I love being introduced to new foods and recipes. Don’t you? Pouring over others’ food blogs, visiting markets in far-flung cities and countries, ordering the wackiest (within reason) thing on the menu. Love it.
Possibly my favourite food-related activity – other than eating the stuff – is looking at commonplace ingredients and trying to finesse something unique from them, or at least sufficiently different to add another dimension. For instance, I have previously welcomed the challenge of making lentils acceptable for breakfast (and this one too). Or just about acceptable!
Some of what I do – as part of my job as a cancer health educator and healthy recipe developer – is tweaking everyday recipes. On my cancer nutrition courses I encourage participants to look at the recipes they are already comfortable making and looking at how to make them just a little better for them and their family. It is all well and good having new recipes, but it is often more useful to those really wanting to make permanent and positive changes to their eating just to add more goodness to what they are already doing. Adding more veg to a stew, say. Or swapping their muffin and milky coffee for a small piece of something like this apricot and citrus no-bake bar and a cup of green tea.
I love this part of my job as people are just so damn grateful that they don’t have to empty their purses and fill their shopping carts with exotica in order to pursue healthful change. Tweak what you know.
But in my kitchen – and experimenting firstly on just us – more often than not I get a notion that something might go together and then I just kind of go for it. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it goes straight in the compost bin (in lieu of a Labrador).
If you have been reading me awhile you will know I adore big flavours and all things savoury. If I was to declare a food day it would definitely be Kimchi Day. Or a Kimchi for Breakfast Day. 🙂 Many of my concoctions revolve around bold flavours. My tweaks on old favourites, too.
But sometimes the more subtle tastes also intrigue and beguile.
Nowadays avocados are pretty commonplace. In my house, as with lemons and good olive oil, they are a staple food. Mostly I smear them on toast (how cliche) after having made what I call a chopping block guac – smooshed ripe avocado, pulverised to a thick vegetal cream right on the chopping board, with some lemon or lime and salt – maybe a sprinkle of za’atar or dukkah. Favourite quick breakfast. Full stop.
So, when I ‘discovered’ this Colombian Cream of Avocado Soup – Crema de Aquacato – I just had to try it. I’m not sure why I thought that avocado soup would be a good call – why ruin a perfectly good fruit by cooking it? – but I noodled around on the Interwebs for inspiration, alighting on what I now think of as a green gazpacho. I immediately clocked that it was amped up with heavy cream (double cream to us in the UK), chicken stock, butter and was served hot. Now I’m sure that this way, the traditional way, is perfectly delicious. Fabulous even. And if I had a smaller waist it would appeal. But I don’t so it doesn’t. Hence Operation Lighten Up. If you are small of waist perhaps try it the original way (there are numerous versions on the Web), but we kind of like this non-trad take on this new-to-me way to use avocados. Plus it is so quick that it gave me plenty of time to drool over other recipes before I had even licked the bowl clean. See links below for more cold soups and avocado recipes.
Now just wait till you see what I’m going to do with eggplant!
Colombian Cream of Avocado Soup – lightened up and vegan
Normally served warm, cream of avocado soup is equally delicious whizzed up with ice cubes and served straight from the blender. This is a perfect light appetizer or starter for a Mexican or South American meal, or even to go with grilled vegetables or fish.
The traditional recipe calls for cream, chicken stock and butter but I’ve translated this a bit to make it not only quicker, lighter and less hassle, but also vegan. The coconut milk takes this in a completely different direction but I hope you think it is a good one. Use yogurt or lower fat crème fraiche if the coconut milk doesn’t float your boat.
Adapted from thelatinkitchen.com
6 spring onions/scallions, trimmed and roughly chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 perfectly ripe avocados – halved, stone and skin removed, flesh roughly chopped
1 tbsp lime juice, plus more to taste
¼ tsp freshly ground cumin (preferably from lightly toasted seeds)
600ml (2 & 3/4 cup)cool light vegetable stock + 5 ice cubes OR 700ml ( 3 & 1/3 cup) stock
250ml (1 cup) coconut milk, coconut yogurt, Greek yogurt, almond milk, lower fat crème fraiche or cream
Good handful of fresh coriander/cilantro, stems too
Chopped tomatoes, chopped avocado, shaved fresh coconut, and/or coriander leaves – garnish ideas
1. Put all but the stock in the blender. Blitz until completely smooth, using a blender, an immersion blender stick or food processor. I used my trusty Froothie Optimum 9400 super-blender and it took just a few seconds.
2. Remove the stopper on the blender lid and gradually add the stock while the machine is running slowly, then replace the cap and process on high for a few more seconds. It is ready to garnish how you wish (tomatoes are gorgeous), and slurp! Baked tortilla chips or pitta chips would be great, as would these recent panko-crusted baked stuffed courgette blossoms (seen in image).
To make as warm soup, don’t use ice cubes (!) and use warm stock. Depending on your machine you may either pour the blended soup in a pan to heat, or continue blending and let the friction heat the soup. High-speed blenders like the Froothie heat the soup in this way. If using a soup-maker, follow manufacturer’s instructions.
Want a more substantial soup? Top with sautéed prawns, chopped hard-boiled eggs or blend in cooked beans, such as cannellini.
Other cold soups and avocado goodness from my fellow bloggers:
Apple, Avocado Mint Smoothie – Tinned Tomatoes
Basil Cucumber Gazpacho – Amuse Your Bouche
Courgette Gazpacho with Avocado, Radish and Lime Salsa – Little Miss Meat-Free
Seeded Avocado Chilli Houmous – A Mummy Too
Avocado and Hazelnut Milk Coffee Smoothie – Veggie Desserts
Chilled Summer Pea, Avocado and Mint Soup – wholeheartedlyhealthy
And here’s a link to a few of my own Avocado recipes, as well as this post on how to choose and store avocados + A Simple Guacamole recipe. Avocados appear randomly in other recipes too. Love them!
Nutrition: blood sugar-regulating, cancer-preventing, heart protecting, eye-saving – do you need any more convincing that avocados need to be in your life? Okay then, a top five-way, anti-inflammatory food with wads of healthy monounsaturated fats, fibre, Vitamins K, B6, C and E, folate and potassium. Get thee to the shops and buy some now. Never mind those calories (1/2 an avocado = 140 calories). This article gives a good synopsis of the health benefits and uses of avocados.