Monthly Archives: October 2015

Pumpkin, Carrot & Lentil Soup


This week for the Friday food blog it has to be pumpkin soup!  The clocks have gone back, it’s Halloween tomorrow and there are pumpkins piled in every shop doorway.   Far too nice for just scaring kids this lovely fruit (yep, it’s actually a berry) is begging to be saved and turned into something delicious.  Pumpkin soup is my daughter’s favourite and she’s been asking me to teach her to make it for years.  It’s one of those recipes where I just throw things in a pan so it’s been a great exercise to write everything down for a change!

Before I start there are two very important things you need to know about soup…

  1. Soup is very simple.  Sweat some veg till soft, add some stock, whizz up and you’ve got a soup – it’s good to experiment and not get too hung up on weights and measures.
  2. If you want your soup to taste homemade you really should make your own stock.  Bought chicken stock is understandable but vegetable stock cubes are horrible and will just make your soup taste shop-bought.  Making your own stock is simple, cheap and makes a world of difference!

Pumpkin, Carrot & Lentil Soup

Firstly make a stock.
Stock should be a simple base, complimenting the soup you’re making without being overpowering.  Start with a large pan of water on a high heat and add…

Stock2 carrots
1 onion
1 celery stick
1 leek
1 bay leaf
A sprig of parsley
6 peppercorns

The amounts and types of vegetables can vary depending on what you have in the house.  I add my vegetable peelings – onion peelings are great for adding a depth of colour and flavour and carrot and pumpkin peelings are better in the water than wasted (garlic, ginger, potato and parsnip peelings don’t work so well for this).

For the soup you’ll need…

1 large onion finely chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
2 large carrots
1 medium pumpkin
125g split red lentils
half a lemon

Pre-heat oven to 200°C.

Once your stock is simmering cut the pumpkin in half and take out the seeds and stringy flesh (you can clean, dry and roast the seeds with a dash of olive oil if you want a tasty snack).  Cut the halves in half again and repeat so that you have eight slices.  Place on a baking tray, drizzle with oil and roast in the oven for 25 minutes.

While the pumpkin is roasting put another large pan on the hob, heat some oil and add your onion.  Sweat the onion (high heat when added then turn down to low-med with a lid on) for ten minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the crushed garlic and grated ginger.  Continue to cook through for another five minutes until your onions are clear and soft.

Cut your carrots into small pieces then add to the onions.  Stir and leave to sweat for fifteen minutes or until soft.

Weigh out the lentils and rinse in cold water (occasionally you can find small stones in lentils, it’s only happened to me once but worth keeping an eye out for!)

Add the lentils to the onions with one litre of the stock (you can replenish the stock pan with fresh water if it’s running dry).

When the pumpkin is roasted place on a board and remove the flesh from the skins.  Add the flesh to the pan of vegetables and lentils.  Give the pan a good stir, cover and leave to simmer for 25 minutes or until the lentils are soft and starting to break up.

Remove your soup from the heat and whizz up with a hand blender until smooth.  If it seems too thick ladle in some more stock until it is a nice creamy consistency (I added another 200ml).

Season with salt to taste (salt should be added at the end for this soup as any earlier and it can mean your lentils stay tough).

Stir in a tablespoon of lemon juice and serve.


Friday Food Blog: The (It’s Better Than Paul Hollywood’s) Apple Cake

Apple Cake PhotoI know it’s a bit naughty, and of course it’s subjective, but I’ve got to tell you, the Dorset Apple cake in Paul Hollywood’s British Baking book is definitely not as tasty.  I even made both, on the same day, under strict scientific conditions (actually I didn’t, I made them both in a rush, early one Sunday morning to feed *bribe the volunteers who were coming to a work party at our local community orchard).  Paul’s recipe was nice enough but it was denser, drier, paler and less fragrant when baking in the oven.  I left it at home for the kids.  They didn’t complain of course and it was gone when I got back.  Apple cake is a winner whichever recipe you use!  This one has been tweaked from a recipe that was scribbled on a scrap of paper in a drawer at the restaurant where I used to work.  It started life as a wholemeal cake which crumbled when you cut it and was perfect for feeding birds.  Now it’s my daughter’s favourite cake, requested for her birthday and the first recipe in the Friday Food Blog.  Don’t be fooled by its wholesome, ordinary appearance, it’s a lovely thing.  A perfect comfort food which is simple to make and particularly nice still warm with custard.

The (It’s Better Than Paul Hollywood’s) Apple Cake

4oz butter
6oz light soft brown sugar
2 free range eggs
8oz plain white flour
1 tsp ground mixed spice
2 tsp baking powder
1 x large cooking apple

Pre-heat oven to 180°C.

Cream the butter & sugar together till light and fluffy.
Weigh out all dry ingredients.
Add eggs slowly to the butter and sugar mix, using a bit of the dry ingredients to stop curdling.
Add remaining dry ingredients.
Fold in the apple (peeled and chopped into smallish pieces).
Add enough milk to make it dropping consistency (approx. 70ml).
Turn into one round 8” tin lined on the bottom with a circle of baking parchment.
Sprinkle top with demerara sugar.
Bake for 1 hour.