Tag Archives: soup

butternut, lentil and ginger soup

11 Oct


Halfway to the metro stop is an Indian grocery shop, open until the small hours. I pop in for milk and butter and get distracted by yellow split peas, coconut oil, natural peanut butter, things that can’t be found in French supermarkets. Plantains, orange flower water. Large bags of hazelnuts and almonds are much cheaper too. I stock up on grilled and salted corn kernels, for the new English flatmate and I are addicted, and crystallised ginger.

There is always a friendly word and a smile. Once they added a jar of ginger-garlic paste  to my bag as a gift. It is a perfect pick-me-up for a nearly bare fridge, with stir-fried cabbage or chicken or chickpeas. Yesterday I bought red lentils for a kitchen cupboard soup. Squash keep well for a long time, and even make a nice decoration. Chicken stock (from the freezer) really rounds out the flavour for a satisfying rich taste. Everything else came from the cupboard. I baked the squash before going out in the morning, then barely needed half an hour before lunch to make a hearty meal.

I was worried it would be boring, but the soup had depth, sweet and spicy. The lentils make it filling, needing only a baguette with some blue cheese for sharp contrast. And it was a perfect autumn colour.


Obviously you can use fresh garlic and fresh ginger, but it is useful to have a jar of ginger-garlic paste and a jar of curry paste on hand. Peek into the Indian grocery stores around La Chapelle and Gare du Nord for inspiration.


Butternut, lentil and ginger soup

serves 4

1 butternut squash

2 onions

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp ginger and garlic paste

1 tsp madras curry paste

200g (1 cup) red lentils

125 ml  (1/2 cup) white wine

750ml (3 cups) chicken stock

salt and pepper

extra water

Peel and thickly slice butternut squash. Bake in a 200C oven with a little olive oil and salt until soft and caramelised around the edges.

Roughly chop the onions, sautee in olive oil until translucent. Add the ginger and garlic paste and garam masala, stir for a minute. Add the lentils and let them toast for a minute as well. Pour in the white wine and chicken stock. Cover and let simmer until the lentils are cooked through. It won’t take long. Meanwhile, cut up the roasted squash, then add to cooked lentils.

Blend everything together (careful not to burn yourself on the hot liquid/steam). Taste and season with salt and pepper. You may need to add up to 250ml extra water depending on how thick you like it.

Serve with crusty bread and a sharp cheese.

new year soup

1 Jan


Between the Christmas festivities and the expansion of our pâtisserie to a grand total of two shops just a month beforehand, my schedule has felt a little vampiric recently. For the month of December, I had to work nights to make up the deficit in yule logs for the new shop. At first I enjoyed the calm and the quiet, stirring figures of eight in vats of crème anglaise and pouring the finished bavaroise into hundreds of long gutter-shaped moulds. I liked coming home at sunrise, picking my way through the morning market with its oysters, pyramids of tangerines and a solitary suckling pig. Then I started to miss the clatter of customers and the warmth of the bread oven. The time difference began to give me all the dizziness of jetlag. We worked in organized panic right up until the morning of the 25th, icing and decorating, before we could finally take a breath.

New Year’s Day meant catching the metro at 5.30a.m. as usual, but this time with a crowd of tired revellers and a strong smell of vomit and cigarettes permeating the carriages. It meant the parties were over and I could go back to the comfort of a daily routine. Best of all, it meant New Year Soup.

Until we sat down to drink the simple broth, buoyed up with cabbage and scraps of chicken, I had been muttering grumpily to myself about the seemingly endless long hours. It is all very well following a dream, but the reality always seems to include more drudgery than bargained for. It is one thing to have a burning passion, but if it leaves scorched earth behind it… In short, I was as miserable as a sleepy toddler.

But the soup – o-zōni, a Japanese tradition for New Year’s Day – was nourishment itself, flavoured with miso and fish stock and a splash of yuzu (a citrus fruit even more bitter than lemon). Floating in the middle, a sticky mochi rice cake on which many old age pensioners and young children choke every year. Though it is obviously a sad predicament, I had to laugh at the dangerous nature of their celebration soup and at the obvious joy my Japanese colleagues showed in drinking every last drop.

For the rest of the afternoon, I felt like a person again. Like I could go back to writing and running, two parts that make up my whole, as well as working. I would have the time to indulge all of my passions and not get lost in just one. I started noticing, and taking pleasure in, the satiny fluff of egg yolks whipped with hot sugar and the scrap of blue sky out of our new window. Paragraphs started shaping themselves in my head… until the milk boiled over.

Back to work, now with a lighter heart. Fortified by lucky soup and all the possibility of beginnings. Happy New Year, everyone!


P.S. Upon googling o-zōni, I have discovered a fierce rival. Cooking with Dog – charismatic and well-coiffed, and he is even called Francis. I fear I cannot compete.

cauliflower soup with toasted hazelnuts

26 Dec

cauliflower, whole

The pile of books by my bed is getting dangerously high. Possibly because I am ignoring the worthy French literature in favour of Nigel Slater’s ‘The Kitchen Diaries II.’ If I am too tired to actually cook, reading his simple prose is a comforting substitute. His are recipes of happenstance, of successful improvisation. He knows food well enough to play with it, to strip it bare and  build it back up again.

