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Cinnamon patrol

Mr and Mrs Lili Wedding


And soup

I forgot to mention the soup.

It's not a fancy kind of soup really - just one of those soups made with the packet of lentils & barley that you find in any supermarket.

What makes this soup blogworthy is that it tastes fantastic, and significantly contributes to your 5+ servings of fruit & veg a day. Which, given that it's basically vegetables with a broth made of vegetables, is apparently a surprise for some people.

When I mentioned it at work, people were genuinely surprised:
a) that I would bother to make soup
b) that it was quick and easy
c) that it didn't taste like poo

So here's the recipe:

Winter Vegetable Soup That Tastes Good

To make around 4 servings of the soup, you need:
- The barley & lentil packet soup stuff
- 3 carrots
- 1 onion (not a red one)
- 4 or 5 sticks of celery (plus the leaves if you can get them)
- Vegetable stock
- Garlic

(You could add other veges like cabbage, leeks, etc. - I certainly intend to try these in the upcoming weeks.)

Step 1: Soak the soup mix lentil stuff according to the packet directions. Depending on which mix you use, you may need to rinse and soak and rinse, soak and rinse only, or perhaps even not soak.

(In my experience, the cheap mixes that require overnight soaking are superior to the no-soak varieties. For example, the Marks & Spencer no-soak variety had lentils that started disintegrating into a grainy yuckiness once their very specific cooking time was met. In contrast, the super-cheap Tesco-brand soup mix stood up well even when the recommended cooking time was well exceeded.)

Step 2: Meanwhile, roughly chop your carrots (unpeeled please!), celery & onions, and sweat them off in some olive oil. Whack in a wee bit of garlic - I cheat and use a tube of pre-chopped stuff, because I am lazy and want to use up what we have, but a clove or two would be plenty.

Step 3: If your vegetable stock is kind of generic looking, now's the time to add some extra spices like paprika or dried herbs to the vegetables. Don't add any salt; stock is notoriously salty, and even low-salt stock may be quite salty. I guess you could use chicken stock, but we don't, so I can't comment on how it may affect the flavour. And really, why bother, because vegetable stock is great.

(The quality of your stock does kind of matter in this recipe - I have tried it with average stuff, and fancy-schmancy stuff, and the fancy stuff wins hands-down. The flavour is deeper and generally lovelier, so it's worth getting a good stock. Which, by the way, does not necessarily mean liquid stock, because my fancy stock was a powder.)

Step 4: Once the soup mix has been soaked, rinse it if you need to, then plop in in the pot with the stock. The soup mix will tell you how long it needs to be cooked for.

Step 5: 10 minutes before the end of that time, add all the veges, and keep cooking. Now is the time to add the celery leaves, if you have them.

There may be a very thin film of oil on some of the soup. Resist the urge to skim it off. It's vegetable-y olive oil, so it's good for you and delicious-tasting.

You may also notice that your pot will be quite full of vegetables, and a bit short on soupiness. Don't worry, this is how it's supposed to be.

Step 6: When the soup is supposed to be done, get someone to try a lentil or chickpea or whatever the biggest pulse is in the pot. Cook more if the pulse is not properly cooked; serve it up if the pulse is cooked.

Serve your delicious, healthy soup in individual bowls. Don't let anyone salt the soup before trying it - but add a whack of freshly ground pepper, and some tabasco sauce if you fancy it. If it was me, I'd serve a slice (or three) of lovely brown soda bread & butter on the side.

Feeling all virtuous about your nutritious and filling main course, feel free to proceed to stuff your faces with something unhealthy for dessert. Or wait until I post my recipe for crumble, which is also delicious, and not entirely unhealthy.

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