• Soup

    Spicy coral lentil soup and a baguette of dubious provenance

    I have been trying to convince myself that when Hugo helped himself to a baguette off the kitchen counter of the friends we were visiting last Sunday, it was his contribution towards dinner; a welcome accompaniment for the soup I’d made. And then I pulled my head out of the sand, removed my rose-tinted glasses and woke up and smelt the coffee: with no end of previous convictions to his name (including the time he stole no fewer than eight baguettes from a friend’s car), he’s nothing but a pathologically incorrigible food pilferer and I couldn’t be more embarrassed.
    Ingredients (serves 6-8)
    2 tablespoons of olive oil
    1 large onion, sliced
    2 leeks, washed and sliced
    3 cloves of garlic
    2 red peppers
    2 carrots, peeled and sliced
    2 teaspoons’ freshly grated ginger
    1 teaspoon paprika (or piment d’Espelette)
    sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    250g coral lentils
    1.5 litres organic vegetable stock
    Gently fry the onions, leeks and garlic in olive oil for a few minutes. Once golden brown, add the peppers, carrots, ginger and seasoning. Then add the lentils and pour the stock over the top. Simmer for 30 minutes and then purée. Serve with crispy baguette, if at all possible free of doggie dribble.

  • French,  Savoury,  Soup

    Cream of cauliflower and walnut soup and karmic boomerangs

    Hugo has fallen victim to the karmic boomerang and he’s not a happy bunny. His great pleasure in September is to run wild in the corn fields lifting pheasant (and anything else that might be in his wake; he’s not fussy).  Of course pheasant and big black monster dogs appearing out of nowhere terrify the horses who carelessly deposit their cargo on the ground and make a run for it, but Hugo doesn’t let this bother him. His latest lifting episode was frenetic enough to cause him what I can only describe as groin strain (I’m assuming that dogs have groins?), poor thing. The good news though is that he’s now housebound for the time being and banned from ‘lifting’, which increases our chances of staying in the saddle for at least the next week or so.
    10g butter
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 medium cauliflower, trimed and broken into pieces
    1 onion, chopped
    1 carrot, chopped
    3 tablespoons walnuts, broken into pieces
    500ml organic vegetable stock
    1 teaspoon cumin seeds
    1 bay leaf
    1 teaspoon paprika
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    30g cream cheese (such as Boursin)
    Parsley and chopped walnuts to garnish
    Fry the onions in butter and olive oil in a medium casserole. Add the cauliflower, carrots and walnuts and fry gently for a few more minutes. Add the stock and seasoning and simmer for about 25 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add the cream cheese and then purée until smooth.

  • Savoury,  Soup

    Roasted summer vegetable soup and fried brains

    We’ve been seeing some pretty strange behaviour here over the past few days – perhaps the effect of the sudden inferno-style heat?  First I caught my husband chatting to one of the hens: ‘hello gorgeous, how are you today?’. I thought initially, rather immodestly, that he was talking to me, but quickly deduced he wasn’t when he went on to ask: ‘have you laid an egg today sweetheart?’. Since this blatant come-on, she’s hardly left his side (does this mean he has a chick on the side ;-)); I found her perched on a chair in the kitchen this morning while he ate breakfast.
    An unknown rabbit gave birth to five babies in the horses’ hay a few days ago – luckily we realised before they got pitch-forked. Don’t rabbits have tunnels or dens or something to use as maternity units? Or is this the equivalent of giving birth on the hard shoulder of the motorway?  Maybe she was caught short. Now of course I have to keep rushing over every half hour to check they haven’t been terrorised by our psychotic mare (she has rabbit issues).
    And then last night, just to tip me over the edge and despite lengthy negotiation, Hugo steadfastly refused to go to bed, preferring to sleep on the electric cables under my desk. I obviously haven’t escaped the brain-melt either though because I made this piping hot soup for dinner the other evening when the temperature hadn’t dipped below 35°C all day.
    Ingredients (serves 8)
    1 sweet potato, peeled
    1 red pepper
    2 onions
    2 courgettes
    4 tomatoes
    3 cloves of garlic
    4 tablespoons of olive oil
    1 teaspoon paprika (or piment d’Espelette)
    sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    2 sprigs of rosemary
    1.5 litres organic vegetable stock
    5 fresh basil leaves
    Chop the vegetables into chunks (leaving the cloves of garlic whole), toss in the olive oil and arrange on a roasting tray. Add the seasoning and rosemary sprigs and roast in an oven preheated to 180°C for about 30 minutes. Once roasted, transfer to a large saucepan/casserole dish, add the stock and bring to the boil. Cook for a further five minutes, add the basil and purée.

