Given that chestnuts are very much in season at the moment I thought I would share another recipe in quick succession. We ate this today for lunch and it was ideal after a long morning of painting. I did all the preparation for the soup first thing so that I could literally throw everything in a saucepan and cook it when I came back into the house for lunch.
The soup is a wonderful combination of flavours, the carrots and chestnuts provide a certain sweetness, whilst the lardons add the right amount of salt to give it balance. The soup was fresh and filling and I am fairly sure we will be enjoying another batch of this again next week!
I have been mushroom hunting over the last couple of days as the weather has turned recently, producing “perfect” mushroom growing conditions – so I have been told. This is the first year that I have turned my hand to this local sport as the land surrounding where we live is meant to be very rich for mushrooms. In the spring I collected St George mushrooms (that were delicious in a rabbit pie) and Girolles which I used in an array of sauces. However, I have only ever found three Cepes which are meant to be the most common mushroom in our area. Earlier in the year I asked a local family who are members of the hunt whether they felt it was a good or bad year for mushrooms. After much conferring they announced that it was a very poor year as they had only been able to find 20 kilos of Cepes in three hours! This made me think that I am clearly doing something wrong, or I am not getting to the mushrooms before the other mushroom hunters.
So, now that the conditions are right I have decided to give mushroom hunting another try and recently I have come across several different types. This has been great though the next problem has been that I have been unable to identify them bar one, a rather unattractive mushroom called ‘Langue de Boeuf’ (Beef Tongue). A few days ago I went to the local pharmacy as they are supposed to be trained to identify mushrooms – however, unfortunately the man who would normally be able to help was away.
Today, one of our workmen with a great knowledge of all things to do with nature was on site, so I consulted him even though the mushrooms were a couple of days old. He took a good look at them and said the following wise words, “as I do not know exactly what they are, you need to apply the number 1 rule of mushroom hunting, if you are even the slightest bit unsure what type they are NEVER eat them!” He then regaled a story of one of his friends, who went mushroom collecting one day and came back with some mushrooms he thought he recognised, he ate some of them but as they didn’t taste particularly nice so he fed the rest to his dog. That night the man was terribly ill, to such an extent he was admitted to hospital the following day but fortunately he recovered, the dog however sadly did not, and died. Taking both this story and the number one rule of mushroom hunting into account I decided the best approach was to place the mushrooms in the bin. (If anyone does have an idea what type of mushrooms these could be please do let me know.)
After my failed attempt at mushroom hunting I headed in the direction of our vegetable garden and decided to see if there was anything that was ready to be picked. I found some baby turnips, Jerusalem artichokes, a diminutive pumpkin and a Praying Mantis. I felt the best way to enjoy them (the vegetables not the Praying Mantis) was to put them into a chunky autumnal soup. I decided to not to blend the soup because I wanted to keep the flavours separate as Jerusalem artichokes can overpower the other flavours when everything is all blending together.
Each week we buy a 2kg bag of carrots which disappear fairly rapidly. You might think that this is because we, as a family absolutely adore carrots and can’t get enough of them – but this is not the case. The truth is, there is a lot of competition for carrots in our house from our four legged friends, in the form of our two donkeys (Sampson & Delilah) and two dogs (Shadow and Biggles). I suspect you might be thinking -donkeys and carrots sure, but dogs – really?! When we got the donkeys five years ago the standard form of bribery treat was carrot – the dogs quickly cottoned on to this and started to lurk around the donkeys whilst the carrot was being given and in an attempt to not show an form of favouritism the dogs were duly given a bit of carrot.
Sampson (right) and Delilah (left)
Over the years “CARROT” has become one of the few words that the dogs respond to. Shadow who is a 12½ year old Belgian Shepherd will now only go outside in the evenings if someone goes to the fridge and gets out a piece of carrot (I think our dogs have us all figured out). I wish I could also say that I was joking when I tell you that Biggles our 8 year old Springer Spaniel comes rushing into the kitchen when he hears a vegetable peeler being taken out of the drawer and will sit by me until he receives the carrot peelings (he always looks so disappointed when it turns out I am peeling potatoes instead).
Today, I decided it was our turn to enjoy the carrots rather than giving them to the animals. I’d made some stock the other day and I wanted to use it in a soup. So, this morning I set to work and made a Carrot and Red Lentil Soup.
Carrot and Red Lentil Soup
200g Red Lentils
4 large carrots (peeled and chopped)
2 small onions (diced)
1 garlic clove (finely chopped)
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp coriander seeds (crushed)
1 litre stock
Oil (for cooking with)
Prepare the lentils by soaking them in water for 30-45 minutes, then drain.
Place the onions and garlic in a large saucepan with a little oil and some sugar. Cook on a low heat until soft.
Add the cumin, coriander and carrots and cook stirring occasionally for 3-5 minutes, before adding the stock and the lentils.
Cook on a medium heat for 20-30 minutes or until the carrots are cooked.
Season according to your tastes and then liquidise the soup, before serving with a little cream or crème fraiche.
I have just gotten back from a trip to London. I was only over for a couple of days but it was enough to leave me craving fruit and veg. On the whole I love London for the sheer variety of food/cuisines you can choose from. However, like most people who are madly dashing around trying to pack in as much as possible in a very short time frame, I fell into the trap of buying food that was convenient (and cheap) to eat on the move and subsequently found myself grabbing a sandwich for lunch.So when I arrived home last night to find, four large boxes of tomatoes, one large box of courgettes and 2 cantaloupe melons sitting on the kitchen table (a gift from our neighbours because they have too many to know what to do with) I felt somewhat relieved. Knowing that we are likely to be eating courgettes and tomatoes in some shape, form or another over the course of the next 2-3 weeks I thought I’d ease myself in gently… So after having a quick look in the freezer I settled on the idea of a green vegetable soup, which was quick and easy to make and tasted fresh.
However, I feel that I am not doing my trip to London justice in terms of food… On Thursday I attended a celebratory meal which was held at a brilliant little restaurant near to London Bridge called Champor Champor. The restaurant serves Malay food with a slight Thai twist and was found one of my friends via a Google search (what would we do without the internet?!). Having never tried Malay food before I was interested to see what it was like. The food I tried was packed with flavour, leaving you with a slight zing on your palate. The dishes were not dissimilar to some I sampled when backpacking through south-east Asia – however I will definitely be heading back to that restaurant in the not too distant future and am definitely going to try and re-create some of the dishes over the next couple of months!
A Very Green Soup
1 courgette (chopped in to small pieces)
300g broad beans
Handful fresh spinach (washed)
1 medium onion (diced)
2 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
2 tbsp olive oil
3 sprigs of mint
2 stock cubes dissolved in 750ml boiling water
(either chicken or vegetable)
Crème fraiche (for serving)
On a low heat, warm the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and garlic, cover with a lid and leave to sweat until the onion is soft.
Add the courgette to the pan and season well. Stir occasionally until the courgettes begins to soften.
Add the peas, broad beans, mint and stock, bring the mix up to the boil and cook for 5 minutes.
Remove the mint from the pan. Then add the spinach and cook for a further 3 minutes.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before blending the soup using either a handheld blender or a liquidiser.
Last year my parents garden was inundated with so many tomatoes that we didn’t know what to do with them. After eating many a tomato salad, turning kilos of tomatoes into passata for use in pastas or on pizzas, I wondered how our tomatoes would taste in a soup. I was a little dubious at the outset as I have tried a number of tomato soup recipes in the past and not really enjoyed them, subsequently I used to resort to Heinz tomato soup as it was always dependable.