Now this is the season for heart-warming dishes. When the weather does not cooperate, I love spending time in the kitchen. When I want comfort I try to turn to something tasty and nutritious whenever I can, though I never say no to some chocolate! However there are times when not even chocolate does the trick. On the whole I prefer savoury stuff rather than sweets, so I make soup instead. Soups can either be boring or exciting, insipid or bursting with flavour. Good ones are just that: good.
What I am giving here is just a guide. And by no means am I saying that this is the prefect recipe! You know me more than that…and cooking is not rocket science. But this is how I go about making it. Just don’t let it influence you too much. There are no rules here; the thickness, texture and taste depends totally up to you. It’s a carrot and butternut squash soup, great for this time of year, at least in the UK where it’s getting chilly. I’m not sure if my Maltese readers will see the point in giving a recipe for soup now, since apparently it’s still warm there! Ah, you lucky lucky people! Remember that you could substitute the squash with pumpkin. Just a note before I give you the recipe: the photo shows my carrot soup. I didn’t use any squash here. It’s because the actual butternut soup photo I took isn’t presentable. So unfortunately this will have to do for this post. Maybe you cannot see any difference but I just wanted my readers to know. I will eventually replace it. You will need:
- 500g butternut squash, cubed and roasted (with a drizzle of olive oil)
- 200g sweet potatoes, cubed and roasted
- 200g carrots, sliced
- 1.5 to 2 litres vegetable stock
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
- ½ teaspoon powdered ginger
- pepper to taste
In a heavy-based pan put the squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, stock and spices together and wait for everything to boil. When the veggies are soft, blend the soup and add some pepper, and remember to taste at this stage. Serve in warm bowls and you could garnish with fresh parsley or coriander if you have some available. So easy and comforting. Enjoy!
Note: There is no need to roast the squash and sweet potatoes but doing so will give more depth to the soup so I wouldn’t recommend skipping this step. Also you could add some freshly squeezed orange juice for a more zesty flavour. The potatoes will make your soup nice and thick and gooey.
During the first weeks of summer I read somewhere that Rick Stein was publishing a book about the food of Spain, to accompany his series by the same name on BBC2. What a treat! Excellent. I bought it and then…ta-da…I read that he was going to do a book signing in Guildford. Even more…excellent! So I did a thorough read of most of the recipes in the book and counted the days. In the meantime J and I moved to a new place and J’s dad flew in to help us with this move. In all the excitement I got sick. Typical. Not even the flu jab worked. As I resigned myself to the fact that I was only in possession of a mere unsigned copy, J offered to go to the town centre and get it signed for me. So sweet. So as I lay on the couch, fever going up and down driving me crazy, J was having all the fun, standing in a long queue/line, clutching my precious book. Mr. Stein kindly signed my book, commenting to J that it was heavily annotated or something like that. I like Rick’s simple but creative approach to food. Pity I didn’t get to meet him.
So inspired by Rick’s book Spain, I tried an accompaniment – not the usual first recipe to try from a new publication, but it appeared good on paper and I decided to give it a go. It’s not a main meal I think, but it makes a good snack for a BBQ or a picnic – hot or cold, your choice. A very simple but very tasty dish, with some variations peppered here and there. You could leave the pancetta out if you’re vegetarian, but for me it would have that something missing, if you know what I mean. And it’s one way of making J eat more veg! Here it goes.
- 230g green lentils, cooked as per packet instructions. (Don’t throw away the cooking liquid.)
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 whole head of garlic, peeled and sliced
- 2 smallish onions, peeled and chopped
- 200g carrot, peeled and finely chopped
- 100g pancetta or back bacon
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 2 large tomatoes, chopped
- 120ml white wine
- 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
- salt and pepper, to taste
Cook the lentils, use a sieve on a bowl to reserve the cooking liquid, and set them aside. Pour the olive oil into a wide and shallow pan and warm it through. Add the chopped garlic, onions and carrots and cook over medium heat for around 15 to 20 minutes, when the vegetables are softened.
Add the pancetta or bacon and toss it with the vegetables for 5 minutes. Time to add the paprika, tomatoes and wine, and let everything simmer happily until the liquid is reduced and slightly thickened.
Topple the cooked lentils and 150ml of the reserved liquid into the pan. Add the parsley, some salt and pepper to taste, let these simmer for 5 minutes and serve. Serves 6-8 people easily.