Potato lentil vegetable soup

It’s still super cold here and we have some kind of crazy subzero windchill right now, so it’s definitely time for serious winter soup, the kind that warms you up from the inside. This one is super easy, I promise.

Ingredients:
One big onion or three little bitty onions
Three or four carrots
Three or four celery stalks
Garlic
Four medium potatoes
One cup lentils
Vegetable bullion
Rosemary
Thyme
Olive oil
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste

Equipment:
Knife
Cutting board
Soup pot
Big spoon for stirring

Instructions:
Chop the onion and put it in the pot while you chop the carrots and celery. Put some olive oil in the pot and sauté the onion until it starts to get a little translucent, then dump in the carrots and celery. Stir and sauté some more until they start to relax a bit. Chop the garlic during this time and then throw it on in – you want to fry the garlic a little but not too much. While you’re sautéing this, gouge out the potatoes’ eyes and then chop the potatoes, and check the lentils for stones. Once the stuff in the pot is starting to get fragrant, add the potatoes, lentils, and enough water to cover plus maybe half an inch – lentils can really suck up water. Stir in appropriate bullion and add rosemary and thyme – I eyeball the spices, but start with about a half teaspoon of each and add more if you want more. Bring it to a boil and then turn down to a simmer, and it’s ready when the potatoes and lentils are soft, about 30-45 minutes.

Notes:
You can adjust amounts in this easily if you’re cooking for a big group, this is a basic outline and it’s very flexible. You can also add other things, fresh herbs, greens, whatever frozen veggies you have on hand. If you’re having a hard time with your hands or fatigue, it’s always fine to use pre-chopped or frozen stuff, don’t sweat it – it’s soup! Soup is very forgiving and very flexible. You can also change the spices around if that suits you – the difference between this recipe and my curries is a lot about the spices. This is meant to give you a base to start with, not to be set in stone.

If you’re reading my recipes on good cookery, please know that they’re posting without my permission and have refused to respond to my notice and takedown or to communicate with me in any way. I hate having to write that, but here we are. On with the notes now!

I like sweet onions, like a vidalia or a walla walla if I can get them, but a standard yellow onion is great. When I made this I had a bunch of little onions and used like three of them.

I love garlic and typically triple the garlic in any recipe. I didn’t specify how much garlic because different people like different amounts, and it’s hard to say “one clove of garlic” when it’s really different sizes in different regions. If you don’t like garlic much, I’d say one or two cloves. If you love garlic, toss in more and repel vampires for your entire metro area and know that you’re making the soup the same way I am. If you don’t have fresh garlic, garlic powder is great and you can throw it in when you put in the other spices.

Carrots and celery – adjust for size. Don’t think “oh, celery is a silly vegetable and doesn’t taste like much” because celery really adds a lot in developing the flavor. A lot of recipes start out with onions, carrots and celery and build on that, because they’re a great base for building on.

Yellow potatoes are ideal here, red potatoes are my second choice. It’s fine to use whatever’s on hand though.

For the lentils, I’ve been using red lentils here because they break down and add a richness to the broth. Whatever lentils you have are fine, and you can mix different types – just go for about a cup, and definitely check them for stones. I’m so serious about this, you don’t want to break a tooth.

I use the “better than bullion no chicken” stuff. You can just use water, you can use broth or stock from a liter box, you can make your own if you’re feeling ambitious.

For the rosemary and thyme, I have the dried stuff on hand because you will notice this is not a gardening blog. If you’re using fresh, that’s great.

Salt and pepper are just for flavor. I like black pepper. I don’t think crushed red pepper works very well for this, but you can try whatever you like.

This soup is great topped with cheese for extra winter calories. Daiya would be my recommendation for vegan cheese since it melts, or possibly just add nutritional yeast for umami. For folks who eat cow cheese, I’d go for a mellow flavor rather than a sharp cheese. The soup would probably also go with a crusty bread if you really want something hearty.

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potato vegetable curry

I’d say that winter is the time for spicy food, but for me that’s pretty much all the time. Here’s a straightforward curry recipe that you can easily adjust to meet whatever curry needs you may have. The base is vegan and gluten-free and completely delicious.

Ingredients:
One cup of lentils
Three medium potatoes
One large onion
1-2 10 ounce packages of frozen vegetables or equivalent fresh
Olive oil
One tablespoon curry powder
One teaspoon turmeric
One teaspoon salt
About a spoonful of vegetable bullion
Water

Prep:
Slice the onions.
Dice the potatoes to whatever size you like to eat.
Check the lentils for stones and then rinse them.
If you’re using fresh vegetables, chop them into whatever size you like to eat.

Instructions:
Sauté the onions in the olive oil for a few minutes until they start to turn translucent. Add the curry powder, turmeric, and salt, and stir until fragrant.

