Tag Archives: food

Lenten Soup

lentil soup

It was so cold and miserable yesterday, I had to have something hot for lunch. There weren’t any leftovers, and I didn’t feel like having anything from a can. So I made some lentil soup, from Puy (French) lentils I’ve had in the cupboard for, oh, probably three or four years. (Me in bulk food store: “Oh, look at those lovely [lentils, peas, beans, walnuts, hazelnuts, mixed dried vegetables, chunks of chocolate, etc etc]! I’ve been meaning to try¬† making [lentil/pea/bean soup, nut bread, veg soup, real chocolate cake, etc etc.]” Buy food. Sit food in cupboard. Periodically open cupboard and consider food. “Oh, look, I never did get around to making [lentil/pea/bean soup etc etc]. Must do that.” Close cupboard, forget about food. Months later, open cupboard, consider food…)

Anyway, I just sort of randomly threw this soup together. Lentils have the advantage that they’re the instant-food variety of the legume world, i.e. they cook in under an hour, as opposed to dried beans which have to pre-soak and then simmer away most of the day. So lentils lend themselves relatively well to impulse cooking (haha, see what I did there? Im-pulse).

So here’s what I did:

Lentil Soup

3c stock (I used ham stock I had in the freezer, but I think even water would work)

1/2 c Puy lentils, rinsed

3/4 tsp salt (could have used less)

chopped green onions

1/2 grated carrot

black pepper, pinch of cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp dried lovage, pinch dried oregano, large five-finger pinch frozen parsley

Dump in pot, bring to boil, turn down heat, simmer for about 45 minutes. To serve, I threw in some grated cheese. Very tasty and warming.

I also found out something: for a while now, I had this theory that the words “lentil” and “lent” are related – that perhaps we call lent lent because people used to eat more lentils then; or vice versa. But, alas, I was wrong. “Lentil” comes from Latin lens, meaning, well, “lentil”, while “lent” comes from Old English lencten, meaning “springtime”. I guess eating lentils in lent is just a coincidence. It was a plausible theory though, don’t you think?

Life, the Universe, and Lenten Soup. I think I’ll have the rest of it today.

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Master Peaseblossom, or What’s In A Salad

IMG_20160530_101217This spring, a patch of peas sprang up in one of my garden beds. I didn’t ask for them to be there, they just showed up. I have a suspicion that they came from one of my attempts to grow pea shoots in the winter in a tray on the counter; the leftovers got dumped in the compost, and that’s probably where they ended up, in that garden bed.

So now they’re blooming, and yesterday I made a salad with a head of lettuce from the garden, and just for fun decided to toss in a few pea blossoms (or peaseblossoms, if you want to go Shakespearean). No, Nick Bottom, I didn’t add Mustardseed, Cobweb or Moth, sorry.

The Offspring were of mixed opinions on the matter – actually, most of them didn’t eat the blossoms, just the lettuce. The one that did, though, really enjoyed them. Pea blossoms taste like fresh green peas (as do pea shoots). Edible flowers are lots of fun, although I do understand why people would be weirded out at seeing a bouquet on top of their lettuce.

Anyway, in case you’re interested, I thought I’d share my salad dressing recipe. It’s a basic yogurt vinaigrette (well, actually, not vinaigrette, as it’s not got vinegar in it – so is it a limonette?).

IMG_20160529_185108SALAD DRESSING

-1/4 c plain yogurt
-1 good squirt of lemon juice (let’s say 1 Tbsp)
-a glug of salad oil (or 2 Tbsp)
-salt & pepper to taste (or 1/4 tsp each)

-you can add 1/2 tsp prepared mustard, like dijon (if you want your Mounsieur Mustardseed), and any or all chopped fresh or dry herbs that strike your fancy. This one has chopped parsley, dill, lemon thyme, chives and green onions, because that’s what I happened to have in the garden.

-whisk together or shake in a small jar or gravy shaker. Put in the bottom of the salad bowl, toss lettuce in it (or pour over thinly sliced cucumbers or any other salad veg, toss). Top with whatever edible flowers you happen to have on hand. Serve immediately.

So there you have it, salad with peaseblossoms. As Nick Bottom would say:

BOTTOM: Your name, honest gentleman?
PEASEBLOSSOM: Peaseblossom.
BOTTOM: I pray you, commend me to Mistress Squash, your
mother, and to Master Peascod, your father. Good
Master Peaseblossom, I shall desire you of more
acquaintance too.
(Midsummer Night’s Dream, III, 1)

Life, the Universe, and Peaseblossoms. What’s in a salad? A salad, of any other veg, would taste as nice…

 

 

 

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Easter Eggs

IMG_20160328_102501Happy Easter Monday, to those of you who celebrate it (Germans, Canadians, Brits, Down-Under-ites?). Here’s Steve, being the Easter Bear, to add his good wishes.

