Italian Wedding Soup

Wandercrush Italian Wedding Soup Wandercrush Italian Wedding Soup

Before I starting this blog, I always imagined food bloggers whipping up daily feasts and hosting frequent dinner parties, sending off leftovers to all the neighbours and family friends, feeding the nation with their overflowing kitchens. Alas, real life is chaotic and last-minute; often, even my own flatmates are out of the house when I have a free day to make a proper meal.

But a few weeks ago, I had the privilege of cooking for twelve people. It was a fun challenge and despite inexperience in delegating amounts of meat, each person ended up with exactly two parmesan-stuffed meatballs in their bowl.

Wandercrush Italian Wedding Soup

My memories of Italian Wedding Soup are connected to homeliness and comfort, but aren’t glamorous in the least. We kept a seemingly self-regenerating pyramid of “Campbell’s Select” soup tins in the pantry, for the times Mom was fast asleep around midnight and I craved something other than Cheez-Its.

Incredibly, I don’t recall having ever tasted a fresh version before. I only dared to make a batch for this occasion because I figured anything tasting that good in a tin would taste even better out of a cast-iron pot with February turkey. It’s no wonder the Italians christened it  “wedding soup”—not after matrimonial ceremonies, but after the beautiful “marriage” of ingredients and flavours. Turns out the coupling works just as well when kale replaces escarole, when big butter beans replace the pearly pasta balls called acini de pepe. Keeping the hungry crowd in mind, I also beefed this one up with potatoes, enriching the stock with parmesan rind.

All in all, it’s a crowd-pleaser that’s perfect for late February. London’s getting warmer by the week, and I’ve even dared to cycle without gloves. Still at the tail-end of winter, my premature longing for summer translates to this hearty soup—with a broth rich but clear, warm but bright—whispering of springtime.

Wandercrush Italian Wedding Soup

Italian Wedding Soup
(serves 12)

  • 1kg minced turkey
  • 1 small onion, finely minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • ¾ cup fresh bread crumbs
  • ½ cup parmesan, freshly grated
  • 1 egg
  • handful fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • 1 t black pepper
  • 1 ½ t salt
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • chicken stock
  • parmesan rind, washed
  • 300g butter beans, dried
  • 500g potatoes, chopped
  • 300g kale, chopped roughly
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup parmesan, freshly grated
  • salt & pepper

Soak butter beans overnight, covering with at least a few centimetres of water.

Preheat oven to 175ºC / 350ºF.
Combine ground meat, onion, garlic, bread crumbs, parmesan, egg, and herbs/spices. Mix thoroughly with hands, forming into meatballs of desired size. With each the size of a golfball, you’ll have about 24. Place on lightly greased sheets and bake for 20-30 minutes, alternating racks at the halfway mark so both get equal heat distribution.

Heat up some oil in a deep saucepan and sauté onions, celery, and garlic until tender and fragrant. Add the chicken stock along with the rind of your parmesan, which will add a wonderful dimension to the broth. Put in the potatoes and drained beans. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30-40 minutes until beans are tender but not falling apart.
Add the kale and meatballs, covering to simmer another 10 minutes until the greens are wilted.

Slowly stream in the beaten mixture of egg and parmesan, stirring constantly for another minute until egg is set in ribbons. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve with chopped parsley and multigrain bread.

Wandercrush Italian Wedding Soup Wandercrush Italian Wedding Soup

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Posted in Fish & Game, Italy, Main, Soup | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Vegetarian Tacos with Riced Cauliflower

It’s one thing to take liberties with something as unfamiliar to the Western world as ndolé or zemlovka, but tacos have been the brunt of fusion cuisine. I’ve therefore always hesitated when it comes to Tex-Mex on the blog, for fear of half-heartedly singing an overplayed tune. But some melodies are overplayed for a good reason, and who am I to deny my love for Tex-Mex when burritos sustained me as a hungover Floridian university student?