Add the potatoes and stir briefly, then put in some water so things don’t start burning. Add in the lentils and vegetables. Add water to cover – the lentils are going to use up a lot of water so you want to add an inch or so above just covering them. Stir in a spoonful of vegetable bullion. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 to 60 hours or until everything is cooked through. Serve with rice.

Notes:

I like to use red lentils because of the way they break down so well. Sometimes I mix them 50/50 with either green or French lentils.

I tend to go for a hot curry powder like a hot madras if I’m making this for my own lunches and I think this really brings the flavors of everything out, but if you like a milder powder that will work just fine. You can always add more spice later if you feel it’s not clearing your sinuses adequately.

This is great with pretty much any blend of vegetables you might want – peas, corn, butternut squash, green beans, carrots, whatever. If what I’ve got on hand is a bag of mixed vegetables or two, I use that. My general guide for nutrition is to try to eat a lot of colors.

The vegetable bullion I like is the Better than Bullion vegetable stuff. You can use liter boxes of broth or just use water, whatever you like.

You can add tomatoes to this if you want to. Adjust the liquid balance accordingly. I’d recommend a big can of fire-roasted crushed tomatoes, but go for whatever you like. Treat them like a liquid rather than a vegetable.

I recommend having this with rice, but if you’re cutting carbs or something you should probably also tone down the spices.

Butternut risotto with goat cheese

Ingredients:

One onion
Olive oil
10 oz frozen butternut squash, pre-cut
3 cups arborio rice
1 liter chicken or vegetable broth
rosemary
sage
thyme
8 oz goat cheese

Equipment:
knife
cutting board
spoon or spatula
pressure cooker

Slice the onion thinly. Put some olive oil in the pressure cooker and turn it to saute. Put in the onion and cook for a few minutes, stirring as appropriate. Turn the pressure cooker off.

Add the risotto, butternut squash, broth, and herbs. Seal the pressure cooker and press the rice button. When the pressure cooker finishes, use the quick release. Stir the goat cheese into the risotto, it will melt and spread out easily.

Add salt or pepper if desired.

Notes:

Herbs are to taste. I have fresh stuff around so I just grabbed a little bit of that and chopped it up.

You can throw in the butternut squash still frozen, no problem.

If you want to substitute some white wine for broth, that’s fine. Verjus will also work fine for those of us who avoid alcohol.

chicken curry with potatoes and vegetables

This is just something I threw together the other night, but it’s a decent basic curry and will give you room to experiment if you want to mess around with it.

Ingredients:
One onion
2 or more cloves of garlic
1/2 lb chicken breast
2 red potatoes
1 red bell pepper
2 of the small bags of frozen mixed vegetables
1 tbsp ginger
1 tbsp hot curry powder
salt to taste – start with about 1 tsp
cilantro and parsley to taste

Instructions:
Chop the onion and garlic. Cube the potatoes. Cut the red peppers into square pieces or whatever shape you like. Cut up the chicken into bite-size pieces. Put the veggies on the counter to thaw out if you haven’t already.

Fry the onion in canola until it turns translucent and starts to caramelize a little at the edges. Put in the garlic, ginger, and curry powder, and stir until everything is coated with the spice mix. Put in the potatoes and chicken, and then pour in water to cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes or longer if the chicken and potatoes need it. Add the frozen vegetables and cook for about another ten minutes. When the curry is almost done, add the red pepper – you want this to stay on the firm side rather than getting mushy. While the other ingredients are cooking, chop up parsley and cilantro to taste.

Serve with rice.

Notes:
For onions, I like sweet vidalias if I can get them.

With the garlic, I’m in the camp of people that normally looks at a recipe and triples the garlic. I had big garlic cloves when I made this, so I used two. Use as much as you think is going to be awesome.

I used boneless, skinless chicken breast. You can use whatever chicken parts work for you.

Vegetarians and vegans or people who just love chickpeas, you can use chickpeas instead of chicken. Canned is fine.

For the frozen vegetables, I got two of the small packs of mixed corn, carrots, and green beans. Any mix you like is fine. I do think some combination of carrots and green beans is really good, and it’s fine to use a similar amount of fresh if you want – this was what I had on hand.

I used two red skinned potatoes. I recommend some kind of thin-skinned potatoes like these or Yukon Golds.

For the parsley and cilantro, depending on what you like you can either use a small amount as a garnish or a lot and make it a significant flavor. I like the latter option.

For the curry powder, I made this hot madras curry powder recipe. It’s pleasant and a little on the hot side. Making your own is definitely not required, but I recommend either this or something similar, like a Sri Lankan style. Don’t use a sweet one like garam masala, you want some good heat. You can get a hot madras pretty easily online. If you don’t like the heat so much, a milder madras is fine.

places I like buying tea from

This isn’t a recipe. A friend asked me where was good for ordering tea from, and I realized that I have a lot of opinions about this because I drink tons of tea and have become a big tea nerd.