  • Savoury,  Soup,  Spicy

    Crab noodle soup and dispiriting temporary assignments

    I have been working as Builder’s Assistant, though not a very successfully it would seem. Léo, my well-adjusted ten-year-old son (I feel the need to account for his emotional health in view of the calamity that is my dog’s), has been busy building a three-story log cabin, as you do, and needed help with the basement. My job was to lean on the planks of wood while he randomly banged nails into them. As if this doesn’t sound like torture enough, I was yelled at for not ‘leaning heavily enough’ and also for coughing, causing the nails to bend. There was subsequent, rather barbed commentary on the fact that my work wasn’t up to par, and also detail as to why it was my fault that the floorboards of the cabin are now crooked. After much deliberation, I think I’m going to stick to cooking.
    Ingredients (serves at least 4)
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 tablespoon sesame seed oil
    1 onion, chopped
    1 leek, chopped
    1 red bell pepper, chopped
    2 celery stalks, chopped
    2 carrots, chopped
    2 garlic cloves, chopped
    1.25 litres organic chicken or vegetable stock
    4 tablespoons frozen peas
    4 tablespoons pre-cooked sweetcorn
    2 tablespoons soya sauce
    1/2 teaspoon dried basil
    3 kaffir lime leaves
    sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
    1 teaspoon chilli flakes
    75g thin Asian rice noodles
    1 tin (175g) of crabmeat
    Fresh coriander to garnish
    Gently heat the oils in a large saucepan. Add the chopped onion, garlic, leek, celery, carrot and red pepper and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the stock, soya sauce, peas, sweetcorn, seasoning and herbs and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the noodles and crabmeat and cook for a further five minutes. Serve with fresh coriander chopped and sprinked over the top.

  • Savoury,  Soup

    Curried parsnip and apple soup and badly behaved females

    It pains me to admit that the males of our menagerie are far better behaved than their female counterparts. Obviously I’m not including myself in this. The hens spend a bigger part of the day than is ladylike pecking the crap out of each other. Usually over a live worm or dead mouse (I apologise for the revolting visuals) or some such. The prized place on the perch nearest the horses is also pretext for belligerant fisticuffs. The mares are no better; despite being separated by an electric fence, they are incapable of any form of communication that doesn’t involve bitch-slapping. Their hind legs lash out at alarming angles and this is usually accompanied by a side-order of blood-curdling squeals, noises that the male horses couldn’t make if they tried. The last time they were on the same side of the electric fence, I had to administer twice-daily TLC, arnica and clay poultices to both for two weeks. I’m definitely putting an embargo on any further females,  well, apart from my future labrador bitch and perhaps a few ducks 😉
    Ingredients (serves 8) :
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    20g butter
    1 onion, chopped
    1 leek, chopped
    2 apples (preferably not too sweet), peeled and sliced
    4 medium-sized parsnips, peeled and sliced
    1 medium-sized potato, peeled and sliced
    2 carrots, peeled and sliced
    1 bay leaf
    1 sprig of rosemary
    freshly ground black pepper
    sea salt
    1 teaspoon curry powder
    1 teaspoon tumeric
    1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
    Gently brown the onions and leek in the butter and olive oil in a large casserole or saucepan. Add the apples and potato and continue to brown until golden. Add the remaining vegetables , then the seasoning and stock. Simmer for about 45 minutes and then purée. You could stir in some single cream before serving, although I don’t really think it’s necessary.

