Friday 17 June 2011

A simple lunch of smoky soup and blueberry cake

My friend Junko and her little girl came over for lunch this week.  Of all my friendships, the one with Junko reminds me to be hopeful about friends.  I first met her over 20 years ago while she was on exchange from Japan.  When she went home at the end of the year I thought I would never see her again, despite her promises.  She kept her word and, despite living in different corners of the globe, has returned to Melbourne again and again.  Now our girls play together.  The world is a wonderful place!

I told her I would make a simple lunch.  I knew what we would eat because I had plans to make a Pumpkin and Roasted Corn Soup  and Blueberry Breakfast Cake from Susan of Fat Free Vegan.  I tweaked both recipes.  I decided to roast the pumpkin as well as the corn for the soup.  After all it was for Jacqueline and Lisa's No Croutons Required event - the theme is Grilled or Roasted soups or salads this month.

I had planned to whip it up for dinner but was waiting for an evening when I had time for roasting.  Making the soup for lunch was even better.  Soups are always improved by resting overnight.  Once I started roasting pumpkin I couldn't resist sprinkling some spice on it, as Kathryn recommended.  I then got it in my mind to add some smoked paprika and maple syrup.  Even with adding stock and salt I found it quite sweet and rather smoky.  With some roasted corn, it had lots of texture and flavours.  E told me he loved the soup with the burnt corn so I wont be turning to him for recipe names any time soon!

On the same evening, I made the Blueberry Breakfast Cake.  This was inspired by another event.  Ricki and Kim's Savoury or Sweet (SoS) Kitchen Challenge, with blueberries being the theme of the month.  This event is about sharing recipes that use whole foods, whole grains, vegan ingredients and natural sweeteners.  That is a challenge for me when it comes to baking.  One that I am slowly getting better at.

In Melbourne, it is the time of year when blueberries are in our freezer rather than fridge because fresh blueberries are out of season.  But when they are in season, E and Sylvia gobble them up.  I liked Susan's recipe but wanted to try out a few new ingredients.  Recently I have bought coconut sugar and coconut flour for the first time (from La Manna Fresh in Sydney Road).  According to these sites, the sugar is low GI, rich in minerals and not highly processed, and the flour is high in fibre, gluten free and a good source of protein.

Working out how to use the coconut sugar has been easy.  I've almost used up the packet and am just sorry that it is so expensive.  I love the toffee flavours and it was fantastic sprinkled on top of the cake.  The coconut flour is more of a challenge.  I am still a little unsure how it changes the texture and taste of baked goods so I am unsure how to use it.  This was my first attempt.  For the first time in ages, the cake was studded with flour bombs (little pockets of uncooked flour) so I think I may need to sieve the flour.  The cake was quite moist but I suspect this was due to my decision to replace the egg replacer with a flax egg.  I also used oil because I didn't have any applesauce.

I loved how purple the cake was with all those blueberries.  I started baking it before dinner with Sylvia but got distracted by a visit from the neighbour and making the soup and dinner.  Before I knew it, it was late and there was still a bowl of flours waiting to be baked.  Fortunately it came together quickly.  It was a hit with both E and Sylvia.

Junko enjoyed it too.  Fortunately for us, E was home that day because he was feeling poorly.  He supervised our girls at play while we played ladies who lunch.  It was a luxury to be able to catch up with each other without being distracted by small children.  We ate some cake with our tea and then I cut up some fruit (see top photo) and we nibbled at that while we talked.  A most pleasant lunch!

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Half Moon Café: Coburg’s best falafels
This time two years ago: The Amazing Chocolate Cake in a Mug
This time three years ago: The pitfalls of pumpkin bread
This time four years ago: SHF: Mud Glorious Mud

Smoky Pumpkin and Corn Soup
inspired by Fat Free Vegan and Limes and Lycopene
serves about 4 for lunch

2 tbsp olive oil
800g pumpkin, peeled and chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic in their skins
1 tsp spice mix*
3 cobs of corn
oil spray
4 cups stock
handful of cooked diced potato 
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp maple syrup (or less)
1/2 tsp salt

*I used bush spice but a Moroccan or Dukkah or curry mix would work

In a large roasting dish place olive oil, pumpkin, onion, garlic and spice mix.  Toss together and roast for 45 minutes at 220 C or until pumpkin is soft.  Take the garlic out of the skins.  Place garlic flesh in a large saucepan and discard skins.  Tip the rest of the pumpkin and onion in the saucepan.  Place corn in the roasting tray, spray with oil spray and roast about 30 minutes.  I then left my corn in the oven while it cooled.  Cut the corn off two of the cobs and add to the saucepan.  Set the other corn cob aside.  Add remaining ingredients to the saucepan and puree (I used a hand held blender). 

When you are ready to serve, cut the corn cobs off the last corn cob.  Spread on an oven tray and place under the grill (broiler) to brown up a little.  To serve, ladle soup into bowls and scatter grilled corn over each bowl.

