Autumn is fast creeping up on us.
I am sure that you are all starting to feel the seasonal shift and notice the changes around you!
Being a lover of the warmer days, this makes me very sad. Although I love to see the changes in my garden as the season turns, the earlier sunsets wreak havoc with my daily dog walking schedule as I now have to try and fit everything in before the darkness descends. This includes figuring out and preparing easy dinner recipes for my family before the chilly evenings set in.
On the positive side, my bromeliads are in full bloom and, with the end of the summer rains in KZN, I can now begin to do some serious landscaping work instead of just the run-of-the-mill garden maintenance. I love gardening as much as I love cooking and, if I had not become a chef, I would have studied horticulture.
INTO THE KITCHEN
The one thing that I do love about the cooler weather is the option of trying out much heartier, full flavoured stews and casseroles – real comfort food! One of my favourite meals to make is a rich and wholesome soup. I love being able to throw various ingredients into the pot, let it simmer away and then blend it all up!
The challenge in my house is to make my soups as filling and as wholesome as a regular meal – Barry is not the biggest soup lover and he always feels a little hard done - by if I serve up a soup for dinner - so I try to make them chunkier with a good texture. I also always serve some crusty bread with it, and if I am totally honest with myself, I think that Barry eats more bread than he does soup but at least I then get to take some soup with me to work for lunch!
Last night I gardened right into the late evening until there was absolutely no light left and I was forced to pack up all of my tools – it was only then that it dawned on me that I had not given much thought to dinner. I looked around in my fridge and decided that it would be butternut soup – my favourite vegetable! I have no idea what came over me as my muscles were aching and I was dead beat tired but I decided to make my own bread to accompany the soup – I tried out this Garlic and Herb Parmesan loaf and was very impressed with the end result.
Garlic and Herb Parmesan loaf
10 g sachet instant yeast
1 cup (250 ml) luke warm water
1 Tbsp. (15 ml) white sugar
1 tsp. (5 ml) salt
2 ½ - 3 cups cake flour
1 sachet KNORR Garlic & Herb Potato Bake
Parmesan cheese, finely grated
- Dissolve the yeast in a large bowl with the warm water, then add the sugar, salt and 1 cup of cake flour, and mix until smooth.
- Stir in the remaining cake flour and the contents of the sachet of KNORR Garlic & Herb Potato Bake until a smooth dough is formed, adding in more or less cake flour as needed.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic – this should take about 8 minutes.
- Place the dough into a greased bowl, cover and allow it to rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size – this should take about 45 minutes.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, punch down and then roll out into a rectangle.
- Sprinkle with as much grated Parmesan cheese as you desire to within 1.5 cm of the edges of the dough, the more you add the richer the end result.
- Roll up the dough as you would a Swiss roll, pinching the seams and ends together to seal.
- Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and place the loaf side down onto the baking sheet.
- Using a sharp knife, make a few slashes across the top of each loaf then cover and allow to rise until doubled in size – this should take about 30 minutes.
- Bake in a pre-heated oven at 190°C for 20 - 25 minutes or until golden brown and hollow sounding when the underside is tapped. You can check whether the bread is cooked if a hollow sound is produced when tapped.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool before slicing.
Needless to say, we ended up eating dinner incredibly late but it was well worth the wait – there really is something satisfying about producing your own bread – much more than when cooking anything else. I think that it is because bread making is a science on its own and the wonderful aroma that comes from the oven gives you such a cosy feeling. So, snuggle up and enjoy these cooler evenings before the cold days really do take over!
If you happen to find yourself lost in your garden work, stuck in traffic or running late after an afternoon meeting, you can find a wide variety of quick and easy dinner recipes here. Not only are these simple to prepare, they also promise to be hearty, wholesome and delicious.