Lentil Soup (Dal), and variations

The recipe below is my basic lentil soup recipe. Below that are some variations that I have enjoyed. Both this and the lentil and spinach soup are actually fairly standard Indian curry accompaniments, when served thick. It’s one of those very comforting meals, sating hunger without expanding your waistband.

1 tbsp Earth Balance (vegan margarine) or oil
1 medium onion, peeled and coarsely diced
5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 tsp ground cumin
1 lb red lentils
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp lemon juice

Heat the margarine/oil, in a large saucepan, over a medium heat, and fry the onion until it becomes translucent and starts to brown.
Add the garlic and cumin to it, to warm through for a couple of minutes.
Pick the lentils over for stones, and then rinse them.
Add 6 cups (48 fl oz) of water to the onions, then the lentils, and bring to the boil. Simmer the soup until the lentils have completely disintegrated (about 20-30 minutes. The lentils should disintegrate just with vigorous stirring with a spatula).
Adjust consistency with more water, if desired.
Stir in the salt and lemon juice (and any other desired additions); taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Variations:

Lentil and Tomato Soup: Add 2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes (halved) to the soup 5 minutes before the end of cooking.

Lentil and Spinach Soup: Add  ~8 oz fresh or frozen spinach to the soup at the end of cooking, along with 1/4 tsp salt.

Chili Lentil Soup: Mince 1/2 cm squared piece of chipotle chili in adobo sauce (check for gluten) with the blade of a knife (so you don’t end up with exciting lumps in your soup), and add with the water and lentils.

Creamy Zucchini and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

I made this sauce one evening when I wanted to make Rich Mushroom and Black Olive Sauce, but only had 1/2 the mushrooms I wanted and a child who, for stuffed jacket potatosome unfathomable reason, had decided that she didn’t like mushrooms! It has the advantage that it is more colorful than the original, but apart from that is similarly easy to knock together, and it has my husband’s seal of approval!

I have served it up on pasta, and as a stuffing for baked potatoes. It’s also good in the baked tofu shells that I recently figured out as Halloween fair ….. but this sauce is a little too bright and jolly to be served up on that holiday occasion.

4 oz (1 scant cup) raw cashews
1 tbsp margarine
4 zucchini (courgettes), quartered lengthways then sliced
4 large roasted red peppers, deseeded and cut into 1″ squares
1 cup black olives
1 tbsp light chickpea miso
1 tsp white balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt (for the sauce)
1/8 tsp black pepper
pinch of nutmeg

Put the cashews into a blender with 1 cup (8 fl oz) water, and leave to soak, briefly.

Heat the fat in a large frying pan over a medium/high heat, then fry the sliced zucchini (courgettes), stirring occasionally, until softened and starting to brown.

Add the roasted red peppers and black olives, and allow these to warm through over a low heat.

Add the remaining ingredients (miso, lemon juice, salt, pepper, nutmeg) to the cashews, and blend everything together until completely smooth.

Pour the sauce over the vegetables, then use an additional 1/2 cup (4 fl oz) of water to rinse the blender out onto the vegetables.

Turn up the heat, and stir frequently until the mixture thickens.

Check for seasoning, and serve hot with pasta, baked potato or baked tofu shell.

Tofu Coffins

Halloween is just around the corner, and for the first time in their lives, my daughters live in a neighborhood where walking down the street trick or treating is a possibility. Some folks have already decorated their houses in their enthusiasm for the event. I try to discourage my kids’ interest in the candy, but playing with food once in a while does no harm. In previous years, Coffin with mummywe were mostly restricted to Halloween parties at home, drinking tomato juice with stuffed green olive ‘eyes’ floating in it, and eating mashed potato ghosts (tall mounds of stiff mashed potato draped with rice paper). Daughter #1 made a comment about making hollowed out tofu shapes, the other day, and I was suddenly overcome with this idea for tofu coffins. The tofu turned out pretty tasty, so I think this idea (without the rice-paper shroud) could morph into a regular menu offering quite easily. (Try this zucchini and roasted red pepper filling!)

For four coffins:

2 x 14 oz block firm tofu
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
4 tsps nutritional yeast

haggis stuffing or other such stuffing

tomato based sauce (such as ranchero, or marinara)

4 rice papers

Cut the tofu blocks in half, and use a sharp knife to cut slits 1/2″ in from the sides of each of the four blocks to allow you to scoop out the insides and form the coffins. Leave these to dry in the fridge, upside down, for at least an hour and up to overnight. Blot with kitchen paper, if needed.

