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Tonight we are off out to visit friends for dinner – they are having a Mexican party and I can’t wait to find out what delicious food we’ll be eating.
But before that, I’m heading out to our May Queen Festival to help out on a stall to promote my ‘really local food map’ for our village. I’ve got a large map of the village and surrounding area and am armed with some sticky tabs – hopefully people will write down places they know that sell local food and pop them on the map. At least it’s sunny for the parade, so I’m sure there will be a good turn out of people.
I will leave you with a photo of the first homegrown carrot of the year – it’s a round and stumpy Paris Market Baron and so so sweet. Yum! Have a lovely day!
Feeling that a cold might be creeping up on me gets me planning all the ways I can try to fight it off. These ‘ways’ usually involve food. We have been eating lots of garlic, onion, lemons, herbs, chicken stock, and drinking orange juice and hot honey and lemon. If my throat gets stratchy and sore, I head for the cupboard, grab a teaspoon, scoop out a spoonful of ‘spring flower’ honey brought back from our travels in the Loire, and slowly suck on it. It coats your throat and tastes delicious, plus I’m sure I’ve read that honey has antibacterial properties. It certainly does the trick.
So when N woke up on Saturday morning with a sore throat too, it was essential to fill our bellies with something healing for lunch. We opted for a firm favourite in our house, a pasta broth. Its part soup, part broth, part bowl of pasta. At its most basic you cook some teeny pasta in stock rather than water and add any combination of tiny diced vegetables. Every time we make cook this dish it is slightly different, a different combination of vegetables, herbs and seasonings.
This time we cracked open a tub of frozen homemade chicken stock, to ensure the best possible healing powers, no stock cubes today. I used the vegetables that we had lying around in the fridge – a lonesome carrot that had got forgotten at the bottom of the salad draw, a small white onion, a chunk of celery, some sunblushed tomatoes, a few oyster mushrooms, and a bulb of fresh garlic.
Firstly, I finely diced everything – except the mushrooms and sunblushed tomatoes, which were roughly chopped. The onion, celery and fresh garlic were sweated in a little oil. Next the carrot was added, stirred a little, then the mushrooms added. The mini pasta was added (we used a small pasta shaped like rice) and stirred in, then the chicken stock added and the whole lot simmered.
With a couple of minutes to go before the pasta is cooked, the sunblushed tomatoes are added. I also added a sprinkle of dried herbs. Once the pasta is cooked, I added a handful of chopped parsley and the juice of a lemon – the lemon juice just lifts the whole dish and transforms it – for me it wouldn’t be the same without it. Taste and season with salt and pepper. You will find that most of the liquid gets absorbed by the pasta, so it’s more like a sloppy pasta dish.
Serve it up with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and an extra grinding of black pepper if you’re me. You could also add some grated Parmesan or a sprinkle of fresh thyme leaves. Bread or toast with a smear of butter is also a must to mop up any remaining broth.
This recipe should be tried by all – it’s delicious. A fantastic winter soup that will bring a little ray of summer sunshine into these cold and dismal days. It bursts with rich tomato and zingy lemon, but with deep earthy lentils and hearty pasta twirls. And what’s more, it is made from store cupboard staples. We ate large bowlfuls with grated Parmesan and a sprinkling of torn parsley. For lunch the next day I finished up the leftovers with a pile of sunflower sprouts and a drizzle of oil.
Tomato, Lemon and Lentil Soup
(this is what the recipe says, but really it’s two large bowlfuls and one for lunch the next day)
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
400g tin plum tomatoes
60g red lentils
900ml (1 1/2 pints) vegetable stock
Salt and Pepper
Delicious garnishes: torn flat leaf parsley or sunflower sprouts
Heat some oil in a large saucepan and gentle fry the onion, garlic and carrot until soft.
Add the tinned tomatoes and break up a bit. Add the red lentils and stock and stir well. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until the lentils are tender.
While the soup is simmering, cook the pasta in a separate pan. This is really important – the first time I made this soup I thought I would save on washing up and bunged the dry pasta in with the soup to cook. The soup turned out more like a stew as the pasta absorbed too much of the cooking liquid.
When the soup has had its 30 minutes, use a hand blended to blitz it up a little bit so that it is a mixture or smooth and coarse textures. Add the pasta and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
Make sure you taste the soup and add more lemon juice, salt and pepper until the soup bursts with flavour in your mouth.
Serve in warm bowls with plain or with a garnish of your choice.
This recipe is taken and slightly adapted from Family Food by Silvana Franco.
For lunch today, I finally made the coleslaw I’ve been wanting to make for the last two weeks. The two cabbage that I bought, were however bought two weeks ago when I first decided I wanted to try making coleslaw. I’d stored them in our back porch – which is somewhere between a shabby conservatory, a lean-to, and a boot room – as it’s freezing in there and great when I run out of fridge space. They probably weren’t as crisp and crunchy as they would have been two weeks ago, but notheless still good.
I finely shredded a small white cabbage and a small red cabbage. Finely sliced a small red onion, and grated half a giant carrot – probably the size of one normal carrot. In a bowl I combined a couple of tablespoons of organic mayonnaise, about two teaspoons of whole grain mustard, a little under one teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a glug of extra virgin olive oil, a splash of white wine vinegar, salt, pepper and a little warm water. I mixed this all together and added my shredded, sliced and grated veg. Stir it altogether and you have my version of coleslaw.
What I’ve realised is that you don’t need to think that you need to ‘attempt’ to make coleslaw. It is in fact, quite simple. I’m sure you could try lots of different combinations, and with a little bit of tweaking to create the flavours you’re after it would still taste great. So have a go, it’s the perfect way to eat raw vegetables at this cold and inhospitable time of year.
We ate ours two ways: N served his coleslaw with a minute steak (from Little Heath Farm) and a hunk of Cheese and Sundried Tomato bread (from Barkbakan – this bread is delicious, it is topped with mixture of seeds, one of which is caraway which seems to have the effect of hightening the cheese and tomato flavours); I ate mine with a potato, cheese and leek pastry.