A Tribute to my Dad and a Simple Soup for my Dad on Father’s Day.

In 1952 a young man from Fiorenzuola D’Arda near Piacenza in Italy embarked on a journey that would take him halfway across the world to a land very unlike his own with a different language and different customs. Like many courageous immigrants fleeing war ravaged Italy this would become his home and a home he came to love.
He came to work on the famed Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme in New South Wales, Australia. Here he would learn the language and assimilate as best as he could. But in the Snowy’s he did not stay, the lure of the sugar cane fields took him north to Ingham in Queensland where he worked hard alongside his fellow countrymen all keen to make a “few dollars” in the “lucky country”.
By 1961 he returned to Italy to marry his sweetheart and bring his bride back to Australia.

 Within a year they lost their first born child, a girl, three days after her premature birth. His new bride was homesick but determined. Together they worked side by side to build a secure life for their future family. Soon they welcomed a second daughter…

…and then another.
 

The couple made many friends and lots of good times were had…beach picnics, swimming and parties always with lots of laughter.

Fifteen years into their marriage his beloved wife tragically suffered a fatal heart attack. He was a lost and broken man. Life was never quite the same again. He found himself dad and “mum” to his young daughters who were only 9 and 13 years of age… a very difficult task. And even though he later remarried there were always three in that marriage. He never stopped loving his first beloved wife.
 

 
In time, his daughters married. First one…
 
 
 …then the other.
 
 
And his great joy arrived… grandchildren.
 
“The best word is Nonno” he would often say.
 
 
 
The grandchildren grew and he aged.
 
 
Soon it became apparent the unforgiving disease of dementia was taking it’s toll.
 
This was my Dad.
 
Dad lost his battle this year on 29th April when he slipped away surrounded by his family.
Dad had a difficult life. Born in the depression, growing up in Italy in WW1. I’m sure he was often scared and hungry as a child but he never talked about this seriously. He always made light of his childhood. Maybe, he thought, if he told his story it would all be too real.
Dad taught me so much. To appreciate everything you have. He always said he never regretted anything in his life except losing our mum.
After mum passed away, Dad’s cooking abilities gradually surfaced. He had learned alongside his mother.
The staple in our house and in Dad’s repertoire was his “brodo” or broth. Made fresh several times per week taking all morning to simmer on the stove and then used as a light soup with a little pasta and parmesan cheese but also the essential ingredient in his more substantial soups, risotto, pasta sauce and his casseroles of varying types.
When I married and had my own kitchen I too made the “brodo” regularly until I decided I was way to modern for this palava and purchased stock or even stock cubes were way superior! How silly. It is only recently that I have reintroduced the brodo to my household but in a slightly modified version which works in my busy life. Using the slow cooker, I prepare the ingredient in the slow cooker as I clean up after our night meal and the broth will cook slowly all night.
 
I think Dad would be proud… well, once he tasted it!


 
 
My Chicken Broth (idea originally from Smitten Kitchen)
 
1.5 kg chicken wings
3 litres water
1 onion, cut in half
1 carrot, cut into large pieces
a bunch of celery tops and a stalk or two
1 garlic clove, smashed
a few peppercorns
a bayleaf
3 teaspoon salt, or to taste
 
Place all the ingredients into a slow cooker. Turn onto low and cook for 12 hours.
 
 
Just look at this golden goodness.
 

 
Even perfect with just a little good parmesan cheese.

 
This will make 3 litres because no liquid is lost using the slow cooker. It can be simmer very, very slowly on the stove for 4 or 5 hours but you may need to replace some water. Use this wonderful broth as my father would have…in risotto, casseroles, pasta sauces and soups or just as a flavourful broth. Freeze it and have great broth always on hand. It really is the secret to great cooking.
 

This is our first Father’s Day without Dad
 
 
 
This Father’s Day remember to tell your Dad that you love him and appreciate him. We often don’t know what we have until it’s gone.
 
 
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. xxx
We miss you but we know you are with the one you love.
Thank you for all you have shown us.

Nigella’s Pumpkin and Chickpea Hotpot

Here in North Queensland we are in the middle of our tropical version of winter. Some days can get quite cool…I think a minimum of about 8 degrees celsius… that’s cool for us. But most days are just a beautiful fresh break from our usual stifling heat. The skies are clear and the breeze is cool. At this time of the year we can grow lots of veges. Tomatoes, lettuces, beans, corn, even broccoli and cabbages. The easiest of all are the pumpkins. And of course, there is always plenty to give away. I ended up with three gorgeous ones that needed to be used and I remembered this recipe I had seen in a magazine.
With a hit of red curry paste, chickpeas and coconut milk the pumpkin is transformed into a most luscious vegetable. This is my version of Nigella’s hotpot, just tweeking a few ingredients here and there to adjust to what I had in the pantry.
This could be a soup, hotpot, curry or whatever. I boiled a bit of rice and put a spoonful in the bottom of each bowl before spooning over the golden, fragrant goodness. You could serve it with crusty bread.
Try it. You won’t be disappointed.

Pumpkin and Chickpea Hotpot
(adapted from Nigella Lawson)

3 tablespoons vegetable oil                  
1  finely chopped onion

1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste                   
2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 kilo peeled seeded pumpkin, cut into 1 1/4-inch chunks
1 425g can coconut cream
1 cup chicken stock, bought or homemade, more if needed
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 425g can chickpeas, drained
Freshly ground black pepper
boiled rice, to serve
chopped parsley, to garnish
 
Heat oil in a large pan then add the onion and salt. Saute to soften. Add the curry paste and fry off for a minute or so. Add the cumin and coriander.

Add pumpkin, coconut cream, stock and soy sauce. Bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Don’t let the pumpkin completely break up. We like to see bits of pumpkin.

Add the chicken and continue to simmer for 10 more minutes. Check for seasoning and add more curry paste if you think it needs it. Adjust thickness with more stock if needed.

Place a spoonful of rice into the bottom of the bowls then ladle over the fragrant hotpot. Sprinkle with parsley.
Serve and enjoy.