Wandercrush Vegetarian Tacos

Wandercrush Vegetarian Tacos

How many variations of the vegetarian taco are out there now? The best and worst thing about the taco interpretation is how receptive it is to any and all fillings. I’m not a fan of the anaemic iceberg lettuce, but add-ins are unprejudiced toward more tomatoes, more avocado, more coriander, more lime.

Wandercrush Vegetarian Tacos

Wandercrush Vegetarian Tacos

But riced cauliflower, cauliflower rice! When it was in season this time last year, I used it for texture in this chili and found it to be a lovely canvas for flavours like cumin, chilli powder, smoked paprika, that whole section of the spice rack. I manipulated it again here, this time spreading over a baking sheet and roasting with taco seasoning until golden.

I won’t try to tie these suspiciously cuban black beans or avocado lime cream drizzle back to the indigenous Mexicans, but these soft corn tortillas are perhaps the most accurate representation of what the taco once was—they’re simply masa harina (flour made from lime-treated maize) mixed with water, pressed into discs, and dry-cooked on the skillet until toasty.

Wandercrush Vegetarian Tacos

Wandercrush Vegetarian Tacos

Vegetarian Tacos with Riced Cauliflower, Black Beans, & Avocado Cream

  • 250g black beans, dried
  • 2 cloves garlic, whole
  • bay leaf
  • 2 leeks, sliced
  • vegetable stock
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1 t smoked paprika
  • 1 t chilli powder
  • dash of white wine vinegar
  • salt
  • 1 head cauliflower, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, whole
  • 1 T chilli powder
  • ¼ t garlic powder
  • ¼ t onion powder
  • ¼ t red pepper flakes
  • ¼ t dried oregano
  • ½ t paprika
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1 t sea salt
  • 1 t black pepper
  • 1 avocado
  • 3 T greek yogurt
  • 1 lime, juice of
  • black pepper
  • salt
  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 1 ½ cups warm water
  • cherry tomatoes, halved
  • fresh coriander/cilantro, chopped
  • lime, juice of

Soak the beans overnight.
In the morning, pour out the soaking water and put into a heavy pot, filling up with fresh water to a few centimetres above the beans. Add two whole cloves of garlic and a bay leaf, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer to cook for at least 1 hour, checking to top up water if necessary.
Once the beans are simmering, begin caramelising the leeks in a dash of oil and a pinch of salt, cooking slowly over low heat to coax out the sweetness. Whenever they begin sticking or drying out, deglaze the pan with some vegetable stock and stir until they’re a golden brown, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 175ºC / 350ºF. Grate cauliflower roughly into rice-like particles. Toss lightly in a tablespoon of neutral oil before adding in the spice mix and combining well. Bake with a couple cloves of garlic for 30-45 minutes, stirring around occasionally and removing when nice and golden. Set aside to let the them cool off on the tray, then transfer them to a deep bowl and set aside.

Once the beans are creamy and tender and most of the water is gone, mix in a large bowl with the leeks along with the cumin, smoked paprika, chilli powder, and vinegar. Remove the bay leaf, but not the garlic. With the side of the bowl with a wooden spoon, smashing some black bean to create a thicker cohesive texture. Season to taste, cover, and set aside.

For the corn tortillas, combine masa harina with warm water and let it sit for a few minutes before working the dough together by hand. Working with sections the size slightly larger than a golf ball, roll flat into about 16-18 discs.
Heat up a skillet over medium heat and let each tortilla cook for less than a minute on each side, flipping when pockets of air appear on the surface and each side looks toasted. Stack up and wrap in a tea towel to keep warm as the process is repeated with remaining balls of dough. If refrigerating and reheating later, re-heat with a sprinkle of water to keep them moist.

Combine avocado, yogurt, and lime in a blender or processor, adding just a dash of water if it needs to be thinned out. Season to taste.
Load up the fresh and warm tortillas with the black bean mixture, the roasted cauliflower, and a drizzle of the avocado lime sauce. Top with halved cherry tomatoes, fresh coriander, and more lime juice as desired.

Wandercrush Vegetarian Tacos Wandercrush Vegetarian Tacos

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Posted in America, Cuba, Finger Food, Main, Mexico, Sauce | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beetroot Stuffed Parathas & Apple Chutney

Happy 2015! I would add ‘belated’, but it seems that 2015 lasts all year. Considering graduation is only six months away and the heavily design-devoted time that will be necessary up until then (and long after), I’m drafting up a new approach for the purpose and identity of Wandercrush. It’s already developed and morphed naturally over the course of two years, but circumstances call for a reconfiguration into something that more fully encompasses my aspirations and fascinations. Of course this will always include food and travel, but I’ve come to realise how paradoxically separate from the rest of my identity these things can become when framed in an exclusively dedicated blog.

Anyway, more on that in the upcoming months.

Wandercrush Beetroot Stuffed Parathas with Apple Chutney

Forgive me for the lack of recipe commentary, but I handed in my undergraduate dissertation yesterday (This can also explain the January absence!) and have just about been wrung dry of words.

Anyway, beetroot can speak for itself—confidently, at that.

Wandercrush Beetroot Stuffed Parathas with Apple Chutney

Wandercrush Beetroot Stuffed Parathas with Apple Chutney

Essentially, this is a nested reply to India’s answer for breakfast carbs: the aloo paratha. Just added a bit of grated beetroot and paired it with a fresh apple chutney of sorts. I shamefully under-celebrated the glorious UK apple season this year, so it’s a last-minute tribute.

Wandercrush Beetroot Stuffed Parathas with Apple Chutney

Wandercrush Beetroot Stuffed Parathas with Apple Chutney

Beetroot Stuffed Parathas & Apple Chutney
(yields about 10)

  • 350g (~3 cups) whole wheat flour
  • generous pinch of salt
  • 1 t neutral oil
  • 150g beetroot, peeled and chopped
  • 250g potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 t neutral oil
  • 1 t cumin seeds
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 green chilli, minced
  • ½ t red chilli powder
  • ½ t garam masala
  • ½ t cumin powder
  • ¼ t tumeric powder
  • handful fresh coriander/cilantro, chopped
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 organic apples, peeled and grated
  • 1 t fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 T apple cider vinegar
  • 1 t red chilli flakes
  • ½ t garam masala
  • apple juice
  • salt, to taste

Combine flour with salt and oil. In increments, add just enough water whilst kneading to form a smooth dough. Cover and let it rest for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil the potatoes and beetroot pieces until very tender. Drain and let cool before mashing the potatoes and grating the beetroot finely. Before combining the two together, squeeze as much liquid out of the grated beetroot as possible. It may be helpful to use cheesecloth for this.
Heat up oil and add cumin seeds. When they begin popping, add the onions and green chillies, sautéing for a few minutes. Add in the ground spices, fresh coriander, and mashed potato mixture. Mix over low heat for another minute, mashing all together and seasoning with salt to taste.
Take off the heat and divide into ten smaller portions.

Knead the dough again and divide into golfball-sized portions, about 10.
Flatten one ball of dough on a clean surface, placing a ball of potato beetroot stuffing in the centre. Pinch up the edges of the dough, folding them up and around the stuffing. Pinch to seal the dough from the top like a pocket or dumpling, then roll out gently into a flat circle without applying excessive amounts of pressure, dusting the work surface with more flour as needed. This can take some practice!
Repeat for remaining parathas.

Heat up a taw or flat sauté pan with large surface diameter on medium flame. Place a paratha in it, waiting until heat makes bubbles appear on the surface. Spread some oil over the top and flip over, pressing lightly with a spatula. When brown spots appear on the bottom, spread some oil over the top and flip again to cook until covered with charred brown spots.
Repeat for remaining parathas.

