Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Soups on Sundays (or how to avoid porridge)
As an independent adult living out of my parents' home, I get to choose whatever I want to eat for dinner. Weeknight dinners are usually quick, healthy and something which will make good leftovers for lunch at work the next day. Saturday night dinners are usually out. Sunday night dinners are either one of two things – a complex, new recipe that’s taken all day to cook and makes the most out of the fresh and exciting ingredients I get at the farmer’s market on Saturdays, or greasy take away recovery food (this past Sunday was definitely the latter!)
But that’s now, rewind about 15 years and Sunday night dinner was a very different choice - porridge, or tuna pattie melts. Perhaps I should explain...
As a kid Sunday afternoon was more often than not spent at the house of cousins, friends, family friends etc. The general scene was this: at least 10 screaming kids running wild in someone’s backyard, and parents sitting around inside eating afternoon tea. Sure, we’d eat a bit, grab a biscuit here, a scone there but food was never the main attraction for the under-16s at these afternoon gatherings, we were too busy running amok and teasing parents' friends' weird kids. (Hey - don't judge me, some of them were seriously wacky, and kids can be cruel!) The parents on the other hand, ate, lots! Afternoon gluttony led them to believe that Sunday night dinner wasn’t required, and we were duly offered porridge, or tuna pattie melts.
I had forgotten all about this Sunday night tradition until Mother’s Day. Having spent the afternoon at Nana’s for an afternoon feast, my little sister begged me to stick around at my parent’s place for dinner and order some take away or cook something delicious to avoid being told “you can’t possibly be hungry after that afternoon tea! Let’s just have porridge or something for dinner!” I realised with some shock that I wasn’t hungry either, I didn’t really feel like any dinner – I had crossed over.
Adult (afternoon tea-wise at least) or not, I would never return to porridge for Sunday night dinner. Surely there’s something else quick, easy, savoury, comforting and light that can be whipped up without too much effort? Of course there is, there’s always soup!
This is a slightly special soup, in fact it’s fancy name is “Roasted Carrot, caramelised garlic and red lentil soup” which I think sounds like a very special Sunday night dinner. But it's pretty simple really - the carrots and garlic are roasted in a hot oven until sweet, brown and caramelised and then whizzed up with some stock, a few aromatics and some simmered lentils. It’s also probably very easy to modify according to what veggies you have in the fridge – a wedge of pumpkin, some sweet potatoes, even cauliflower would probably work well here (although give it a shorter blast in the oven.)
So without further ado, I give you what is possibley the perfect Sunday night dinner (plus delicious leftovers! What a bonus!)
Roast Carrot, Caramelised Garlic and Red Lentil Soup
1kilo carrots (about 5-6 carrots)
4 cloves garlic (skin still on)
2Tbs olive oil
1 brown onion chopped
2 stalks celery chopped
1 red chilli finely sliced (optional but highly recommended)
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp ground coriander
1/4tsp cracked black pepper
4cups veggie stock
½ cup red lentils
3Tbs quark/yogurt/sour cream (optional but again delicious)
Salt and black pepper to serve
Preheat the oven to 200c
Roughly chop the carrots and pop them in a baking dish with the garlic and toss through the olive oil. Pop the whole lot in the oven – they should take about 20-25 minutes to cook through.
While the carrots are roasting, pop a big pot on a medium heat, melt the butter in and slowly fry off the onion, celery and chilli till soft and translucent – obviously the chilli won’t go translucent, but you know!
Tip in the spices, salt and pepper and fry off for about 30 seconds.
Rinse the lentils under cold water and then throw them in the pot and fry off for a bit (like rice in a risotto)
Pour the stock into the pot and turn up the heat to bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer
While the lentils are simmering, pull the carrots out of the oven.
Remove the garlic cloves from the dish and squeeze the mushy, brown, sweet delicious garlic out of their skins and into the pot, then throw in the carrots too, and any juices/oily bits left on the bottom of the baking dish, they’re the most delicious!
Continue to simmer until the lentils are soft (15-20mins)
At this point I pull out my handy bamix and give the whole lot a good whizz till it’s smooth and creamy. If you don’t have a bamix, you can whizz in a blender, but make sure you don’t overfill it! Hot liquid expands when whizzed – dangerous stuff!
I love to stir in a couple of tablespoons of delicious organic quark to round out the flavours. As I mentioned in the ingredients, you could use yogurt or sour cream here too.
This makes a very thick soup. One that will keep thickening in the fridge overnight, but it’s also very flavoursome, so don’t be afraid to thin it out to your desired consistency with a bit of water. I personally like my soup almost like a thick puree. Yum!
Enjoy with some buttered toast on the couch, watching masterchef – and say goodbye to Sunday night porridge forever.