Variation: I didn't have quite enough left for dinner so I increased the quantities of about one third of this soup with about a cup of cooked rice, half a tin of lentils, a spoonful or two of yoghurt, a couple of spoonfuls of this mash, and some extra stock.  This was great and did me for lunch the next day as well.

Blueberry Breakfast Cake

adapted from Fat Free Vegan

Dry Ingredients:
1 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup wholemeal flour
1/3 cup coconut flour (or wholemeal flour)
1/2 cup coconut sugar (or other sugar)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of salt
1/4 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Wet Ingredients:
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp ground linseeds (flaxseeds)
3 tbsp water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup canola oil (or other neutral oil)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons coconut sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 180 C or 350 F. Grease and line a small slice tin - or a 20cm square tin.  Mix ground linseeds and water and set aside.

Grind the oats in a blender until fine.  Transfer to a mixing bowl and stir in the remaining dry ingredients and 1/4 cup of blueberries (NB I found my coconut flour clumped slightly so it may need a good stir before the blueberries go in.)

Blend 1 cup of blueberries with1/2 cup water until coarsely chopped (rather than completely pureed).  Tip blueberries, linseed mixture, lemon juice, oil and vanilla into the dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Spoon batter into prepared tin and smooth with the back of a spoon.  Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon (I didn't actually measure mine).  Bake for 25-35 minutes (I baked mine 25 minutes) or until coming away from the edges of the tin and a skewer inserted comes out cleanly.  Sit in the tin for at least 15 minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool.  Eat warm or room temperature.

On the stereo:
Tears and pavan: an introduction to the strawbs


  1. How wonderful to have kept a friendship like that for so many years! Your lunch sounds lovely. In my (entirely unscientific) experimentation, I've found that coconut flour absorbs A LOT more liquid than regular flour, so I always either add much more liquid or reduce the flour (and always mix coconut flour with another type to balance it out, as you have). Coconut sugar is another story--I adore it. As you say, the toffee flavor is just perfect. . . too bad it is so expensive!!

  2. The blueberry cake looks amazing! That cake and a cup of coffee, I would be in my happy place :)

  3. That's a lovely friendship story - what a nice outcome for the two of you and for your children.

    The two recipes look fantastic, and thanks for the information on coconut sugar (which I hadn't heard of) and flour (which I'd heard of, but knew little about).

  4. Ooh, I'll have to try this cake!! I've had coconut flour for months and bought it to bake with, but have used it in no other way but mixed with sweetener and soy milk for "coconut cream". It's so good I've been lazy with experimenting!

  5. I love the sound of coconut sugar and flour - but I haven't seen either here. I shall have to go on a hunt!

  6. I loved reading of your friendship and continued ties with Junko. I have a very good friend that I made at University, I was fortunate to go to USA to see her in 2000, since then I have not seen her - things have changed - she had a baby girl last year. I wish I was near to see her, but I know Our friendship continues from afar. Its good that E was around so that you and Junko could spend quality time together.

    Blueberries fresh or frozen are making an appearance everywhere, and each recipe is looking so darn good.

    I will have to keep my eyes out for coconut flour and sugar, both are new to me.

    Good luck with you NCR submission, its my kind of soup.

  7. I love having friends who reinforce my faith in the world. They are few and far between, though! Sounds like you had fun with Junko! And you served her quite the delicious meal. I need to check out that soup, especially!

  8. Thanks Ricki - I added a bit more water and thought maybe I had made the cake a bit more moister than it was meant to be - would like to try it without the coconut flour to see if it made a difference if I just used wheat flour instead

    Thanks Sharan - a happy place indeed!

    Thanks Kari - if you have some money to burn I would highly recommend the coconut sugar - am still not that sure about coconut flour but will have to experiment more

    Thanks Hannah - am still looking for ways to experiment with coconut flour - your cream sounds interesting - would love to know more about how you make it and serve it

    Thanks Amanda - I have only seen the coconut sugar and coconut flour in one place so far - and snapped it up because was curious after reading about them but don't expect they are common in most shops

    Thanks Shaheen - it is hard to keep in touch with people who live a long way away - but friendships who survive distance are ones I truly value

    Thanks Joanne - it was great to see Junko - and I think you would enjoy the soup - though I think I could have made it a bit more simple if I had followed susan's instructions more.

  9. I believe that a real friendship with another person shows in that time and space don't matter: Even if you live far from each other and don't see each other very often, when you meet, you just go on where you were when you met for the last time. We meet so many people in our lives, and most of them we just lose sight of again after some time, and there's only a handful of people with whom a real friendship is actually possible. I'm happy you have a friend like that!

    Would you email me your address? Then I can send you a little package of dried wild garlic. :)

  10. Thanks Kath - very kind of you - I agree that distance is no object to friendship - it sometimes seems my friends are very spread out but I really enjoy meeting up with them when I can. I also love that I have lost track of friends and bumped into them again and rekindled the friendship

  11. How nice that you and Junko have kept in touch all these years. :) I'm really intrigued by the smoked soup. I don't think I'd mind the charred corn, like E.


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