Lentil Soup with Harissa and Pumpkin

Ways to brighten a grey wintery day:

- Stay in bed a little longer. Heated blanket ON. (No central heating in Australia, folks – that heated blanket has been MONEY this past month.) Check your emails on your phone while doing this – you’re totally getting things done while still lying in bed!

- Make or buy the best dang cup of coffee you can muster. Drink it while watching different versions/parodies of Call Me Maybe on youtube. (Like this one or this one.)

- Do your own version of yoga/stretching/dance aerobics while watching fluffy morning TV. Mute TV occasionally to play Call Me Maybe.

- Bundle up and get outside for a walk. You’ll try and resist this at first (it’s so gloomy out there!) – but you’ll be happy you did.

-  Simmer something over the stove for a little while – something a hearty, lentil-packed and a little spicy. Top it with a zippy lemon-scented yogurt and eat while piping hot!

Awww yeah, you’re treating winter right.

Lentil Soup with Pumpkin and Harissa (serves 4-6)
adapted from Gourmet Traveller

- 1 tablespoon olive oil
– small knob of butter
– 1 large onion, finely chopped
– 1 medium-large leek, finely chopped
– 2 carrots, finely diced
– 1 celery rib, finely diced
– 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
– 2 cups dry French lentils
– 6 cups (1.5 liters) water, or more if needed.
– 2-3 cups diced Japanese pumpkin (or butternut)
– 1 14-ounce/400-gram can of diced or cherry tomatoes
– 2-3 tablespoons harissa paste, to taste
To serve:
– 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
– zest of 1/2 lemon
– handful of chopped coriander

Heat olive oil and butter in a large pot over a medium heat until the butter is foaming.

Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally until soft and golden – about 8 minutes.

Add leek, carrot, celery and garlic and cook for another 8-10 minutes stirring occasionally, until soft.

Add lentils and water and cook for 20 minutes over a simmer.

Add pumpkin and tomatoes and cook another 20-30 minutes until everything is tender. Add a bit more water if needed. (I added a splash.)

Stir in harissa paste and cook another 10 minutes.

Combine lemon zest and yogurt and serve over soup with fresh coriander.

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Warm and Spicy Brussels Sprouts with Pumpkin

Ice skating rinks on the beach. The Nutcracker in July. “Cold snaps” defined as an extended period of time when the temperature was below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Way to rock winter, Australia. Really, I don’t find any of this ridiculous at all. I swear.

Winter means I am finally allowed to fully embrace my love of cruciferous vegetables! Kale, cauliflower and b-sprouts all day and all night.
While my old go-to is simply roasting b-sprouts with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, I also really enjoy their texture when they’re shredded or finely chopped and quickly sauteed.

Give b-sprouts a chance. (No, I will not stop calling them b-sprouts. Can’t stop, won’t stop.) Forget that you ever tried the boiled-to-death variety and roast them, fry them, shred them! It’s less ridiculous than watching people ice skate on a melting puddle next to the ocean. I swear.

Warm & Spicy Brussels Sprouts with Pumpkin

For Pumpkin
- 1 1/2 cups pumpkin (I used Japanese pumpkin, but butternut would be great too) cubed
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 1 teaspoon harissa paste or 1/2 teaspoon of dry harissa spice mix
– pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 450 F/230 C

Toss pumpkin with olive oil and harissa paste in a bowl until pumpkin is coated well. Spread out on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until soft and slightly golden.

For B-Sprouts
– 3 cups of brussels sprouts shredded either by hand or with a mandolin
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 1/2 tablespoon harissa paste or 1 teaspoon dry harissa spice mix
– salt and pepper

Heat oil in a large pan over a medium high heat. Add harissa and spread around the pan. Add shredded brussels sprouts and cook for 5 minutes, stirring only a couple times allowing them to crisp up in places.

To serve
Top with toasted pepitas and roasted pumpkin.
For a meaty option top with a bit of shredded Serrano ham.

Carrots and Peppers Roasted with Harissa and Lentils

Every now and then, I have ice cream and popcorn for lunch.

I know from where you’re sitting it probably looks all like salads, roasted vegetables and legumes over here. And I love all that stuff…that’s why I write this blog. I make them taste good and they make me feel good. It’s a love-love relationship.

But sometimes (usually on a Saturday) a late lunch ends up being two scoops of the silliest flavors you can think of (No joke, I had a gingerbread flavor called Hansel He’s So Hot Right Now this weekend. It was marvelous.) and some salty popcorn to balance it all out.

Ain’t no thing.

Part of me likes to think I’m doing 7-year-old me justice and living the dream of ice cream whenever I want. I kind of am.

My goal when I make a salad is to make it as alluring as ice cream for lunch can sometimes be. I like to give it an edge, (read: cheese) a little extra flair (harissa) and implement some lazy, but effective technique (roasting) – together those things make a lunch that I would pick over ice cream 6 days out of 7.

Carrots, Peppers and Lentils
– 4 large carrots, cut into rounds
– 1 large red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
– 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 tablespoon harissa
– 1 cup cooked French lentils*
– 1/4 cup goat or feta cheese for serving
– salt, to taste

Pre-heat oven to 220 C/430 F.

Combine carrots, peppers olive oil and harissa in a large bowl. Mix well until the vegetables are well coated with oil and harissa.

Spread vegetables out on a baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes, tossing half-way through, until golden brown.

Combine lentils and vegetables in a bowl. Add a touch more olive oil if the vegetables are a little dry. Sprinkle with salt and cheese and serve warm or at room temperature.

Notes:
For cooking lentils: Place 1/2 cup dry lentils in a medium saucepan with 1 1/2 – 2 cups water and a whole garlic clove. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook covered for 25-30 minutes until tender. Drain well to serve.

Harissa Chickpea Burgers

Harissa, like sriracha, is another spicy addition to my pantry that I have no idea how I lived without. When it’s sizzling in a pan with some olive oil, the smell that drifts over the kitchen is intoxicating. That chili-garlic goodness is probably what a love potion tailored to me would smell like. It wins my heart.

I have been putting it in eggs, rice, hummus, fish, vegetables, pasta…yeah, everything. Some burgers seemed like a natural move.

Chickpea burgers, because I had some soaking.

And the rest, is history.

You can probably expect weekly harissa installments from here on out.

Unsolicited advice: if you don’t have some harissa up in your kitchen, get some. If anything, you can probably seduce someone with it. (No promises, though.)

Chickpea Burgers with Harissa
(makes 4 burgers)
– 3 cups cooked chickpeas
– 1 heaping tablespoon harissa paste
– 1/4 cup parsley and/or coriander leaves
– 1 small shallot, chopped
– 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped or minced
– 1 egg and 1 egg white
– 4 small green onions/scallions, white and light green parts finely chopped
– salt and freshly ground pepper
– 1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Place the first 5 ingredients in a food processor with a sprinkle of salt and a good grinding of pepper. Process until the chickpeas reach a crumbly texture and the harissa is distributed throughout.

Place in a bowl and stir in the egg, egg white and green onions into the chickpeas until completely combined. Use your hands to form equal-sized patties, being careful not to make them too large. (About 3 inches/7.5 cm across)

Heat olive oil in a large pan over a medium-high heat. Cook patties until golden brown (about 3-4 minutes on each side). Serve warm.

Suggestions:
Serve in pitas, small buns or over a salad.
I served mine with avocado, arugula and Greek yogurt spiced with cumin, garlic and chopped fresh coriander.
I also had one with this roasted red pepper sauce and some cucumber and tomato. Go nuts!