Carrot soup with ginger, lime, red lentils and coriander

img_20200417_172608_7Lockdown day 43, and all is well. The weather in Rome is lovely, it is warm and sunny. I hope you are all safe and that spring is with you as well (I know it’s been snowing in Chicago, Moscow and northern Norway). Officially we have two more weeks at home here, but we expect it to be longer. The pandemic situation in Italy is definitely improving, and morale is still good.

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Working from home is going well, and weekends are busy! I’ve packed away my winter clothes, am decluttering my way through massive piles of papers, and we are cooking up a storm. I haven’t set foot in a supermarket for four weeks, but we are managing really well with deliveries from smaller co-ops. And neighbours! We have been swapping cake, bread, fresh yeast, orange marmalade and fresh fennel, all at a very maintained distance. This happy coriander plant came from a friend, and inspired this soup. I over-ordered vegetables and had some sad carrots in the fridge.

Carrot soup with ginger, lime, red lentils and coriander

750 gr carrots
2 yellow onions (or red, or white)
4 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp dry red chilli, crumbled
2 cm fresh ginger
1 tbs olive oil
1 litre vegetable broth
150 ml dry red lentils

200 ml UHT cream  (or coconut milk)
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
generous handful fresh coriander

Peel and roughly chop carrots, onions, ginger and garlic. Heat the oil, gently fry vegetables for a few minutes. Crumble in dry chili. Add vegetable stock, dry lentils and bring to boil. Leave to simmer 25-35 minutes (I had a looooong call with Accra friends and just turned it off while we chatted – try https://meet.jit.si/  if you need a Zoom alternative.) Then blend the soup with a stick blender. Stir in cream and lime juice, add salt and pepper to taste. Top with chopped coriander before serving.

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We had this with grilled cheese sandwiches in front of the TV, absolute comfort food. Enjoy your Sunday!

Curried coconut lentil soup with flatbread

img_20180520_1157591Accra is pretty safe, we tell newcomers. Not like Juba or Jo’burg or other rougher places where friends live. I can Uber around town, or go shopping alone, and am generally more worried about malaria than mugging. We live in a nice gated compound, with 24 hour security, as recommended, and just got burglar bars installed on the kitchen side. Unemployment is high, and there has been more crime this year: cars held up at traffic lights, people mugged in daylight, a series of forex robberies and an increase in home invasions – quite a few of which have happened in the gated communities. I am happy the burglar bars are in place.

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Fortunately the only invasion we have had in the new apartment has been ants. They are hungry and tenacious (even dried chickpeas are not safe) and various dry goods have been unceremoniously chucked into the new deep freezer to kill off the invaders. More ant-proof containers are in place, and the kitchen shelves are dusted down with ant powder. All quiet on the ant front this week. Just in case, I am having a pantry challenge this month, using up stockpiled food in shelves and freezer, so it was time for curried lentil soup, which has been lunch everyday this week.

Curried coconut lentil soup

* 1 cup dried lentils (I used green lentils, rinsed and picked over)
* 2 tsp olive oil
* 1 onion, peeled and finely diced
* 3 carrots, peeled and finely diced
* 2 green bell peppers, diced
* 2 cloves garlic
* 1 tbs curry powder
* 1 tsp ground cumin
* 1/4 tsp cinnamon
* 1 bay leaf
* 1 tsp salt
* pinch of red pepper flakes
* 1 tsp turmeric, if you have it
* 1 tin diced tomatoes (400 grammes)
* 1 tin coconut milk 400 grammes) – save a splash for a decorative swirl if you remember
* 1 litre vegetable stock (I used stock cubes)
* salt and pepper to taste
Optional: soak lentils for a couple hours first (just too save cooking time on a hot day).

Heat the oil in a saucepan, and gently fry the onion and carrots for a few minutes on medium heat. Add the garlic and spices, and fry a couple more minutes. If you only have curry powder, that would be fine. Add tinned tomatoes, lentils, stock and coconut milk. Cook gently until lentils are soft, 20 minutes or so. (Longer is using dry lentils, maybe ten minutes of using tinned lentils.)

Note: Also might be nice in soup: fresh ginger, mustard seeds, coriander seeds: see what you have and what you like.

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Flatbreads for soup (made 4 small ones)
250 grammes flour
4 grammes fresh yeast (or 2 grammes dry yeast)
½ tsp salt
1 clove minced garlic
175 ml water
1 tbs oil

To brush:
20 grammes melted butter
pinch of salt

Mix the dough, let it rise an hour or so. Heat the oven to 250C, with the baking sheet in the oven, Divide the dough in four and let it rest a few minutes, then roll out four naan. Bake on parchment paper on the hot baking sheet for five minutes or so, until golden. Brush with melted butter as soon as they come out of the oven.

Enjoy with a mug of hot soup (browsing look at royal wedding dresses and hats optional).

Sweet potato and lentil soup

Accra fruit and veg

While we always come back to Accra with suitcases stuffed with food hard to find here, there are lots of wonderful food items here too. Cassava, mango, pineapple, red onions, avocado, eggplant and green bell peppers, and  yes – sweet potato. On Sundays I’ll often make soup for next week’s lunches. In Rome it was fridgestrone – whatever vegetables needed using up at the end of the week. Here in Accra, sweet potatoes are often the base, with onions, some pulses,  and various spices, all simmering in the slow cooker.

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Sweet potato and lentil soup

3 onions
6 cloves of garlic
3 tsp fennel seeds
9 cm fresh ginger, peeled
2 tbs oil
1.5 litre vegetable stock
1 kilo sweet potato, diced
200 grammes red lentils
4 tbs coconut milk powder
salt, pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a frying on. Peel and hope the onions, and fry them gently for a few minutes. Add fennel seeds. Chop the fresh ginger coarsely, and add to the frying pan for a few minutes more.

Meanwhile, peel, then coarsely chop the sweet potatoes. I use a hand blender to finish the soup after cooking, so was not too worried about chopping evenly. Put the sweet potatoes in the slow cooker, with vegetable stock, onion/ginger/fennel seeds, and the red lentils. I had soaked the red lentils for a couple hours first, totally optional. Cook in slow cooker on high for a few hours, or in a stovetop pot if you prefer (maybe 45 minutes). When the sweet potatoes and lentils are soft, blend until smooth using a stick blender. Stir in the coconut milk powder (or coconut milk if you have that). Check the seasoning and serve.

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Not so Pinterest-worthy but tasty!