Posts tagged “the hidden cook

grilled oregano pork, string bean salad & greek salad

pork platter & salad finished2

Hi all!

Today marks day 1 of my four week salad challenge! I must say it started off really well, since today’s lunch was wonderfully refreshing, clean, simple and oh so delicious!  The meal is very simple and like I said, clean but the preparation is the hard part (at least for me since I don’t get a huge amount of time to devote to cutting up things since my baby usually comes into the kitchen after 5 minutes of being away and cries out for me to be close) ūüôā sweetness!  Today was different though, I got some extra time to look after our meal since my little one was visiting grans and aunties.  So, I basically reverted to the days when I could leisurely prep for the meal and take photos for the blog.  Was nice!

trimming beans

string bean salad

This meal sticks very nicely to the rules I made for myself (and I hope you too) in the previous post.  The citrus guava cake is gone(I must say I think I’ll have to make this one during guava season since it was a huge hit with the family and friends) and vegetables and fruits have taken it’s place instead.  I got inspiration for this meal from my girl Ina (yep, we are good partners taking in the occasional drink and pork sandwich by Kep’s…hmmm, I wish!). Wanted to find another way to make string beans-got an intimidatingly large bag from Pricesmart recently.  I love string beans, but sometimes I get a bit tired of the same old ‘steam me and put some garlic on me’ routine. So today I mixed it up a bit.

What is great about this string bean salad is that the string beans really take center stage.  I loved the crispness of the beans set against the tart spiciness of the brown spice mustard I used.  I also love the sweet warmth of the roasted garlic in there and the crunchy red onions really added that extra punch. Additionally, this string bean salad can be served at room temperature or cold! How wonderfully great is that?

salad prep

salad dressing greek salad


The other dish I prepared to go along with this was a Greek salad- wow 2 salads in one meal? Good stuff.  Anyway, I love Greek salads, the salty creaminess of feta cheese set against the sweet mellowness of tomatoes and crunchy morsels of cucumber? Come on, it’s so good.  What makes it even better is that it’s so easy!  I mean, you can throw it together in five minutes-I know its my go to salad when I’m not in the mood to make an elaborate dressing.  Speaking of dressings, that’s the other thing I like about Greek salads, the dressing is ridiculously simple.  Now, I don’t know the exact definition of a Greek salad, but I know how I make mine.  The only really essential elements for any salad I want to convert to being Greek are cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions and feta cheese.  Everything else is fair game.

pork seasoning

I ain’t gonna talk too much about the perfectly cooked, delicately seasoned pork chops that went with these salads because, hey, this is about salads, isn’t it? It was good though, real good. 

Will definitely be making these again during this 4 week salad challenge ūüôā

pork string beans & salad pork platter close

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citrus guava cake

guava cake:tea:slice

Ok, so I’ve been having dreams about guava.  I mean, literally.  I’ve been thinking about ways to use this delectable fruit, to the point of obsession. 

guava fruit

Guava is just one of those fruits-sweet, tart, soft, firm…a scent that is undeniable and attributable only to itself.  When cooking guava the entire house smells of it. Why isn’t there a guava scented air freshener?  Hmm, maybe one needs to be created?

guava fruit close

Air fresheners aside, I thought about guava and why I had never tasted a guava cake or any such delight.  Sure, in Trinidad we have guava cheese– a sweet, firm treat made from guava syrup infused with various spices- and guava jam/jelly.  These are both staples in Trinidad and in other parts of the region, but guava cake and other guava sweets just aren’t the popular.  If you know of or have made guava flavored sweets please feel free to leave a comment below, I’d love to hear about them!