To make the chutney, heat up a dash of oil in a small saucepan over medium heat and add the ginger, frying for a minute. Add in the grated apple, vinegar, and spices. Simmer uncovered on low heat until the contents are thick and the the apples are completely softened—at least 15 minutes. If it gets too dry at any point, add a splash of apple juice.
Serve alongside parathas on a bed of dressed beet greens, dressed with some light vinaigrette or olive oil.

Wandercrush Beetroot Stuffed Parathas with Apple Chutney

Wandercrush Beetroot Stuffed Parathas with Apple Chutney

Wandercrush Beetroot Stuffed Parathas with Apple Chutney

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Posted in Blog News, Breakfast, Finger Food, India, Main, Personal, Side | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Cashew-Peanut Stew (Ghanian Nkhatenkwan)

Imagine my delighted surprise when I was approached with a guest post proposition—by Rika of Vegan Miam, the wanderlusting queen herself! For every frankenstein recipe I dream up, she’s already been in and out of several countries, vegan treats and beautiful photographs in tow. So here I am: humbled, honoured, and excited to share this variation of nkatenkwan (a groundnut/peanut stew from Ghana) on her inspiring blog, straight from the wintry Wandercrush kitchen.

Wandercrush Peanut Stew Nkatenkwan

This would be a handsome addition to any multi-cultural table at Christmas dinner, but equally suitable for a winter holiday potluck, soul-warming flu season cure, or solo indulgence after a chilly commute home.

Merriest of Christmases, all. May it be as warm as this steamy bowl of nkatenkwan, sweet as a parsnip, and memorable as an extra-generous sprinkle of crushed chillies.

Wandercrush Peanut Stew Nkatenkwan

Wandercrush Peanut Stew Nkatenkwan 1

For the full post and recipe, head over to Vegan Miam!

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Posted in Africa, Collaboration, Ghana, Main, Soup | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Christmassy Poland & Kraków Bagels (Obwarzanek)

For an old city, Kraków feels young. Sure there are plenty of wizened folk walking their matching dogs, plenty haunched over their breakfasts or selling obwarzanek krakowski, but Kraków itself—as a cultural centre and urban dwelling place—feels young in the sense that it’s just getting back on its own two feet. Even the old Jewish Quarter is tickled by early gentrification, riddled with great bars that aren’t yet unbearably trendy. After heavy German occupation during WWII and then Soviet control afterwards, I imagine the city has been busy re-establishing its own identity, one that reclaims Kraków’s status as the cultural capital of Poland. Luckily for them and everybody else, much of the beautiful architecture and infrastructure were left unscathed.

Wandercrush Krakow Wandercrush Krakow Wandercrush KrakowWandercrush Krakow

If you were to guess based on current atmosphere and attitudes, you’d never know such weighty and horrific events took place here in the relatively recent past; apart from the tour buses headed for Auschwitz, there’s little to suggest that people have clung onto any bitterness or strife. On the contrary, everyone we met was sincere, kind, unassuming. There was no local contempt for tourists, and the tourists themselves weren’t aggressively overeager—though that’s compared to London, where cycling across a bridge on the way to school means unintentionally photobombing at least 3 group selfies.

Wandercrush Krakow Wandercrush KrakowWandercrush KrakowWandercrush Krakow

Even after having to wait more than an hour for a table at a small but apparently sought-after restaurant in the Kazimierz Jewish Quarter, the whole experience was nothing but lovely. With each handful of extra minutes we waited, there was an apology vodka shot on the house (lightyears apart from that budget lighter fluid from high school days, mixed with orange juice in a red solo cup). In the end, it wasn’t the complimentary vodka or starters that made our meal exceptional—it was the staff themselves. Maybe the mango-infused shot had a slight influence. Also perhaps the simple kartofle gotowane, bacon-wrapped rabbit, or beetroot-cranberry lamb chops… we nearly attributed it all to jolly Christmas spirit, but I reckon it might just be Kraków spirit, year-round.

