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.

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.

Side dishes

Autumn Slaw with Honey-Ginger Dressing

slaw

The children have only just gone back to school but already it feels like winter is on its way. It has been rainy with grey skies these past few days, and there are already flus and coughs and colds going around. This crunchy Asian-inspired slaw is a wonderful source of immune-boosting antioxidants and vitamin C, but is also a riot of bright and zingy flavors and colors – just the thing to ward away the germs and cheer up a dreary evening.

We had this slaw last night with pulled pork wraps, a family favorite. But just add some leftover roast chicken or poached salmon, and you have a main course salad. It is also a great lunchbox option, as the flavors actually improve from resting for a couple of hours (but check whether your school’s allergy policy allows sesame seeds).

The inspiration for this recipe came from Jenny Rosentrach’s Dinner: The Playbook. In her “30 day plan for mastering the art of the family meal”, Jenny sets out a foolproof plan for getting family dinners on the table every night. Although not that many recipes in the book are allergy-friendly, it’s a good read if you struggle to get organized at dinner-time or just need to shake things up in your dinner rotation. Jenny also blogs at Dinner: A Love Story.

Autumn Slaw with Honey-Ginger Dressing

For the dressing:

1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (or rice vinegar if you are not on GAPS)

1 tablespoon fish sauce (look for a sugar-free version if you are on GAPS, such as Vietnamese Phu Quoc Fish Sauce)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

2 teaspoons honey

For the salad:

1/2 head of red cabbage, finely shedded (I use my Oxo Mandoline slicer for this)

3 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks

25 g baby spinach (a small handful), stems removed and finely shredded

10 snow peas, strings removed and sliced on the diagonal

1 tablespoon black sesame seeds

1 tablespoon coriander leaves, chopped

Serves 4-6 as a side dish.

Combine the dressing ingredients in a large salad bowl and whisk well. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary (I find I don’t usually need to add salt as the fish sauce is salty).

Add the salad ingredients and toss. Serve immediately or chill for up to 6 hours.

Jenny Rosenstrach’s tip: “If you are afraid your kids won’t touch it, separate out the elements you are sure they will like and reserve some dressing for them as a dip”. Sounds sensible to me!

Snacks

Rosemary Breadsticks

rosemarybreadsticks

Here is one the recipes from my GAPS on the Go workshop last week, where we made lots of snack and lunchbox foods – and then sat down and ate them! Thanks so much to everyone who came. If you missed out watch this space, as I will be offering the workshop again next autumn.

Rosemary breadsticks (adapted from the Against All Grain cookbook)

200 g ground almonds

1 large egg

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon chopped rosemary

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic granules

1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Makes 16 pencil-length breadsticks.

Preheat your oven to 180 C.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well using a hand-held mixer (or a stand mixer if you have one).

Divide the dough by half, then half again 3 more times until you have 16 equal parts. Roll each part first into a ball, then into a pencil shape using your fingers. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake for 12 minutes turning once halfway through.

Important: these breadsticks are quite soft when they come out of the oven. For crispy breadsticks, cool and dry on a rack for 48 hours.

Side dishes

Quinoa salad with broad beans, avocado and cucumber

quinoasalad

I absolutely love broad beans (favas), and get very excited when they are in season. The other day I picked up some young fresh broad beans from Natoora that were absolutely tiny and tender, and made this quinoa salad, which pairs well with grilled lamb or poached salmon.

Although I have been making quinoa for years, this time I tried Gwyneth Paltrow‘s technique for perfectly cooked quinoa – the trick is to use a paper towel to catch excess moisture – and it did come out perfectly cooked. Thanks Gwyneth!

Quinoa salad with broad beans, avocado and cucumber

175 g uncooked quinoa

400 ml water

750 g broad beans in the pod

1 ripe avocado

1/2 cucumber

a small handful of chives

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

2 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Serves 6 as a side dish.

