Well just the title tells you all about the weather in London! Summer has gone back into hiding and we have rain and a chill in the air. I took the Tube to South Kensington this morning; an umbrella to hand. I wanted to buy some coffee pods from the Nespresso shop in Knightsbridge; supermarket ‘compatible’ ones really aren’t the same; I wanted the real thing. The shops don’t open until 12.00 on Sunday so first of all I went into the Victoria & Albert Museum. It was busy inside; lots of ‘family’ activities. I sat for a short time in the Rotunda – the main entrance – looking up at Dale Chihuly’s magnificent glass chandelier.
I’d seen most of the special exhibitions on at the moment but not the Paul Strand Photography, so I decided to take a look. The V&A describes him as ‘one of the greatest and most influential photographers of the 20th century whose images have defined the way fine art and documentary photography is understood and practised today.’ These wonderful photographs follow Strand’s career, inevitably touching on the history of photography and cameras; they are moving, sometimes intimate; political and true to his socialist beliefs. Well worth a visit!
Back out in the rain, I bought my coffee pods and headed home. On the bus from Richmond (where the District Line ends) to Twickenham, I decided to stop off at Corto Italian Deli and hoped they’d have some of their lovely minestrone soup which would make a perfect lunch on this wet day. They didn’t. What hot dishes do you have? I asked Marco. There was meat lasagna, vegetable lasagna and melanzane alla parmigiana. I opted for the aubergine dish; it’s one of my favourite things. Did I want bread with it or salad? Marco asked. I chose salad – and it was an excellent salad.
It was all really delicious and the warm welcome you get at Corto was as comforting as the hot meal. It was also a ‘proper meal’, not a snack, and so I decided I didn’t need another meal for supper. In fact, what would be nice was some soup! So I made some. Not minestrone but a lentil one as I’d had some lovely brown lentils from Carluccio’s in my cupboard for a while, which I’d been meaning to use in a soup.
I went for a fairly classic selection of vegetables – 1 large onion, 2 large carrots, 2 sticks celery, 2 medium potatoes, ¼ head fennel (simply because it was sitting in my fridge and I thought it would be a nice addition) and a sprig of fresh thyme; near the end, I added 2 medium fresh tomatoes, skinned and chopped, a small bunch parsley, chopped, and 50g baby spinach leaves. But really, you can put together your own selection of vegetables or just use whatever you have.
First of all I chopped the onion and put it into a large pan with a good glug of fruity extra virgin olive oil. Then I chopped the rest (except tomatoes and spinach) and gently cooked for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until starting to colour. Then I tipped in 150g brown lentils and the sprig of thyme. I seasoned with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of chilli flakes.
I gave it all a good stir and then poured in boiling water (or use stock if you have it) until the vegetables were well covered. I brought to a boil and then simmered gently for 15 minutes. Then I tipped in the tomatoes, parsley and spinach.
I brought back to the boil and simmered for another 10 minutes until the lentils and vegetables were tender. Add a little extra hot water or stock if the mixture gets too dry. Turn off the heat and transfer a couple of ladlefuls of the soup to a container and blitz with a hand blender until smooth. Then return to the pan and stir in well.
I wanted to thicken the soup a little without using a thickening agent like flour. But I also wanted to retain the separate chunks of vegetables and the whole lentils. Check seasoning.
Now your soup is ready to eat straight away or warm through later. I planned to have some for supper and freeze the rest in portions. Come suppertime, I toasted some sourdough bread, drizzled some olive oil over it and served it with the soup.
It was just the warming, comforting supper I wanted. But really delicious too. Even though I’d used just water rather than stock to make the soup, all the wonderful vegetables had given the soup a lovely flavour; the brown lentils added an extra earthy touch. I think I’m going to get a few portions for my freezer, all ready for another wet summer’s day when all I want is something simple and warming. Though hopefully that won’t be for a while!