I hear a cold snap is coming. So the first thing that springs to mind when contemplating shiver inducing weather is soup. Warming; an injection of vegetables and a hit of nostalgia. Not that soup featured heavily in my childhood. More that it was the first thing I ‘cooked’ in Home Ec lessons. A classic winter vegetable soup. The smell of swede, onions, celery and carrot sweating away takes me back to 1991 in a snap. READ MORE
This soup is a culinary bear hug; earthy mushrooms, cleansing leeks and a creamy umami Stilton hit. You can use whatever mushrooms you have to hand; a few rehydrated porcini mushrooms would be a delicious addition. The rice thickens the soup, though a couple of potatoes would happily do the same job. READ MORE
It’s Lawrence here again (17 months old now, and yes ‘it seems like only yesterday I was a baby’, but actually it was over a year ago; you adults come out with some crazily factually incorrect stuff). You may have seen my last takeover of Mummy’s blog, anyway, I’m back. She’s busy on her phone pretending to work when really I know she’s on facebook, looking up people she used to know but didn’t like well enough to stay proper friends with. Mothers are funny like that. If I don’t like someone I just throw a plastic brick at them. Or bite them. I like to be clear. READ MORE
Location is everything. Phil and Kirsty know what they’re talking about. When we booked our mini break in Madrid (sorry, but I can never write ‘mini break’ without thinking of Bridget Jones) we were wowed by the star rating, roof top bar, architect designed rooms and the possibility of free chocolates. And where did such a vanity booking get us? In the arse end of town. READ MORE
Look, I know there is nothing but nothing more boring than women talking about their weight. Brace yourselves.
I’ve done it again. I’ve overdone it. I’ve been eating whatever I like, as if I’m one of those people blessed with a high metabolism. Nothing fits. Woe is me. The only person who can sort it out is my mouth, by keeping it more shut than open. I’ve taken to quizzing skinny friends as to their secrets. I even quizzed one friend as we got into the back of a cab after a particularly calorific night out including steak and twice cooked chips drenched in salt. There may have been some Prosecco involved too. And gin.
The friend in question doesn’t eat breakfast but does eat pretty healthily and not in sparrow like servings. She’s veggie too. Is this the secret? I have another thin friend who lives abroad who swears by steamed veg covered in veggie gravy and one square of dark chocolate a day. The trouble with me is I’ve never been able to stop at one square. I’m an all or nothing kind of a person.
So here is a soup that is going to be part of my campaign to get back into my jeans. I don’t know that it’s slimming. But carrots and lentils can’t be what leads to a gastric bypass. Can they?
Comments, as always, welcomed. Especially from thin people with The Secret.
Carrot and lentil soup
This is easy. Heat the oil in a very large saucepan. Fry the cumin seeds in the oil for about 30 seconds, they should be sizzling and pop a little. Then add the grated carrots and let them fry a little too. After 5 minutes or so add the veggie stock and the harissa and bring to the boil. Add the red lentils and let them simmer away in the soup for about 30 minutes. Use a blender or stick blender to whizz up to a smooth consistency and then serve with something wholesome like wholemeal pitta toasted and stuffed with houmous. Or wholemeal tortilla brushed with garlic butter and toasted. Hang on, butter wasn’t a part of this campaign. Sorry.
Fresh coriander is very nice on the top of the soup too.
I bought some jeans in Marks and Spencers today. I also bought a jumper. And I really liked them both. I almost skipped to the counter to pay for them, so gleeful was I in my purchase. The jumper was chunky and warm with stripes and the colour red, two of my favourite things. The jeans were Mum jeans and I felt very excited that I would be able to get them on without dislodging my internal organs or needing to lay on the bed and breathe in, thinking thin thoughts. I put my hand up and admit I do not want to partake in lunges in the morning just to ease jeans over my ample bottom. Does anyone else have to do this? Or is it just me.
