I am boringly still sick and flu-ish and therefore, of course, grumpy. Teenage daughter is also sick and fluish and therefore, of course, grumpy. The day is grey. Birds are singing less cheerily than they usually do. Still haven't decided which piece to read at the event on Saturday. Getting nervous about that. My twice-a-week cleaning lady whom I'm very lucky to have is at home with a sore foot. The house is a pig sty (which I've spent most of the morning cleaning, discovering mouldy plates under the sofa in N's room and dust balls the size of rabbits in the children's bathroom). My throat hurts. My mouth hurts. My joints ache. I am a bore. A big old bore. And so, I decided to cheer myself up with a spicy lentil soup for lunch. The recipe is made up with things I found in the kitchen but owes a lot to Ottolenghi's red spicy lentils, which I make frequently. The list of ingredients looks long, but just wing it a bit. That's part of the fun. I am absolutely positive that it has salubrious ayurvedic properties because I feel a lot better after a big, steaming, spicy bowl of it.
Half a large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped & smushed
an inch of ginger, peeled and chopped
one green chili, seeded and chopped finely
zest of one lemon
grapeseed oil (or other not-too-flavorful oil)
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
heaped teaspoon of black mustard seeds
big whoosh of cumin
bag of green lentils
salt and pepper
2 tomatoes, chopped
juice of a lime (or a lemon, whatever you have)
1) Warm oil in pan and gently cook onions, garlic, ginger but don't brown
2) Add mustard seeds, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, cumin & keep cooking for a few minutes on a moderately low heat
3) Add washed and picked-over lentils, whoosh around. Add chopped tomatoes.
4) Add water so that it just covers lentils (you'll have to play with this -- I kept adding as it depleted)
5) Let it bubble, then turn it down low, put a lid on and leave it for 15 mins or so.
6) Meanwhile, put a handful of yogurt in a bowl and whisk in some olive oil, some finely chopped cucumber, a few sprigs of chopped mint, some salt. Put aside.
7) Check lentils. Add salt and pepper. Add the butter (a few cubes) and the lemon/lime juice. Let it cook a wee bit more if you think it needs it (nice and slowly). Add more water for soup, less for stew, depending on how you're feeling.
8) Serve piping hot in a small bowl with a big heaped spoonful of the yogurty stuff on top.