It isn’t guava season here in Trinidad, but my family has a tree and we’re always freezing the ripe fruits in order to make juices, jams and ‘cheese’ so I was in luck when my thoughts happened upon creating a delicious guava cake. 

cooking guava guava puree

At first I wanted to make cupcakes but the lack of cupcake trays sort of ruined that idea!  I searched online for recipes that I could modify to create a guava cake and turned to one of my favorite people- the barefoot contessa-Ina Garten.  I always trust her recipes and never second guess them because they always work.  I chose her strawberry country cake as the jumping off point for my citrus cake.  I swapped the sour cream for Greek yogurt and upped the lemon and added lime instead of orange and never bothered to use vanilla extract.  My cake was a lemon/lime blend which I thought would both balance out as well as enhance the guava frosting.  It worked!
I used 1 8-inch pan to make one cake and 2 12-cup mini cupcake trays to make 24 cute little mini cupcakes.

guava cake w:cupcakes

guava cupcake

For the frosting/filling- really, the star of the cake- I spoke to a couple of professionals to get ideas and ultimately chose to do a sort of mix-up of many different ideas.  I considered a mousse or a custard (which I will definitely try in the near future once the guavas reappear) but opted for a smooth butter cream instead.  I loosely followed this recipe for a berry butter cream frosting and found it was very successful!

To top it off I decided to do some candied lime rind as my topping as the flavors spoke for themselves and really didn’t need any additions that might compete or subtract from their tart crispness.  I didn’t cover my rinds with sugar-a step that is quite popular in many recipes- since I felt that 3/4 of a large bag of sugar was, well, sugar enough. 
(Just as an aside-I can totally understand why many pastry chefs are skinny…after you see what goes into these little treats you might never sanely choose to eat them!)

guava cake w:slice

This cake is perfect with tea/ coffee or on it’s own.  The guava is bold and assertive, timidly supported by the fresh, clean tartness of lemons and limes.  The odd guava seed that has found it’s way into the smooth, buttery frosting is a surprising textural delight. 

guava cake slice with tea-sideguave cake slice with tea

This cake is a must for anyone who loves the taste and smell of guavas!

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sweet, sweet blogging life…

…where have you been?

Oh how I have missed you!

It has been far too long. I’ve been occupying myself with lots of crafts these last few days (weeks really).  My baby’s birthday is coming up and I’ve been designing and making (slaving really) over invitations, decor, food ideas…just about everything. Phew…it’s hard work when you want to do it all yourself, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  It gives me a lot of satisfaction doing these things so I’m always happy to do them.

I’ve also been thinking about lots of new ideas for food-both savory and sweet.  I haven’t done any ‘sweet’ posts since I started thehiddencook back in January so I’m thinking one is just about due.

I am very honored to mention as well, that some folks have written asking me about new posts! I’m so happy that my posts seem to be reaching people and that people appreciate the effort that goes into each and every post ūüôā So, thanks for keeping me on track and for checking in on me!

thc-manowar

 


saltfish accra

This post has a printable recipe here

Hi everyone!

Today is an extra special day- it’s my father’s birthday!
Happy Birthday to a wonderful father and an inspirational mentor!

I decided to make him a very special treat today- one of his favorites- saltfish accras.  My sibling hosted a decadent breakfast spread for him- eggs, bacon, sausages, homemade waffles and homemade hash-browns; I provided the accras as a little addition to all of the deliciousness!

thc-accra seasoning

Accras are the Caribbean’s answer to crab fritters; traditionally made from saltfish (salted pollock/cod) these golden brown, salty gems have earned their well deserved reputation of being delectable treats all across the Caribbean.  I’ve had them and heard of them on different islands- many times by different names like saltfish patties and fish cakes- but what unifies them no matter the island is their great, unmistakable flavor.

thc-accra-ingredients

These are by far one of my most favorite foods from the Caribbean region- fried golden parcels of savory richness- perfect as an accompaniment to any breakfast/brunch or as a standalone appetizer with a variety of dips.¬† These saltfish accras can also be served as an alternative to a fish burger- fry bake providing the best ‚Äėbread‚Äô for these tasty treats- topped with a selection of condiments.

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Today‚Äôs version of accra included shrimp- a wonderful, textural addition to any accra.¬† Conventionally accras are made using saltfish, but many have perfected shrimp accras, (unsalted) fish accras and any other seafood combination. Unfortunately, I don‚Äôt know the history of accras and why they are traditionally made with saltfish (if anyone reading this knows the history of accras please do not hesitate to post it in the comments below!) but I can imagine Trinidad in the older days, friends liming and looking for something to nibble.¬† I picture one friend offering to whip up something quick and having the cured saltfish on hand, some seasonings and flour and thus was born ‚Äėthe accra‚Äô. I like doing this- imagining the better, old days.

