Saturday, April 19, 2014

lentil soup with chorizo croûtes

This marks the first year that I've celebrated Good Friday by going cross-country skiing.

You might think: Oh, she went away to the mountains for the long weekend; how nice. 

Um, no. I'm still here in the middle of the Prairies and I went skiing by the river that's five minutes' drive away from my house.

Let me tell you about April in Edmonton. First, the snow melted. Second, my tulips started poking up in front of the house. Third, it snowed again. Fourth, the snow melted again and my tulips grew some more. Fifth (Good Friday), it snowed again, so we went skiing, made a big pot of soup, and (hopefully) drank our last hot chocolate of the season.

I thought I'd be into spring recipes right now, but I've got to be true to the season where I live. Believe me, there is no rhubarb or stinging nettle growing here.

Anyway, I don't really mind because I do love this soup.

You take fun lentils  like du Puy or beluga  and cook them up with herbs, carrots and onions until they're tender enough to be puréed. A couple whirs of the immersion blender and they're lovely and smooth.

But you don't stop there. You fry thin slices of chorizo sausage in good olive oil until they curl and become just slightly crispy. This also gives you a pretty, red oil that you swirl on top of the soup (because who doesn't like making things look fancy?).

The chorizo croûtes float on top of the soup, just waiting for your spoon to find a treasure of salty, chewy goodness amongst the smooth, earthy lentils.

You see why I like this soup? It's also pretty quick to make after work. Even if you forget to soak the lentils, that just adds an extra ten or twenty minutes to the total cooking time, while you're washing dishes or setting the table.

Winter, you're not so bad. (But I'm still looking forward to spring.)

more lentil love: parsley lentil pasta, spiced red lentil stew with greens and lemonred lentil coconut curry soup
one year ago: stinging nettle soup
two years ago: gouda and roasted pepper dip
three years ago: a baked banana revelation
four years ago: butterscotch pudding and chocolate cheesecake

lentil soup with chorizo croûtes
via french taste by laura calder
serves 4

1 c. (200 g.) beluga or du Puy lentils*
1 carrot, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 good-sized thyme sprig
4 c. (1 litre) chicken stock
salt and pepper
juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon
about 3 tbsp. (45 ml) olive oil
1 cured chorizo sausage, sliced thinly

Soak the lentils in cold water for 2 hours.** While your lentils are soaking, put your onion, carrot, bay leaf, thyme and chicken stock into a good pot with a heavy bottom. Drain the lentils and stir them into the pot. Cover and simmer until the lentils are very tender, about 30  45 minutes.

Turn the heat off and, remove the bay leaf and thyme. Once it's not simmering, purée with an immersion blender. If you're using a traditional blender, let the lentils cool a bit and then purée in two batches. Stir half the lemon juice into the soup. Taste and season with salt and pepper. It's also possible you'll need more lemon. Reheat gently.

In a small, heavy-bottomed frying pan, heat the olive oil. Fry the chorizo slices until they just curl, about 30 seconds. Flip and fry another 15 seconds. Remove to a plate lined with paper towel.

Ladle soup into bowls. Swirl a little chorizo oil on top of each soup. Top with chorizo croûtes.

*Laura says that any bean will work, including chickpeas and white beans, but I haven't strayed from lentils. However, the lighter colour of chickpeas and white beans could be especially pretty with the red chorizo oil.
**If you don't have time, don't worry about it. Just soak them for a few minutes while you prepare your carrot, onion, and herbs. Your lentils will just take a bit longer to cook through.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

spicy salmon broth

We like to think of Nick Nairn as our resident Scottish genius. His book, New Scottish Cookery, sits on the bookshelf in our living room and we're constantly pulling it out to cook or look for ideas.

He came up with this spicy salmon broth, and my half-Scottish husband Scott found it there.

Scotland, I thank you. Even though this is pretty much as Asian a recipe as you can get.

Whatever nationality it truly is, it's brilliant because it comes together quickly say 30 to 45 minutes and is an excellent way to stretch salmon when you're on a budget.

You start by softening ginger, garlic, hot chillis and lemongrass in a bit of oil. Then you stir in the stock, fish sauce and fresh lime juice.

Then, for a mere two minutes, you add the shallots, green onion, cilantro and thinly-sliced pieces of salmon. The salmon cooks in a flash, and stays tender and aromatic in the soup, while the herbs stay fresh and the shallots keep their crunchy goodness.

Ladle it into bowls with some tattie scones on the side and you're in fusion heaven.

Now, a couple of notes.

I used to be afraid of fish sauce because it stinks. Then Mark Bittman told me that it only smells like old socks until you cook it. This is true and it's a flavour not to be missed. Don't be scared of fish sauce.

If you live in Edmonton, most grocery stores don't carry fresh lemongrass. However, I have found it at Save On on 109th St. And, of course, the Asian stores would have it. If you live in Victoria, Thrifty carries lemongrass. Otherwise, you could try peeling a lemon (just the yellow, not the white pith) and chopping it finely for a similar effect let me know if you try it and how it works.

one year ago: chocolate peanut butter mice with licorice tails
two years ago: zeppelin pancakes
three years ago: gumdrop cookies
four years ago: red lentil coconut curry soup

spicy salmon broth
slightly adapted from new scottish cookery by nick nairn
serves 6

2 tbsp. neutral oil
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
4 large garlic cloves, sliced
1 large green jalapeño chilli, seeded and minced
1/2 1 red jalapeño chilli, seeded and minced*
2 lemongrass stalks, tough outer layer removed and minced
about 10 c. (2. 5 litres) chicken stock or fish stock
6 tbsp. Thai fish sauce
2 tbsp. soy sauce (light if you've got it)
juice of 2 3 limes
2 shallots, minced
6 green onions or chives, sliced finely
400 g. (scant 1 lb.) salmon fillet, cut into 5 mm (1/4 inch) slices
6 tbsp. cilantro, roughly chopped
freshly ground pepper

Set a heavy-bottomed soup pot over low medium heat. Heat the oil. Add the ginger, garlic, chillies and lemongrass. Stir often for about 8 minutes until softened.

Stir in the stock, fish sauce, soy sauce, and the juice of 2 limes. Once it boils again, simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the shallots, green onions, salmon and cilantro. Simmer for 2 minutes or until the fish is just cooked. Taste and season with pepper. If needed, add more lime and possibly more stock.

*Nick's original recipe calls for a fresh red chilli and a bird's eye chilli, seeded and cut into matchsticks. I am a heat wuss, so adapted it to use the more moderate jalapeños.