Category Archives: Soups and Stews

Mussel Soup with added Frutti di Mare all’olio


Seafood selection - ideal for any recipe

Seafood selection – ideal for any recipe

I am fond of seafood – as distinct from fish – which I also like but I do make the distinction. Mussels are delicious – fresh or frozen. Frutti di Mare is a frozen product of various seafood from Lidl. They stock this plus other gorgeous goodies during the festive season.
This is a simple, quick and extremely yummy soup!!

And it’s winter – best time for zuppa!!


150g selected seafood
1 finely chopped onion – I use cibouli
½ leek thinly sliced and chopped
Garlic – I use a garlic cooking paste
2 potatoes cubed
1 cup vegetable stock
½ cup white wine
Lemon juice
Sprig of fresh thyme
Chopped parsley – mine is chopped and frozen in ice cube trays for easy use
Snipped chives – I haven’t frozen these yet. I may well try and see how they work
Salt & Pepper
½ cup double cream
Some cornflour to thicken if necessary
Good handful of torn baby spinach
Some butter to finish

How to make-up
1 tbsp groundnut oil – put in a medium saucepan, add the onion, garlic and leek. Fry gently until soft. Add the cubed potatoes and the stock.

This is the easiest soup really

This is the easiest soup really

Cook gently until the potatoes are nearly soft but not quite. Add the thyme sprig and lemon juice (to taste. Add the wine, parsley and chives. I also add several drops of fish sauce but this is optional.

Start adding salt and pepper and then the seafood. Add the cream and stir to combine all. Taste to ensure the flavours are melding well. When all is hot, add the torn spinach and stir in well. Then add a big knob of butter to finish and give a shine to the soup.

Serve with garlic bread, croutons, snack sized toasted bread or whatever you like. I promise you it is the yummiest soup. Enjoy.

I have a coffee table in my office and often eat there while reading. This was one of those occasions.

I have a coffee table in my office and often eat there while reading. This was one of those occasions.


Fragrant Lamb Tagine with spiced couscous

This recipe traditionally uses a lean leg of lamb. Well, I make it for me basically, although these quantities will feed two people.

The Tagine
250g lamb steaks cut into 1.5cm cubes. Leave any fat on the meat.
½cup finely chopped onion – I use cibouli as most of my readers know
1 large clove finely chopped garlic
½ cinnamon stick
¾cup chicken stock – I make this for convenience from Knorr chicken powder
½cup finely chopped coriander
½cup flat-leaf parsley
½cup cooked chickpeas
¾cups diced apricots
1tbsp honey
Juice one lemon – I often use lemon juice packaged by supermarkets
S&P to taste

Cover with foil and into the oven

Cover with foil and into the oven

The Couscous
¾cup dried couscous
½cup vegetable stock – again made from Knorr Vegetable stock cubes. I used a third of a cube for the quantity of stock I needed.
Respectable knob of butter
4-5 dried apricots chopped finely
½tsp ground cinnamon
1tbsp chopped parsley
Handful toasted almond slivers – toast carefully in a dry pan turning all the time until fragrant. Don’t burn them!

Seal the lamb in hot oil to get even colour. Take out of the pan and add the onion and garlic. Cook until soft.
Add the cinnamon stick and stock and bring to the boil. Add half the herbs and the reserved lamb pieces plus any juices.
Continue to cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes until the liquid has reduced by about half, and then add chickpeas, apricots and honey. Use a little cornflower mixed with cold water to thicken the gravy.
Transfer the Tagine to a deep sided baking dish, cover with foil and place into the oven at 150°C/300F oven for 40 minutes, checking after 20 minutes, then every 10 minutes until the lamb is tender.
Remove from the oven; add the rest of the herbs and lemon juice. Season well with ground black pepper and salt. Add more cornflour thickening if necessary and return to oven for 10 minutes.

For the couscous, mix all of the dry ingredients apart from the almonds together in a large mixing bowl and season well
Bring vegetable stock and butter to the boil and pour over the dry couscous mix and stir well
Cover the dish and allow to soak for five minutes
To serve, fluff up the couscous with a fork and add the toasted almonds and chopped parsley
Serve a generous pile of the couscous with the Tagine sprinkle with more toasted almonds and chopped coriander

A truly delicious meal

A truly delicious meal

This is very tasty. Couscous sets off a tagine anytime.

Spring Lamb with Sweet Potato

There’s nothing quite like the taste of lamb. And it is finally spring, so why not! I had bought some sweet potato for roasting a few nights back and had one left over. There were some mushrooms and a set of different coloured sweet peppers (capsicum).

With no further ado let’s cook:

I used:

400g lamb steaks cubed (you can trim them of fat if you prefer – I don’t prefer)
1 medium sized orange sweet potato cubed
3 or more chestnut mushrooms cut into small cubes
10 cherry tomatoes halved
½ a red capsicum sliced thickly
½cup of Passata
1 lamb cube dissolved in ¼litre boiling water
A very good pinch of salt and dried thyme. Sometime ago when in the throes of wandering through kitchen stores, I found a salt, pepper and thyme mixture which I never use much of but it is a flavoursome addition to stews etc.
A decent sprinkle of powdered red pepper or chilli
Garlic and ginger in the quantities you like
Cornflour and water to thicken the juices

I decided to put this on rice and make a pea puree to go with it. I already have a Kenwood blitzer but last week in Aldi I came across a wee blitzer and bought it very spur of the moment. So that is what I will use to puree the peas.

The Puree:
250g frozen peas cooked for 2 minutes or so
1 tbsp chopped mint – when I had the raised vege beds made I had to make a home for some of the herbs – here they are. The rest are in the front garden.

They survived the transplant

They survived the transplant

1½ tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and a little balsamic vinegar if so inclined

How to do it:

Heat 1½tbsp olive oil and brown the lamb cubes. Tip into a lidded casserole and then fry the cubed sweet potato in another 1tbsp olive oil until just starting to soften – about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Tip the potato into the casserole and add the passata and salt/thyme mixture. Stir well.

Now fry the mushrooms, garlic and ginger in a little oil, add the lamb stock and tip into the casserole.

I put the lid on after this.

I put the lid on after this.

Add the capsicum and halved tomatoes to the casserole.

Taste. It may need some more pepper. I ground some black pepper into it at this stage.

Put the lid on and let the whole mixture stew on a small heat for about ¾ hour.

In the meantime make the pea puree.

The baby blitzer ready to puree the peas

The baby blitzer ready to puree the peas

Boil the peas and drain them. Blitz them with the other ingredients and return to a saucepan to reheat when you are ready to serve.

I served with steamed white rice. The wee blitzer was perfect!

Yummy. Tucked right in!

Yummy. Tucked right in!


V’s Green Lentil Soup

This One is Mine

I am told lentil soups are a bit like the kitchen sink. Whatever you have available, toss it in.

Well, I had a bit of a think about this and decided that I could make one that would be my very own. And here it is. The hunter gatherer likes it though I can never really rise to his exacting standards that require it to be reproduced in true and original form time after time.

I use leeks and ciboule as the onion flavour in my cooking and this soup utilises them as well. I did have a couple of people ask me what a ciboule was. So here is Wikipedia’s entry for Ciboule translated into English as Chives:

“The spring onion is a plant perennial herb of the family Amaryllidaceae, cultivated for its leaves, aromatic taste sweeter than the onion and the shallot, used as a condiment.

 Its scientific name is Allium fistulosum L., family Amaryllidaceae. (Eg Liliaceae ) and its common names are onions, chivesSpanish onionchiboule or garlic fistula. It is known by the names of Schnittzwiebel or Winterzwiebel German, Welsh onion in English, cebolleta Spanish or Cipolletta Italian. This is an important ingredient in many cuisines of the Far East under the name 葱 (pinyin: leave; pronounced “tsung” in a loud voice) Chinese, negi ( 葱/ネギ? ) in Japanese and 파 (pa) in Korean. The plant is also used in Russia in spring salads.”

So there you go and I trust you are the wiser. I find them in Morrison’s Supermarket packaged in the ubiquitous plastic bag. So I took a photograph as well:

Theologically disinterested ciboule

Apparently there was a French Roman Catholic theologian and moralist called Robert Ciboule in the 15th century – alas he is no more. But the ciboule onion lives on to delight our palettes and our (my) soups.

