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We arrived back home at midday yesterday, after a hair-raising, heart-stopping near miss of our Toulouse connection at Heathrow.

It was always going the a bit tight, but worth the risk we thought, as the next connection left six hours later.

We waited our turn for a hand search after three of our bags were side-lined going through the X-ray machine, then watched the security staff carry out their essential, life saving duties–in aspic, it seemed.

“Last call–this flight is closing!” We made it by a hair’s breath after a long dash.

I’m trying to avoid going shopping today–recovery mode at St. Martin.

But what’s there to eat–the fridge and larder are low on fresh produce after our month long trip.

A look on the shelves…

Red lentils. Yes!

Ismail’s* spicy comfort soup–oh yes!

And a sweet potato on the side–perfectly enough until tomorrow–with a glass of red wine.

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8oz red lentils–thoroughly washed

1 onion–chopped

3 tbsp olive oil

12 peppercorns

4 bay leaves

3 small red chilis–left whole

1.5 pints stock–I use organic vegetable stock cubes

2 tbsp parsley–chopped

1/2 tsp salt

  • Soften the onion in the oil.
  • Add the bay leaves and the peppercorns and cook a further five minutes.
  • Add the stock with the lentils, chilis, parsley and salt and bring up to the boil.
  • Simmer for 20 minutes until the lentils have cooked through.
  • Serve hot–with a sprinkling of parsley on top.

* the late Ismail Merchant–producer half of Merchant Ivory productions–whose touch of genius stretched into the kitchen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Renown vegetarian cookbook writer, Rose Elliott found this in Julie Sahni’s Classic Indian Vegetarian Cookery and adapted it and I have tweaked it a bit.

It’s a quick excursion to the East.

There was a small cabbage in the fridge and some fenugreek seeds on the shelf in the larder, which I whizzed into powder in a converted coffee grinder!

The fenugreek is optional, but interesting… (as its name implies this herb is found in the mediterranean region and has healing qualities as well as culinary uses.)

Our friend Myriam called in this morning and said it was minus ten last night and would not get warmer until Wednesday, so a bowl of something gently spicy and soupy for lunch might be just the ticket.

for 4

250gms/8oz red lentils

2 1/4 pints/1300ml stock–I use organic vegetable stock cubes

1/3 teaspoon turmeric

375gms/12oz tinned tomatoes–chopped

  • Rinse the lentils thoroughly.
  • Put them in a saucepan with the stock and the turmeric and bring up to the boil.
  • Cook at a gentle simmer for 45 minutes.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes then set aside.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons black mustard seeds

1/4 teaspoon fenugreek powder (optional)

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 onion–chopped

a small cabbage–outer leaves removed, quartered, cored and shredded

Juice of half a lemon

salt and pepper

Parsley or better still fresh coriander–chopped to sprinkle over

  • Heat the oil in a new pan.
  • Add the mustard seeds and cook them until they start to pop–a couple of minutes; they look brown in the photo but in fact stay black.
  • Mix in the curry powder and the fenugreek (if using) and let them  cook for a few seconds.
  • Add the onion and the cabbage and mix everything together well.
  • Cover the pan and cook  for 5 minutes.
  • Add the wilted cabbage mix to the lentils.
  • Bring the mixture up to the simmer.
  • Leave it to simmer gently for 20 minutes.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Stir in the lemon juice.
  • Sprinkle over the parsley or coriander when you serve.

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The last few days have been unbelievably beautiful — warm, with soft golden light, and the leaves which have just begun to color slowly drifting to the ground. More of the same is predicted for tomorrow and the next day. Not really soup weather at all. However, cold and rainy weather is out there somewhere in our not too distant future and I look forward to making this again.


Exactly how I’m feeling–I found this quote by chance on a lovely looking site called Kitchenography– Life in my Kitchen.

SERENDIPITY! 

Soup is what I’m feeling like tonight.

The days are summer days–the evenings and nights are autumn.

So that’s why I have a yen for soup–I understand–often you have to put it into words and then it becomes clear.

I’d bought some leeks and fennel and I’m starting with an onion.

for 2

1 medium onion–peeled and chopped

1lb/450 gms leeks–cleaned and chopped

1 medium fennel bulb–cleaned and chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pint/525 ml vegetable stock–I use an organic stock cube

  • Sweat the onion for a couple of minutes.
  • Add the leeks and fennel and sweat all three for ten minutes, covered, until they soften.
  • Season well with pepper and a little salt.
  • Add a pint of vegetable stock.
  • Simmer gently for twenty minutes.
  • Liquidise the soup and check the seasoning.
  • If you feel the soup is to thick add a little extra water.
  • Serve hot.

I topped it tonight with sautéed onion:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Half a medium onion–peeled and sliced thin

  • Sauté the onion in the oil until it is nicely browned.
  • Twirl a little on each bowlful of soup.

