Monday, March 21, 2011

Curried Lentil Soup

When it's March and still cold outside (I'm so jealous when my parents tell me about the balmy weather in Texas!) I comfort myself with soup. This one was particularly attractive since I received some lovely curry powders for Christmas - the curry adds a warm depth to the soup which pairs nicely with the thick and slightly creamy texture of the soup. Who knew pureed chickpeas would be such a spectacular secret ingredient?

Curried Lentil Soup
Slightly adapted from Feast with Bron


4 tablespoons olive oil,
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped, divided
2 tablespoons curry powder, or more to taste
1 cup French green lentils
4 cups water
400g can chickpeas, drained, rinsed or a large handful of dried ones, soaked and cooked
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 lemon, cut into wedges

In a large heavy pot, heat half the olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, celery and carrot, season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and cook until onion is translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes, then stir in curry powder. Cook, stirring constantly to prevent spices from burning, until spices are fragrant.

Add lentils and water and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, puree chickpeas, lemon juice, remaining olive oil, and 1/4 cup of water. Stir puree into lentils. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and/or additional curry powder, then thin soup with water until desired consistency. I didn't end up thinning the soup at all.

Divide amongst soup bowls and serve garnished with green onion and with lemons on the side.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Hotel Chocolat Easter Eggs

It's time for Easter eggs again! I never really had them growing up, but now that I'm older and living in the UK, I've discovered that some people get really upset if they don't get a chocolate Easter egg each year. This year Hotel Chocolat sent me a deluxe egg, called the "You Crack Me Up" - two thick halves of an Easter egg with loads of smaller truffles inside in the shapes of mini-eggs, bunnies and chicks. The packaging is adorable and I had a hard time eating the mini-eggs with their googly eyes (but it wasn't too hard, they're still tasty after all, even if they've been anthropomorphised). This chocolate is so nice that it would probably be wasted on children anyway - buy it for someone more grown up who can appreciate its quality!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pumpkin and Rosemary Muffins

J saw this demonstrated on the TV and also happened to have canned pumpkin lying around, so this became our Saturday afternoon baking project. These muffins are more savory than you might expect, but the combination of rosemary and pumpkin is pretty inspired. The original recipe calls for roasted cubes of pumpkin - I think the puree probably makes the muffin fluffier and more uniform. I love pumpkin in all forms though, so this was certainly very enjoyable, even with the tweaks.

Pumpkin and Rosemary Muffins
Adapted from Baking Made Easy


60ml vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing
180g self-raising flour
130g wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch salt
3 fresh rosemary sprigs, finely chopped
2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
100ml plain yoghurt
275ml milk
1 tbsp honey
240g pumpkin puree
handful pumpkin seeds


Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Oil a 12-hole muffin tin and line with 12 squares of baking paper. (I don't think you actually need to oil the muffin tin - isn't that the whole point of using the baking paper liners?!) Push the squares down into each hole so that the paper sticks up.

Sift the flours, baking powder, and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl. Stir in the salt and rosemary. (Reserve any wholegrain left in the sieve.)

Meanwhile in another bowl, mix the pumpkin puree, eggs, yoghurt, milk, honey and vegetable oil until well combined.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and fold the ingredients together, but be careful not to over-work the mixture.

Sprinkle the reserved wholegrain and the pumpkin seeds over the muffins. Bake in the centre of the oven for 20–25 minutes, or until the muffins are well risen and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Serve and eat at any time of the day.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Le Bouchon Breton and Androuet

Old Spitalfields Market
16 Horner Square
E1 6AA

Groupon was offering steak frites at Le Bouchon Breton for a bargain price, and J agreed to come along on a Saturday lunchtime to give it a try. We had a bit of difficulty finding it - it's actually upstairs in Old Spitalfields Market (don't even bother looking for any signs for Horner Square). With a couple of bloody marys and some spinach and peppercorn sauce on the side, it made for quite a relaxing lunch - I only wish the market was open on Saturdays so that we could walk around afterwards. My other tip - there is a fantastic cheesemonger called Androuet in Old Spitalfields Market and they do a cheese called Brillat Savarin, which is some of the creamiest, most deluxe cow's milk cheese I've had, and quite reasonably priced at 2.75 for a quarter of a round. Go forth and eat!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Ba Shan

24 Romilly St
London W1D 5AH

P and his friend L were up for some spicy Chinese food, so we ended up in Ba Shan. So many things looked good on the menu, it was actually difficult to decide what to order. We got a garlicky plate of smacked cucumbers to start, and then there was some brisket in a spicy sauce, sliced lamb with loads of chillies and coriander, and some dry fried green beans covered in minced pork. All of it was fantastic, though I had an especially soft spot for the lamb - the leftovers from dinner made for a very exciting lunch the next day. It's got more atmosphere than a lot of Chinese restaurants, which makes it a nice place to go if you want to actually enjoy a long evening over food rather than rushing in and out.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Beef Chili

Another winter day, another pot of chili. This one was one of those let's-see-how-many-spices-I-can-use-in-one-pot chilis, so here's the list of ingredients:

500g dried kidney beans, cooked with the No Soak method

500g beef mince
2 small onions, diced
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp turmeric
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp ground cloves
1/4 cup vinegar
1 small glass of red wine

As for instructions, it's pretty simple. Preheat the oven to 200C. Put a little oil in a heavy, oven-safe pot. Fry the onions and garlic for a couple of minutes, then add the beef. Cook until a little brown, then add everything else in the ingredient list, put the lid on, and shove in the oven for 2 hours. When you take it out, if it's a bit watery, then just simmer on the stove with the lid off until it's thickened up a bit. Fantastic served over a baked potato or rice.