Monday, December 14, 2015

A short break in trasmission


Oh hey there, hi, hello.

So you know when you have a kid (or two, or three...) and a job (a few days a week, all the days of the week, some days of the week) and a partner (or not, and geez...if you have to other two and not the third, serious hats off, s.e.r.i.o.u.s) and you find yourself juggling school issues - work issues - family issues - life issues, and you get to the point where something has to give....just something....and just for a little while?

Well, that's where us Alphabet Soupers have been at for the last couple of months.

Up- to-our-eyeballs-in-life.

But never fear, we have still been cooking, and school lunching, and meal planning, and cocktail making, and after we have had some sun on our skin, and sand between our toes, we will be back on board, because well, we do love this little space.....and we miss it!

See you on the other side of January - we hope you have a fantastic Christmas and Santa is good to each and everyone one of you.

We'll be popping up on Instagram and Facebook over the break, so in between summer BBQ's and dips in the pool, come say Hi!

xxE & S

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Cryovac machine: BEST Invention EVER!

A while ago my lovely mum bought us a cryovac machine from Aldi. I was very sceptical at first as to how often it would be used...but LETMETELLYOU!

Its amazing! We use it ALL the time. When we buy meat (incl chicken and seafood) we seal it up before freezing which gets rid of nasty freezer burn. When I have excess of not so frequently used herbs I do the same. Kaffir lime leaves always on hand! Leftover spag bol? No worries - cryovac for later use!

Not only does it help the food, it means Im not using so much room in my freezer.

Woot! Go on...do it..get yourself one~

xSal





Wednesday, August 26, 2015

No bake goodness - Part II - Lamington Balls


My boys have been embracing the no-bake goodness of late, and in addition to the Apricot slice, we have found this little recipe, which is proving a winner!

Making a double batch gets us through the week for lunch box treats (plus the odd snack with a cuppa here and there!)

The boys found the recipe on www.allrecipes.com.au and have dubbed them Lamington Balls, as they have a very appealing lamington-like favour!


Lamington Balls 
(single batch makes aprox 25 - just double all quantities for a larger batch)

Ingredients
1 packet (250g) Milk arrowroot biscuits
1/3 cup (40g) Cocoa powder
1/2 cup (45g) desiccated coconut (plus extra for rolling the balls in)
1 tin (395g) of condensed milk

Method:
Crush the biscuits and place into a mixing bowl
Add Cocoa powder and coconut, stirring together to combine well
Add the condensed milk and mix all ingredients well
Take a small amount of the mixture and roll into a ball, then roll in coconut to coat
Continue with the rest of the mixture and then place all the balls on a plate/plastic container and chill for 30 mins.

Will keep in the fridge for upto a week (if they last that long!) xE

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tasty Tip Tuesday - Handy kitchen measurements right where you need them!


(please excuse me a small touch of self-promotion)

 Recently I did a new print run of tea-towels, and a couple of the designs where particularly of the food variety.

One of the designs has a whole run-down of different measurements and conversions, close at hand, just when you need them!

Oven temperatures, tablespoons to grams, cups to millilitres, even the number of litres in a Methuselah - you name it, it's there!

www.tictactoe.net.au









Friday, August 14, 2015

Fat Mum Slim - Photo a day

I am just so excited that I can finally share this with you!

The gorgeous Chantelle from Fat Mum Slim runs a fantastic photo challenge called photo-a-day.

Have you ever played along? There is a daily photo prompt that guides your clicking - just follow the prompt and let your imagination run wild. The best part is seeing what everyone else has done :)

This year, Chantelle opened up the weekly lists to designers around the country. I submitted my design and guess what, she liked it! I was so dead chuffed to be given the opportunity to  design and hand stitch (adding a smattering of my all-time favourite little itsy-ditsy daisies) the photo prompt list for next week, August 17th through 23rd,

Pop over to her page, check her out on Facebook or follow on insta, it's an awesome challenge! xxE

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Slow cooked love - Lemony Pork Stew


In this weeks meal plan post, I mentioned one of our go-to winter recipes - Lemoney Pork Stew.

The recipe was originally published in Donna Hay Magazine (Edition 68 / April-May 2013) as Pork and Lemon Ragu with crispy sage.

The lemon balances beautifully with the sage & tomato, and the little kick of chilli brings a lovely element to the dish. And like alot of these sorts of recipes, it is even tastier the next day! We usually serve this with a side of herbed, stock cooked cous cous and have also served it with pasta.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon of Olive Oil (plus extra, for brushing)
1.5kg of boneless pork neck, or Pork Scotch Fillet, cut into 8 large pieces
sea salt and cracked pepper
1 x brown onion, sliced
1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup (250ml) dry white wine
1 x 400g can of Cherry Tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1/4 cup (60ml) lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon rind
2 cups (500ml) of chicken stock
24 sprigs of sage

Method:
Preheat oven to 180c (350f)
Heat oil in large, heavy based ovenproof lidded saucepan
Sprinkle the pork with salt and pepper and cook, in batches, until browned
Remove pork from pan and set aside
Add onion, celery and garlic to pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion has softened.
Add the wine and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until reduced by half
Add the cherry tomatoes, chilli. lemon juice, 1 tablespoon lemon rind, stock and half the sage and stir to combine
Return the pork to the pan and bring to the boil
Cover with tight fitting lid and transfer to the oven
Cook for 2 to 2.5 hours or until tender
Stir through the remaining lemon rind and set aside and keep warm
Quickly flash fry the remaining sage leaves, and drain on absorbents paper
Serve with fried sage sprinkles on top and crusty bread on the side - yum!




Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Green Rice


I suspect, like most households with junior members between the ages of 8 and 14, we are not alone in the fact that the consumption of green veg can be a hit & miss affair. But I am pleased to report, I recently struck upon a successful combo (well....successful for this week anyway!)

We had Flat Roast chook with veg on the menu that night and to be honest, come 5:52pm, I was still scratching my head as to how best treat the veg. I wanted to ensure that it would not just have a short journey from fridge, to pan, to table and then back into fridge again, to dutifully wait for me to include it in my work lunch the following day, but to actually be consumed, as part of the evening meal, while it was still hot.

The green veg options that night included Brocollini, snap peas, shallots, celery and flat leaf parsley. I realised that we had some left-over rice from the previous nights dinner, so presto! Green Fried rice was on it's way.

A quick saute of the sliced veg in a little oil, then in with the rice. A quick kiss of chicken stock to add a little flavour and boom - that green veg was gone before I could say "eat your veggies".

Result.


Monday, August 10, 2015

Meal planning Monday - the Bon Voyage Baby edition

Hello Monday, hello meal plan!

I am away with work this week so my four men (1 x big, 3 x not so big) will have the house to themselves.

Taking one parent out of the equation always ups the anti on the organisational front (total hats off to single parents, such a full-on job week-in, week-out), so our plan for the week ahead looks a little like this:

Monday:
Quiche with side salad
This is an easy meal to kick off the week - the filling can be cooked off ahead of time and as the smallest has swimming lessons on a Monday, H can prepare and pop in the oven as he heads out the door to swimming, and then ding-ding, when the timer goes off, SonNumberOne can take out of the oven.

Tuesday:
Chicken Caesar Salad
Another speedy option and one that is always well received

Wednesday:
Lemoney Pork Stew
Again, can be kicked off mid afternoon and popped in the oven. Once cooked, can be placed to one side and re-heated come dinner time. This is super tasty dish and one of my winter go-to recipes - I will post it soon.

Thursday:
Spaghetti Bolognese
We have taken to doing this is the slow cooker - more to come on this later in the week, keep your eyes out for the post!

Friday:
Sushi Bento box
One of H's specialities, that the boys devour! Home made sushi rolls, japanese salad and a small pork & veggie braise - yum!

Have a great week peeps! xE

Friday, August 7, 2015

Kids are conners!

My big boy, who is about to become a teenager, has finally lost his very last baby tooth. The last molar to come loose in his mouth. Thank goodness it came out on its own as we had to have 3 pulled out by the dentist recently as they refused to let go of that last bit of gum! Now the whole keeping his teeth clean has become serious.

As a boy who is becoming more confident and self assured and independent, he likes knowing that there is a bit of cash flow about so he can buy treats at school, or when he hangs with his mates. So our discussion around the tooth went a bit like this:

J: “mummy I think that since this is my very last tooth, I deserve a bit more money from the tooth fairy”
Me: “really? Why is that?”
J: “well she wont need to come here again, and its my last, so….”
Me: “well that’s not up to me buddy..its up to the tooth fairy”
J: “ok then, I will write her a note”.

Now I don’t know what dollar amount he was thinking, but the usual amount from the TF is a $1 or $2 coin.

So, fairly tongue in cheek, he wrote a note on a torn piece of paper - clearly not taking much stock that the Tooth Fairy may like a lovely note on lovely note paper!  

Despite the torn piece of paper, you will be pleased to know that the Tooth Fairy did indeed up the goods and left him a $5 note plus a few gold coins. Lucky kid…

xSal


(this picture from here with thanks)



Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Fritters Rock

I'm a huge fan of fritters. Corn fritters, zucchini fritters, whatever you like fritters. They are quick, easy and tasty.

The easiest of all recipes, and one that is a staple go to and one that the kids love is for zucchini and haloumi fritters.

Ingredients
3 medium size zucchini
250g haloumi (I prefer the Pittas brand)
1 egg
1/2 cup plain flour
large handful finely chopped mint/parsley
Olive oil

Method
Grate the zucchini into a bowl. Squeeze out excess liquid over the sink and return to the bowl. Grate the haloumi and add to the zucchini with the flour, egg, herbs and some salt and pepper. Mix to combine. If the mix seems too runny add a bit more flour.

Warm a fry pan over medium heat. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil. Place large tablespoon sized dollops of the mix into the pan. Fry until golden on each side then keep warm on a plate lined with paper towel until all mixture is used up.

Serve with salad, vegges or your selection of sides. 

I just pop them on the table with a selection of veggies and let everyone help themselves!

Yummo!

xSal 







Monday, August 3, 2015

Best one pot wonder

You know those nights where you have dinner planned but cant for the life of you find where the recipe is?

Yes, well....I had one of those nights recently. I had planned a pasta dish that uses sausages and some beans, I thought, but could not lay my hands on a yummy recipe that I had used a few weeks before. I don't always cook by a specific recipe, but when I am trying new things I tend to use the recipe as a guide that I then tweak.

Anyhoo..I get home from work in a bit of a pickle. Not only could I not find the recipe, but I had no spaghetti. Needless to say, I winged it.... so here is my recipe:

Sausage, Bean & Spinach one pot wonder.

Ingredients
5 x pork sausages from the deli
1 tin cannellini or butter beans
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 punnet of baby tomatoes
handful of baby spinach leaves
vegetable stock
about a cup of risoni
Sprig of thyme and/or rosemary


Method
Put a large frying pan on medium heat with just a splash of olive oil. Remove the meat from the sausage casings and add to the pan. Fry until golden, breaking up as you go. Add the beans, tomatoes, herbs and stock and simmer. Add the risoni and pop a lid on the pan and simmer until the risoni is cooked (about 10 mins). Mush the tomatoes into the dish a little with the back of a wooden spoon. Stir through baby spinach and serve!

Seriously a good quality tasty meal. All my fellas love it!

xSal







Friday, July 31, 2015

Tea Towel Goodness


Happy Friday Peeps - well done, we made to the end of the week.

I, for one, am particularly happy it's Friday - it's been a busy one in our neck of the woods. But in between the normal bumps of kids and work, I was super excited to take delivery of my new batch of tea-towels.

In keeping with my fairly food-obsessed train of thought, I have done a couple of kitchen themed towels this time round - one with my all time favourite, never ever fail, Banana Cake and the other with a handy run down of Kitchen fact & figures, measurements and conversions.

Check them out over here.

The perfect little gift for someone who likes a touch of baking, don't you agree? xxE



Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tasty Tip Tuesday



I recently came across a blog post jammed packed f.u.l.l. of some awesome tips.

It came up on my Pinterest feed, via I Quit Sugar and I just had to track down the original post and share it with you guys - quick quick, go check it out, I promise you'll find something that rocks your kitchen-world!

xE


Monday, July 27, 2015

Meal Planning Monday

I would be lying if I said that things had been easy lately.

You know when you hit one of the bumpy patches?

One of those things-are-feeling-too-hard patches, the kind that knock out your stuffing and leave you feeling over whelmed and generally world weary. That bit when you find yourself looking around for the "adult" who will know what to do, only to realise that you are the designated Adult-in-the-room. Well, welcome to our bumpy patch folks - at the moment it's all about matching sure that one foot ends up infront of the other, that the kids get fed and the wheels of life keep turning.

So, with the "keeping the kids fed" part of the equation in mind, here's what we have planned for the week:

Monday: Pumpkin Soup

Tuesday: Homemade Veggie Pies

Wednesday: Beef Curry with Rice

Thursday: Easy Peasy

Friday: Ravioli

Wish me luck peeps, hopefully this week is the one where the tide turns. xE

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Super-dupper-no-bake-slice

I'll be honest...I have always been a little suspicious of the "No Bake Slice" - not quite sure why, but it just didn't feel quite right.

Well, let me tell you...I am a convert!

Recently, the Eldest son decided that he "want to make something" and set about googling recipes and rustling around in the pantry. After not too much time, he struck upon an Apricot and Coconut Slice.

Ticks all the boxes - super easy to put together, and great for lunch boxes or afternoon tea a-like, and lordy, if it wasn't tasty!

Eldest son was really quite proud of his efforts.

We are officially embracing the no-bake option.

You can find versions of this type of recipe all over the net, here is ours:

APRICOT AND COCONUT SLICE
125g Butter
0.5 cup of sugar (brown or caster - whatever you have in the cupboard)
200g Sweetened Condensed Milk (aprox half a standard can)
1 x packet plain biscuits (Milk Arrowroot or similar)
1 cup dried Apricot, chopped or diced
Shredded Coconut

Grease and line a 20cm x 20cm slice tin (or similar)
Melt the butter, condensed milk and sugar in a pan over a low heat (be careful not to boil)
Smash up the biscuits into pieces & crumbs and place in a bowl
Add Apricots to biscuit crumbs
Pour the melted butter mixture over fruit & crumbs and stir to combine well.
Press mixture into slice tin, making sure to flatten out the top.
Sprinkle with Coconut and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, until set.

Enjoy! xE


Monday, July 13, 2015

Back into it Peeps!

OK peeps, after a couple of weeks of having a bunch of mooching kids under feet, the scholars are back to school over the next few days and the start bell of Term 3 will be rung.

Are you ready? What does your week hold?
Round these parts, it is back into full swing on all fronts, so after a mellow couple of "the-plan-is-there-is-no-plan" weeks, you guessed it....we are back on the meal planning bus!

Here's what we are looking at:

Chicken Satay with Rice
Spinach & Feta Pie
Bec's Drumsticks
Stuffed Pasta Shells
DIY Omelette's

I (finally!) bought myself a slow cooker over the holidays and so far have tried out Lamb Shanks (result: not bad for a first effort, but looking forward to improvement) and porridge (again, not bad for a first try!). This week, I think I will have a whirl at Bec's Drumsticks.

My gorgeous sister-in-law had our family over for dinner recently, and she baked the most delicious Chicken drumsticks, from a recipe in Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros.

It is a total winner of a recipe and a big hit with my boys, so I will post pics & recipe soon.

Have a good week peeps, back into it!


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

He's a What?

One of the culinary over lays in our house hold, apart from the regular, and interchangeable, listing of dislikes (which, depending on the day, and the child, can range from peas, cheese, pasta and lettuce, to "big" tomato, mashed potato, soup or sausage) is that my better-half is vegetarian.

This works fine, most of the time. The boys will have an all veg meal a couple of times a week,
(generally without noticing) and I swing between veg meals with H, or meat meals with the boys the rest of the time. H doesn't not eat meat out of an ideological stance (apologies Morrissey) but rather, over the years, he has noticed that he generally "feels better" when staying away from meal. This does make life a bit easier than it might otherwise be, as we don't have to have two sets of pans (wowzers!) and we can cook family favourites like Paella and he just avoids the chorizo.

I smiled though when I came across this post recently on Dinner, A Love story (one of my favs) - an awesome run down on going vego with kids! xE

Monday, June 29, 2015

Meal Planning Monday - school holiday edition


And the plan is.....there is no plan.

After a very hectic few weeks that ran the gamut from numerous family members felled by the flu, to last minute assignments being due and the car konking out in peak hour traffic one very rainy Friday morning (yup, wow, now t.h.a.t. was fun!) we are all well and truly ready for some down time around these parts.

I have packed the big-boy off up the coast with a friend for the week and the middle one is soon to depart for some island time with his Papa. H & I are looking forward to some one-on-one time with the littlest and plan to just noodle about, taking things slowly.

Hmmmm.....maybe a batch of stock would be a good idea?

Enjoy the holidays peeps xE


Friday, June 19, 2015

Girl's weekend away in Melbourne - just what the doctor ordered!

 
One Friday afternoon, not that long ago, I found myself rendezvousing with a couple of my BFFs by the luggage carosel at Melbourne airport.  With a shimmy here, and a shake there, we had managed to organise ourselves into a weekend away - just the girls, no kids, no hubs, no Saturday sport - wow, um, so, yes, just a little bit awesome really.

We booked a room at The Olsen - part of the Art Series Hotels in Melbourne, and situated on Chapel Street, South Yarra. The hotel was great - no other word for it. Very reasonably priced and the three of us shared a small suite with ease - there were 3 beds and 2 bathrooms - very handy!

Being so close, we booked an early Friday night dinner at one of my all time favourites Cafe e Cucina. A brisk, Melbourne Autumn evening greeted us, and after a couple of quick sun downers at the Hotel, we braved the chilly winds for a quick walk to the restaurant.


It did not disappoint - a glass of wine and the perfect crumbled veal cutlet - heaven!


We had a recommendation to visit The Kettle Black Cafe for breakfast, so this was where we headed on Saturday morning. With it's so on-trend-it's-almost-beyond fit-out (I am no-where near ever renovating anything....but if I was....wow, these marble hexagonal tiles just might make the list!), faultless coffee and delicious breakfast offerings it got the day off to a great start.


We then spent Saturday noodling about, heading from shopping strip, to shopping strip - picking up a coffee here and there and a late lunch snack in Greville Street.

After heading back to the hotel late in the afternoon for a quick "feet-up", we booked an Uber (my first one! booked by one of the besties, it worked like a dream) and headed into town. Another recommendation sent us in the direction of Ginger Boy - a mod aus/asia "hawker style" menu, it has a great buzz and is located in a very "melbourne" lane way. Ginger Boy was totally rammed, but we managed to talk our way onto a "sofa seat" in the upstairs.....but not for another two hours.

The night was clear and crisp, so we decided to go for a wander until we got the call from Ginger Boy. Just around the corner, we stumbled upon Ombra, and wow....dead set, hands down it took the award of Find of the Trip!


Aperol Spritzers and Cocktails, the most (m.o.s.t) amazing pate and cheese, olives, salami and bread, and all backed by an awesome sound track.


This (new to us) bar had our hearts and had them hard!

The following morning, we hopped up, packed our bags and checked out of the hotel, stopping for a quick (and yummy!) in the hotel's restaurant. Sunday saw us going our separate ways for a few hours, with one girl attending a workshop, another hitting the shops in town and I took the opportunity to have some time with my Aunt who lives in Melbourne.

One of my Aunts favourite cafes is Hawthorn Common - another fabulous "very Melbourne" eatery, with great organic produce, clean & stylish fit out and the friendliest staff you ever did meet. Being late morning - I couldn't help it, I just had to give the Banana Donut with salted caramel and popcorn crunch top a go......how could I not!



By late afternoon, the three of us came back together and finished our Melbourne sojourn with a wander through the laneways, a plate of pasta and a glass of red - such a perfect way to round out a great weekend - already planning the next one! xE





Wednesday, June 17, 2015

An after school treat on a winters afternoon? Easy done!

With winter finally showing up around these parts, it can pay to have some warm afternoon tea options up your sleeve, and these little gems hit the spot!

Puff pastry pin wheels have always been a firm favourite of my boys.

The basic recipe is Puff pasty, Vegemite (or promite) and grated cheese.

First step is to pre-heat the oven to about 210-220c.

Take a sheet of Puff out of the freezer and give it 5 minutes or so to thaw out a touch. Spread with a goodly amount of Vegemite and sprinkle with a handful or two of cheese.

