‘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.
I have fond memories of Bonfire Night as a child, when we’d go up to the local playing field in our village for the annual fireworks display, and stand huddled with my friends and all the mums and dads, waving sparklers around and oohing and aahing at the fireworks. My most powerful memory, however, is of the food we ate every year without fail: sausages and jacket potatoes. To me, Bonfire Night equals sausages and jacket potatoes. And so it will for my children too!
And so, when the lovely people at Denhay Farms sent me a Bonfire Night box of sausages, bacon, delicious-looking condiments and other delicious bits, it seemed only natural that we should devour the sausages on Saturday along with (you’ve guessed it) jacket potatoes.
I love Denhay’s Spoilt Pig sausages because they are made using outdoor reared pork approved by Freedom Food to strict RSPCA standards. They also taste completely delicious. My box of goodies also contained Tracklements Spiced Honey Mustard, Tracklements Spicy Tomato Ketchup and some rather phenomenal Chilli Bacon Jam, made from Denhay Farm bacon by Walthamstow-based company Eat17. I know. Jam made of bacon. Who would have thunk it?
The pork sausages were glazed in the Tracklements Spiced Honey Mustard. Simply mix together mustard, honey, balsamic vinegar, smidgen of oil, and a teaspoon of tomato purée in a small roasting tin – so your sausages fit in snugly – and then add your sausages and roll them around in the mixture. Cook in a hot oven, turning them once or twice, ensuring they are piping hot before serving. We loved ’em, the kids loved ’em. Ta da:
Serve on paper plates with jacket potatoes doused in butter, salt and pepper, around the bonfire, watching the guy go up in flames. (Yes, we even made a guy – something I hadn’t done in about 25 years…)
The Denhay Farms bacon is fantastic – it’s dry-cured by hand, and again from pigs that have lived a happy, healthy life. It makes literally the perfect bacon sandwich. The twist? Butter the bread, and then spread on some Chilli Bacon Jam and top with bacon. A taste sensation, and a great way to liven up a bacon sarnie.
We had a great Bonfire Night – and the food certainly helped. We <heart> sausages.
Happy Bonfire Night all – stay safe.
Disclaimer: I was sent the box of Denhay/Spoilt Pig goodies to review on the blog. All opinions are my own!
This week’s highlight was winning a ticket to the 2013 Mumsnet BlogFest (for more details, click here)! I really was in shock! I went last year when my blog was but a month old, and was bowled over by the amazing group of bloggers I met, and the quality of the panels for the various topics up for discussion, so I am thrilled to be going again this year. I am looking forward to catching up with blogging friends, and meeting some more lovely people (if you are going, let me know, so I can say hi!) and hearing speakers such as Tanya Byron, the inspirational Jack Monroe from A Girl Called Jack and a whole host of fellow bloggers. Yippee!
So, from BlogFest to, er, mince! (nice segue there…) I recently discovered that there are recipe books devoted entirely to mince. I kid you not. From Favourite Mince Recipes and Marvellous Meals with Mince (by cookery doyenne Josceline Dimbleby no less) to the imaginatively titled Mince! it would appear that us Brits genuinely love the stuff. Certainly, it’s versatile, and children do tend to love it. So is there life beyond spaghetti bolognaise, which I make quite often (i.e. all the time)? I felt compelled to try something different… and so, I bring you chile con carne! It is so easy to make, I hope this will fast become a tea-time hit in your house, too.
I was particularly keen to try chile on the children, because kidney beans are a great source of fibre, protein and B vitamins and provide slow-releasing energy – perfect for active kids (and super heroes…), and I want them to eat more pulses. But I was conscious that adding chilli would make it instantly spicy, and hence a risky option, so I just use cumin and coriander.
So, don’t panic, it’s not spicy – it just has a lovely rich, warming flavour, primarily from the cumin, which gives it that Mexican chile-style hit. Initially I was a bit nervous about the reaction I’d get to the kidney beans, so rather than serving the chile with rice, I served it in tortilla wraps to hide the kidney beans (I know, I know), with a bit of rice, grated cheese, cut-up avocado and a dollop of sour cream. No complaints about kidney beans. In no fact complaints about anything – they loved it. And, alongside the good old faithful spag bol, this has become a family favourite.
