Soup

Red Lentil Soup

redlentilsoupIs anyone else very excited that Masterchef is starting up again tonight? It’s definitely one of my guilty pleasures…I love watching along and thinking at each stage what I would do if I were in the Masterchef kitchen (probably panic blindly, but maybe also come up with an interesting way to cook mackerel for the invention test?). There are the epic cooking disasters (chocolate fondant anyone?), Greg’s bad jokes and the way he pronounces chorizo, and then occasionally a contestant who really stands out from the crowd.

One of my all-time favorites was Emma Spitzer, a runner-up a few years ago whose Middle-Eastern inspired food left a lasting impression. Emma recently published her first cookbook, Fress: Bold, Fresh Flavours from a Jewish Kitchen

I’ve been enjoying cooking my way through this book, but the one recipe I keep coming back to is “Debbie’s Cherry Tomato, Red Lentil and Chickpea Soup” (the recipe originates with Emma’s sister Debbie). I love coming home to this soup after a wintery walk on Hampstead Heath, but it also makes a great starter. I’ve made a few changes to the original recipe – my soup is thicker and spicier, which is really just personal preference.

Red Lentil Soup (slightly adapted from Fress)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, peeled and diced

4 carrots, peeled and diced

2 celery sticks, finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

250 g dried red lentils, rinsed

2 x 400g tins of cherry tomatoes, with the juices

1 litre chicken stock (or vegetable stock for vegetarians)

3 bay leaves

2 tablespoons ras-el-hanout

a pinch of dried chilli flakes

1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

the juice of 1 lemon

a pinch of sumac

optional: greek yogurt/creme fraiche/soured cream to serve

Serves 6

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, then add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Cook gently for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until vegetables are soft. Add the lentils and continue stirring for a few more minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes and stock, and bring to the boil. Add the bay leaves, ras-el-hanot, chilli flakes and season well. Cover the pot, and simmer for 45 minutes.

When the soup is done, blend to your desired consistency using an immersion blender (I like mine a bit chunky). Add the chickpeas and heat the soup until the chickpeas have warmed through. Add the lemon juice and mix well. Check the seasoning, then serve. Add a sprinkle of sumac to each serving, and bring a bowl of yogurt/creme fraiche/soured cream to the table.

Dessert, Snacks

Chocolate-dipped Cherries

chocolatecherries1

Just two ingredients … but they are two of my favorite ingredients!

Chocolate-dipped Cherries

200 g cherries (with stalks attached)

150 g dark cooking chocolate

Makes about 25 chocolate-dipped cherries.

Wash and dry the cherries, then place on a tray in the freezer for an hour or until you are ready to dip them.

Melt the chocolate in a small bowl over simmering water, stirring occasionally, until completely melted. Set aside to cool for a minute or two.

Dip the cherries one by one, then place on a tray or plate lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate until serving.

For a lighter version, only dip the cherries halfway.

 

 

 

 

 

Side dishes

Kimchi – Cauliflower “Fried Rice”

kimchi cauliflower rice

Last week I had a great time co-hosting a fermentation workshop with Katharine Locke. After a busy morning of chopping vegetables and filling jars, we all sat down to a lunch featuring a fermented food tasting along with my new favorite lunch dish, this kimchi-cauliflower “fried rice” adapted from a recipe in Gwyneth Paltrow’s new book, It’s All Easy.

Although it is not difficult to make kimchi at home (try this recipe if you want to give it a go), because I live near an excellent Korean supermarket I tend to buy kimchi in pouches rather than make my own. I do now know that the kimchi sold in pouches is well fermented, having lived through The Night Of The Exploding Kimchi.  But that’s a story for another time, maybe when I finish deep-cleaning my fridge.

And if you have never made cauliflower couscous (or rice), I would highly recommend that you try it. It is really tasty but low-carb and perfect for anyone on a grain-free diet.

Kimchi-Cauliflower “Fried Rice” (adapted from It’s All Easy by Gwyneth Paltrow)

1 small head of cauliflower, broken into small florets

100 g curly kale, cut or torn into small pieces and stems removed

2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

3 tablespoons coconut aminos (or tamari soy sauce)

2 spring onions, thinly sliced

200 g chopped kimchi

1 small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Serves 4 as a main course (lovely with a fried egg on top!) or 6-8 as a side.

Pulse the cauliflower florets in a food processor until they are broken down to the size of couscous.

Heat the coconut oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the kale and saute for for 2 minutes, until it is starting to wilt. Add the cauliflower and the water and continue to saute for 5 minutes. Then cover the pan and reduce the heat to low for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Add the cooled cauliflower-kale mixture and mix well. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Breakfast, Dips and spreads

Pear Butter

pearbutter2

I love the magic quality of this recipe, in which just one ingredient – pears – cook in a bit of water until they are completely transformed.  The result is a naturally sweet spread perfect for toast or pancakes, or stirred into some natural yogurt.  It is also a great way to use up any pears that are less than perfect or slightly past their prime.

This is good fun to make with children. They can chop the pears and stir the pot, and will be amazed at how cooking can completely change an ingredient.

Pear Butter

4 large pears or 6 medium (about 1.2 kg total)

200 ml water

Core and chop the pears, but do not peel them, and put in a pan with the water. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until pears are tender, about 1 hour.

Once the pears have softened, remove the lid and continue cooking for another 2-3 hours, stirring from time to time, until the mixture is smooth and brown and there is no visible liquid. You will need to stir more frequently towards the end of cooking, to avoid scorching.

Cool to room temperature and blend in a food processor or blender until smooth. Transfer to a jar and refrigerate.