Wandercrush KrakowWandercrush KrakowWandercrush KrakowWandercrush KrakowWandercrush Krakow

As for the food, it’s stodgy and reminiscent of other Central and Eastern European cuisines. Heavy on winter vegetables like cabbage and beetroot, even heavier on meat of all kinds—soupy, stewy, stodgy. The markets littered with little nuggets of oscypki smoked cheese on the grill, kielbasa sausages hanging from stalls like tinsel, and torso-sized loaves of rye bread. Pierogi dumplings both sweet and savoury, freshly wrapped, boiled or fried, and served up on larger-than-you-prepared-for plates.

Wandercrush KrakowWandercrush Krakow

Small, bright carts unfailingly occupy each street corner, stacked with twisted bagel-pretzel hybrids called obwarzanek krakowski. Wandering around the city, I spotted them in the hands of old and young, local and visiting. I’ve qualified these as bagels because they’re similarly boiled before baking (which is where their Polish name comes from), but they’re more closely akin to Russian/Ukranian бублики. The exact origins of this boiled-and-baked branch of breads are muddled and often hotly debated, but everybody seems to agree that they can be traced back to the 14th century and involve Jewish populations.

Seeing as they’ve become something of a citywide symbol and attained protective status as EU Traditional Speciality Guaranteed, I stuck with a recipe from this book lest the EU food patrol comes to shut down my blog. If I applied that logic to every dish I’ve frankenstein’d here, I’d never be concocting my own recipes; so in all honesty, it’s partly because my excellent parents are visiting in London for a week and I’m too busy eating out as often as possible. Still, make these! Alternatively, go to Kraków next time you get a chance—for the obwarzanek and for everything else.

Wandercrush KrakowWandercrush KrakowWandercrush Krakow

Obwarzanek Krakowski (Kraków Bagel/Pretzel)
(recipe from Inside the Jewish Bakery; yields 12)

    • 1 T/22g diastatic malt powder or syrup
    • 1½ cups + 1 T/355g warm (105ºF/40ºC) water
    • 5 cups/680g high-gluten flour
    • 2 teaspoons/14g salt
    • ¾ teaspoon/2g instant yeast
    • Sesame/poppy seeds

The day before baking, dissolve the malt in the water. If you’re using active dry yeast instead of instant yeast, stir it in now and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes until it foams. If using instant yeast, just dissolve the malt in the water. The instant yeast does not need to be dissolved and will go in dry with the flour and salt (see below).
Use a wooden spoon to blend the flour, salt, and instant yeast. Then add the malt-water mixture, mixing for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth, silky, and stretchy.
Form it into a thick log shape, covering and letting it rest for 20 minutes. Cut the log in half lengthwise and roll each portion into a strip of dough about 1 inch/2.5cm thick. Divide the strips lengthwise into four pieces about 3/4 inch/2cm wide, and roll each into a cylinder about 24 inches/60cm long and the thickness of a pencil. If you can’t get enough traction on your work surface, mist it very lightly with water or swab it with a damp paper towel. Fold the cylinder in the middle to form a double strip about 12 inches/30cm long and twist it into a tight spiral. Carefully seal the ends together to form a slender, twisted ring about 4 inches/10cm in diameter.
Arrange the bagels on a cornmeal-dusted or parchment-lined baking sheet, cover well but loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, heat oven to 460ºF/240ºC. Bring 3 to 4 quarts/3-4 liters water mixed with 2 tablespoons/40g diastatic malt to a rolling boil.
Take out only as many chilled bagels as you can boil and bake at one time and plunge them into the boiling water until they float.
Drain on a cooling rack and sprinkle with sesame seeds or poppy seeds or other toppings, if desired, and bake on cornmeal-dusted or parchment-lined baking sheets for 15 to 18 minutes until they are a rich brown. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before eating.

Wandercrush KrakowWandercrush Krakow

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Posted in Baked Goods, Breakfast, Finger Food, Jewish, Lithuania, Market, Poland, Russia/Ukraine, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments