Red Lentil Chard Soup

red lentil chard soupI never thought to pair the strong flavour of spicy cinnamon with tangy lemon, let alone in a savory soup dish. But since discovering this zesty recipe for Red Lentil and Chard Soup from Israeli-born chef Yotam Ottolenghi, I am now a believer. Ottolenghi intrigues me as a chef because he is known as a champion of vegetable-based dishes even though he is not a vegetarian. He blends the ingredients of his native Israel with unexpected flavours from the Middle East and East Asia in a very unapologetic and bold way, and many of these recipes can be made with 10 ingredients or less which I especially love. One simple pasta recipe in his famed vegetarian cookbook “Plenty” calls for the home cook to “roughly tear” mozzarella into the pot rather than the traditional “dice” or “cube”. Now that’s my kind of cooking!

This surprising dish can easily be made in one soup pot and a saute pan, and I have changed it up from the original recipe to remove the butter as I didn’t find that it made a huge impact on the overall flavor of the soup, and I thought it would be best showcased as an upscale vegan dish. I have also removed a few steps from the original recipe to simplify the preparation. I imagine you can spend $15 for a bowl of this soup at one of his upscale London restaurants, but you can make a huge pot for the same price at home and it would be a great dinner party opener.

7oz Red Lentils
8 cups water
2 Red Onions chopped finely
1lb Swiss Chard, leaves roughly chopped and stalks chopped the same size as the onions
2 teaspoons ground cumin
scant 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, whole or crushed
Olive oil
Juice of 3 lemons
A handful of cilantro leaves, finely chopped

Rinse the lentils well and place in a large saucepan with the water. Bring to the boil then simmer for about 25 minutes; removing any scum that rises to the surface. While the lentils are simmering, heat a generous amount of olive oil in a sauce pan and add the garlic and coriander seeds and saute for 3-4 minutes. I like the crunch of whole coriander in a dish, but crushed seeds would probably be more palatable. Then add the red onions and chard stalks and cook until they start to brown. Add theis mixture to the pot of lentils. Using a hand blender, pulse the soup in the pot for 20-30 seconds until it is partially pureed but still has some nice chunks from the chard and onions. Add about two handfuls of chopped chard leaves and stir well, then add the cinnamon and cumin and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper. Gently heat the soup and simmer for a few minutes. Finally squeeze in the lemon juice and turn off the heat. Let the soup infuse with the flavours for another few minutes before serving with a lemon wedge and some cilantro leaves. It is best served with a side of sourdough bread.

Pho, Pho and Away!

tentOn Friday, Asher woke up with a high fever and a cold sore on his mouth so naturally we built a camping tent in our living room. That’s him in the background playing on his toy laptop and moaning, while Everett wonders what’s going on. Today, he finally ate his comfort food of crappy Kraft mac and cheese, which inspired me to share my most favorite sick day soup – Vegan Pho!

I am very proud to say this is actually my husband’s recipe and is one of my all-time favorite foods. The broth is full of sweet and spicy exotic spices, and the udon noodles mixed with the crunch of fresh herbs make this a soul satisfying dish. And because this recipe requires whomever in your household is least likely to burn themselves to roast the ginger over a fire, your house will have the added perk of smelling like sweet delicious roasted ginger!

1/2 bag of udon noodles
6 quarts of vegetable broth OR 6 quarts of water with 2-3 bullion cubes
1 bunch scallions
8 cloves of garlic
3” ginger root in skin
6 whole star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
2 whole bay leaves
1 container extra firm tofu
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon soy sauce

1/2 head of napa cabbage, roughly chopped
1/2 head of purple cabbage, roughly chopped
1 cup roughly chopped peanuts
1 container of bean sprouts
1 bunch of Thai basil, whole leaves
1 bunch of cilantro, whole leaves
1/2 jalapeno sliced into circles, seeds removed
1 lime sliced into quarters
Sriracha sauce

Bring a medium pot filled with water to a boil. Add udon noodles and cook for 15 minutes. Drain noodles and run under cold water for 2 minutes, then toss with sesame oil to prevent sticking. Cook tofu according to my previous post Roasted Tofu Special Treat. Using stainless steel tongs, roast the whole ginger over your stove’s open flame about 5-7 minutes then set aside. In a large pot, bring vegetable broth to a boil then add whole ginger, scallions, garlic, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, star anise, and soy sauce. Boil on medium heat for 20-25 minutes. Remove all solids from the broth so it is a clear, light brown color. In serving bowls, combine two parts broth to one part noodles. Arrange toppings side by side on a large serving plate and allow guests to add desired amounts fresh to their pho. Heaven! Serves 4 -6.

Vegan Spicy Red Lentil Soup, Lessons from a Hand Blender

soup The hand blender is hands down my favorite kitchen appliance. Well, that and the automatic coffee maker that fills my house with the tangy roasted smell of Starbucks every morning. This is a critical moment in my day as I practically fall down the stairs carrying an infant in one arm and a groggy toddler in the other who demands Deadmaus5 before 7:00am. I haven’t put on a bra, the nanny is on her way, I have 30 minutes to pack work lunches, get dressed, and apply make-up.

But that’s another story.

Yesterday I found a simply amazing recipe for vegan spicy red lentil soup that took an hour to make but my instinct tells me should have only taken me 30 minutes. I mean I literally had 2 mixing bowls, a soup pot, two pans, a very messy food processor and a dishwasher going. Insanity. Who has that kind of time and patience? I think we can dumb this down to a one-pot plus one-pan wonder. It cost me less than $10 for the ingredients and only slightly more for the Jerusalem salad I served on the side.

2 cups red lentils, rinsed and picked over
8 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
5 to 6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
4 cups vegetable stock
¾ teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce (I used Goya salsa picante hot sauce)
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoons salt
¾ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon chili powder
¼ cup cornstarch + ¼ cup hot water
½ green pepper, ribs and seeds removed, diced

In a small dish, combine cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, chili powder and Tabasco sauce. Set aside. Sort lentils (pick out any stones / damaged lentils) and rinse. In a pan, add olive oil and saute garlic for 2 minutes, then add celery and onion and cook additional 3 minutes, stirring constantly. In a soup pot, combine lentils and 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as boiling, turn to medium low heat. Add onion/celery mixture to the lentil and cook for 20 minutes until lentils are tender. Add small bowl of spices to the soup and cook for 30 seconds. Now, toss in canned tomatoes. Add vegetable stock and remaining 4 cups of water. Finally, mix cornstarch with hot water until well combined and add to soup. Stir constantly over high heat for 30 to 45 seconds to thicken. Finally, take hand blender and puree the soup until smooth and creamy. Turn off heat; add diced green pepper.

Here is the original Wegman’s recipe: