While I was skimming over my list of the last few and the next couple of yummies on my to-cook list, I noticed how most of them share the same basic characteristics while being very different in the end. All of them are “warm” be it in the actual temperature, in their color palette or in the heart-and-soul ”warm”ing sense of the word. All of them are really quick and easy to whip up, and all of them – even my pick for this year’s Christmas Box of Chocolates~! – are packing a serious punch in the “Healthy” department.
Now I have to admit, I didn’t plan for this to happen but once I’ve noticed the similarities, I also decided against changing anything about it. With the holidays coming closer, saving some time in the kitchen while bolstering up against wintery weather, end-of-the-year stress at work, holiday-prep, too many pre-holiday parties and too much holiday-related heavy food can’t be a bad thing right? I sincerely hope you guys enjoy a generous helping of healthy soulfood during these busy weeks, because it’s going to be a seriously non-fussy, speedy, spicy, zingy, healthy, and of course through and through “warming” ride though my winter kitchen ’til the end of the year, starting with today’s GW2-Inspired soupy hug-in-a-bowl.
You might remember that the release of the Path of Fire chapter of the GW2 saga – and the recipes that came with it – inspired me to roll up my sleeves and get to work, rediscovering lentils and other legumes for my kitchen after what seemed like half a lifetime, so after the Spicy Chicken Wraps & Tomato Hummus and my version of a Harira, here’s my third trip down the Path of Fire, this time with a fruity, spicy and simply mmmmmh veggie soup in tow~! Here’s what you need for 4 servings:
The Spiced Red Lentil & Orange Soup
1 Brown Onion, finely diced
1 Clove of Garlic, very finely diced
1 Tbsp Brown Butter
1 Tbsp Concentrated Tomato Purée
150g Dried Red Lentils, soaked
700ml Vegetable Stock
100g Low Fat Cooking Cream
1 Orange, Zest and Juice of ½ the Orange
1 heaped Tbsp Dried Barberries
10g Cold Butter
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Ground Coriander Seeds
1 Tsp Sweet Paprika Powder
1 Tsp Chilli Flakes
½ Tsp Ground Cardamon
½ Tsp Ground Cinnamon
½ Tsp Ground Cumin
½ Tsp Ground Turmeric
½ Tsp Freshly cracked Black Pepper
½ Tsp Ground Fenugreek
1 Pinch of Ground Cloves
1) Start by pouring your freshly squeezed orange juice into a small bowl and adding the barberries.
2) Allow the berries to soak up some of the orange juice, infusing it with their own brand of yumness in the process, for 15 mins before getting started on the soup.
3) Melt the brown butter in a large pot set onto medium heat.
4) As soon as the butter has liquefied, add the finely chopped onion and garlic, sprinkle them with a pinch each of salt and pepper and, while stirring constantly, sauté the lot until the cubes turn translucent.
5) Stir in the tomato purée and, once it starts sizzling, add the lentils. Combine the two components as well as the thick paste allows, spread the mixture out a bit and wait until small sizzling and popping noises tell you it’s time to add some liquids.
6) Pour in the stock, give everything a good stir until the tomato paste has dissolved and turn the heat to low.
7) Keep the soup at a low simmer for 20 mins – if your stove is as old-fashioned and moody as mine is, you may have to keep a careful eye on the temperature and, if necessary, take the pot off the heat from time to time to keep the soup from bubbling up.
8) After the first 10 mins of quality time in the pot, pick up a tablespoon and remove 5 spoonfuls of lentils from the pot and set them aside for the topping.
9) Have a test-lentil after the second 10-min stretch of cooking time – once the lentils are tender, you’re golden.
10) Take the pot off the heat for now and add the cream and orange zest.
11) Transfer the mixture into the jug of your blender and whizz it into a smooth and silky soup.
12) Alternatively cover your pot with a kitchen cloth after allowing the business end of your stick-blender in, and have at it until you reach the desired result.
13) Pour the soup back into the pot, place the pot on the stove again and turn the heat up to medium.
14) Stir in the cold butter, orange juice, barberries, all of the spices and the lentils you’ve set aside earlier.
15) After the spices had about 3-4 mins to develop in the heat, have a taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
16) Have another test-lentil after 2-3 more mins – once the whole lentils are tender, you’re good to go~!
17) Ladle the soup into warm bowls, add a bit of crème légère, lean back and… hang on!
You may have noticed something else sitting on top of my bowl… Well, these delicious little morsels aren’t really an essential part of the dish, but, for completion’s sake – and your tastebuds, unless you’re a vegetarian, I just have to add this little tidbit~ You see, while I was shopping in preparation for this particular cooking/photo-session shindig, I had these insane, extremely rare cravings for one of my crowds’ all-time-favorite hits, Bacon-Wrapped Dates. Since “I want” and “Bacon” usually don’t see eye to eye in my headspace, I just had to act on it, and after having one of these bites somewhere around my spice-adjustment tastes, I couldn’t help but admit how well the bites went with the soup. So, instead of serving the bites as a fingerfoody wine accessory or starter as usual, I popped them onto the soup this time. The combination works extraordinarily well, but, as I said, it’s a purely optional step to take, the soup itself doesn’t win or loose anything with or without them~ Still, here’s a no-fuss crowd-pleaser, starter, snack, soup topping, tapa, fingerfood, whatchamacallit secret revealed on top~!
The Bacon-Wrapped Dates
…assuming you go with 2 bites per bowl of soup~
8 Dried Dates – don’t use soft-dried ones for this, they would simply fall apart. If you want to safe yourself a couple of blinks, try to get pitted dates.
8 Salt-Roasted or Smoked Almonds
4 Long Strips of Breakfast Bacon, halved
2 Tbsp of Crème Légère
1 Generous dusting with Nutmeg and freshly cracked Pepper
1) Carefully slice up the sides of the dates and remove the pits without breaking up the dried fruit.
2) Replace the pit with the almonds and press/wriggle/close the date around it.
3) Tightly wrap half a strip of bacon around each date and pin it into place with a toothpick – in order for this to work, aim for the meaty parts of the bacon to poke the pick through since the fat will be rendered off for the most part.
4) Place the bites in a wide pan as you go and, once you’re done, set the heat below to medium.
5) Keep rolling the dates (and cursing the toothpicks) over from time to time until the bacon has turned into a tight, crispy, golden-brown coat around the dates.
6) Remove the dates from the pan and whisk the crème légère into the bacon juices sticking to the bottom of the pan.
7) Add a generous pinch each of nutmeg and pepper, then set the bites back into the pan until you’re ready to eat~!
8) And that’s it! Now you can grab your bowls, lean back and…