Monday, January 21, 2013

Snowy food

For some reason, snow seems to demand the eating of soup. When it descended on Friday, I was desperate to make lentil soup but was stymied by the absence of lentils from the cupboard.
I remedied this absence yesterday and I've just gone to find my favourite recipe for lentil soup. Ironically this is written on a piece of tired A4 paper, copied down from the recipe file that contained the meals that we used to cook at the Reed Unit in the olden days, when inpatients were on a rota to help with cooking the evening meal. Some of the recipes were pretty dire (I remember one - pasta bows with a vegetable sauce - that didn't have much of any nutritional value in it ... so the portions were off-puttingly huge) and I never bothered to write down the "chilli bean bake" that was my nemesis on my first night at the unit in 1998; some, however, were decent vegetarian meals that can be made without too many expensive ingredients or unusual pieces of equipment.

In case you'd like to try it, here's the lentil soup recipe:

1 onion, peeled and chopped
225 g split red lentils
1 litre vegetable stock
1-2 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper

1 bread roll per person.

1. cook onion until it is soft but not brown.
2. add lentils and stir for a couple of minutes before adding the stock.
3. bring to boil, half cover and leave to simmer for 20 minutes or until the lentils are very tender and pale in colour.
4. beat the soup with a spoon to break the lentils (or puree with a blender if available).
5. add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

According to my yellowing piece of paper, this serves 4 people on Stage 2 meals! For Stage 1, you would have 1/2 a portion of soup and a roll.
Each roll came with a pat of butter or margarine. I remember that this always caused me worries: I am pretty fearful of butter/margarine anyway ... but in my family, bread with soup isn't buttered. We used to tear little pieces of bread and drop it into the soup to be eaten as a crouton. And this wouldn't work with a buttered roll.
When I first started eating at hospital in 1998, I had severe starvation syndrome behaviours in the dining room and used to mash everything up together. So the first few times that this soup came round on rotation, I ended up mashing the whole buttered roll in with the soup to make a horrible solidified mush. One Sunday (weekend evening meals were off the rotation and chosen by whichever patients were in for the weekend), I had chosen lentil soup for dinner. But collapsed after lunch and was at A&E til 9pm. When I got back, they actually gave me the bowl of cold soup that had been waiting for me for 3 hours. And I made my usual mush, which led to a few (unintentionally) hurtful comments from a night nurse who had not seen me eat before.

Anyway, given that I didn't set out to put people off making this soup (honestly - it's really good! especially if you use a good stock like Marigold), my recommendation is not to put a whole NHS brown roll into the soup but instead to serve it with something that you enjoy, such as a fresh baguette.

And to make this post even more random, here is a photo of one of my dogs in the snow...