Yes, we still have Easter eggs at our house, even though the Offspring are a few years past the Easter egg hunting stage. Much like I can’t imagine Christmas without cookies, I can’t have Easter without eggs. When we were kids, we always got some in our Easter baskets, or rather, we hunted for them in the garden. (One year, one got missed, and a friend of my brother’s found it months later in the juniper bushes beside the garage. I vaguely recall someone cracking it open; it wasn’t a pretty sight.)

Eggs were somewhat of a luxury item around our house; you got one boiled for breakfast maybe once or twice a week – one, mind you. And sometimes when you had a picnic lunch for a trip, there’d be a hard-boiled egg in it, which was always a treat. But on Easter, you got something like four or five of them, all to yourself. So very awesome.

Of course, there were chocolate and tiny sugar eggs and chocolate bunnies, too, and my grandmother sometimes got us these really elaborate caramel creations – like the hollow chocolate bunnies or lambs you can get, but made out of hard caramel (like Werther’s candies), with very intricate detailing. I recall one large Easter bunny, upright with a basket full of eggs on his back. In my memory, he’s really big, something like 8″ high, but he probably wasn’t – I was quite a bit smaller then myself, and you know how back then everything was so much bigger than it is now.

IMG_20160326_142855So yes, there was plenty of sugar to be had for my childhood Easter celebrations, but the real Easter eggs were still something special that I treasured. And so I still want Easter eggs to celebrate with, as well as chocolate and other sugar, so I always make a dozen or so. I also bake a sweet bread bunny each year now. That’s not something from my childhood, but a tradition I started when the Offspring were little. Maybe it’ll become part of their childhood memory – can’t have Easter without a baked Easter bunny?

Life, the Universe, and Easter Eggs. Have a Happy Eastertide!

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Wordless Wednesday: Frankencarrots

frankencarrots

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28 October 2015 · 10:28

Excuses

We interrupt our spate of regular blog postings for these messages, uh, reasons, uh, excuses – that’s it, excuses:

IMG_20150810_093542

calendula oil

IMG_20150808_191316

tomatoes

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peaches

IMG_20150811_100100

an early stage of zucchini salsa

Life, the Universe, and Harvest Season. See you on the other side.

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Marmalade

marmalade (4)

A Paddington Bear notebook my daughter got for me at Paddington Station

So I promised you a post on marmalade, didn’t I? Well, now’s the time. We went and saw the Paddington movie last night, and when can you write about marmalade if not fresh from a viewing of a film starring The Bear With a Worrying Marmalade Habit? (The latter bit is a quote from Mr Brown, the movie version. The one in the book doesn’t seem to be worried about it at all.)

(In case you’re wondering, Steve didn’t come to the movie; they don’t have bears as a category at the ticket counter. Seniors, Children, and Generals, but no Privates, Corporals, or Bears. Also, even though I would have smuggled him in in my purse, he’s a little leery of watching things on a big screen. If you’re six inches high, even a large-screen television can be a little overwhelming.)

marmalade (1)So. Marmalade. Oh, the movie was quite good. However, I have to inform you that it presents a quite serious factual inaccuracy: they’re using the wrong kind of oranges for their marmalade. Yup. The movie shows Paddington and his Aunt Lucy making marmalade out of ordinary sweet oranges, the ones you get year-round in the grocery store – you know, navel oranges. How do I know that’s the ones? Because they chop them open, and they’re way too juicy on the inside. No, no, no. Just wrong. Marmalade is made from Seville or bitter oranges, which are a different thing; their flesh is quite dry.

Now, the funny thing is that nobody in my family actually eats marmalade except for me; and I only have it occasionally with a bacon-and-egg breakfast (the bitter taste offsets the grease something wonderful). It’s one of those acquired tastes, and I’ve acquired it in order to be able to feel more British. Well, yeah. It allows me to say “Pass the squish!” like Lord Peter Wimsey, and reminds me of the line in Gosford Park where Mrs Wilson, the housekeeper, asks Mary if her employer couldn’t have strawberry jam for her breakfast: “Only, we’ve run out of marmalade. Dorothy [the stillroom maid] didn’t make enough last January.” And then Lady Trentham (played by Maggie Smith at her most snobbish), the next morning on lifting the cover off her breakfast tray: “Boughten marmalade! I call that feeble.”

marmalade (2)Marmalade oranges are only available for a couple of weeks in January – hence the fictional Dorothy’s failings in producing enough for the household; if you don’t make it in January, you’ve missed the boat for the year. And I think that might be one of the reasons I like making marmalade: it’s the one preserve that you make in the dead of winter. The canning jars and rings and lids, the funnel and tongs, all the paraphernalia of canning season, which live in the kitchen all summer long, are put away in the storage room in the basement from October to June. But this one short stint of once again stirring the fragrant amber bubbling away in the big pot, of whirling around the kitchen to get the steaming hot jars out of the dishwasher and ladling the sticky-soft sweetness into the glass, clapping on the lids and then listening for that satisfying little snap when they seal – it’s an unmistakable reminder that even though the snow flies outside, summer’s warmth and harvest will be back.