  • Savoury,  Soup,  Spicy

    Thai carrot and cumin soup

    I love everything about this soup – the taste, the colour, the texture, its warm spicyness… It’s also extremely nourishing and with its combination of healing vitamins (A and C, amongst other things,  in the carrots), coconut oil, garlic and ginger, it can be guaranteed to knock a cold on the head in no time. And if you eat enough of it you’ll even end up with a healthy glow 😉
    Ingredients (serves 8)
    1 tablespoon coconut oil
    1 large onion, sliced
    3 cloves of garlic, crushed
    1 leek, sliced
    600g carrots, peeled and sliced
    2 litres of vegetable or chicken stock
    150g coral lentils
    1 teaspoon of fresh, grated ginger
    2 teaspoons cumin powder
    1 teaspoon chilli powder
    Rock salt and ground black pepper to taste
    100ml coconut milk
    Start by browning the onions, leeks and garlic in the coconut oil. Add the carrots and continue to brown gently for a couple of minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then add the lentils, ginger, cumin, chilli and salt and pepper. Cook until the carrots and lentils are soft – roughly half and hour. Purée, add the coconut milk and serve.

  • Savoury,  Soup

    Chestnut celeriac soup and how to put your foot in it

    I’m a train wreck; my hands of full of spikes from over-zealously collecting sweet chestnuts without gloves and my foot is elevated, soaking in vinegar and at least twice its normal size from ‘antagonising’ a family of hornets that had taken up residence in my riding boot. If anyone has some good advice on treating the pain of wasp/bee/hornet stings please let me know 🙂
    The chestnuts were worth the pain, as this soup will testify. The hornet sting brought nothing good, just some ardent cursing that surprised even me.
    This soup is a lot of work if you use fresh chestnuts, so if you don’t relish the idea of being totally incapacitated, you could always use tinned. If you do use freshly-picked chestnuts, I recommend cooking them in their shells for about 45 minutes in salted boiling water with a couple of fig leaves (if you happen to have some to hand!). They will then need to be shelled, so try to nab someone nifty with a knife. I think if I’d tried to shell them myself today, I’d have ended up in emergency!
    Ingredients (serves 10)
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 tablespoon butter
    1 onion, chopped
    4 garlic cloves, crushed
    400g of pre-cooked chestnuts
    1 celeriac
    1 carrot
    1 apple
    2 litres of chicken stock
    Sprig of rosemary
    Seasoning (sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, curry powder…)
    1/2 cup of cream
    Fry the onions and garlic in the olive oil and melted butter until golden brown. Add the celeriac (peeled and cut into rougly 1cm cubes) and apple (also peeled and chopped) and continue to lightly brown. Add the drained chestnuts, the sprig of rosemary and the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Add the seasoning to taste and cook for about 30 minutes. Add the cream and purée until smooth.

  • Savoury,  Soup,  Spicy

    Lentil dahl soup

    Spicy lentil soup might seem a rather unexpected choice for the South of France in the middle of July, but I’m indulging the locals who, poor things, are at the end of their weather-tethers. It is unseasonably cool this Summer with many days not getting above the low 20s. Anything under 40°C  in July and August in this region is unacceptable and strictly for namby-pambies (Parisians). It gives carte blanche for unrestricted and expansive whingeing, as well as countless visits to the doctor for weather-related complaints such as ‘chills’ and acute depression.
    Puy lentils have a delicious earthy flavour and are packed full of goodness – protein in the form of amino acids and fibre. They are also an excellent source of iron and B vitamins. What better for a cold Summer day 😉
    Ingredients (serves four)
    200g Puy lentils
    2 diced tomatoes
    1 large onion
    2 carrots, sliced
    Tablespoon of olive oil
    Tablespoon of coconut oil
    6 cloves of garlic
    fresh grated ginger
    seasoning to taste (seasalt, freshly ground black pepper, cumin, tumeric)
    Put the lentils, diced tomatoes, onion, carrots and seasoning into a large saucepan containing 2.5 litres of boiling water. Bring the water back to the boil and then simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes.
    Five minutes before the soup is ready, heat the oils in a frying pan and gently fry the garlic and ginger until golden brown. Add to the soup, mix well and simmer for a few more minutes. Serve with chickpea pancakes which will be the subject of my next post…