Tomato, Rosemary and Lentil Soup

Today was one of those (typical?) New Zealand days that begins as one season and finishes as another. We left our house in an orchard in Whangerai in the Northland region to head to Pathia in the Bay of Islands. I remarked to my wife just how warm the day was as I gazed out over the sun beating down on the avocado trees and planned on making a salad with the avocado windfalls we had gathered and some other stuff we planned to pick up from one of the numerous fruit and vegetable stalls that dot the sides of most of new Zealand’s roads. Stopping off as planned, I bought some great heirloom tomatoes, potatoes and some great looking rosemary which was a steal at 50c for a nice sized bunch. The weather was still great, I guess around 26C and not a cloud in the sky.

Cut forward an hour and we arrived at our new holiday house in Paihia. Everything was great with the place, except the weather had changed, it was now blowing a gakle, grey skies and probably nearer 10C than 15C – not really salad weather I thought as I watched my wife gamely pulleingbags from the car and chasing colouring books blown around by the strengthening wind.

It really felt like an autumn evening, similar to some northern hemisphere bonfire nights of my childhood. Nothing works better in this weather than homemade soup, especially if you have some stock you have made yourself to give a depth of flavour that canned soup can only dream of.

I used the tomatoes, rosemary and onions I had bought that morning and added some lentils found in the holiday houses store cupboard.

Served with some buttery toast, the cold was soon banished and we were ready to fight another day – summer will probably return in a few hours (and go again a few more after that…).

Serves – 4-6

Ingredients

500g of really ripe tomatoes – skin them if you like (or a can of plum tomatoes)
750ml or so good quality chicken stock (or use vegetable stock for those who prefer/insist!)
1 cup red lentils
1 large onion, finely diced
4 whole cloves garlic
30g butter
3 or 4 sprigs rosemary
2 tsp smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Dollop of soured cream to serve

Method

1) Melt butter in a large pan over a low heat and gently sweat the chopped onions and garlic cloves until the onions are soft and transparent. Keep the lid on the pan. If it looks like things are going to burn, add a half ladle full of stock and put lid back on.
2) Add cup of lentils and stir around so they get covered in the buttery onion mixture.
3) Raise the heat to medium and chuck in a ladle or two of stock. Stir around until the lentils have absorbed the liquid.
4) Add the tomatoes and stir until they have broken up and things are bubbling. If things look like they are burning, add a ladle of stock.
5) Add paprika and rosemary and stir around.
6) Add the rest of the stock and stir occasionally until pan boils.
7) turn down heat slightly and simmer with lid on for around 30 minutes until lentils are tender and consistency is that of a nice thick broth.
8) Remove sprigs of rosemary and garlic cloves from pan and taste.
9) Add salt and pepper to your preference and serve in bowls with a dollop of sour cream and buttery toast.

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Hearty Lamb with Butter Beans & Thyme

Even I can’t continue to kid myself the weather is anything other than cold now in the UK. The arrival of bonfire night (November 5th) calls for plenty of comfort food, the type of thing that sticks to your ribs. Big flavours, slowcooked meat that is soft enough to be cut with a spoon, side dishes like mustard mashed potatoes and braised red cabbage rather than salads are now the order of the day.

This dish just makes me smile thinking about it. The flavours with the lamb all just marry together so well as they get to know each other for a few hours in nice warm oven.

This can be made a good few days in advance and reheated in around 30 minutes in a hot oven. It could even be frozen and warmed up without defrosting.

Serve with mustard mash and a steamed vegetable. Light the fire, draw the curtains and put your feet up…

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

2 neck fillets of lamb or other boneless stewing cut in large pices (3cm chunks)

2 Tbsp oil

25g butter (or dairy free alternative)

1 Tbsp plain flour (or gluten free flour mix)

1 finely diced large shallot

500ml good quality stock

125ml glass of red wine

2 Tbsp redcurrant jelly

4 large sprigs of fresh thyme

1 drained and rinsed can butter beans

Additional wine for deglazing

Method:

1. Preheat oved to around 140C

2. Put oil in pan and fry the lamb in small batches to get a good colour (don’t burn it!) on all sides.

3. Remove the lamb from the pan into a casserole dish.

4. Deglaze the pan with a small amount of wine and pour this into the caserole dish.

5. In a seperate pan, gently fry shallot in butter(or dairy free alternative) until it is transparent (don’t let it go brown!).

6. Add flour and cook stirring all the time for 1 minute.

7. Slowly add the stock in small batches, stirring all the time.

8. Add the wine, jelly and thyme and bring to the boil.

9. Add beans and stok mix to the casserole dish and place into the oven for 2 hours

10. Strain the liquid off into a large pan and bring to a fast boil to reduce the amount of liquid until it becomes thick enough to coat back of a spoon.

11. Taste liquid and season with salt and pepper as required and return meat to the pan.

12. Serve and enjoy on a cold winter’s evening.