First and foremost, go to your local Asian grocer and check out what they’ve got. There is a lot of quality tea to be had at Asian grocery stores for relatively cheap, and I get a lot of my teas from my local spots. I also get some from various big box grocers. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s cool to learn about tea, it’s kind of pointless to refuse to try stuff just because it’s cheap or doesn’t come in fancy packaging.

House of Tea in Philadelphia. A small business with a really solid selection. Morning blends, flavored and aromatic teas, assams, oolongs, Chinese greens, keemuns, about 15 distinct estate-grown darjeelings. Their green blends are made with a sencha base, which is a bit of an unusual choice but works out well with the light flavors they favor. They tend to have more teas from India than from China but the selection of keemun teas is quite good. Personal favorite: black tea with blood orange.

High Garden in Nashville. The couple who run this place are super nice and absolutely brilliant at making tea blends. Their unblended teas are all really well-chosen, too. They don’t have everything up on their website, unfortunately, so you’ll have a better selection if you can go in person, but everything I’ve had here had been wonderful. Personal favorites: Roasty mountain morning, french earl grey, orange blossom green.

Souvia in Phoenix, AZ. A small family run business with a very well-chosen selection. Anything you get here will be high quality. Favorites: milk oolong. Wow.

Dobra Tea. Originally a group of Czech tea smugglers, now a legitimate business. This is where I learned to drink and appreciate tea. Their selection is excellent for teas that aren’t blended or flavored, though the few flavors and blends they have are delightful. Favorites: qi hong mao feng, ya bao, pu tuo fo cha.

Zhi Tea in Austin, TX. Do you like high mountain Taiwanese oolongs? Welcome home. The guy who runs it goes by Dr. Oolong online and he really knows what he’s doing. Their non-oolong teas are lovely too, but this is definitely a shop with a specialty. Favorites: any oolong I’ve ever had from here.

Verdant used to have an amazing storefront with food, but sadly closed down to do mail order only. Their focus is Chinese teas, and ordering from them will let you realize just how diverse Chinese teas can be. The website is set up well and good for both new tea drinkers and people who are experienced with good information about what flavors are present in different teas. You can search by tea type or by the growers. Favorites: whatever is fresh.

For slightly larger and chain businesses –

TeaSource has both good blends and good unflavored teas. Solid selection, website is easy to navigate. Favorites: da hong pao.

Adagio has a good online business and has lots of good sampler packs to try things out. This is a much bigger company and I tend to prefer the small businesses, but their selection is quite good and they have good deals on bulk and some very enticing sales. Favorites: apricot black tea.

David’s Tea is a small chain in Canada and the northeastern US. Their selection is a little on the trendy side with some solid teas and good blends, and then some blends that tend toward mildly caffeinated fruit punch. Good, but you have to be able to filter out what you’re going to like. Favorites: three wishes.

Star anise chai blend

This is a chai blend that features star anise as one of the stronger flavors. You need a spice grinder or a really clean coffee grinder for this.

1/2 cup whole star anise or 1/3 cup ground star anise
1/4 cup cardamom seeds
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp ground cloves
1 tbsp nutmeg

This makes a little less than a pint, but more than a cup.

Assam tea for blending.

Instructions: grind the whole spices in the grinder and transfer to a jar. Once all the spices are in the jar, shake it up so they blend together.

What I did at this point was get a smaller jar and fill it 1/3 of the way up with the spice blend, and then the rest of the way up with assam tea leaves. This is about the ratio you want of spices to tea, but you can store the spice blend separately and just mix it with whatever tea you have on hand as you go, though I do recommend assam or another similarly strong black tea like orange pekoe or ceylon.

Raspberry coconut ice cream

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Equipment: an ice cream maker

One can of coconut milk
One coconut milk can’s worth of simple syrup
One tsp vanilla or raspberry flavor
One 8oz bag of frozen raspberries, thawed

Instructions: put your ice cream maker in the freezer about two days before you’re going to make ice cream. Make simple syrup in advance, let it cool, and put it in the fridge so it’s chilled when you start. Get a can of regular coconut milk, none of the lite stuff – you want something like Thai Kitchen, the kind that looks solid when you open the can and then gloops out. The lite stuff won’t work. Thaw your raspberries in advance so you don’t just have a brick of frozen berries.

Set up the ice cream maker. Open the can of coconut milk and dump that in. Use the can to measure the simple syrup and put that in – you want equal parts coconut milk and simple syrup, and this is the easiest way to get that. Turn on the ice cream maker and leave it to do its thing for a while, at least ten minutes. When it’s starting to gel, put in a teaspoon of vanilla or raspberry extract and the bag of frozen raspberries. Leave it to mix some more until it gets to the consistency you like.

You can of course use fresh raspberries if you like. If you do this, you may want to crush some of them a little, or use a mixture of fresh and frozen. For a garnish, fresh berries, a few fresh mint leaves, or both will be lovely.