I want to say it is “real food” but that carries shades of judgement, like “real women have curves.” Slater is honest: though he admits that there is a better flavour in soaked beans, he cheats when he is hungry after a day in the garden. (Girls come in different shapes and sizes and food is always real, whether you have the time and energy to kill and pluck your own pheasant, or you just want to trick out a can of beans.)

It is earthy practical writing, punctuated with the odd hymn to the perfect wok, to the spurtle (a porridge stirrer) that is delightful to read. Also, I adore his grumpy “the world doesn’t need another cupcake recipe.”

Though his baked potatoes with rillettes are high on my list, the book ribbon is marking his cauliflower soup. It is pure and hearty – no cream, he insists, as it masks the shy flavour of cauliflower, which is supported by bacon and bay leaf and pepper. To decorate, he saves a few florets before blending the soup smooth and toasts some hazelnuts with oil and salt.

I do not have any stock in the freezer – rarely ever do, since it is Parisian pocket-sized – but improvised with a few dried porcini slices and a parmesan rind. I think Nigel would approve.

cauliflower, halved

Cauliflower soup with toasted hazelnuts

serves 6 – from Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries

1 enormous cauliflower

3 rashers good-quality bacon

1 onion

1 clove garlic

1.2 litres stock (or water + porcini + parmesan rind)

2 bay leaves

100g hazelnuts

1 tsp olive oil

salt and pepper

Cut bacon small and fry in its own fat until crisp and golden. Dice the onion and cook with bacon until translucent. Finely chop the garlic and add at the last minute so it does not burn.

Cut cauliflower in half, cut out the middle stalk and break the florets into small pieces with your hands. Chop the stalks small as well. Add cauliflower, stock and bay leaves to the pot and allow to simmer until the cauliflower is tender.

Remove bay leaves and a few florets for decoration. Let cool a little while you toast the hazelnuts in a small frying pan with the olive oil. When they start to smell toasty, go brown inside, they are done. Add a generous pinch of sea-salt.

Blend the soup perfectly smooth – be careful with hot liquid in a blender! – and add generous pinches of salt and pepper. Taste. Serve with the remaining whole florets and a few hazelnuts sprinkled on top.

chicken soup with lemon, ginger and nam pla

7 Oct

Sunday was market day. Two pineapples, lots of lemons, a bag of carrots that went mouldy the day after, and a chicken, its head lolling grotesquely. Squeamish girls, we asked for the head and feet to be chopped off.

Sunday night we had roast chicken and leek tart. I boasted that I had not been really sick, stay at home miserable sick, for more than a year.

Wednesday the leftover roast chicken went in a pot with a red onion and a dodgy carrot. The tiny apartment was invaded by chicken stock, the scent of smug preparation. We thought of risottos, soups, pasta.

Thursday morning I got sick. Nauseous, head-spinning sick. At a creepy crawly pace I cut salmon slices at work. Whipped eggs and almonds. For once I didn’t want to taste the latest experiment: turmeric, pistachio and rose-water tart. I just wanted to go back to bed. To have someone make me chicken soup.

No-one made me soup. I went home early (was accosted by a creepy pony-tailed man who insisted on complimenting my breasts) and dozed off alone on the sofa.

I made me soup. I chopped onion and courgette, grated ginger. Skimmed the fat off the stock. Pulled the remaining scraps of chicken from the grey carcass. Stirred, slowly. I squeezed in half a lemon and added a tiny splash of soy sauce and fish sauce, nam pla, for flavour without salt.

It was clear if not pretty, a lemon slice floating on the surface. Light and bright and soothing. Just right (and just easy enough) for sad invalids. When I feel better, I might add salt and pepper, bulghur wheat or rosemary-garlic croutons, cherry tomatoes. Cream. Endless possibilities.

Chicken soup for sad, sick people

For the stock:

1 leftover chicken carcass (roast or not), a little meat left on

1 red onion

1 carrot

For the soup:

a little olive oil

1 red onion

1 courgette

1 inch ginger

50ml white wine

leftover chicken pieces

chicken stock

2 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp nam pla (fish sauce)

juice of 1/2 lemon

lemon slice, to decorate

Make the chicken stock: (Preferably the night before.) In a huge pot, place your chicken bones, hopefully with a little meat left on, onion and carrot. Fill the pot (at least enough to cover the chicken). Bring to a boil and then turn down to simmer for at least one hour if not two. The kitchen should smell satisfactorially chickeny. Let cool and skim off some of the fat on the surface.

Make the soup: Heat olive oil in a large saucepan. Finely dice the onion and courgette and grate the ginger. Sautee the onion until translucent, then add the courgette and ginger. Cook and stir every now and then until the courgette is nice and soft. Add the white wine and let most of it bubble off.

Now add enough stock to fill your saucepan. While it heats, pull any leftover chicken meat off the bones and shred it with your fingers. Add to pot. Squeeze in the lemon juice, add the soy sauce and nam pla. Let it warm to desired temperature, then serve with a slice of lemon.

If you are not sick – I hate you. But you may add fun things: croutons, parmesan, black pepper, creme fraiche, lardons.




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