I don’t have a worrying marmalade habit myself – although I might have a marmalade-cooking habit. And I have friends who are quite happy to support me in that habit by taking the product of my hands – or they say they are, anyway. Maybe they’re just being polite, being English and all? Paddington is a very polite bear – it’s the English way.

Life, the Universe, and Marmalade. Pass the squish.marmalade (3)

PS: Here’s the recipe, the short version: 2 lbs marmalade oranges, 8 cups water, 4 lbs sugar. Cut up oranges, take out pips. Chop whole oranges in food processor, boil with water for 1 1/2 hrs together with the pips tied in a little bag. When the orange peels are soft, take out the bag of pips, add the sugar, and boil for about 15 minutes, proceeding like for any other jam. Makes about 8 half-pints of marmalade. (Pardon the imperial measurements – I got the recipe from an older pre-metric English cookbook. Seems kind of suitable.)

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Scarlet Runner Beans

scarlet runner beansDid you know that the magic beans from “Jack and the Beanstalk” were scarlet runner beans? It’s true, Andrew Lang says so in The Red Fairy Book:

When [Jack] brought [the beans] home to his mother instead of the money she expected for her nice cow, she was very vexed and shed many tears, scolding Jack for his folly. He was very sorry, and mother and son went to bed very sadly that night; their last hope seemed gone.
At daybreak Jack rose and went out into the garden.
‘At least,’ he thought, ‘I will sow the wonderful beans. Mother says that they are just common scarlet-runners, and nothing else; but I may as well sow them.’

scarlet runner beans (1)Of course, you know the rest of the deal: massive beanstalk, Jack climbing, doing a spot of breaking and entering and theft, Fi-Fi-Fo-Fum, giant dropping off beanstalk, happily ever after. Incidentally, the Lang version has Jack helping himself to the giant’s stuff quite rightfully, because he’s really not a peasant at all, but the son of the knight who used to own the castle and was killed by the giant along with all of Jack’s older siblings. Fortunately, the knight’s wife was on a visit to her old nurse in the village, along with Baby Jack. When she got the news about the massacre she just stayed put and pretended to be a peasant until her son was old enough to take revenge on the giant and get the castle back, meanwhile earning their living with her spinning wheel and the produce of the little cow she’d bought. Enter the plot of the story as we know it.

I’m sorry, Mr Lang, that elaborate backstory just doesn’t work for me; part of the fun of “Jack and the Beanstalk” is precisely that Jack is a peasant boy, and not a very bright one at that. Stop making excuses for his B&E and robbery-with-violence; this is a story of a poor little guy defeating a big rich one and making it against all the odds, winning his fortune not because it’s his by law, but because of sheer dumb luck and gutsy opportunism.

However, that’s not really what I was going to talk about – my point today was Scarlet Runner Beans. I love those things, and I’ve planted some every year. I like eating them as green beans, but the problem I have with that is that I hardly ever get around to picking them when they’re still green and tender – I can’t find them in the tangle of leaves, and quite frankly, I’m too lazy to search for them. So I’ve been growing them pretty much as ornamentals. I figure if people grow climbing vines like clematis for their flowers, I can grow beans for the same purpose. And they really are pretty, with their bright red flowers.

scarlet runner beans (2)And then usually, at the end of the season when the vines die off, I find all these plump, dry pods with those funky black-and-purple-spotted beans inside. I’ve been collecting them just to have more to plant the next year, but then this year I got to wondering if you could just eat them as dried beans, like kidney beans or something, and sure enough, according to the Internet you can. I haven’t tried it yet, but I plan to – I got a small bowl full of beans off the four or five bean plants I had, it should be enough for a meal.scarlet runner beans (3)

So, climbing foliage, pretty flowers, tasty fresh green beans, lovely speckled beans, and beans to save for eating in winter. What a great plant. Never mind giants’ castles at the top, there’s enough here to make them worthwhile just like that.

Life, the Universe, and Scarlet Runner Beans. I’ll be sure to save a few for planting next year.

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