Carrot and Lentil Soup

Another genius soup. Cheap (serves 4- 6 for about a quid in total), warming and naturally sweet, this is an easy to make low effort wonder. Lentils and carrots both cost almost nothing, and I had everything else in my cupboard. You’ll want a blender for this.

  • 600g carrots, washed but not peeled. Chopped as finely as you can
  • 1 litre vegetable stock (from a cube is fine)
  • 140g split red lentils
  • 125 ml milk
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds or a generous tsp ground cumin
  • pinch chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger (optional)

If using cumin seeds, heat them in a dry frying pan with the chilli flakes for a few moments until they start to jump around or release their aroma. Remove around half of them to a large saucepan. In the same saucepan, put in the rest of the ingredients and bring to the boil, and then turn down to a simmer for about 30 minutes until the carrots and lentils are cooked. Leave to cool slightly and then either use a handblender in the pan or put the soup into a blender and whizz until (almost) smooth. If the soup is too thick for your taste, add a couple of hundred ml of hot water from the kettle and blend again. Scatter over the remainder of the cumin seeds and chill flakes, heat through and serve.

Chicken Stew with Herb Dumplings

Autumnal Mood Food.

Would serve 4 with additional starch, or 2-3 greedies as it is.

  • 8 chicken pieces, such as drumsticks and thighs, free range as a minimum please
  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • large handful of mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 carrots, cut into batons
  • big handful of new potatoes
  • 1 litre hot chicken stock
  • large glass of wine
  • tbsp of cornflour, mixed with water
  • salt & pepper

for the dumplings

  • 50g suet
  • 100g self raising flour
  • lots of salt & pepper
  • 4 springs of thyme, leaves removed and chopped finely
  • water

In a very large saucepan, or a casserole that you can put on the hob, put in the garlic, onion and rosemary, salt & pepper, and a splosh of olive oil. Cook over a low heat until the onions are soft. Add the rest of the vegetables and stir everything round until thoroughly mixed together. Meanwhile, get a large frying pan hot and odd some more olive oil. Add the chicken in batches, and brown all over. Add the browned chicken into the vegetables and stir again, carefully this time. Pour in your glass of wine and turn the heat up, should take a few minutes to bring the wine to the boil. Then add the stock, and then add the cornflour and give it a final stir. When the casserole has come up to the boil, turn the heat right down to minimum and forget about it for a couple of hours.

If you return to it and find the sauce is not as thick as you’d like, preheat the oven to minimum gas mark and put the chicken pieces and vegetables into a metal roasting tin using a slotted spoon. Cover with foil and pop into the oven.Then, as you’re making your dumplings, turn the heat up and bring to a fast boil to reduce the sauce down a bit.If you’re happy with the consistency of your sauce however, just get on with the dumplings.

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add 4 tablespoons of water and mix, first with a fork and then with your hands. The mixture should still be too dry. Add another tablespoon or so if this is the case, but slowly, until the dough is right consistency. Bring together into a ball with your hands and on a clean surface, divide with a knife into 8. Handle as little as possible but shape each piece into a roundish ball. Place on top of the casserole, which should be on a simmer now and then put the lid on. Cook for 20 minutes et voila. If you have put the chicken in the oven, get it out now, serve on a plate and spoon over the sauce and some dumplings.