Something For the Weekend

Melina Mecouri in Never on a Sunday perfect for the weekend though!
September has been a busy month already, with kids in the northern hemisphere going back to school, the celebration of Jewish New Year , the Rugby World Cup, my twins turning 14 and with that, the 14th anniversary of  9/11. What a time that was...The weekend is upon us, let us spend a little more time reflecting,counting our blessings, reaching out, making food and nourishing ourselves and our loved ones. I think these few uncomplicated recipes do that, with very little stress and very little expense.

Minestrone Soup

Autumn Minestrone Soup

I always feel a bit dubious writing a recipe for soup, as it is generally only a matter of throwing some compatible ingredients together in a large pot and boiling away until dinnertime. However, a lot of people I talk to, particularly students that I'm surrounded by, have never made soup from scratch and maybe a recipe helps them to realise it's no biggie. The key to a good minestrone is to keep it tasting fresh,each vegetable discernible and not turning it into a gallumph of over-cooked sludge. Sludge is okay when you're making something like oxtail soup but not when you're trying to capture the last of the summer in a bowl of loveliness! * Roughly chopped means choose the size you can manage to cut easily but try to keep them the same rough size so that they cook at the same rate.

2 roughly chopped onions
 3 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 Courgettes, roughly chopped
1 can of chopped tomatoes, or 6 medium fresh ones, chopped roughly
1.5 litres of vegetable or chicken stock
200 grams of cavolo nero or curly kale, sliced into ribbons
1 can of borlotti, butter or canellini beans
1 cup of cooked pasta, smaller types for preference
4 tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan 
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper, a pinch of sugar

In the roomiest pot you have, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of butter together over a medium heat. Add the onions and fry for a few minutes. Turn the heat up slightly and add the tomato paste. Cook the bejeezus out of it, then reduce the heat and add the courgettes. Fry for a few minutes, then add the chopped tomatoes and stock. Cook for 15 minutes at a simmer. Add the cavolo nero or kale, ( you could use savoy cabbage instead ), the beans and cook for a further 10 minutes. Season with a little salt, lots of pepper and a pinch of sugar to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes. if you have used fresh, ripe tomatoes, you might not need to add sugar but most canned ones are slightly too sharp for most people's palates. Add the cooked pasta to the pot when ready to serve, heat through then put into bowls and top with a spoonful of Parmesan and some chopped parsley.

Goat Cheese, Lentil and Beetroot Salad
Serves 4 hungry people as a main course

For the lentils
1 cup of Puy lentils
1-2 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
1 star anise
1 red onion, finely sliced
1 teaspoon of chilli flakes or half a fresh chilli, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of honey
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
chopped parsley, dill or mint
salt and pepper
For the beetroot salad
400 grams of cooked baby beetroot, fresh or pickled
200 grams of Greek yoghurt
2 tablespoons of finely diced red onion
2 heaped tablespoons of horseradish sauce
( If you are lucky enough to get hold of some fresh horseradish, grate 1 tablespoon, add a teaspoon of vinegar and a pinch of sugar or wee drizzle of honey, and mix together )
salt and pepper
For the goat cheese croutons
150-200 gram goat cheese log
4 pieces of thickly sliced bread cut into 1 large disc per person or 3 small ones as per photo.
olive oil, a few sprigs of thyme

Cook the lentils on a moderate heat with the one cup of stock and the star anise until al dente, adding more stock as the lentils absorb the liquid. Remove from the heat and take out the star anise. Allow to cool while preparing the rest of the ingredients.
Add the oil, chilli and sliced onion to a small pan and cook for a minute over a medium heat, just to release their flavours. Add the honey, mustard, olive oil and vinegar.
Stir the mixture into the lentils, taste and adjust the seasoning.  Add a little salt and pepper if needed, stir thoroughly then divide between 4 plates. You'll need to slice enough thick rounds of of goat cheese to top croutons approx 12 pieces. Grill bread discs on one side until golden, turn over and place cheese, a few thyme leaves, and a drizzle of olive oil on each crouton and brown under grill on a medium heat. While that's happening, make the beetroot salad, combine all the ingredients, season to taste and put a few spoonfuls in the middle of each plate. Spread the love and distribute the croutons, you can top with some lovely rocket or some mixed leaves but toss in a little oil and vinegar first. Undressed leaves give me the shivers!

Some wonderful things to look forward to before we hit Christmas and I hit the beach!! Will fill you in on that soon, I know " can't wait! " is SO over-used but really I can't wait!!

Check out Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy, Kew Gardens are doing an Autumnal Flavour Experience and the Aldeburgh Food and Drink festival takes place on the 26th & 27th of September .

Chat soon.

Love Food X