Tag Archives: lentils

Quick Lentil Salad

Lentil Salad with Rice (9929)

Before I start writing a post for this blog, I also browse through my old photos as well as the more recent ones. There’s always a throwback in there which for some reason has either escaped my noticing it, or has lost its turn to be replaced in line with a new recipe or an exciting book review. There’s nothing I like best other than to spend my winter afternoons and early evenings in my study, reading or writing and sipping hot chocolate. In summer I just can’t get my mind to concentrate much. Aprile dolce dormire, the Italians say, dolce dormire roughly meaning a sweet sleep. So while C&T HQ keeps on working on the writing, recipes and other miscellaneous photos, I can spend some time sorting through my archives.

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Neapolitan-Inspired Bean Soup

gino-dacampos-bean-soup-0628I was going to write an entirely different recipe today, but that is taking so much of my time on this rainy busy day, that I just had to forgo the idea. Instead let me give you a deliciously hearty recipe for a soup that is easily becoming a staple in my house.

A few months ago, my bro-in-law J2 awarded me the guardianship of some of his cookbooks, a role which I take very seriously, by cooking from them myself, as it should be. It made me think of this beautiful bean soup, especially because today the rain is coming down hard on this island, and it looks as if it’s staying for the next couple of days. It’s annoying but truly we need it. I feel sorry for all those who need to venture out. The roads are crazy with traffic and I just received a message from a friend saying how soaked she got. Stay safe and avoid extra driving everyone. It’s not nice out there.

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Lentil and Chestnut Soup, life updates and some thoughts on ‘Simply Nigella’

Lentil and Chestnut Soup (8822)

These past couple of weeks are turning out to be so weird. What a way to start today’s post, eh? In the spirit of Halloween I am still feeling like a zombie. Sleepy (strong anti-ear infection medication does that to you, trust me) and generally very light-headed. I meant to post a recipe yesterday, but my to-do list went out the window in the afternoon since I didn’t feel well at all. The situation hasn’t improved much. My ear still feels like someone’s lighting a lighter in it and to top it all off I get stabbing pains at intervals, as if someone is literally poking a needle into my eardrum. Not fun. Babies are prone to getting ear infections, I am constantly hearing right now. True. I’m not a baby but I still feel miserable. Poor things (little ones not me), no wonder they constantly cry in pain.

Let’s move on to the more cheerful things, shall we? I have two pieces of good news. I have my new desk! I am so pleased with it. I almost couldn’t believe it was here while watching J and his dad assembling it in the study. I am really enjoying working in this room even more. It’s my haven. Nearer completion we plan to purchase a comfortable reading chair to place next to the window. Can’t wait. The second piece of news is that I am waiting for a number of cookbooks to arrive, all of which are for review. I’ll be happy if they all make the cut, so we’ll see.

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Being good: Lentil Soup

Lentil-Soup-(5993)

There’s no denying it: I love food and spending time in the kitchen, but sometimes there is a limit, even for me. I don’t feel guilty about it – I used to but not anymore. J and I eat well throughout the week. Dinner prep is easy and quick most of the time anyway but I try to make every meal as varied as possible. Again, sometimes within limits, because you cannot be superwoman everyday. If you are, I applaud you. Really. No sarcasm here.

Times like these call for easy solutions, especially when I’m eating alone. I find that there’s no joy in that but it happens sometimes when J is abroad for work. He found a recipe by Alton Brown for lentil soup a few years back and we come back to it repeatedly, changing the ingredients according what we have in the fridge at the time. You know that I love a good steak, but there’s plenty of room for hearty soups in my life as I’m sure there is in yours. It might not be attractive, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good; and comforting.

I remember one day, quite a few years back (I think I must have been 6 or 7 years old), when my mum and I went over to my grandma’s house. My nan had a large blue kitchen with a huge table in the middle. I opened the pantry and found two packets of small round pasta. I poured some water in a pan, emptied the packets of pasta into the water and swirled it around with a wooden spoon. I had no idea how to switch on the hob (thank goodness for that), so I left the pasta just there, imagining it was cooking. By the end of the afternoon this concoction was a gloopy mess; it would not magically turn into pasta soup obviously, but it was my creation and I felt so proud of it, until my nan told me off.

Fast forward almost 30 years, and this memory has stuck with me ever since. Every time I make an easy soup I am transported back in time to that sunny kitchen. For the life of me I cannot copy and paste the link onto this website so I’m giving the recipe here. It’s just a guide. What I don’t suggest though is adding potatoes. You will end up with cement. Take it from me: been there, done that and I won’t do it again!

Don’t be intimidated by the last ingredient. You can use a number of spices instead. I go for ground cardamom, ground ginger or even sumac. You need:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 450g red lentils
  • 400g can of chopped tomatoes (optional)
  • 2 litres chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala (you can use mixed spice or cumin)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom, ground ginger or sumac (Alton suggests ground grains of paradise but stick to my suggestions if you don’t have it.)

All you need to do is sweat the onions, carrot, celery and salt into a large pot. (You need the salt to soften the veggies.) Add the lentils, tomatoes, stock and spices. Stir to combine the ingredients. Turn the heat up till everything comes up to a boil, then reduce heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. If you want to, blend everything with a stick blender. (I would invest in one of these.) Taste and add some more seasoning if required. Serve hot. Enjoy!

Rob x

Lentils and Ham

Lentils-with-Ham-(4801)

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.

Enjoy!

Rob x