Raw coffins

Mix the pepper, salt, and nutritional yeast together in a small bowl, and use to dust the sides and insides of the tofu coffins. Place the tofu on baking parchment on a baking (cookie) tray, and bake the coffins for 45 minutes at 400F, or until the texture has turned Cooked coffinsslightly hard at the outer edges.

Heat 1/4″ of water in a large frying pan until finger hot, and soften the first of the rice papers in it for about 30 seconds, keeping the edges of the paper down in the water until it stops curling up. Transfer the paper to a work surface, fashion a 2″ by 1″ sausage out of filling, and drape the rice paper shroud around it before interring it in the coffin. Repeat with the remaining coffins.

Serve with tomato ‘blood'; and cooked, white rice ‘maggots’, if desired.

Silky Smooth Carrot and Coriander Soup

Thick, creamy, warming, and gloriously yellow. This soup is brought out of the realm of the ordinary with its silky smooth texture, and subtle use of coriander and lemon zest. It’s one of those dishes that has you trying to analyze the ingredients, if you don’t already know them. So, the trick is to take your time frying the carrot and onion; make sure all the ingredients are totally soft before pureeing, and err on the side of caution with the coriander and lemon zest. Start with the lesser amount and check the flavor before adding more. The flavor should be uplifting and curious, and certainly not bland! The same goes for the carrots. If they’re fresh and sweet, you might not want any sugar at all! If they’re a bit older, then a little help from the granular white stuff is appreciated …. but taste before you add; this is not a sweet soup. If the carrots are distinctly old and tasting soapy, use them for something else instead.

soup

1 tbsp vegan margarine (I like Earth Balance)
1 lb carrots, scraped and chopped into dice (the pre-peeled baby ones make this dish pretty quick).
1 large onion, diced
2 – 4 tsp ground coriander seed
pared zest of ½ a large or 1 small lemon
1 ½ pints of water
1/2 cup raw cashews
1 tsp lemon juice
1 – 3 tsp sugar (depending on how sweet your carrots are)
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper (that’s right, no salt!)

Melt the margarine in a wide pan, add carrots, and fry over a medium heat for about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the onion, and fry gently until both are slightly browned. They should start to sizzle instead of steaming, after a total of about 15 minutes.
Stir in the coriander and lemon zest, and warm through for a minute.
Add water and cashews, and bring to a boil; simmer for 10 minutes or until all ingredients are soft.
Add the lemon juice and other seasonings.
Blend in a high speed blender, or puree and pass through a chinois to make perfectly smooth.
Check seasoning, reheat, and serve.

Aloo Gobi (Potato and Cauliflower Curry)

When eating out, curry is so often a good option for me. A decent curry house doesn’t have problems substituting oil for ghee and coconut milk for cream, being vegetarian is always understood, and wheat flour isn’t used in everything the way it is used in western cooking. They do, however, have a tendency to use much more fat than I could possibly contemplate while cooking at DSC_0001home, which is probably a really good reason for cooking my own! If you want to make yours ‘richer’ (and I don’t dispute that it tastes good!), then by all means increase the oil used to a couple of tablespoons per pan, but I don’t think it really needs it. It does benefit greatly from the use of fresh ginger and coriander, though. I peel my ginger by scraping a knife blade firmly over the surface, and I like to use a micro-plane to grate it, as this tends to separate out the fibrous parts that can be a little unpleasant. I also keep it vegetarian by discarding the last part so I don’t grate my fingers!

I’m sure I’m not the only person on the planet to get intimidated by long lists of spices. This curry recipe, however, is relatively short and remarkably quick to make, cooking in only a little longer than it takes the potato to soften. One pan for veggies, one pan for sauce, and one pan for rice if you’re serving that too. This curry is mild in heat, and the flavors of the vegetables are still evident through the permeating spice flavor. This is a good starter curry for both cook and diner. Delicious!

This serves 3 – 4

1/2 tsp dry mustard powder
1/2 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tbsp ground coriander
1/2 tbsp garam masala

1 tbsp coconut or other cooking oil, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped

12 oz potato, (2 smallish bakers) peeled and chopped into bite size pieces
12 oz cauliflower, cut into small florets
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 square inch fresh ginger, peeled, and minced or micro-planed

1 cup (~8 oz) chopped, tinned tomatoes
1 teaspoon honey / agave nectar (for vegan option)
1/2 tsp tamarind paste, or 1 tsp lemon juice, if tamarind is unavailable

Fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped

Measure out the mustard powder, cumin, coriander, and garam masala, into a small bowl.