Start by preparing the quinoa as it will need time to cool. Rinse the quinoa, then place in a pan with the water and a pinch of salt, and bring to the boil on the hob. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for about 15 minutes – until all of the water has been absorbed by the quinoa. Take the pan off the heat, and place a paper towel between the pan and the lid. Leave this for 5 minutes to absorb any excess moisture, then fluff with a fork. Tip the cooked quinoa onto a large plate and spread out as thinly as possible, then leave it to cool to room temperature.

To prepare the broad beans, begin by opening each pod and removing the beans. Toss the beans into a pan of boiling water and cook for 2 minutes, then plunge the cooked beans into a bowl of cold water. Pop each bean out of its outer skin, and they are ready to eat.

Peel and dice the avocado and cucumber, and combine in a bowl with the broad beans and quinoa. Whisk together the oil and vinegar with a bit of salt and add to the salad. Sprinkle chopped chives on top and serve.

Snacks

Mushroom chips

mushroomchips1

I love popping into my local Japanese supermarket and coming out with a complete impulse purchase. This week it was these very elegant yet substantial-looking mushrooms, labelled “Eringi”.

mushroomswhole

When I got home and googled Eringi, I realized these were the elusive King Oyster mushrooms (pleurotus eryngii) I had been looking for to make a recipe that caught my eye on the Nom Nom Paleo blog. Result!

After just a few minutes of prep using a mandoline, these went in the oven to cook until crispy. The finished chips deliver a very intense umami flavor. My mushroom-loving daughter was delighted with the chips, and I can confirm they made an unusual but delicious aperitif snack with a glass of wine.

mushroomchips2

Mushroom chips (adapted from a Nom Nom Paleo recipe)

2 king oyster mushrooms (about 200g) – or any other large mushroom such as portobello

1 tablespoon ghee, melted – or the cooking oil/fat of your choice

salt and pepper

Serves 2-4 as a light snack

Preheat your oven to to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Clean the mushrooms with a damp paper towel and dry carefully. Cut each mushroom in half lengthwise, then slice lengthwise using a mandoline on the thinnest setting.

Place the mushroom slices on the baking sheet in a single layer. Brush lightly with the melted ghee, and season lightly with salt and pepper.

The chips will need about 60 minutes in the oven, but start checking after 45 minutes. When done, the chips should be completely crispy – there were a few slightly soft chips that I had to put back in the oven for 10 minutes.

Carefully remove from the baking sheet and blot on some paper towel, then serve immediately.

Breads and crackers

Sesame seed crackers

crackerstack

Happy new year! I wish you all a happy and healthy 2015.

My kids just went back to school today, and I had a great day doing some baking while listening to Serial (which I highly recommend). The breads I am developing are still a work in progress. These grain-free crackers, on the other hand, turned out really well. They are tasty enough to eat plain but also perfect as a base for whatever topping you fancy: sliced avocado, bean dip, nut butter, etc.

Perfect for an after-school snack.

crackerrack

Sesame seed crackers (adapted from Elana’s Pantry)

300 g ground almonds

100 g sesame seeds (I used half black and half white)

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons olive oil

Makes approximately 80 crackers in two batches.

Preheat your oven to to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the ground almonds, sesame seeds and sea salt in a bowl.

Whisk the eggs and olive oil together, then add to the dry ingredients. Mix well. The dough will be very dry and crumbly. After initially mixing the dough with a spatula, I found it easier to work the dough with my hands until well blended.

Divide the dough in two half and set one half aside.

Place the other half of the dough on the baking sheet, and cover with another sheet of parchment paper. Roll the dough out thinly between the two sheets of parchment paper. The dough should be evenly rolled out (check there are no holes!) and cover the entire surface of the baking sheet.

Remove the top sheet of baking parchment and cut into squares or rectangles with a pizza cutter or sharp knife.

Bake for 15 minutes, until firm and slightly browned. Cool, then carefully break apart the squares before serving.

Repeat with the other ball of dough, or refrigerate for up to five days before using.