Exciting things are afoot on the blog; it is being redesigned *as we speak* which means that pretty soon I will be unveiling the new look for Spring/Summer 2015 on The One-Handed Cook website. Woo hoo.
In other news, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have been and gone, which means that Christmas is practically upon us. I’ve made a list, I’m checking it twice, and yes, I still need to buy about 800 presents. I have started an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of all the gifts, which feels a bit too organised, even for me.
What else is new? Well, my son is obsessed with Match Attax trading cards, my daughter with her Tiny Tears doll and my husband with his new KitchenAid, which he was given for his birthday. A beautiful red KitchenAid just for me him.
In the meantime, here’s something for you: a soup recipe to help chase away the November blues. It’s a recipe my grandma – a wonderful home cook – used to make, and my mum has passed it on to me. Like all my soup recipes, it’s dead easy to make, and completely delicious. You can make it in stages – make the soup and liquidise it later, if needs be. It also freezes really well, so make double if you have the energy – and freeze half for later. Steaming hot, silky smooth, deliciously fragrant Carrot and Tarragon Soup on a cold winter’s day; what could be nicer?
Carrot and Tarragon Soup
A delicious soup for the whole family. Omit the salt – and go easy on the pepper – if serving to babies and toddlers. If serving to grown-ups, the soup looks good served with a swirl of cream and a bit of chopped parsley on top. It will keep in the fridge for several days and freezes well in an air-tight container.
Makes 8–10 portions
You will need
2tbsp light olive oil
1kg carrots, chopped into chunks
1 large onion, chopped
2 largeish potatoes, peeled and cut into eight
1.5 litres (approx) vegetable stock (I use Marigold bouillon)
1tsp freeze-dried tarragon flakes, or 1tbsp fresh tarragon, washed and chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
What to do
- Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan (I use a Le Creuset), add the onions and cook gently for a few minutes.
- Add the carrots, stir well with the onions and continue cooking for a further 5 minutes or so.
- Add the stock, the potatoes and the tarragon. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 20-30 mins. Check that the carrots are cooked.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Liquidise in a blender, keeping an eye on the thickness of the soup. (Sometimes you have too much liquid and other times you may have to add a bit of water.)
- Season to taste. Reheat the quantity you need and pour into bowls.
‘If you have lentils in your kitchen, you have dinner. Time and time again I turn to this quick-cooking, richly flavoured legume when I’m in a quandary as to what to make…’
Wise words from food writer and author Martha Rose Shulman, a chef who excels particularly when it comes to healthy, vegetarian meals. She has a passion for Mediterranean food, and her Mediterranean Harvest cookbook is one I come back to again and again.
Like Martha, I love lentils. They are just so brilliantly versatile and easy to use – I love making dal with red lentils, and salads using French Puy lentils, for instance. I particularly love using them in soups – they are the perfect thing to sling in to add substance and bite.
A 500g packet of red lentils costs about £1 from Sainsburys, so they are a good cheap staple to have in your store cupboard. They are a good source of protein and B vitamins, are low in calories and are a good source of fibre – so they are an excellent staple in a child’s diet. My two love it, and the 7-year-old always gives it 9/10 – no word of a lie!
Personally, I find making soup very calming – it’s almost like therapy, as, having peeled and chopped my ingredients, I stand stirring, one-handed, with my wooden spoon, and the wonderful savoury smell of the soup fills the air. I think it is something to do with pausing after a busy morning, or a busy day, and making something to nourish us all. As I taste, and stir again, I look forward to sharing the soup with my husband and the children round the kitchen table. It’s the simple things in life that are sometimes the best.
Provençal Lentil and Tomato Soup
This tasty soup doesn’t require any complicated ingredients and is dead easy to make. I have adapted Martha Rose Shulman’s original recipe to make it even more straightforward, and I promise you it is completely delicious. It keeps well in the fridge, and tastes even better the next day. It is rich, flavoursome and a firm family favourite here at One-Handed HQ.
You will need:
175g red lentils, picked over and rinsed
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 bay leaf
1 litre water
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced (optional)
1 jar organic passata
1 sprig fresh thyme
Handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped
What to do:
- Place the lentils in a saucepan with one of the garlic cloves and the bay leaf. Add 4/5 of the water (800ml) and bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
- Drain the lentils through sieve placed over a bowl (i.e. reserve the cooking liquid), then rinse the lentils with cold water and set aside. Remove and discard the bay leaf.
- Mash the cooked garlic clove with the remaining two cloves in a pestle and mortar. Set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large Le Creuset casserole, or similar heavy-bottomed pan, add the onion and celery (if using). Cook for 5–10 minutes, until soft.
- Add the passata, mashed garlic and lentils, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Then add the cooking water from the lentils, the remaining 200ml water, the thyme, the basil and season to taste.
- Bring to a simmer, cover, and then simmer gently for 30 minutes over a low heat. The lentils should be tender but intact, the broth fragrant. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Serve as is, or with some grated Parmesan on top, with crusty bread.
A steaming hot bowl of soup is, for me, the culinary equivalent of a big hug from someone wearing a Nordic Sarah-Lund-style jumper. Cosy. I love the ritual of making it – sautéing the onion, adding the vegetables, the stock, seasoning, simmering, stirring, ladling it into pre-warmed bowls (if I’m organised), and finally dipping my spoon in and devouring it, preferably with toast slathered in butter on the side.
Luckily for me my family shares my love of soup, so Saturday lunch is more often than not soup for all; even when I was weaning the little ones, I’d just omit the salt and liquidize the soup in batches, leaving some as thicker purée, perfect for babies and toddlers.
This soup is really easy, and a brilliant one to make in stages as there is a bit of prep involved (although you could always cheat and buy ready-prepared butternut squash – who’ll know?). Roasting the vegetables first is a bit different, but gives them a sweet, almost caramelized flavour, and the sweet potato gives the soup a silky smooth texture.
Perfect for a chilly November or December day, and the sweetish flavour usually goes down very well with babies, toddlers and older children. It also freezes beautifully – hurrah. Why not make double?
Roast Butternut Squash, Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup
1 butternut squash peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
2 sweet potatoes, peeled, chopped and cut into chunks
3 or 4 carrots, peeled, chopped and cut into smaller chunks (they take longer to roast)
Sprig of rosemary
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
Knob of butter
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock (I like Kallo chicken stock or Marigold veg stock)
What to do
Peel and chop the squash, sweet potato and carrots when you have a 10-minute window of time, such as when baby is happily sitting in her bouncy chair, or having a nap. You can then put your pre-prepared veg in a container in the fridge, or on the side until you are ready to make your soup. If children happily occupied, carry on to the next stage.
Stage 2 (another self-contained step)
- Pre-heat your oven to 200°C/180°C Fan/400°F
- Line a decent-sized baking tray with foil (to save scrubbing it later – yay!) and add your pre-cut vegetables, then drizzle with olive oil and season. Add the rosemary, and toss the vegetables with your fingers.
- Roast the vegetables in the hot oven for around 30 mins, turning halfway. You want them to be soft. Remove from the oven, remove the rosemary sprig and set aside.
Again, if at this stage you need to pause, you can. It doesn’t matter if the roasted veg go cold as you just reheat the soup at the end.
Stage 3 (to be done while the veg are roasting, or as a separate stage)
- Heat a dash of oil and a knob of butter in a heavy-based pan (I use a Le Creuset), and add the onion. Sauté over a medium to low heat for a good 10 minutes; you want the onion to be nice and soft. Stir occasionally.
- Blend your roasted vegetables, softened onion and stock together in a liquidizer. Reheat in the saucepan and serve.