I put a sweet potato in the oven and we  had a half each after the soup with some new season broccoli.

[Which makes it a five vegetable meal to boot!!]

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“—It’s going to be a busy night” to paraphrase Bette Davis in All About Eve

rounded off by a lunar eclipse (http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/jun/15/lunar-eclipse-moon-red).

Meredith’s passion–Circle Dancing (http://www.findhorn.org/)aka Sacred Dancing–learned at the Findhorn Foundation(http://www.findhorn.org/) north of Inverness in Scotland.

She has a regular circle of enthusiasts, who dance each month on the night of the full moon for a couple of hours.

in full swing…

John–honourable retiree.

Everyone brings a dish to share after the dance.

My contribution–Courgette soup– is adapted from the River Cafe’s recipe.

It was spotted by our friend and fellow dancer, Sonia,

who grows courgettes herself and brings us a shining green handful from time to time.

It is simple and satisfying, with a light green hue and creamy texture.

for 4

1 kilo courgettes/zucchini–fresh as possible–cut into 1″ square pieces


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic–chopped
500ml/1 pint stock–I use organic vegetable stock cubes
1 small pot/125gms low/no fat yogurt
50gms grated parmesan— add more to your taste
salt & pepper

a handful each of chopped parsley and chopped basil

  • Fry the courgettes and garlic in the oil until they are very tender and browned a little–about 30 minutes.

a double batch

  • Add the stock and bring to a gentle simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper– taking care with the salt assuming there is salt in the stock.
  • Let the soup cool a little.
  • Remove a quarter of the courgette pieces and liquidise the rest with a food mixer or handheld liquidiser.
  • Return the whole courgette pieces to the soup.
  • Stir in the cheese and yogurt followed by the parsley and basil.
  • Reheat gently.
  • Check the seasoning and bring up to a simmer.
  • Serve in warm bowls.
–there’ll be no need for seat belts* though!
(B Davis’ famous line in the film–“Fasten your seat belts–it’s going to be a bumpy night!”)

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Asparagus Soup

A simple soup for a jet-lagged cook to prepare for guests who are arriving tonight.

Soup is a good option when people may have had asparagus just once too often–towards the end of the season.

You can add the parmesan to the soup and heat it through before serving or–as suggested–leave to the guests to add to their bowls.

for 4

450gms/1lb asparagus–woody stalk ends and tips removed

1/2 a small onion–chopped

1 clove of garlic–chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 oz butter

450ml/1 pint stock–I use organic vegetable stock cubes

225ml/1/2 pint asparagus “water”–that in which you have simmered the woody stalk ends and the tips

salt

100gms/4 oz prosciutto–diced and sautéed to crisp

100gms/4 oz  parmesan cheese–grated

  • Simmer the stalk ends in 225ml /1/2 pint of water, covered, for 20 minutes.
  • Discard the stalks and–
  • –using the same  water, simmer the tips, covered, until tender–about 5 minutes– keep the water and reserve the tips to serve with the soup.
  • Sweat the onion and the garlic gently, covered, in the oil and butter for 5 minutes.
  • Add the asparagus and a little salt (remembering that the stock cubes will have salt in them) and sweat, covered, for a further 5 minutes.
  • Add the drained asparagus water and the stock, cover and cook gently for 20 minutes.
  • Liquidise the soup to a smooth finish.
  • Serve–hot–with the tips, the cheese and the prosciutto on the side, for guests to add as they please.

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A simple but delicious soup this, that cooks for a while– deepening the taste.

The recipe is adapted from Carolyn Mcrum’s wonderful  The Soup Book published in 1978.

She writes: “Soup-making is one of the most pleasurable of culinary processes, but it takes time, and that it why it is so little enjoyed in a hurried age. My hope is to persuade people that the soup you make yourself is infinitely superior to soup from a packet or tin, and that making soup is a comforting activity, surpassed only by the activity of eating it”.

For 4

1 cabbage—a Savoy or one of the other “beautiful faced” varieties, rather than the tightly formed White or Green cabbage

Red Drumhead cabbages

2 medium onions—chopped small

1 garlic clove—chopped small

1 rasher (slice) of bacon—chopped small

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 ½ pints/1 ¼ litres—vegetable stock—I use organic stock cubes

Salt and pepper

Grated parmesan cheese to finish

  1. Blanch the cabbage whole for two minutes in lightly salted boiling water—this keeps the cabbage together in the water. Set it aside to cool, before chopping it up.
  2. Soften the onions, garlic and bacon very gently in the oil for at least 10 minutes—this is the taste engine of the soup and needs time for the magic to work.
  3. Add the chopped cabbage and the stock and season well.
  4. Cook at a gentle simmer for at least an hour and a half.
  5. Check the seasoning and serve hot with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese worked in.

The wonderful aroma—though not everyone would call it that—fills the house for hours!

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