Whilst we’re on the ample bottom subject, I’m thinking of trying that 5:2 diet. You know the one, where you eat normally 5 days a week and starve yourself on just 500 calories (600 for men, lucky souls) for the other two days. Sounds hellish but I’ve always liked a challenge. I don’t really like it when diets are sensible, because I always figure if I’ve eaten like a hippo to get to the point where I need to lose weight, then the process should be a little bit unenjoyable, to stop me pigging out again. I tried that dreadful cayenne pepper and lemon juice diet once. I still find it very hard to use cayenne pepper in any recipe. It makes me gag.
One ‘diet’ that I am happy to revisit again and again is one where soup is involved. Apparently it keeps you fuller for longer. Well it does if you eat 4 portions though I’m not sure that’s the idea. This soup is not a low calorie soup, but it is very nice indeed. And easy peasy to make.
Leek, potato and ham soup
Makes a large vat of soup, enough to feed 8 people easily with normal sized portions. You could make it in these quantities and freeze half or just halve the recipe.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan and chop the leeks into square type shapes about half a centimetre long. Pop them into the butter and stir. Allow them to sweat on a very low heat for about 10 minutes. Keep stirring as you don’t want them to catch and brown. Browned leeks are a very bad thing in my opinion. Acrid and chewy. Eww. Add the Marigold powder or a veggie stock cube and stir again until all dissolved and bubbling in the buttery leeky mixture.
Add 4 pints of cold water and then turn the heat up. In the meantime peel and finely chop 4 medium potatoes and add those to the soup mixture. Bring to the boil. Then simmer until the potato starts to break up. Add the ham, ripped into pieces for a rustic look. Then use a potato masher to mash down any larger lumps of potato – this also gives the soup a certain starchy thickness that is all important. Now you can add a splash of milk here if you like. My very glamourous costume designer friend does and she has dressed Brad Pitt and Ange (as she calls her) so she’s very much at the cutting edge of all things soupy and celebrity. I don’t add milk if I’m adding ham. I just don’t.
Taste the soup and then season to taste. I don’t add salt as the Bouillon powder if salty tasting, as is the ham. But it’s very much your call. Enjoy with light rye bread or spelt bread (mmmm) or my husband’s fave walnut bread.
Being busy, or rather people who bang on about being busy, is one of my all time pet hates, up there with people who take their eye bagged ridden children food shopping at 10pm and those who moan about not having any money and then go on expensive holidays.
I think the Busy People think that by wearing this verbal busy badge of honour they sound important, like a latter day version of a business lady from Working Girl who walks to work in her trainers to save time. Well, it doesn’t make me think you’re busy. It makes me think you should be quiet and get on with your busy list of things to do.
Maybe I am just jealous. I used to be a Very Busy Person when I had a proper office job with a time you had to arrive at and a pension plan and private health. Now I have a scrap of paper with a list of things that need doing on it. Some have been on the list for over 5 years. Tirelessly re-written when a new scrap of paper beckons.
At this very moment, a quick glance tells me I need to do some filing (yawn), contact a solicitor about writing a new will (or if I do pop off then my double bed and a silver necklace are going to arrive on an ex boyfriends doorstep in Manchester… not sure his wife would be keen on that or my bedless grief stricken husband come to think of it), sort out passports for both sons (form filling, arghhh no, surely I need to do something more pressing like check Facebook or read the Daily Mail comments on a celebrity story) and eBay a DVF dress I bought 3 years ago and have never worn as it makes me look, quite frankly, hideous. Designer clothes do not magic away hips. Wrap dresses are for my skinny snake hipped sisters.
So maybe I’m not busy with the important things that Busy People are busy with, but I am busy playing Lego, building train tracks, reading stories, helping little boys peel carrots and mix Yorkshire pudding batter and of course I am busy pushing swings. That’s a very busy job indeed, for very Busy People.
This is a recipe for Busy People. I managed to whizz this up whilst playing train tracks intermittently.
