The Courtyard Tea Rooms, Poole, England

We had just over an hour in Poole, so we ducked into a pub for a warm, flat beer, and checked Trip Advisor to see what sounded good. The Courtyard Tea Rooms came up as number 3 and had such great reviews, we decided to go there.

There are two rooms inside and an outdoor courtyard for dining or enjoying a tea service. As we walked through the first dining room into the kitchen, it became clear that this establishment had been a home and was converted to a restaurant. The woman working in the home-style kitchen was cooking all of the food and baking all of the cakes in what was hardly larger than most Americans’ kitchens.

I had a fun time being introduced to Fentimans, a botanically brewed beverage. When it’s served, it comes with a quirky card.

Fentimans

I advise reading the card and following the directions for a cute little laugh.

Fentimans Card

The card suggests that one’s right hand is very useful for FURTLING, which, you’ll find, it is.

Furtling

I ordered the soup of the day, which was vegetable soup, and it was served piping hot with freshly baked bread.

Veggie Soup

Fresh and delicious. Next was a cheese and spicy chutney sandwich with a side salad.

sandwich

Sean opted for the frittata of the day, also served with a side salad.

frittata

The service was spectacular, the food was fresh and well prepared, and the owners are clearly hard-working and love what they do. We were so glad to have trusted the good old Trip Advisor recommendations on this one.

Taste 8: Sweet Potato Carrot Coconut Soup

Call me old fashioned.  But, when he calls me at 9 pm to say he’s coming over, I naturally ask if he’s eaten.  When the response is “no,” I think it’s time to get cooking. Nine pm is generally considered late to start cooking, so I decided to make something simple with whatever I had in the kitchen.  In this case, for my eighth dish in my 14-part series (or challenge:) of giving him a taste of how much I care, I made roasted sweet potato and carrot coconut soup topped with coconut baby bok choy. With a name so long, it might sound like a complex dish, but it was simple and delicious.

Here’s how I made it-

I started by roasting two garnet yams (peeled), four carrots (also peeled), and a sliced shallot in a tablespoon of coconut cream (or fat- the thick cream at the top of an undisturbed can of coconut milk) and a few tablespoons of maple syrup.  This took approximately 30 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

When the yams and carrots are easily pierced with a fork, remove them from the oven and let them cool for 15 minutes or so.  Meanwhile, skim off the rest of the coconut fat and separate it from the clear water. I LOVE this white temptress. I could eat it with a spoon.

Next, coarsely chop the baby bok choy and separate the leafy greens from the celery-like stalk. Chop a little red onion (maybe 1/2 cup), and you’re ready to assemble the meal.

Put the yams and carrots, the rest of the coconut water, and enough broth (veggie or chicken) to cover the yams into the Vitamix.  Blend this into a perfectly smooth puree (it just takes a few seconds in my favorite 2 horse-power toy).  Pour this into a stock pot and simmer on medium high.  I seasoned it with some cinnamon, cayenne, Vietnamese Sweet Lemongrass Curry (a Savory Spice Shop original), and soy sauce.  How much of those ingredients did I add? I don’t know… a little of this, a little of that. I’d say season to your liking.

While the soup was heating, I added the last dollop of coconut fat to a pan on medium high and started to sauté the onion.  When that was translucent, I added the stalky part of the bok choy and got that soft before adding the chopped bok choy leaves. Then a splash of soy sauce, and it’s done.

Top the soup with coconut baby bok choy and enjoy.

 

Pumpkin Peanut Curry Soup

Every autumn I have a craving for my pumpkin peanut curry soup.  I make it once or twice and then wait until pumpkins are in season the following year before making it again. Each time it comes out slightly differently depending on how much of this or that goes in it. Here’s what I did this time-

I roasted a locally grown pumpkin the size of a soccer ball at 375 for 30 minutes or so… I must admit, I totally lost track of time. I have NO idea how long that pumpkin was in there.  I’d say 30-40 minutes. I do know, however, that I cut it in half, seeded it (and saved the seeds to make Mexican Mole Roasted Pumpkin Seeds), covered the flesh in butter, and placed it cut side down into a pyrex baking dish with a cup or so of brandy.  I am sure of that part.

While the oven was preheating for the pumpkin, I toasted a cup or so of unsalted peanuts. Watch them! It’s really easy to over-toast (burn) nuts. Keep an eye on them and get them out of the oven when they’re starting to brown and smell like roasted peanuts.

But, before I even put the peanuts in the pre-heating oven, I had a thinly sliced sweet yellow onion sautéing on medium-low in some of the coconut fat skimmed from the top of an undisturbed can of coconut milk.  I let this start to caramelize while roasting the pumpkin. In the last 15 minutes or so I added a peeled, sliced apple.

So, when the peanuts were done, I put them in the Vita-Mix and made a little peanut butter.  Let’s all cheer for the power of that Vita-Mix. What a rockstar appliance. The next step is to blend all of the soft pumpkin flesh, onion, and apple with a can of coconut milk and a cup or so of water into the peanut butter.  Start on low, slowly turn it up to 10, then high, and then you’re ready to pour it into a pot and get it on the stove.

This is where the fun seasoning starts. I added a few tablespoons of soy sauce, Kecap Manis (called sweet soy sauce- it is palm sugar syrup, like molasses, but from palm), Vietnamese Sweet Lemongrass Curry (available at Savory Spice Shop), and some cayenne.  I let the soup simmer on medium for a while and added some thinly sliced kale that cooked down to be nice and tender after 20 minutes.

Just blogging about this now makes me want to eat another bowl. The creamy peanut-coconut combination is a nice compliment to pumpkin.  It brings me back to a small kitchen in Siem Reap, Cambodia, where I had my first pumpkin peanut curry soup.  Enjoy!

 

Garlic and Ginger Baked Tofu Soup

We had a cool couple of days lately in Boulder to remind us that summer isn’t exactly here yet. It’s been wet, cool, and cloudy. Perfect weather for soup!

So, I made one of my standbys- Baked tofu soup. I originally started making this soup as a spin on Vietnamese Pho, but this version is more simple and I’m calling it soup, not pho.

I had some homemade chicken broth, which, I know… is not as vegetarian as tofu. Got it. But, I always make chicken stock from whole chickens, so I had some on hand.

I made a simple marinade of

  • 4 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth (don’t kill me you strict vegetarians!)
  • 3 TB soy sauce
  • 2 TB rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup Kecap Manis (Sweet Soy Sauce)
  • a splash of fish sauce
Slice you frozen, thawed, pressed firm tofu into cubes and bake at 400 for 45 minutes or so.
I added some diced onion to a quart of my homemade broth and let it cook down a little before adding some frozen peas. Ladle over the baked tofu, add some hot sauce if you’d like, and enjoy.
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