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thc-accra final thc-accra-final detail thc-accra-breakfast

Recipe

Ingredients

4 oz saltfish
1 dozen shrimp, shelled & deveined (optional)
1 cup chives, finely chopped
5 chadon beni leaves, finely chopped (can be substituted by cilantro/coriander leaves)
5 pimento peppers, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2-1 hot pepper (scotch bonnet), finely chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 3/4 cup warm water
vegetable oil for frying
parsley/chives for garnish

Method

saltfish preparation

boil saltfish in water for about 10 minutes to remove excess salt (alternatively you can soak the saltfish in cold/ice water over night in the fridge and hence omit boiling)
when finished drain and cool
shred saltfish until it becomes flaky for batter
clean shrimp and cut each into 4-5 medium-sized pieces
chop chives, pimentos, pepper, garlic & chadon beni
in a large mixing bowl- add flour, baking powder, salt and sugar and mix
add in shrimp, shredded saltfish and other ingredients to this dry mixture
pour in warm water slowly while turning slowly and gently- this aerates the mixture
batter should be quite fluid (see photos)
leave to rest for about 10 minutes
heat vegetable oil in thick bottomed pot on high heat
scoop batter into spoon (~1 1/2 tbsp per accra) and drop into hot oil and quickly reduce heat to medium-low
turn when golden brown and fry on other side
remove from oil, drain and place on paper towels
garnish with chopped chives/parsley

Notes

serve hot

Accras can be served as an appetizer/hors d’oeuvre with a sauce for dipping- try tamarind or a mixture of ketchup, soy sauce and pepper(hot) sauce.
It makes for tasty sandwiches with hops/buns/dinner rolls and your choice of condiments
thc-accras-tastespotting

chinese choy sum, snow peas & lap cheong recipe

thc-choisum recipe-ingredients2_1

Chinese choy sum (choi sum) is one of my favorite greens; every time we dine at a Chinese restaurant it is seldom left out.¬† Similar in taste to pak choy (bok choy), this ‘flowering cabbage’ has slightly bitter undertones which are easily complemented by garlic and ginger.¬† Although I stir-fried mine, you can also steam choy sum or have it soups- which makes it particularly delectable.

Lap chong (lap cheong )-a sweet and savory Chinese sausage can only be described as ambrosial! I am sure to always have some stocked since it’s prep time is so short and it makes any plain rice come to life when you cook them together…plus, it my husband’s favorite!

thc-coisumrecipe-lapcheong_1a

I purchased the lap chong sausages from Sincere’s on Cipero Street here in San Fernando and the choy sum from Hilo supermarket.¬† I always feel like I’ve won the lotto when I see freshly stocked choy sum in the produce section of Hilo; if you can’t get a hold of fresh choy sum, pak choy can easily be substituted.

Of course when preparing and indulging in delicious Chinese food a great accompaniment is oolong tea- today was no exception.  My husband purchased this wonderfully aromatic monkey-picked oolong from Teavana (yes, the tea is actually picked by monkeys trained to do just that!).thc-choisum recipe-oolong tea

This meal is a simple, quick one which has become one of my ‘turn to when I need something fast and easy’ meals. It’s not surprising that this meal is one of the favorites in our house- a testament to simple, unpretentious food being the best.

I am sure that it will become one your favorites just as quickly as it has become one of mine!

thc-choisum recipe-chopped ingredients

Recipe

Ingredients:

1 package choy sum, washed thoroughly, thick stems removed
4 lap cheong sausage links, sliced about 1/4 inch thick on the diagonal cross-section
1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger root
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tsp soy sauce
1/8 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups jasmine rice (or any other white rice)
1 1/2 cups water
salt to taste

garnish:

chives, finely chopped for garnish

Method:

Rice:

bring 1 1/2 cups of water with ~1 tsp of salt to a roaring boiladd 1 1/2 cups rice and return to boil
when the rice comes to a boil, lower heat to the lowest level your stove will allow
add whole lap cheong sausage links into rice & cover pot and let simmer for about 20 minutes
when rice is soft, remove sausages and let cool, then slice them

