Friday, October 19, 2007

Day 15: Spiced Red Lentil

This recipe is out of a big glossy book portentously entitled The Soup Bible (ed. Debra Mayhew) that a thoughtful friend got for me from that discount book shop on the corner of The Cut, diagonally across from the Old Vic. It echoes last Friday's Çorbasi and, in my interpretation, uses some of the left over ingredients.

It also incorporates coconut milk, which has become something of a trademark of Pullens Soup Kitchen. For the sake of experimentation, this time around, I used two tins of coconut milk (79p each) instead of a single block of creamed coconut (about 50p) to achieve much the same effect. Admittedly, the stuff from the can is has a more ready-to-use consistency, but in future I'll stick with the cheaper option.

There wasn't much shopping to do for this soup, but the daily expenditure was inflated by the purchase of a decent sized sieve and a storage jar. Also, I restocked with Marigold bouillon powder from Fair Shares and bought several varieties of bean and pulse, including a 2kg bag of red lentils, which I used in this soup.

I started by peeling and mincing two heads of garlic, then peeling and dicing six medium sized British onions, and put them into a little oil in the bottom of the soup pot over low heat. With the lid on the soup pot, I sweated the onions and garlic for a few minutes while I assembled the spice mix of turmeric and cumin - I used two tablespoons of each - plus a big stick of cinnamon and a couple of dozen cardamom pods. I added these spices to the pot, mixing them thoroughly with the onions and garlic, before adding the contents of three cans of chopped tomatoes (that cost a quid from Iceland). I also added half a jar of sweet red pepper paste that was in the fridge.

Taking the pot off the heat, I tipped in three quarters of the big bag of red lentils, probably 1.5kg, plus the rest of a bag of fine bulgur wheat, perhaps 250g, left over from last Friday's recipe, which called for half as much bulgur as lentils. Here, I figured a much smaller proportion of bulgur would combine with the coconut fat to give the lentil soup a velvety texture. Adding two litres of boiling water and two litres of Marigold bouillon, I brought the pot to the boil and simmered the lentils for about half an hour before blending.

While whizzing up the lentils, I slowly added another two litres of bouillon and then I finished the soup by blending in the contents of the two cans of coconut milk the about 500ml of lime juice (limes were five for a quid at Oli's). This was as per the recipe in The Bible, which suggests that you 'reserve a little of the coconut milk for the garnish'. If I were going to do that, I'd squeeze a wedge of limes into the soup as its served, too, since the coconut and lime flavours quickly became muted as the soup sat warming on the hob.

The soup pot sat undisturbed for quite a while, as trade was slow. Maybe half a dozen people from the workshops and offices in the yards came in with their bowls to collect soup to take back to work - Alex Monroe and his posse; the good people of Six O'Clock Cleaning Services - leaving me alone and the Pullens Centre deserted, so when Taz (left) tried to pull the same stunt, I implored her to linger 'n' chat. Later, a few more women (all women!) came in and a couple generously wrote 'Wow' in the log bok. Joy said, 'such a lovely place to come for lunch. Wow, what a fab soup' and Essie said, 'Wow! Absolutely gorgeous. A real treat'.

Soup Maker: Russell
Soup: Spiced Red Lentil
Other ingredients: Cumin, coconut milk, lime
Garnish: Cumin seeds, chopped parsley
No. of bowls served: 16
Expenditure: £24.67
Donations: £21.67
Dry goods: 30.13
Running balance: +£110.03

I've been a bit slow to update the blog because, instead of doing it last night, I went to watch Capital Tales, 'a whistle-stop journey across 100 years of London' via a selection of rarely seen short films shown on a big screen in Trafalgar Square:

No comments: