Autumn Soup

Pancetta & French Lentil Soup

In the last few days, Brighton has started get a right old nip in the air. Gone is that long lazy summer only to be replaced with a windy and wet Autumn, that’s been blowing cold air right up the back of my jumper. This calls for one thing  and one thing only…soup. ‘Oh boring, not another bloody soup’ I hear you groan, but wait just a minute. This one is good one. It’s the kind of soup everyone should have in their recipe bank.

Whilst I’d like to claim the origins of this soup are from my great granny, who got it from her great granny, but it’s not. It’s sort of from the Leon Cookbook, but with large lumps of butter removed just a few tweaks here and there. It’s the perfect soup for those days just between Winter and Summer…oh and it’s gluten and diary free. Bingo!

Pancetta & French Lentil Soup (serves 4)
130g cubed and smoked pancetta
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
1 large red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
200g french lentils
1 litre chicken stock

Lentils

Cooked Lentils

Heat a large solid pan and add the oil. Once hot cook the pancetta until crisp and brown. Add all the veg and cook gently for about 15 minutes, or until the onions start to pick up a bit of colour. Stir in the bay leaves, oregano and cook for another couple of minutes.

Now add the tomato puree, vinegar and mix well. Tip in the lentils and stir them around to pick up all the flavour. Pour in your chicken stock. Bring to boil, then simmer for 30 minutes until the lentils are very soft.

Take a couple of ladles of soup out of the pot and blitz in your blender. It will be a bit paste like. Mix back into the soup. Season to taste.

Lentil Soup

POM POM PILE

Shake Your Pom Pom

Making Pom Pom’s…it’s my new obsession. Ever since stumbling upon a local knitting circle, where this wonderful Granny was making them in abundance and amazingly quickly (quite something to behold I must tell you), I have been hooked. Though I am not quite sure what I am going to do with the dozen’s I have made, maybe an elaborate head-dress or giant cat toy, I do think there is so much fun to be had with these gorgeous little creations.

Therefore I thought I would share with you a step by step guide on how to make these bundles of joy.

Firstly you are going to need to purchase a Pom Pom maker (you can make your own like you used to at school out of card, but this tutorial is based on the Pom Pom Maker’s available to buy). I purchased the Clover Pom Pom maker from Hobby Craft, which is available in various sizes – depending on what size Pom Pom you want. Pick your yarn and you are ready to go.

Open the Pom Pom maker on one side, with both arms folded out. Start to wrap your yarn around the arms holding one end of the yarn firmly, so you can keep it tight as it is continuously wrapped.

POM POM STARTING POINT

pom pom STEP 2

Ensure you keep the yarn even and tight as you wrap it around the arms. Make sure that the yarn covers the arms completely from the very ends and back again. Keep wrapping the yarn until it sits level with the ends of the arms, almost creating a semi-circle as pictured.

POM POM STEP 3

Once this is done, push the arms back towards the center of the Pom Pom maker and trim the two ends of yarn. Repeat the same process on the other side.

POM POM STEP 4

Now for the fun and rather accurate bit. You have to manoeuver your scissors in-between the two arms and underneath the wrapped yarn. It can be a little tricky to make that first cut, but persevere. Make sure you cut all of the yarn on both sides. You will start to see the Pom Pom starting to form.

POM POM STEP 5

POM POM STEP 6

Now cut a single piece of yarn about 20-30 cm and pull it tight between the two circles, encompassing all of the yarn. Make sure you pull this as tight as you can and tie a knot. This is going to be hard to judge as you won’t be able to see the knot behind the circles.

POM POM STEP 8

Once this is done you can open the arms of the Pom Pom maker and separate it at the middle.

POM POM STEP 7

POM POM STEP 9

Before your very eyes you should see a Pom Pom. It might need a bit of a shake out to get it a little more rounded. If there are any longer ends sticking out them just trim them off.

POM POM STEP 10

And there we go. I promise you, that you will make loads of these!

Smashed Almonds

Four Great Almond Recipes

I know what you’re thinking, ‘Really, Chris another Almond recipe’, but I bet I’m not alone here, one of my favourite things to cook with is almonds. Flaked, chopped, toasted or salted. You name it I like almonds. Sadly, we haven’t yet finished building our new kitchen, so I can’t actually cook any new almond recipes and show them off yet. Fear not. Here’s a list of all my top recipes with almonds.

