Indian Summer – Creamy curried sweet potato soup

I’m sure that the nature of holidays with children is well documented in the blogosphere.  Probably.  I’m a bit too lazy to actually go and look.  But as with all things online and parenting related I am finding that blogs fall into a few rather predictable patterns.  Many seem to be totally review focussed

* We went to [insert name of random resort] and it was all WONDERFUL (by that they mean free) and the kids had a FANTASTIC time because they had this SUPERB toy to play with that is loads better than ANY OTHER TOY EVER (because it was free) and although on the face of it you might assume that is just as pointless and plasticky as all other toys on the market and in fact that the kids didn’t like it as they hadn’t chosen it and it is not particularly pertinent to their interests, well if you assume that you’d be wrong.  No holiday is complete without one.  It kept the kids amused for at least 5 seconds.  And no, how very dare you suggest that I bribed the kids with haribo to get them to hold up the said (free) toy and smile as if all their teeny tiny Christmasses had come at once.  We all had a wonderful time with our free things and in fact life is wonderful [please PR folk give me more free stuff, more I tell you, I will never ever say a bad word about anything you care to send]*

Or the very very wholesome parenting blogs……..

*We spent the school holidays making spelt muffins and doing yoga together in fields during nature rambles*

Ideas for what to do in the school holidays abound.  Some of them great, some of them naff, some cheap, some stupidly expensive.  I started writing this on the very last day of the school holidays.  It was a strange limbo day as whilst it is officially the start of the school term the teachers feel the need for a day without children in school.  Personally I would have thought that children being there was a pre-requisite for the functionality of a school and that over 5 weeks of annual leave in one chunk would be more than enough to make sure that their classrooms were tidy and that they’d caught up with what they and their colleagues had done over the summer.  I can’t actually think of another job where you come back from holiday and then announce that you’ll come in to the office but won’t actually do the job you’re paid to for another couple of days thank you very much.  Sorry to my teacher friends…….. actually no, I’m not.  I know enough of you to know for a fact that inset days are a right old skive.

So, the school holidays are now officially over.  The teachers finally got their act together and let the kids go back to school and instagram and facebook have been full of shiny photos of children in shiny school uniforms holding up carefully written signs and pronouncing what they would like to be when they are older.  Status updates have veered between the tearful ‘oh I miss my baaaaaaabies, why have they grown up and left meeeeee’ and the ‘thank feck that ordeal of non-stop child entertainment is over and I can lie in a darkened room with a gin & tonic in a can and a family size bar of galaxy’.

Like I’ve said, I started writing a fortnight ago and it was meant to be a reflective piece about how we had spent the halcyon summer holidays.  Of course, real life intervened and husband got a stomach bug, both children got colds, I ran a 10k race (check me out!) and then I promptly got said cold.  So in between wiping snotty noses and using the entire Cheshire supply of dettol around the house there hasn’t been a whole lot of blogging (or indeed anything) time.  In fact the whole summer holiday thing seems like an entirely distant idea that may or may not have actually happened and may or may not have had, on the whole, more ups than downs.

Ups – we survived it, we saw lots of friends, the boys made a summer holiday plan of things they wanted to do and we ticked most things off it, we found lots of free activities to do, we had a lovely week in Norfolk and a wet week in Dorset and a visit to London, I went to Harrods, I drank wine or a suitable alcoholic equivalent every day for 6 weeks.

Downs – the boys learnt how to squabble and irritate each other big time, I was utterly exhausted for the majority of the holiday with what seemed like an inordinately large increase in shopping/cooking/ferrying around, I gave up even attempting to keep the house in any other state than terminally messy by the second week and it still looks like that now, my husband ate the cake I bought in Harrods, I drank wine or a suitable equivalent every day for 6 weeks and have continued this into September.

The dust is now settling, the boys are adjusting to new school routines, I am getting used to the varied schedule and whilst our livers are a little jaded our sniffles and coughs have abated to acceptable levels.  Autumn is as much of a time of new beginnings as Spring I guess.  I’m hoping that I will finally have the time to get cracking with writing my book, really carry on with getting fit and develop lots of healthy and yummy recipes. Who knows, I might even write coherent blog posts!

Naturally the same weather gods who think it’s hilarious to watch families shivering in cagoules and jeans in the drizzle on Bournemouth beach on bank holiday Monday think it’s pretty darn funny to crack open the sunshine once the kids are back in school.  So, although our heads say it’s Autumn and there’s things like conkers, apples and leaves on the ground – it’s also sunny and warm and not really Autumn food weather yet.

