A loaf bread and jug wine is always an excellent idea and Omar had the right idea with a book in hand, but I’m thinking that a bowl of hot, nourishing soup is just the shot for winter when cuddled up with a good book. First get your book – I’ve put up a few suggestions in the Bookaholics section, but any pot-boiler will do!
Hearty Lamb, Lentil & Bean Soup with garlic toasts
This is a nutritious and hearty winter soup – the perfect companion for the fireside, or snuggled up watching videos on tele while the winter ice & snow do their thing outside. As with anything, the end result will depend on the freshness of the ingredients, especially the olive oil and spices.
2 ½ tablspns olive oil
250g lamb or mutton shoulder, chopped (Lamb is ridiculously expensive here but you could try substituting another meat such as pork shoulder or beef with a good bit of fat running through it. If too lean the meat will just dry out -the aim is for succulent chunky bits in this soup)
A nice big onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¾ teasps ground cinnamon
½ teasp ground ginger
¼ teasp ground cumin
¼ teasp sweet paprika
1 carrot, chopped
1 ripe (red) capsicum, seeded and chopped
Pinch of saffron threads
2 x 400g can tomatoes –whole or chopped, doesn’t matter
About an equivalent amount of chicken stock
An extra 1 Litre chicken stock for the lentils
½ tin of chick peas – rinsed and drained
¼ cup Puy lentils (or good quality small green lentils)
2 tablspns fresh coriander, chopped
2 tablspns Italian parsley, chopped
1 tablspns fresh mint, chopped
½ tablspn lemon zest (or to taste)
Juice of ½ lemon
Slices of good crusty toast/ciabatta, rubbed with the cut side of a peeled garlic clove, and drizzled with citrus infused olive oil/or plain olive oil
Method: Heat olive oil to a reasonably high heat in a heavy-based saucepan and quickly brown the lamb pieces. Lower the heat to a medium low and gently sauté the onion and garlic pieces until soft and the garlic is golden. Add the spices and cook for another minute or so, or until they release their fragrance.
Add the carrot, capsicum, saffron, tomatoes and chicken stock – add more chicken stock if needs be. Season with sea-salt and freshly ground pepper , bring to boil , then reduce heat to very low and simmer a couple of hours. I prefer to cover the saucepan with a lid – without a lid gives you a lovely reduction (intensifying the flavor), but you may need to ensure you have more stock than the amount I have suggested. Stir occasionally and add a bit more water if it is sticking on the bottom.
Place about 1 litre chicken stock in small saucepan, add the lentils and cook about 20 mins or until tender (not mushy).
Once the soup mixture is cooked (when the lamb or other meat is tender), stir in the lentils, chickpeas, and lemon zest. Season to taste with sea-salt and fresh ground black pepper. Just before serving, add the fresh herbs and lemon juice (to taste). Serve with the crusty toasts.
This is absolutely delicious, and is a recipe by Skye Gyngell, one of my favourite chefs. The recipe comes from one of her books A Year in my Kitchen -a book I’d thoroughly recommend to lovers of innovative yet simple food, simply prepared. Skye is well-kown in UK as Chef at Petersham Nurseries Cafe – a place with a huge reputation and awards for outstanding food. Skye’s philosophy is to source ingredients as locally as possible, supporting local providers rather than supermarkets. “… to learn more about the food you are eating & make a connection to the earth, seasons, environment & the people around you”. Her recipes involve simple, clean flavours that sing in the mouth. And BTW, there’s no chilli in this soup -it’s just in the picture!
You’ll need for 6 servings:
2 large sweet potatoes
2 tablspns unsalted butter (I usually use salted without a problem)
2 red onions, peeled and finely sliced
sea salt (I love Maldon, available at Globus) & freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablspns freshly grated root ginger (see my note below)
1.5 L Chicken Stock , or water if you prefer
150ml double cream
1 tablspn tamari (or soy sauce) or more to taste. My tip is to let the soup settle first, let the flavours become friends with each other, before you add extra ‘taste’ such as tamari or soy as you don’t want any one flavour to be Diva in this chorus.
1 tablspn maple syrup (use a good brand, not an adulterated product)
juice of half a lime, or to taste.
Peel and roughly chop the sweet potatoes. Melt butter in a large saucepan. Add onions along with a pinch of salt, and sweat gently for 5 minutes or so until soft and translucent. Now add the ginger, stir, then add the sweet potatoes and stir once more.
Pour in the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Immediately reduce the heat to a simmer and cook gently for 25 minutes or until the sweet potatoes fall apart when prodded with a fork.
Remove from heat and puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor. Strain the soup through a fine sieve back into the pan and re-heat gently. (I don’t bother with straining the soup – I don’t mind mine being a bit less silky).
Stir in the cream, tamari and maple syrup, then squeeze in the lime juice. Check for seasoning and flavour -the soup should taste deep, warm, sweet and slightly spicy. If the flavour seems slightly on the surface, just add a little more tamari – it will have a grounding effect. Serve warm
The first time I made this delicious soup, I didn’t have root ginger in my fridge. I used instead a combination of finely chopped crystallised sugar, which I de-sugared by running under warm water and rubbing gently, & added some ground ginger. It was still lovely. It’s simply a matter of tasting and adjusting, as it is with any recipe you might be following.