Choy sum, snow peas & lap cheong:

after the sausages are sliced, heat the oils in a non-stick pan or wok
quickly add the choy sum and snow peas and toss continuously while adding ginger and garlic
add in the sliced lap cheong sausages-vegetables are cooked when bright green and crunchy and choy sum begins to wilt
add soy sauce
sprinkle salt as needed and additional sesame if you desire

Notes:

serve hot on a bed of rice and garnished with chopped chives
Suggestion~ Oolong/green/jasmine tea serves as a beautiful complement to this dish. Rice can be replaced by brown rice or noodles depending on your preference.

thc-choisum recipe-finished thc-coisum recipe-bowl close thc-coisum recipe-final rice_1_1


more vino, more sushi, trinidad- a review

thc-morevinocollageWe have been patrons of More Vino, More Sushi (will be referred to as ‘More Vino’ henceforth) for quite some time now. We first starting buying their sushi when there wasn’t yet a San Fernando branch and we always loved it.
When More Vino decided to open up a branch in the ‘South land’ we were thrilled!¬† We thought to ourselves ‘great, now we would be able to get good sushi in south!’

We have never looked back!

The quality and selection of More Vino’s sushi is unparallelled to others that I have sampled here in Trinidad! With clean, crisp, modern interiors, a relaxed and unpretentious exterior, an extensive wine list (it is called More Vino) and friendly, accommodating staff, More Vino is sure to please even the most exacting of patrons.

thc-morevino-smokesalmonbites

I dined at More Vino on a Friday afternoon- just past midday.¬† We were a party of seven ‘hungry for sushi-thirsty from the midday sun-toddler-wielding grown-ups’. This never once intimidated our gracious waiter- a wonderfully pleasant, ‘willing to please’ young man.¬† Opting to dine in More Vino’s beautiful courtyard area, we quickly noticed that the passing traffic faded seamlessly into the landscape.¬† The decor in the exterior dining area- with dark wicker tables and chairs, grape vines enthusiastically growing towards the heavens anchored to weathered wooden columns, wooden barrels serving as plant pots housing lush shrubbery and unpainted concrete floors contrasting against More Vino’s trademark royal purple and neon green- can well be described an eclectic melange of Caribbean cool and Mediterranean chic.¬† It works.

thc-morevino-exteriordiningarea

The interior areas are outfitted with bar height modern tables and chairs- again in a darker colour palette-¬† a sushi bar complete with a sushi chef working in earnest to fulfill the desires of all patrons and a bar area- dimmed lights and wine glasses seemingly hovering overhead.¬† The downstairs area inside is quite small while being sufficient¬† which makes me feel comforted in the fact that More Vino probably followed the restauranteur’s golden rule, ‘your kitchen should be twice as big as your dining area’.¬† It works.

thc-morevino-barglasses

Now that I have painted the picture of what More Vino, More Sushi, San Fernando is like, let’s get to the good part…the really, really good part- the food.

I say without reservation or hesitation, MORE VINO’S SUSHI IS THE BEST SUSHI IN TRINIDAD!

I have eaten (boy, have I) more times there than any other restaurant in San Fernando…I have ordered, I have dined in, I have had it at friend’s get-togethers and I have shamelessly eaten leftovers from friends and family- it has always been great and has never once disappointed me. Not once!

thc-morevino-maracassushi

From sushi neophytes to connoisseurs and everything in between, More Vino has the pickings to please even the most discerning.¬† With items like the last samurai, sushi pizza and riceless crab rolls those who are hesitant to try or are new to sushi are sure to be converted into diehard fans. The volcano, iron chef rolls and a variety of sashimi and nigiri offer a wide selection for the more adventurous or refined sushi palates. The fish is sublime, silky smooth and buttery- I almost envisage the head chef in the kitchen bludgeoning a fish from some cloistered tank in a hidden enclave and serving it- a beat of life still remaining in its heart- to me, or anyone else fortunate enough to dine at More Vino.¬† It’s that fresh!

thc-morevino-sushilime

The portions are sizable- an average 8 rolls per purchase- served with the staple sides of wasabi and gari (pickled ginger).¬† The appetizers are good- edamame, dumplings, fried calamari and a variety of tempura makes up a list of about 12 items. Sashimi, platters, salads, soups and even pasta and steak(!) can be found on More Vino’s extensive menu. Something admirable, since sometimes you might find yourself dining with a friend who simply cannot be convinced to try sushi!

