Finally, finally, finally. . . the first few signs of real Spring up here in the North.
I have been so impatiently waiting.
From everyone who lives south of us, I have been hearing about daffodils blooming, fruit trees pink with blossom, and that oh-so-waited-for first taste of asparagus and rhubarb arriving.
But here, in sunny northern Alberta, the signs of Spring are coming much more slowly. . .
a few buds thickening up here . . .
a bit of green there . . .
and the last of the snow receding, receding, and almost gone.
In anticipation of Spring soon-to-be sprung, I emptied out my refrigerator crisper drawer. Out with those wilted old root vegetables – that last piece of rutabaga, the sprouting carrots, the limp parsnips – into the soup pot for one last batch of winter-comfort soup. If I haven’t quite got the energy for a whole spring-clean of my house, I can at least purge the refrigerator. As long as we are still turning the furnace on during the day, a hearty root-vegetable soup is appreciated.
It is genetically impossible for me to make a small batch of home-made soup. No matter what I do, the soup always grows to fill a large pot. For us, that is never a problem, because I love soup, for supper, for lunch the next day, or for a quick pick-me-up after work. And leftovers freeze well.
So, while I dream of daffodils, I am enjoying a warming bowl of soup, along with these flavourful biscuits. I modeled them loosely after the baking powder biscuits in my old Fanny Farmer Cookbook. When made with regular flour, they always turn out high and fluffy. These ones turned out much flatter, but won rave reviews from the family for their wonderfully rich and complex flavour. The blue cheese adds a welcome nip and the onions add a mellow sweetness. The batch was gone very quickly.
Soup and biscuits. A winning combination.
End-of-Winter Root Vegetable Soup
(or Clean-out-the-crisper-drawer Soup)
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced (about 1½ cups)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup (240ml) diced celery, with the leaves
- 4 cups (1 litre – about 650gms) packed, shredded, mixed root vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, rutabagas, parsnips – whatever’s in your crisper drawer)
- 6 cups (1.5 litres) chicken broth
- 1 cup (240ml) white wine
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) salt
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 star anise pod
- 1 ½ cups (360ml) pumpkin puree (canned is fine)
- 1-14oz. (398ml) can cannellini beans (or 1 ½ cups cooked beans)
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) tabasco sauce
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- crumbled crisp-fried bacon, or croutons, to serve (optional)
Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and celery. Saute until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the shredded root vegetables, and saute until they are wilted and shrunk down in size, about 5 more minutes, stirring often.
Add the chicken broth, white wine, salt, bay leaf and star anise pod. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
Remove lid, add the pumpkin puree, drained cannellini beans, tabasco sauce and red wine vinegar. Return to a boil once more, then remove from heat.
Serve with crumbled crisp bacon, or croutons.
Serves 6 to 8
Buckwheat and Blue Cheese Biscuits
loosely adapted from the Fanny Farmer Cookbook
- 1 cup (240ml) buckwheat flour
- ½ cup (120ml) quinoa flour
- ½ cup (120ml) tapioca starch
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) ground chia seeds
- 4 teaspoons (20ml) baking powder
- ½ teaspoon (2.5ml) cream of tartar
- ½ cup (120ml) cold, cubed salted butter
- ½ cup (120ml) chopped red onion
- ½ cup (120ml) crumbled blue cheese
- ¾ cup (180ml) milk
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) milk
- 3 tablespoons (45ml) crumbled blue cheese
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add the cubed butter and cut in with a pastry blender or two knives until the size of peas. Add the chopped onion and crumbled blue cheese. Cut in until crumbly.
Stir in the milk and mix with a fork until all the flour is moistened and the mixture holds together. Don’t overmix. If some of the butter and cheese stays in small chunks, the biscuits will be more flaky.
Lightly flour the work surface with quinoa or buckwheat flour, and turn the dough out onto it. Pat it into a 12 by 7 inch rectangle (30 by 18cm).
Cut into 12 squares (2½” square). Place on a greased baking sheet, about ¼ inch (.5cm) apart.
Beat the egg with the milk in a small bowl. Brush each biscuit with the egg wash, using a pastry brush. Sprinkle with the crumbled blue cheese.
Bake in a preheated 400° F oven, for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges turn slightly golden.
Serve warm. Makes 12 biscuits.