Butternut squash, chorizo and harissa soup
Enough for 2 very large dinner type portions or 4 smaller ones
Pop the oven on to the highest setting and roast the butternut squash pieces and the onions in a roasting tin coated in 2 tbsp of the oil until browned and a knife slips through the squash easily, took about 20 minutes in my oven. Then pop into a large saucepan. In the meantime fry the skinless slices of chorizo until browned. (Can be easier to remove the skin once cooked, up to you… or don’t remove the skin at all! Adds a slightly grainy texture to the final soup though.)
Throw the sausage into the large saucepan with the veggies and add the stock cube and harissa, then pour boiling water over the top until it comes to about an inch above the veggies. Pop onto a low heat to simmer and after 15 minutes blitz with a handheld blender or pop in a regular blender if you prefer. Check for heat (our harissa is homemade by Mr B and is fiery), add a little more harissa if you like and then some black pepper too. Probably won’t need salt as the stock cube provides a fair amount of that. Then add the beans and heat through on the stove for 5 more minutes. Serve with crusty bread and butter.
I recently became a grown up which may come as a surprise to some of you, given I turn 33 this month. It probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me and witnesses my scattered failures at adulthood on a daily basis. There have been signs though that I’ve come of age. My middle years are now just on the brink of the horizon so it can only be good that I have noticed these things of late:
– I regularly turn over from Radio 1 to Radio 4, whilst narrowing my eyes and shaking my head. There is rarely anyone other than a 2 and a 4 year old about as an audience for my dramatic radio channel switching. Still, I carry on.
– I have cleared my wardrobe out completely of anything below a size 14. Hence there’s a charity shop in Leicestershire currently enjoying a huge stock of size 10 garments from the 90s. I even got rid of my phantom wedding dress, the posh dress I bought to conform to the stereotype that all wedding dresses should be whimsical and bought from a shop called ‘Princess wedding dreams’ or suchlike. I actually got married in a £55 black and white polka dot dress.
– I have started to clean our house regularly. Not because I love cleaning, I am suspicious of anyone who claims cleaning grub as a favourite pastime. More that I finally understand that if you don’t clean all the time you have to clean for days on end as the dust and grime accumulates into something terrifying, and when toddlers are involved, inexplicably covered in jam. I know everyone else got this years ago, I am a late developer.
– I have started to go to bed early. I have always been the person to stay up the latest, the last taxi caller at a party, perpetually in fear of missing something amazing that never quite happens. I spent all of my 20s waiting for this spectacular thing. I have given up waiting. Now I’m sleeping instead and I can report my skin is better for the sleep and I am nicer and less of a grumpy witch in the mornings.
– I have become worried about my vegetable intake, hence my new obsession with eating soup for at least one meal a day. If not two. And yes, I am even taking multi vitamins these days.
Roasted celeriac, carrot and parsnip soup
Makes about 4 HUGE portions, possibly more. Freezes well.
Put your oven on to 200C/Gas 6, check a rack is at the top of the oven. Peel your carrots, parsnips and celeriac and cut into pieces about 1 inch squared. Pop them into a roasting tin with 2 tbsp of the oil and place on the top rack of the oven for about 30 minutes or until they are all golden looking and a knife passes through them easily.
Peel and chop the onions into half inch pieces and fry in 1 tbsp of the oil in a frying pan until starting to brown. Peel the ginger and chop as fine as you can, place in the frying pan with the onions and give it a stir. Then add the cumin seeds and fry for 1 minute, if they start to look like they’re burning before then, remove from the heat immediately.
Transfer the lot to a large saucepan, add the roasted veggies and any oil lying about in the roasting tin. Then top up with stock – start with about 1 litre. Put the pan on to a low heat for 20 minutes to let the roasted veg mingle with the stock. Then blend the soup to see how thick it is, I use a handheld stick blender by the way. (This all depends on the size of your vegetables.) If it’s too much like baby purée add more stock. If you run out of stock, add a little boiling water instead.
When the soup is a thick or as thin as you like it taste it to see how salty your stock was. If it needs more salt, add it. Just add black pepper and serve with crusty bread and cold salted butter.
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