We ordered the following rolls- pizza roll (new), riceless crab, maracas, last samurai, volcano, sophie jan, iron chef and dickiemoto- a lot of sushi, but how can you choose just one? Here are a few comments about some of the rolls.thc-morevino-pizza roll

The pizza roll is particularly enigmatic in its ability to trick the taste buds- it’s flat rice base serves as the ‘crust’ while ‘toppings’ like salmon, cheese and even pineapple are baked on top and drizzled with a garlicky mayo.¬† The taste is outstanding!

thc-morevino-ricelesscrab

The riceless crab is one not to be dismissed as a ‘low carb dieter’s dream’. At the helm of this roll is soft shell crab tightly and expertly packaged into rice paper drizzled with spicy mayo, and topped with a sliver of red onion for that textural pop. The taste is exquisite!

thc-morevino-sophiejanroll

Sophie Jan is an unassuming roll- I picture ‘her’ sitting quietly at the back, waiting to be noticed. She is not to overlooked; with salmon, tempura shrimp, garlic sauce and the surprising addition of pistachios- the sophie jan roll is delectable!

thc-morevino-lastsamurairolls

The last samurai became a surprising favorite of mine within the last year.¬† I’ve never been one to shy away from the ‘real sushi’- raw fish- and stick to cooked favorites, but I had to try this one under the suggestion of a cousin of mine.¬† I wonder sometimes how I survived without it! The beef is cooked to perfection, the crab salad gorgeously tasty and the crisp cucumbers are refreshing and subdued. Definitely one to try! The taste is exceptional!

thc-morevino-ironchef roll

The iron chef is a deliciously simple roll- salmon, crab salad and tobiko (flying fish roe)- which brings the sea to your mouth. I love the salty taste of fresh sea water as the roe pops in my mouth! These little eggs seem to tell a whole story of the ocean when they are eaten. The taste is refined and buttery, smooth and velvety!

Noteworthy points

  • It’s probably best to make reservations on Fridays and Saturdays since the place fills up pretty quickly
  • the service is great and the staff are very friendly
  • parking extends along the streets and there’s always a parking attendant there to assist
  • two locations- San Fernando and Ariapita Avenue, POS
  • you can order online @ morevino.com!

Pros

  • Great sushi, always fresh and always good!
  • Nice ambience- trying dining outdoors
  • Quite fast with orders
  • Wide slection
  • Very good portion sizes
  • One of the best mojitos I’ve ever had!
  • Extensive wine list
  • Clean, professional environment

Cons

  • Sometimes parking can be tricky on busy nights but attendants are always ready and available to guide you
  • Can be a bit pricey (especially when you order hundreds of rolls!)

Rating – 9.75/10

I would definitely recommend More Vino, More Sushi San Fernando!

thc-morevino-volanoroll

 More Vino:On the web
More Vino on facebook (South)
33 Scott Street, San Fernando                       223-VINO
                       &
23 O’Connor Street, POS ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬† 622- VINO
 
 

 

 


hearty chicken & roasted vegetable soup

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Good Saturday morning to all!

Well, as I have said before and I’ll say again, Saturdays here in Trinidad and Tobago represent soups- in fact, maybe I’ll start calling Saturday ‘Soupaday’!

So, good ‘Soupaday’ morning to all!

Today I am posting about a soup I made and tested on Tuesday that I’m making again today. ¬†My husband and little one so enjoyed this simple, rustic, hearty chicken & vegetable soup that I’m compelled to re-test the recipe and share it. ¬†I am certain this one is going to warm up those colder nights or heat up those hot ones!