Enough of this – here’s the recipe:
400gr can green lentils, drained and washed – I finally used the tin that had taken up larder space for long enough
½ leek & 1 ciboule finely diced
Garlic & Ginger bottled, finely diced or shredded, about ¾teasp of each – I am not fussy on this score
50gr finely diced unsmoked bacon – I had some bacon lardons in the freezer and used them
Freshly ground black pepper & salt
1tbsp vegetable oil – Sunflower for me
400ml mixed Chicken and Vegetable (Knorr) stock. Well I also had a Chicken rubbing spice mix that I added and this time I had proper chicken stock fortified with shredded chicken from the bones to which some frozen peas had been added – very yummy.
1 teasp each of ground turmeric and cumin
Splosh red chilli paste or ½teasp paprika
1 tbsp crushed coriander leaves. Fresh if you have them but it won’t matter within the soup.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, gently fry bacon, leek, ciboule, garlic and ginger. Don’t burn the mix. Tip the washed green lentils in and stir all together. Add some pepper and salt. Cook until all is hot then pour in the stock and spices and bring all to the boil.

Whisked and ready to go

Simmer with lid half covering pot for 40mins until the lentils disintegrate. The liquid will reduce a little. Let the mixture cool a little. Use a hand held whisk and blend the mixture together. Put into a basin to do this – don’t damage your pot. I have a Kenwood mini processor that I first saw on a video of Simon Hopkinson, one of the BBC’s Food Chef contributors. I do so really enjoy the BBC Chefs. He was powdering some parmesan and I lusted after his mini processor. It was definitely worth buying.

Return the whisked soup to the pot with 2 teasp butter and reheat. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Add a splash of lemon juice. The consistency should be about that of single cream.

Sorry - it has been eaten already!

Serve sprinkled with a dollop of crème fraiche and chopped parsley or fresh coriander. Naan or other flatbread is good, although tonight we had some homemade bread . A lot of recipes call for a garnish of caramelised onions. If you like and prefer. The hunter gatherer doesn’t!

Spicy Red Lentil Soup

Because it is that time of the year and the weather is miserable, we find that soups are turning into the best food we can eat on cold late afternoons. I know you can buy any number of prepared, processed soups and soup mixes in a myriad varieties but I am drawn to lentil soups. I like several different recipes and both green and red lentils. Some with meat added, some without. The variations on this theme seem endless!

As I have said before, I often trawl the internet for mix and match type recipes and sure enough, I was able to cobble together a red lentil soup that put paid to a couple of small carrots in the crisper that needed using and a Maris Piper potato from last year’s crop.

The ingredients fetchingly on my bench top

I can’t seem to keep the potatoes cool enough and they are starting to sprout so I am frantically making recipes where I can slice, chop, mash (Maris Pipers don’t mash well) and roast the potatoes before they have to be discarded!

This is an excellent warming soup, the taste of which can be manipulated with the touch of a spice here or there. You will always need cumin and turmeric.

1 cibouli  and ½ a leek make a good combination.
½ med. carrot
1 med. potato
½ red capsicum
1 cup red lentils
½ teasp dried garlic to taste
½ teasp paprika or chilli
½ teasp turmeric
½ teasp cumin
Pinch cinnamon
Pinch cayenne pepper
200g chopped tomatoes (or use 50gr double concentrate and 2 chopped tomatoes)
500ml chicken & veg. stock. I had some chicken stock made from the bones of our roasted chook!
1 teasp of dried basil
1 bay leaf

Chop the vegetables finely and put to one side.
Heat 1 teasp of oil in a large pot and fry all the spices, but don’t let them burn.
Add vegetables except the potato and lentils; stir to coat vegetables with spices and cook for 5mins. Add enough stock to cover the vegetables, then add the basil and a bay leaf to vegetables.
Bring to the boil and simmer 40mins or until lentils are cooked. More stock or water may be needed if the mixture gets too thick. Stir regularly so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the potato about halfway through the cooking
Just before the finish add a big splash of Nando’s Sundried tomato and basil sauce to taste. Let it all simmer for ages, adding water when it gets too thick.

Soup and the trimmings

Using a hand whisk, whisk the whole lot and return to the pot. Serve with crusty bread, ciabatta or dinner rolls. Some sour cream dollops on top of the soup look good so does some parsley leaves.
It is also a good soup un-whisked, of course, and you won’t have to add more liquid to thin it down.