Tag Archives: soup

Fennel soup with zucchini, to cure a cold

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Ah, Rome and Garbatella….. I had two days at home before flying back to Accra, and made the most of it: prosciutto e melone, gelato, pizza bianca slathered with fresh ricotta with truffles. Here we’ve just had cappuccini at the bar before the August heat became too oppressive.  We bumped into neighbours, some complaining about the caldo africano (“African heat”…) and the state of the streets, with grafitti, uncollected garbage piling up and a multitude of potholes. I was also updated on  #flambus, the Atac buses catching fire.  Still, it was lovely to be back, especially to see friends and wander round the neighborhood before it got too hot.

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Even early in the day the cicadas were noisy. I did my usual grocery shopping for Accra (pasta, tuna, six kinds of cheese) with some fresh vegetables added in. Once back  in Accra I went down with a terrible cold, so besides a little mushroom risotto, this soup was the only thing I have actually cooked yet.  It was really just to salvage the fennel, which had gotten a bit battered, but it was very good when down with a bad cold.
Fennel soup with zucchini

2 tbs olive oil
2-3 medium large fennel bulbs, cored and diced
3 cloves garlic
1 lone zucchini that did not fit in the box, diced
1 litre vegetable stock
salt
pepper (I was heavy-handed)

Fry the chopped fennel for a few minutes, then tip in zucchini and garlic and stock. If you have an onion, chop that and chuck that in too. Bring to boil and cook gently for ten minutes, until the fennel is tender. With an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve in a mug while you sniffle and cough and watch an episode of “Take Two”.  Neither will tax you.

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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).

Pre-travel roast beetroot soup with quinoa

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Phew, third shower of the day and it’s only early afternoon….. Accra is getting stickier, about 32C and only 67% humidity, not really that bad. We hear Tamale (in the north) still has heavy harmattan, so we cannot really complain. This morning I’ve moved all my last things out of my friend’s storage room (boy’s quarters…. tiny), so my rented room is now a Jenga-like stack of kitchen tools, dismantled floor fans and suitcases.  I’m off to Rome for work next week, and had a plethora of vegetables in the fridge, so this roast beetroot soup with quinoa was concocted while schlepping bits of an office chair, a table top and legs, an increasingly rickety drying rack and more through the flat.

I have been flathunting in Accra with two colleagues, and we may now have found a nice flat. Discussions are still ongoing regarding burglar bars and lease agreement, but we are crossing our fingers for a move later this month. I gave away most of my moving boxes to friends last year so will be moving again in bags and baskets, and am just hoping that bed linens and clothes have not gotten too moldy since November. We shall see.

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Really, you could make some variation on this with most root vegetables…. This is just what I had to use up before traveling. I try to buy local produce here, and was vaguely thinking of a beetroot risotto with feta, but soup is what these beetroots ended up in. Most of the soup will end up in the freezer so I have lunch ready for a few days when I am back in Accra, which might also be our moving week. After three months living out of suitcases, it will be very nice to actually unpack again.

Roast beetroot soup with quinoa and red rice

1 kg peeled beets, quartered  (about 2 pounds)
1 large diced potato, quartered
3 carrots, peeled (mine were wizened but fine for soup)
1 onion, peeled and quartered
3 clove garlic, peeled but whole
1 tbs olive oil

4 stalks celery, diced (last of my precious post-Christmas UK celery)
2 green bell peppers, seeded and chopped
2 cm fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 tbs olive oil

2 litres vegetable stock (here, from two stock cubes)
1/3 cup quinoa
1/3 cup red rice
2 tsp parsley
2 tsp rosemary
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Heat the oven to 220C. Line a baking sheet sheet with baking parchment or aluminum foil. Spread out the vegetables, drizzle over some olive oil and let the vegetables roast until soft when pierced with a sharp knife.  I left them in about 35 minutes, then turned off oven and left them in another 15 minutes or so.

In the meanwhile, heat a little olive oil in a big saucepan, and gently fry the celery and bell peppers until soft. Then tip in the roast vegetables, 2 litres of vegetable stock and blend well with an immersion blender if you have one. Then add the quinoa and red rice (or plain rice, or lentils, whatever you feel like adding for a bit more body) and spices, and bring the soup to the boil. Cook until quinoa and rice are soft, 25 minutes or so. Taste and see if you want to add more spices, salt or pepper.

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It was very nice! Quite thick, good flavours and a little crunch from the quinoa. Maybe some feta on top as well? It was a generous pot of soup, so six portions are now cooling and destined for the freezer, and there is plenty left for this weekend as well. Enjoy your weekend!