You do need time to make it – while it’s dead easy to throw together, and hence the perfect recipe for a busy parent, it needs 1½ hours in the oven so make sure you have a window of time available. You also need a decent pan which will transfer from the hob to the oven. It freezes really well and makes an easy meal when friends come to play.
Perfect for bonfire night, served with jacket potatoes, or boiled rice (with a dollop of sour cream and some grated cheddar), or go the whole hog and do the tortilla wrap option – it’s delicious, I promise. Oh, and for the grown-ups, add a nice glass of red. In fact, I even asked lovely Helen from The Knackered Mother’s Wine Club what wine she’d recommend, and she suggests La Posta Argentinian Malbec from Majestic or Tesco Finest Chilean Carmenere.
Don’t say I’m not good to you.
Chile con Carne
Makes 8–10 child-sized portions
You will need:
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 small red pepper, chopped*
400g beef mince
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 x 400g tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 x 400g tin of tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
What to do:
- Preheat the oven to 160C/140C Fan/320F
- Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed oven proof pan (I use my Le Creuset) and sauté the onions, peppers and mince allowing the meat to brown a little.
- Add the cumin and coriander and stir well.
- Add the kidney beans, tomatoes and water, season well, and bring to a gentle simmer.
- Cover with a lid and put in the oven for 1½ hours, stirring every 30 minutes or so.
- Skim off any excess fat before serving.
* Note, if you don’t have a red pepper, I’ve also used courgette and carrot in its place, and it still worked a treat.
Enjoy round the bonfire 🙂
Buying my first very own Le Creuset felt like a giant leap. Having grown up with a Francophile French teacher mum, Le Creuset was a name I had known all my life. On holidays to France, mum would make a trip to the quincaillerie, or hardware store – for this was about the only place the heavy orange enamel pans were sold in those days – and stock up on heavy lidded pots. And so, buying a large red Le Creuset casserole at the age of 25 or so, marked a milestone for me. No longer a student, earning money, living with my boyfriend in London, owning a Le Creuset. I was a grown up! (How did that happen?) And now I have two children, and the red Le Creuset has a little brother, a smaller blue one, and I couldn’t live without (any of) them.
They are expensive, I admit, but boy, do they last. And boy, are they versatile. Which is why we love Le Creuset, and why these amazing enamel, heavy duty pans get a mention on the blog. Every busy mum – or dad – trying to get dinner on the table needs a Le Creuset, I think. I use mine all the time, and can’t imagine what I’d do without them. Whether it’s to make soup or a stew (the heavy enamel base conducts heat really effectively), to make Bolognese sauce (get all your ingredients in, in the usual way, bring to a simmer and then transfer straight from the hob to the pre-heated oven for 45 mins), or for casserole that goes straight from oven to table, they are simply unbeatable. Perfect for the one-handed cook … Yes, you can even stir them one-handed – they don’t tend to move when they’re on the hob – they’re so darn heavy!
To buy or not to buy a Le Creuset: weighing up the options
– Heavy, solid, a Le Creuset is a quality bit of kitchen kit that will last you for decades (they make a great wedding gift)
– Transfer your dish straight from the hob to the oven, and back again if needs be, and then straight to the table (less hassle, fewer dishes to wash)
– They conduct heat really efficiently
– Le Creuset pans look really attractive and come in an array of beautiful hues to match any kitchen colour scheme, including yellow. (And if your enamel chips, they look even more rustic!)
– They have their own Pinterest page! www.pinterest.com/lecreusetuk
– They weigh a ton. Not for the feeble.
– They are pricey, but they do last for ever, practically (see above).
So there you have it. Le Lowdown on Le Creuset.
What a week. I’ve been poorly, both kids have been poorly. Work has been missed. School has been missed. Appetites have been lost. It’s all been a bit topsy turvy, so it was a relief to get back to normal this weekend and do some cooking and baking. Lovely husband bought me Annie Bell’s Baking Bible – woah, now there’s a baking book and a half. I loved it from the moment I saw it, and chose to make Blueberry and Orange Muffins, which were delish, and look, I even managed to find the recipe for you here. I have long been a fan of Annie Bell and this is a super book for the home baker.
Today we caught up with old friends who live out in the countryside, which was lovely. It’s always nice to have a breather from London. Seeing our five (between us) children playing and growing up together is a joy. Seeing my friend’s large and well-stocked larder, however, is not a joy as I am proper jealous.
Macaroni Cheese with Chicken and Rosemary
One of the things busy parents are always on the lookout for are simple pasta dishes for a family meal. We are all huge fans of macaroni cheese, but I started thinking about how it could be tweaked, plus made a bit simpler without having to make a white sauce each time, which can be a faff if you’re just trying to get Dinner On The Table. This recipe just uses crème fraîche – use half-fat if you like – and works a treat.
This rather moreish pasta dish, which you could also make using penne, rigatoni (or whatever really) is a great dish for a Monday night after a roast chicken on a Sunday, because you can use leftover cooked chicken. Which we like.
Note that stages 1 and 2 could be done in advance and left to rest (refrigerate the chicken once it’s cool if necessary) until you are ready to make the whole dish. I’m a big fan of stage-by-stage cooking, and using the windows of time available while the children are occupied, as you know!
What you need
300g macaroni (which you can cook in advance)
Approx 150g leftover roast chicken, or two medium-sized chicken breasts
400ml crème fraîche
½ clove of garlic, crushed
A sprig of rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped
2 handfuls of grated cheese – Monterey Jack, strong Cheddar, Gruyère all good
Salt and freshly ground pepper
What to do
- Cook the macaroni or other pasta according to the instructions on the packet. Once cooked, drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, if you need to cook the meat from scratch, slice each chicken breast into smallish pieces (bite-size for kids), heat a griddle pan or frying pan, add a dash of olive oil and sauté until cooked through. Set aside.
- Pre-heat the oven to 200˚C/180˚C (Fan)/gas 6
- Put the crème fraîche into a non-stick saucepan and set over a gentle heat. Add the rosemary and garlic, stir, and bring to a simmer.
- Add the cooked chicken and the cheese and season (go gently if serving to toddlers). Remove the pan from the heat and add the cooked pasta, stirring it together well.
- Pour into an ovenproof dish, top with a bit more grated cheese (you could also add some ready-made breadcrumbs if you have some, or scatter on a bit more chopped rosemary) and bake for 18-20 minutes until golden and bubbling. Nice served with green beans.
Now the nights are drawing in, warm hearty fare is on my mind as I plan and shop for family suppers. Pasta with bolognese sauce is a firm favourite in our house, but it can be pretty time-consuming to make (and time is one thing I am always bit short of…) So, one way to speed things up is to use sausage meat for your meat sauce – you still get a really tasty savoury sauce, but it takes much less time to cook. I usually use pork sausages with some fennel in for a bit of extra flavour (and having read about ‘kind meat’ in Hattie Ellis’ brilliant book What to Eat? earlier this year, I do my best to select free-range pork sausages).
The most time-consuming bit is preparing the vegetables, but remember you can chop them in advance and simply keep them a bowl in the fridge with a bit of cling on top until you’re ready to cook later. You can do the veggies by hand, or just whizz them in the food processor or mini chopper to save time. Or even quicker, use a bag of ‘soffritto’ from Waitrose (who said you couldn’t cheat? I do!)
Note, you will need a decent sharp knife to slit the sausage skins.
Now there’s a wizard idea.
Super Sausage Pasta Sauce
Dash of olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, diced
1 stick of celery, diced
1 red pepper, diced
400g sausage meat (approx. 6 sausages)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
A squeeze of tomato puree
1 tin chopped tomatoes (I’m a Napolina girl)
Salt & freshly ground pepper
What to do
- Sweat the vegetables in the olive oil over a medium heat until soft, stirring from time to time.
- Meanwhile, slit the sausage skins and remove the sausage meat.
- Add the sausage meat to the vegetables, and use your wooden spoon or spatula to break up the meat in the pan, until lightly browned.
- Add the red wine vinegar, and reduce. Once reduced, add the tomato puree and the chopped tomatoes and cook for approx. 20 mins until the sauce is reduced, thick and tasty. Season as required.
- Serve with pasta – we like farfalle or twists as the children tend to struggle with spaghetti.
Liz (aka TOHC) x