But in the interests of a halfway house I’ve cooked this soup for lunch.  It’s warming but still has that curry, exotic, sunny taste.  Hope you like it.  Well they do call this an Indian Summer, right????

Creamy curried sweet potato soup

Ingredients

 

1 onion chopped roughly

500g sweet potato peeled and chopped into medium size chunks

1 carrot peeled and chopped into similar size to sweet potato

100g red lentils

2tbsp of korma paste (I used waitrose own brand)

1.5 litres of hot water

50g creamed coconut (the dried kind that comes in a box) (or you could use a tin of coconut milk and reduce the water amount accordingly)

Salt and pepper to season

 

In a little oil fry off the onion for a few minutes then add the sweet potato and carrot and fry off for another couple of minutes.  Add the curry paste and cook for another minute or so.  Add the hot water, lentils and creamed coconut.  Bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes (until the veg is cooked through)

 

I use a stick blender in the pan to whizz the soup smooth but you can use a food processor or any blender.

 

This makes loads of soup and it’s pretty filling so serves a lot of people.  Leftovers freeze well too.
I served it for the grown ups with a bit or sriracha drizzled on top.  My 3 year old liked it with bug hunks of bread dunked in.IMG_7845.JPG

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Roasted beetroot and garlic soup

Cooking with beetroot is relatively new to me, but after reading a lot about its health benefits it`s an ingredient I am enjoying getting to grips with. I do have a couple of warnings for you though if, like me, you are a beetroot novice. First off, it stains like a bugger. Combine this with the fact that I am possibly the messiest eater and cooker on the entire planet and I have learnt NEVER to wear pale clothing whilst cooking, eating or even being in the same room as the stain-devil-beetroot and to ALWAYS wear a pinny. I also cut the skins off rather than peel (yes it wastes a teency bit but you can hold it a tad more gingerly so less pink fingers). You could wear rubber gloves but I hate them myself.

Secondly, and I apologise my friends for there is no way to put this politely, beetroot goes right through you with rather colourful results. A couple of years my usually stoic and healthy husband phoned me virtually in tears from whichever godforesaken business park he was working in at the time. `I think there`s something terribly wrong with me` he plaintively wailed `can you find me an emergency doctor?`. After some sympathetic phone support `what the feck are you talking about? You were fine when you left home last night? Man up you nutter` *wife of the year award goes to………* I established that his symptoms were massive internal bleeding. From the you know where. At which point I virtually killed myself laughing. And then reminded him of the beetroot gratin he had eaten for lunch the day before. He then pretended he had an important meeting to go to and hung up on me. He has lived to see another day and eat another beetroot. I can also attest to pale pink wee after beetroot. I`m not showing off. Just preventing you from potentially looking like a right dick at the dr.

Anyway, I made this soup for lunch today and it`s proper lush. Healthy and hearty and that lovely sweet/salty combination which I just can`t get enough of.

Ingredients

About 8 small whole beetroot – now these vary massively in size so use your judgement, mine were a mix of red and golden
Olive oil
6 cloves garlic
Sprigs fresh thyme
1litre chicken or veg stock
2tbsp sherry or white wine
1 chopped onion
2 sticks of finely chopped celery
1tsp fennel seeds
70g red lentils (to thicken soup)
Small amount of feta/chopped chives to garnish

Wash and roughly peel the beetroot and then chop and put on a baking tray – drizzle over about 2tsp of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Scatter over the garlic cloves whole in their papery skins and the thyme sprigs.

Roast in a preheated oven 180c for 45 minutes. Check after 20 minutes and remove the garlic and toss the beetroot round a bit, put the beetroot back in the oven but the garlic should be done by now so keep it out.

Take the garlic out of its skins and set aside.

Once beetroot is roasted heat 1tsp olive oil in a large pan and gently fry the onion and celery for 5 minutes or until soft.

Add the chicken stock, sherry, lentils, garlic, beetroot, fennel seeds and bring to boil – reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

I like to take my soup off the heat and puree it in the pan with a stick blender. You could do it in a blender in batches though.

Taste and season with salt & pepper. Serve in bowls with a bit of feta crumbled up over the top and maybe some chopped chives.

Enjoy!

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