Baby, it's cold outside...in Wellington, at least. Talk about hungry and frozen. I didn't plan on making vegetable soup this early on in the year but what else can you do in this situation?
Above: Vegetable soup always reminds me of home, of making a large vat of it every weekend in winter, and letting it sit warmly in the crock-pot, only getting better with time.
I don't follow a recipe, but I think you have to have onions, celery, and carrots - the basis of many a slow-cooked meal - and I like to really let the vegetables cook (I refuse to say sweat!) before adding any liquid. Because I was all out of the classic King's Soup Mix, I just used some lentils and barley that I found in our pantry. By the way, King's Soup Mix isn't nearly as declasse as it sounds - it's just a prepacked bag of lentils, beans and barley. It is very cheap, and so good for you - I don't know why people don't make this all the time.
So that was dinner last night. To go with I made a rather sassy Puy lentil, pea and feta salad. After adding peas to my lentil soup the other day, it struck me that this humble frozen vegetable could be paired with lentils in other ways. The earthy darkness of the Puy lentils, the perky green sweetness of the peas and the creamy saltiness of the feta was surprisingly moreish.
Above: I didn't actually measure anything so I can't give you an exact recipe...however I did make a dressing out of three tablespoons each extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar. With so few ingredients it should be easy to recreate it yourself, if you are so inclined.
Above: Unfortunately I remain intimidated by our new camera, as you can see by this picture where the meal is out of focus and the wooden spoon is in. I tell you, I can't seem to get it the other way around. I'd like to think there's something wrong with our camera...but I suspect it's still me.
More soul food (if you can see it in that photo, anyway!) tonight in the form of a layered meat and pasta dish from Annabel Cooks, by NZ author Annabel White. It is very basic, a kind of no-effort lasagne - cooked small pasta is mixed with sour cream and cream cheese, and layered with mince that has been cooked in the usual spag-bol kind of way, topped with cheese, and baked. It sounds too simple and seen-it-all-before to be any good, but in fact I think she's on to something. Much depends on the quality of your meat sauce, I'd recommend using red wine in it, and a tin of tomatoes instead of some premade pasta sauce. It is very comforting bowl-food, and helped to stave off the chilliness of our (inevitably freezing) student flat momentarily.
As Nigella The Wise says in How To Be A Domestic Goddess, the benefits of colder climes are largely culinary, and I heartily concur. I can't wait to try out more soups (getting ever-closer to The Lentil Soup), rich casseroles, melting stews, baking more bread in the weekends (proving it by the heater if need be), dusting off my pudding steamer...and, er, my Pilates DVD...