If you’re serving rice with your curry, now is a good time to put the water on to boil!

Warm 1/2 the fat in a frying pan, and gently fry the onion over medium/low heat until completely soft and starting to brown.

While the onions are cooking, warm the other 1/2 of the fat in a saucepan, and gently fry the cauliflower and potato for 5 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Coating the vegetables in oil will help them to hold their shape during the simmering process.
Add the turmeric, and stir until it evenly coats the vegetables and has warmed through.
Add 3/4 cup (6 fl oz) of water and the salt to the potato/cauliflower, bring to a simmer, cover, and steam gently until the veggies are barely cooked.

Once the onions have browned, add the garlic and ginger, stir and allow to warm through for a minute.
Add the dried spices, stir, and allow them to warm and become fragrant.
Add the tomato, 1/2 cup (~4 fl oz) water, honey, and tamarind.
Simmer until the tomato chunks break down slightly.

Add the onion/tomato mixture to the cooked potato and cauliflower along with a couple of tablespoons of chopped, fresh coriander, and simmer uncovered for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check seasoning for salt.

Serve hot, garnished with more coriander, and rice or GF naan bread.

Creamy Onion Soup

My daughter has been horribly ill for a few days now, but when asked if there was ANYTHING she could eat, she asked for this soup. It’s been ages since I made it, but it is a very comforting, warming soup, so I wasn’t so very surprised when she asked, and it is so very easy to make. I have a vague notion all the onion was good for dealing with the infection, too.

DSC_0177

1 tbsp oil
1 large onion, diced
1 medium potato, peeled & chopped small
1/2 – 1 tsp dried thyme or 1 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 cup raw cashews or slivered almonds
dash of cayenne pepper (optional, and to taste)
3/4 – 1 tsp salt (or more, to taste)
1/8 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp lemon juice (or 1/4 cup white wine)
dash of nutmeg

Heat the oil in a large saucepan.

Fry the onion over a medium heat until the onion is a golden.

Add 2 cups (16 fl oz) water, the potato pieces, the thyme, and the nuts.

Simmer until the potato has cooked: about 10 minutes

Add the remaining ingredients, and blend with an immersion or worktop blender.

Return the soup to the saucepan to reheat.

Use 1 cup (8 fl oz) water to rinse out/off the blender into the soup.

Check for seasoning and consistency and adjust to taste with salt, pepper, or water.

Serve hot.

Variation: Warm some garlicky fried cauliflower in the soup, after blending.

Shiitake Mushroom Risotto

This dish is courtesy of some fine fellows down at the Fallbrook Mushroom Company, who periodically drop a few (large) boxes of shiitake mushrooms off at a Bank of America down in Temecula. I get to take a load home, and experiment! Shiitake mushrooms are quite different to regular mushrooms in my mind. Although they taste fairly similar, I don’t think you can rinse them like normal mushrooms, and the stems are really chewy. In this dish, I removed the stalks, but I didn’t throw them away, as they are wonderful in veggie burgers!

This risotto is an uncomplicated, richly mushroom-y supper. A really personal pleasure.

shiitake risotto

Serves 2 well
1 tbsp margarine
8 oz of shittake mushrooms
1 tbsp margarine
1 cup arborio rice or similar short grain white rice (do not wash)
4 tbsp mushroom powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 pint white wine (I used a pinot grigio)
black or white truffle oil garnish

Prepare the mushrooms by wiping any dust/dirt off them with a paper towel. Remove the stems. If the mushrooms are fairly small, leave them whole, otherwise, quarter them.
Melt the margarine in a medium saucepan.
Add the mushrooms, and fry for about 5 minutes until softened.
In a second pan, warm 2 1/2 cups of water, with the mushroom powder, salt, pepper, and wine.
Remove the mushrooms from the pan, and put to one side.
In the mushroom pan, melt the second tbsp of margarine; add the rice, and stir frequently until the rice is all coated with fat and turning translucent.
Add about 1 cup of the warmed water mixture to the rice, and stir frequently until the water is almost completely absorbed.
Keep adding the warmed water mixture 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently, and allowing each addition to be almost completely absorbed before adding the next. Repeat until all the warmed water mixture has been added.
Check the rice is cooked; if necessary, add another 1/2 cup water and continue cooking.
Stir in the cooked mushrooms.
Serve with optional (and highly recommended) black or white truffle in olive oil garnish.