I’m not too fond of soup, which makes me strangely unRussian. In Russia it’s considered an essential part of lunch. One hasn’t eaten until one has slurped on soup.
I think it’s the childhood memories of mom’s voice ringing in my ears, “Eat your SOUP” and the promise to 8 year old self, “When I am a grownup I never eat soup again” that left my family soupLESS for most of my marriage. It’s a shame because Brad really loves soup.
I can’t remember saying the word “soup” as many times in 2 minutes as I have just now. It’s a fun word to say, don’t you think? Fun fact: the word for “soup” in Russian? “Soup”!
I am not 8 anymore and now know that soups could be incredibly healthy and nutritious while also being warm and comforting when the weather turns miserable – welcome hug for the soul. You will fall in love with this Chestnut and Squash Soup with dried porcini mushrooms. I’ve used Coquina Squash for its sweetness but Butternut Squash will be beautiful as well. This soup is such a wonderful blend of the nuttiness of chestnuts and sweetness of squash while dried porcini mushrooms bring in the deep aroma of the forest. Serve it with a dollop of Greek yogurt. Pure delight.
- Pancetta or bacon- 50 gr.
- Red Onions- 2
- Coquina Squash- 1
- Fresh Thyme- a few sprigs
- Dried Porcini Mushrooms (or any other dried mushrooms)-40 gr/1/4 cup
- Olive oil- 1 tbsp.
- Chestnut puree- 400 gr/15 oz can
- Chilli flakes (optional)- 1/4 tsp.
- Stew Mix (barley, split peas and lentils) or barley- 1/4 cup
- Chicken stock- 1 1/2 litres
- Salt and pepper to taste
It’s a good idea to peel and chop all the ingredients before you get going with the soup making so you are prepared and organised.
Cut your bacon into 1 cm pieces, peel, deseed and dice your squash into 1 cm dice as well, peel and chop your onions and remove thyme leaves from the sprigs. Soak the dried mushrooms in a cup of boiling water for 5 minutes.
Set a large pot on the stove and heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil in it, then cook your bacon over medium heat, add onions, chilli flakes if using and thyme and cook for about 5 minutes until onions are softened.
Now add squash, barley and lentil mix and stir to lightly coat the ingredients with oil.
Lastly add your pureed chestnuts, dried mushrooms with the liquid (make sure none of the grit get in there) and chicken stock, a pinch of salt and pepper, turn the heat up and bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes.
Check if your squash is cooked at the end, remove 1/2 of the soup and blend it in a food processor, then return it back to the pot and combine for a thicker texture. Alternatively you can blend all of it if you prefer a smoother soup but I love having a bit of roughness to it.
Serve with lightly toasted bread and a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream.
This recipe was adapted from Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie’s Great Britain”.
Don’t you feel that lunch is the most “unloved” meal of the day? We are often far too busy to think about what to eat in the middle of the day. The result is we either get an expensive and often unhealthy takeout or eat the same ol’ boring sandwich. In other words, nothing to write home about.
Well, not all is lost and I’ve got an excellent reason for you to get excited about breaking into your lunchbox again. Persian Chicken Salad is a modern update on the timeless classic. This energy boosting salad made with tender and juicy chicken breasts, crunchy vegetables and black smoky olives and seasoned with yogurt and lime dressing and loads of herbs. It’s especially delicious in a wholewheat pita mixed with a bunch of spinach leaves. So fresh and satisfying!
Eating it in a pita pocket is so appealing to children! Here is your school lunch sorted.
Ingredients: (Serves 4)
- Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts- 3
- Olive oil ( for cooking chicken)- 1 tbsp.
- Salt-1 1/2 tsp.
- Pepper- 1/2 tsp.
- Plain Greek Yogurt- 1 cup
- Mayonnaise (I used low fat)- 1/3 cup
- Dijon Mustard- 1tbsp.
- Lime juice- from 2 limes
- Carrots (grated)- 4 medium
- English Cucumbers (diced)-2
- Celery (diced)-2 ribs
- Frozen petite peas (thawed)-1 cup
- Red Onion( chopped fine)- 1 small
- Black Olives (halved and pitted, I used Smoky Moroccan Olives but Kalamata Olives will work as well)- 1/2 cup
- Flat leaf Parsley(chopped)- 1/3 cup
- Fresh Basil(chopped)- 1/2 cup
- Wholewheat pitas-4
1. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and brown your seasoned with salt and pepper chicken breasts on both sides over medium heat until done, about 5 minutes per side, it might take a couple of minutes longer if your chicken breasts are very thick. Remove from the pan, let it cool until it’s safe to handle and slice crosswise into bite-sized pieces.
2. In a small bowl mix together yogurt, mayonnaise, mustard, lime juice and remaining salt and pepper. In a large bowl combine together chicken, carrots, cucumbers, celery, peas, onion, olives, parsley and basil and carefully toss together with the dressing.
3. Serve in a pita pocket or on its own for a gluten-free lunch.
My children are off school for a spring holiday, only spring itself was here merely in theory or that was the case until two days ago. We were completely overwhelmed by cold, grey and windy days and then suddenly the sun appeared and made everything bright and lively bringing along little green buds and beautiful pink blooms. And although spring is still quite shy and only stays around in short spurts we are hopeful and ready to embrace longer days, brighter clothes and lighter meals.
A little while ago I made Quinoa and Puy Lentil Salad and it was quite popular with my family and my readers. I love adding quinoa, bulgur or couscous to my greens when making salads as they make light things a bit more substantial and satisfying without compromising the health benefits. As I had mentioned in that salad post I usually cook more quinoa and lentils than one recipe requires and use the extras throughout the week in various incarnations. Beet and Quinoa Salad is another tasty way to combine quite a few nutritious ingredients together and end up with a little number that is pure joy to look at and even more to eat.
- Quinoa (cooked according to package directions)- 1 cup
- Lentils or Chick Peas (cooked)- 1/2 cup
- Beets (cooked and grated)- 1 large or 2 small
- Radishes (sliced)- 5-6
- Rocket/Arugula- 2 cups
- Creamy Goat Cheese- 2 tbsp.
- Balsamic Vinegar-1 tbsp.
- Olive Oil- 1/4 cup
- Lemon -1/2
- Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley- 2 tbsp.
- Salt to taste
Combine quinoa, lentils or chick peas, grated beets and sliced radishes and set aside. If you are not a regular beet eater let me assure you they are very easy to cook. Just boil them like you would regular potatoes until are easily pierced with a knife. Life is even easier for the UK readers as packs of cooked and vacuum packed beetroot are readily available in any supermarket. I would steer clear of the canned beets. They are pretty horrid and lacking in the nutrition department for sure!
Make your vinaigrette dressing by mixing together balsamic vinegar, juice of 1/2 lemon and chopped up parsley, then slowly pour in olive oil in a thin and steady stream while whisking the entire time. You can use an immersion blender or food processor if you like your vinaigrette to be very smooth but a regular whisk will also do the trick.
Dress your salad with vinaigrette until evenly coated, taste it and add salt if needed, toss with rocket/arugula and goat cheese. Allow 15 minutes in the fridge before serving for the flavours to meld.
Quick, easy and tasty! Just what I like for this spring season.