Pumpkin-Paprika Soup

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Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes

The ingredients: for 6 persons

  • 1 butternut pumpkin
  • 2 red paprika
  • 2 onions
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 cubes low fat chicken bouillon
  • 1 bouquet garni (garnished bouquet)
  • 1 tbsp. paprika powder (soft taste)
  • 1 tsp. sharp paprika (spicy)
  • olive oil or other light fat
  • salt & pepper

The work:

Peal the butternut, take out the seeds, and cut the meat in pieces. Clean the 2 paprika’s, take out the seeds and cut them into pieces. Peal the onions and cut them in cubes. Peal the garlic and cut into small pieces.

Put some olive oil or other low fat oil into a cooking pot and simmer the onions, the paprika and the  garlic for a couple of minutes until the onions start to turn glazy. Add the butternut pieces and immediately cover all vegetables with water. You’ll need 1 to 1,5 liter. Add two cubes of chicken stock and the bouquet garni. To strengthen the taste of the soup, add a table spoon of soft paprika and a pinch of sharp paprika (spicy paprika).

Once the soup boils, lower the heat so that the soup boils softly for the rest of the cooking time. The paprika’s will need about 45 minutes until they are tender.

At the end of the cooking time, take out the bouquet garni and mix the soup using a mixer or blender. Add some extra water if necessary, to give the soup the right consistency. Season the soup with salt and pepper.

The Tip:
My neighbour brought me some smoked garlic the other day. I used this instead of normal garlic, and although i can’t prove nor measure it, but I believe the smoked garlic lifted the paprika taste much more than normal garlic. I’m sure if I would roast the paprika’s and peal them before using them, this would also be very beneficial for the taste of this soup. I really need to try that sometime.

I hate battling against pumpkins, so I in the beginning of winter I buy a bag of frozen butternut cubes. No work, as good!

The Secret:

Yet again the herbs are the secret to this taste. With the bouquet garni and the soft and spicy paprika herbs to the soup it gets a herby flavour and a great paprika ‘bite’.

If you don’t have sharp paprika, you can replace it by chilli. For the bouquet garni I used a dry bouquet which I bought in the shop. It contained: thyme, laurel and rosemary.

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Tomato-Paprika Soup

DSC00471Preparation time: 45-60 minutes

The ingredients: for 6 persons

  • 4 big red tomatoes
  • 1 green paprika
  • 1 red paprika
  • 1 white part of leek
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 small can tomato paste (70 g)
  • 2 cubes low fat meat bouillon
  • salt & pepper

The Work:

Peal the tomatoes, take out the seeds and cut them in pieces. Take out the seeds of the paprikas and cut them up as well. Cut the white of leak, the carrots and the shallots in small cubes. Put all these vegetables in a cooking pot. Add 1 L of water, the 2 cubes of bouillon and let boil.

Once the soup boils, turn lower the heat so that the soup boils softly for the rest of the cooking time. The paprikas will need about 45 minutes until they are tender. To strengthen the taste of the soup, add some spoons of tomato paste at the end of the cooking time and stir until the paste is melted in the soup.

Mix the soup using a mixer or blender and add some extra water if necessary, to give the soup the right consistency. Season the soup with salt and pepper.

The Tip:
To get velvety soup it is advised to peel the tomatoes. If you are pressed for time, you can skip this.

The combination of a green en red paprika gives the soup a bitter touch. If you rather have a softer taste, use 2 red paprikas instead of 1 green and 1 red.

The Secret:

This soup is really a diet recipe I got from my sister in law, but the flavours and the consistency are so rich that I’ve served it on family diners as well. Nobody every dared to assume this was zero calorie.

If your kids don’t like vegetables but they do like tomato soup with meat balls, then this is a perfect veggie boost in disguise… just make sure they never see you add all these ‘bad’ ingredients.

Chicken Fajitas

P1000262

Preparation time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

The ingredients: for 4 persons

P1000255

  • 2 double chicken breasts
  • 2 red paprika
  • 3 onions
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 fajita seasoning mix
  • tortilla wraps  (3 medium sized or 2 larger ones per person)
  • cheddar
  • iceberg lettuce
  • 2 tomatoes
  • taco sauce (hot or mild)
  • sour cream
  • salt & pepper
  • harissa (optionally)

The work:

At home, we serve the fajitas with iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cheddar cheese, taco sauce and sour cream.

P1000247

As the toppings will be sprinkled on the chicken before the wraps are folded, you should make sure everything is cut in small sizes. Start by cutting 1 of the onions in small rings. Remove the seeds from the tomatoes and cut them in small dices. Grate the cheese. Put all these toppings in separate serving dishes, also the taco sauce and the sour cream. You can prepare this ahead of time.

P1000253For the fajitas, chop-up the chicken breasts and start frying them in a pan with salt & pepper. While you do this, crush the garlic, take out the seeds of the paprika and chop them up in larger pieces. Also cut the 2 remaining onions.
As the chicken starts to become a bit crispy, add the garlic, paprika’s and the onions. Pour the fajita seasoning
mix over all of this. Depending on the type of mix you’ve bought (a jar or a bag), you may have to prepare the mix beforehand by adding some water to the seasoning. Follow the instructions on the product label for this. Stir to mix all the ingredients.
After the seasoning mix has been added it’s a question of keeping the pan on the fire until the vegetables are cooked and most of the moisture has dries out. We are aiming for seasoned meat, not for seasoned soup.

P1000257

Heat up the wraps in the micro wave. Follow the instructions on the package.

P1000259Now you are ready to serve. Put one wrap on everyone’s plate. Position the fajita (sizzling) pan and toppings in the centre of the table and let everyone fill their own wrap. First add some chicken, then add some toppings, fold up the fajita and try.

The Tip:
First time fajita tasters typically make two beginners mistakes: they overload the wrap and just roll it up. An overly charged wrap you cannot eat without pieces dropping out of it. When trying to eat a rolled-up wrap, the sauce will drip out at the end. The trick is to fold a part of the back to the inside, over the meat, and then close the left and right side like a small envelope. When you then lift up the wrap, the sauce is caught in the wrap envelope, at least for while.

harissa

We tend to favour chicken fajitas, but you can make variants with scampi’s, steak, lamb, or even mixed.

If you want to make the fajita mix a bit more spicy, you can add some harissa.

Don’t choose between taco sauce and sour cream, try adding both, their blend is fantastic.

The Secret:

It was around 1997 that I was sitting in a Mexican restaurant next to Mark S., one of my former US colleagues. With his typical enthusiasm he ordered ‘sizzling fajitas’. I had never heard of fajitas before. The dish looked, smelled and tasted delicious! Back home I tried to explain how impressed I was with the small Mexican wraps, but at that time the fajita seasoning was nowhere to be found in our local Belgian shops.

Many years later when making a walk at the coast we spotted a café specialized in serving Fajitas. It was the ideal moment to drag in my husband and daughter. Hehe, yes! Afterwards we found the fajita mix more regularly in the supermarkets and endeavoured making our own version.

Sizzling fajitas is now one of our typical Sunday evening favourites. So is Scampi Diabolo, one of my earlier posts.

For the Belgium readers who would like to try fajitas first before making their own attempt, I can recommend café Carrello in Heist (Knokke-Heist), a family business specialized in serving great fajitas. Make sure to book your table.