To start with, I used roasted vegetables- essentially all of the vegetables in my fridge at the time got pulled and used in this soup. ¬†There are a few that I would, only because of my own personal taste preferences, not roast. Mushrooms for one, I’ve never really enjoyed roasted and prefer them raw, saut√©ed or cooked some other way, aside from roasted.

Ground provisions are best for this recipe and chicken breasts prove to be not only the healthiest option, but also the tastiest.  You can substitute chicken for pork or beef and for a vegetarian or vegan option just omit the chicken bouillon cubes (use garlic/onion/vegetable cubes) and leave out the milk at the end.

Recipe

This recipe calls for homemade chicken stock (recipe follows) and roasted vegetables.  You can use good store bought chicken stock or vegetable stock if you prefer.  The best vegetables to use are those that intensify and sweeten upon roasting- ground provisions are best as well as left over roasted vegetables from the day before. Dumplings can also be added and a split pea base can be used as an alternative to my pumpkin soup base- but this is a nice, lower calorie option to the traditional local sancoche(sancoach).

Roasted vegetables

Ingredients

1 large sweet potato, peeled
3 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
1 large carrot, peeled
3 sprigs thyme, leaves removed
1 large red onion, peeled
1 lb pumpkin, peeled and cut into large chunks
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

roasted vegetables1

Method

Pre-heat oven at 450F for 15 minutes before roasting vegetables.  Peel potatoes, sweet potato, onion and carrot.  Cut potato, sweet potato and pumpkin into large chunks roughly the same size.  Cut carrots into half at cross-section and into large sticks about 1 inch thick. Place all cut vegetables into roasting pan/tray and drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme leaves.  Toss to distribute. Roast at 400F for about 20 minutes or until vegetables are soft, but still slightly firm. Use all of the roasted pumpkin and toss into stock (recipe below). For the other roasted vegetables, divide into two- half will go into the stock and the other half will be cut into smaller chunks for the soup towards the end of cooking.

seasonedvegetables

vegetablesforsoup

Homemade chicken stock

Now, I know that the best chefs and recipe books lend a lot of importance to stocks and I really do agree.  I see the value of having a tasty, full bodied stock as a huge asset to any meal, soups included.  I also know that there will be some out there who would scoff at the use of bouillon cubes in a stock, but in the end, for things like soup I just prefer to use them.  Of course, ultimately it is your choice and you can definitely omit them.

chicken stock

Ingredients

1 whole chicken breast
3 stalks celery, washed and leaves included
1 large carrot, peeled and left whole
1 large yellow/white onion, peeled and left whole
6-8 cups water
1/2 cup scallions/chives, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
2 chicken bouillon cubes

Method

Wash the chicken breast with water and lime/lemon if you desire.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place seasoned chicken and bouillon cubes in a stock pot with 6-8 cups of water (depending on how much soup you desire). Bring to a boil and immediately lower heat to a simmer. After about 20 minutes, add whole carrot, celery and onion. Leave to simmer for a further 20 minutes so that the aromatics can be infused. Remove chicken and let stock simmer for a further hour.  You should get a clear, flavorful broth. Strain vegetables and reserve broth for soup.

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Putting it all together

Add the 5-10 peeled cloves of roasted garlic to the broth along with the following optional ingredients.

Optional Ingredients

1/2 cup whole/evaporated milk/ heavy cream
Parsley, finely chopped
Creme fraiche
Chili flakes
Croutons
1 can butter beans(drained and rinsed)

butterbeans

Method

Chop or dice the chicken into bite size pieces. With the roasted vegetables reserve half for the soup broth and half as chunky vegetables for the soup. Use all of the pumpkin roasted. Place half the roasted vegetables in the broth, bring to a boil. When very soft use a hand blender to pulse the vegetables and combine it with the broth. The soup should be a smooth with the vegetables well infused about 25 minutes at a low heat.  The remaining diced vegetables and diced chicken as well as 1/2 cup of evaporated/whole milk can be added into the soup about 15 minutes before serving.

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Serving size ~ 4 persons

Suggestions ~ Serve hot with a touch of creme fraiche and toasted croutons. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and add a dash of chili flakes or pepper sauce for an extra bite.

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