground; mural by Teo Doro Vidaingravita in the background.

In addition to a healthy and growing population of local artists, people come to Valparaíso from all over the world to paint murals and add a piece of their own history to the city. The mural below is by the surrealist Argentinean artist, Martin Ron, whose work we also saw in Buenos Aires. A tagger has added a rough moustache on the upper lip of the face.


Street art in Valparaiso - mural by Martin Ron

The piece below is called “Rock, Paper, Scissors”. It’s by the German artist, Otto Schade, who cites Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte and Banksy among his key influences:

Street art in Valparaiso, Chile mural by Otto Schade

French artist, Mr. Papillon, is responsible for this gorgeous mural of a vibrant young girl radiating warmth and happiness:

Street art in Valparaiso Chile - mural by Mr Papillon

I like the idea that we could go to Valparaíso in ten years time and find a completely different display of murals. There will always be some sadness for the demise of particularly beautiful art, but it’s this transitory quality that is part of its appeal. It’s not for a gallery, it’s not to be preserved, it’s not to be bought and sold. Street art is about a collective conscious, about hopes and dreams and what’s important now.

Street art in Valparaiso Chile

To close, this post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Un Kolor Distinto, a team of two artists who are an institution in Valparaíso. Sammy Espinoza (Jekse) and Cynthia Aguilera (Cines) have painted together for years. Their pieces are usually enormous, colourful, surrealist and always feature two characters (Cines paints the female characters and Jekse the male). Their works were some of our favourites and here I am with one on our second-to-last day in wonderful Valparaíso:

Street art in Valparaiso Chile - mural by Un Kolor Distinto

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Winter Market Salad | Citrus, Roasted Beetroot, Bitter Leaves

Winter Market Salad with citrus, beetroot and bitter leaves

With all the pie and pudding around here lately, I’ve been thinking about something light and fresh to balance out all that butter and sugar. This is more difficult than it should be during winter, when all I really want is warm, spicy and comforting food of the stick-to-your-ribs variety (not to mention hearty red wine with everything). There’s nothing sadder on a cold winter’s day than dutifully masticating on raw carrots or flavourless lettuce because you need to get your 5+ a day. The only way to create winter salads that I’ll willingly (and joyfully) eat is to give them my serious attention, so here is my advice to you: you can’t just throw a few cherry tomatoes or slices of cucumber on a plate and expect to be happy! It takes effort. Load in as much colour as you possibly can, include a range of flavours, think carefully about how to balance acid with salt, sweetness and bitterness, and never, ever forget about the textures. With variety, contrast and balance, your salad will effortlessly move from mundane to memorable.

Red, gold and chioggia beetroot

Winter Market Salad

Lately I’m getting my motivation at the farmers market where stalls are piled high with flavoursome winter produce. Most enticing is the beetroot, with deep red-purple skin and perky leaves still attached (which are excellent cooked like spinach). If I’m lucky, there will be golden beetroot too and maybe even the gorgeous Chioggia with its pink and white candy-stripped flesh. Citrus is at its best right now and I can’t resist these beautiful orbs in glowing colours of orange, yellow and green. And radishes grown in the cool of winter are delightful: juicy, mild and extra-crunchy.

Winter Market Salad with roasted golden beetroot

Winter Market Salad - red beetroot and sorrel

Winter Market Salad with roasted Chioggia beetroot

I created this salad recently drawing solely on the contents of my market bags. The base is comprised of beetroot which has been roasted under a cover, trapping the juices deep within the flesh. The sweetness and earthiness of the beetroot contrasts beautifully with the bright notes of segmented grapefruit and orange, and the lightly roasted radishes provide a touch of pepper and a satisfying crunch. In the photos I used lemony sorrel and a handful of rocket to form the background greenery, but the second time I mixed in bitter radicchio which was even better. Persimmon and pomegranate weren’t really needed, but added extra sweetness and colour. Red wine vinaigrette pulled the whole together.

Roasted beetroot and radishes Winter Market Salad

I ate this salad with half an avocado and felt vegan and virtuous for a full and glorious hour…until the familiar craving for cheese and cake kicked back in. Sigh. The struggle is real, but so much easier (really) if you can just figure out how to make great winter salad.

For more inspiration, check out this other great salad from last winter featuring red cabbage and pickled fennel.

Winter Market Salad with Beetroot, citrus and bitter greens

Winter Market Salad with Citrus, Beetroot & Bitter Greens

6 medium beetroot, mixed variety if possible
Bunch of radishes
1 red grapefruit
1 orange
2 fuyu persimmon
100g bitter leaves such as radicchio or rocket
Bunch sorrel leaves (optional)
1 pomegranate (optional)
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 220ºC / 425ºF. Wash the beetroot and slice off the stems but do not peel them. Place the beetroot into an oven-proof dish, cover tightly with foil and bake until tender, about 45-50 minutes. When cool enough to handle, rub the beetroot with paper towels to remove the skins and slice into chunky wedges.

The radishes can be left raw or prepared similarly to the beetroot: washed and trimmed and encased in foil, although I roast them for only 15-20 minutes to ensure that they retain most of their crunch.

While the vegetables are cooking, remove the peel and white pith from the grapefruit and orange and, working over a bowl to catch the juices, slice between the membranes to segment the flesh. Add the vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper to the bowl of citrus juices and whisk together to form the dressing. Peel and slice the persimmon.

Create a nest of radicchio, rocket and/or sorrel (or other winter leaves) on a single large plate or individual plates. Arrange wedges of beetroot, citrus flesh, persimmon and sliced radishes on each plate and drizzle over the dressing. Complete the salad with a scattering of pomegranate arils.

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