Roll the pasty to form a "log", being careful not to roll too "tight" - you need to give the pastry some room to puff out.

Cut into wheels - a sharp knife is best for this job, as the pasty can get a little "grabby" as it softens up. You should get between 12 & 14 wheels per sheet of pastry.

Space out on a baking tray and then into the oven until until puffed and golden - usually about 7 to 10 mins depending on your oven.

Alternative spreads that work well include pesto, sweet chilly and even jam!

They are also handy for lunch boxes......if you have any left over! xE


Monday, June 15, 2015

Meal Planning Monday

Monday has rolled around again, and we are feeling quite "end-of-the-school-term" around these parts - tired, grouchy boys, school reports and flat-stick parents...we are all ready for some down time.

The last few weeks of school couldn't be deal-and-dealt fast enough. Our week in food looks a little like this:

Monday - Japanese Curry & Rice
Tuesday - Steak with tasty bacon & lentil mix
Wednesday - Chicken Soup & Dumplings
Thursday - Orecchiette with Pork Sausage
Friday - Crunchy Chicken Tacos

Have a good week Peeps! xE

ps: I found this little note in the stair-well at work and it made me smile - guess they have Tacos on the meal plan......and bananas :)


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Time? Where does it go?

Time...its a funny thing. We never seem to have enough of it. I was pondering last night about why I never seem to have the time to do things like sit down and write a long email to an overseas friend, or have a long chat to an interstate friend.

This is what a normal week day looks like to me:

6.00am     Get up. Shower, wash hair etc. Make school lunches. Get B up and out of bed. Get dressed. Do make up. Blow dry hair (at least 15 mins!!) Iron random school shirts if needed. Get kids fed. Ensure JR is out of bed and in shower. Leave the house. Drop one child at school. Work all day. Leave work. Collect kids. Sometimes from random locations after band etc. Arrive home. Start making dinner. Shout at kids to do homework and music practice. Holler for lunchboxes to be emptied. Put on washing/fold washing/put washing away. Family dinner time. Sports training.  Say a thousand times "eat properly" or "please sit on your chair properly" or "get yourself a drink of water, Im not your slave". More homework shouting. Encourage showering for B. Help with homework. Listen to reading.  More washing/folding/tidying.  Get one child into bed.  Encourage music practice/homework/NO SCREENS.  Tidy kitchen. Think about dinner for the next night.Get second child into bed. Crash on couch.

No wonder Im exhausted!!!!
           


Friday, May 29, 2015

French Onion Soup

Now that the cold weather is starting to kick in, I am craving lovely flavourful soups.

I bought myself a new cookbook the other day, Bill's Basics by Bill Granger. It had in it a recipe for French Onion Soup that just looked too tasty not to try.

All I can say is THANK GOODNESS for my nifty mandolin. It sure makes chopping over a kilo of onions far less than tedious. If you don't have one, get one! Stat! The stirring of the onions to make them all lovely, soft and golden can take over an hour, so its a great Sunday afternoon option with a glass of wine in hand.

I have to say that the finished product looked exactly like the picture (alas, I gobbled mine up too fast so used the one straight from the cookbook).

Do give it a try, its so warm and comforting and TASTY. Not at all like an onion!

Recipe below, thanks Bill!





Ingredients:
80g butter
1.25kg brown onions, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
3 thyme sprigs
1 tablespoon plain flour
125ml (1/2 cup) white wine
1 litre (4 cups) beef stock 
2 egg yokls (optional)
80ml (1/3 cup) brandy (or port or sweet sherry if you don't have brandy)
250g gruyere cheese, grated
1cm thick slices of baguette, lightly toasted

Method:
Melt the butter in a large heavy based pan over a medium heat and add the onions, bay leaf and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about an hour, or until the onions are soft, golden brown and caramelised.

Add the flour and cook for a minute, stirring constantly. Stir in the wine and simmer, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the stock and 375ml (1 ½ cups) extra water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Preheat the oven to 200degreesC

Whisk the egg yolks (if using) and brandy into the soup and ladle into individual ovenproof bowls. Put the bowls on a large baking tray. Sprinkle half the cheese over the top of the soup. Float one or two baguettes slices in each bowl and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Serve immediately.