Twisted Almond Loaf

1. Toasted Almond Krantz Loaf
This is a tweak to Yotam Ottolenghi’s krantz loaf recipe that’s traditionally made with pistachios. Don’t get me wrong pistachios are great. They’re just not almonds.

BlackBerry-Tarts-1024x718

2. BlackBerry & Almond Tart
We discovered this in our local coffee shop and spent ages trying to replicate it in our little seaside kitchen. Fresh blackberries melted into toasted almonds and almond butter, makes this our perfect teatime treat.

Lemons

3. Lemon Tart
Technically this is a lemon recipe, but without the ground almonds it might as well be lemonade.

Chocolate Rolls

4. Salted Chocolate Almond Rolls
Step forward the mighty little salted chocolate almond rolls. Enriched dough, smothered in chocolate, sprinkled in salted almonds, then rolled and baked into little chocolate gems.

Pretzels

Sport Snack Pretzels

While I do like to be adventurous when it comes to live sport snacks (ever tried a pickle egg?) there is some real snack fatigue going on. Unless some idiot decides to bring along some fresh fruit, you’re usually in for a safe ride of crisps, peanuts or the recently popular wasabi peas.

England were hardly good football material this year, so perhaps my enthusiasm for live sport snacks waned simultaneously with their goal scoring abilities. My predicament is that this is the year of sport in England, so I’ve got mountains of junk food to consume. Unless of course I can somehow find a better alternative.

Look I won’t lie to you, this wasn’t as simple as I thought it would be. First there’s the dough, then the incredibly complicated fold, followed by poaching and finally they get baked. So a long process, but one that makes you look super flash on the snack front.

What you’ll need make roughly 28 – 30 small pretzels
440ml warm water
3 tablespoons of castor sugar
1 packet of active dry yeast
750g all-purpose flour and some for dusting
1 tablespoon of salt
2 teaspoons of olive oil
37g baking soda
1 large egg
Sea salt

Dough
Pour 1 tablespoon of the sugar, the warm water and stir to combine. Sprinkle the yeast on top and leave for ten minutes until it starts to foam.  Then add 150g of the flour (a handful will do) and combine with a wooden spoon. Gradually add the rest of the flour, a handful at a time until the dough feels a little stretchy. If wet and sticky, just add a little bit more flour. Then knead for about a minute. Pour the oil into a large bowl, coat and pop in the dough mix. Lay a tea towel over the top and leave in a warm spot for an hour or so.

Take the dough out, give it a little punch in the middle to remove the air and knead a couple of times. Flatten it out and cut into 28 pieces. As even as you can, but don’t worry if they’re not perfect.

Folding
This was complicated. I mean really complicated. Plus if you’re not careful, they end up looking like a little salty poop and that’s never a good feature for a snack. Roll each piece into a 30cm strip before you fold. I laid out a ruler in advance and kept rolling to that length. For some reason it seemed impossible to roll on a floured surface. Try it on a clean worktop if you’re struggling.

To fold you need to adopt the lasso approach which just seemed impossible. An over eager employee from Auntie Annie shows you how, but I couldn’t muster it. So I ended up with the flip, twist and hope for the best approach. If you can do it better, please share and gloat because you’ll deserve the credit. Once you’ve mastered the technique, leave them for 15 minutes on a grease proof papered tray to rise a little.

Poach
Fill a large pan with water and bring to the boil. Add the baking powder and stand back till it settles, then add the remaining sugar. Gently drop three at a time into the water and poach for around 30 seconds on each side. Drain, then transfer back onto the grease proof papered tray. I managed to only do eight at a time on a tray

Bake
Beat the egg and brush each of the pretzels with the glaze. Sprinkle the salt on top and pop into a hot 230 degree over (gas mark 8) until golden brown. It’s amazing how good they look and I was proud as punch when they came out.


The Dip
Now any good sporting snack needs a good dip to dunk it in. I tried to get flash with a red pepper chilli dip, but it was a little too fresh. Mustard is the most traditional, but what’s mustard without a bit of salt beef. The best I found was cream cheese with heaps of ground black pepper.

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