Tag Archives: starter

Split Pea and Lentil Soup

Oh, we had a shocker of a cold day recently. It has been great – warm and sunny – then wham! It gets nippy and you remember the unpredictability of living in London.

So…I rooted around in the cupboard and found a packet of split peas that had been languishing in the corner. I had bought them a while back to use in a curry from an Anjum Anand recipe , thinking they would make a decent substitute for pigeon peas that she recommended. I thought this on the basis that they look the same and are the same colour.

Well, that particular episode ended in a bit of a disaster – choosing ingredients by colour alone is not a great rule of thumb, as I hadn’t realised that pigeon peas and split peas have significantly different cooking times. So the vegetables were cooked and starting to get soft while the peas remained stubbornly hard. I had not choice but to cook until the peas were soft, and it did all break down into a tasty spicy broth, but I’ve since started making that particular curry recipe with yellow lentils (cooking time – around 20 minutes – and it’s de-lish!).

But back to the languishing split peas…for a cold day, what could be more fitting than split pea soup? This time, armed with the knowledge that these can be pesky little critters to cook, I left them to soak overnight. I’m not sure that this is entirely necessary, but it worked so if you’re not in a hurry, go with the soak. I also paired this up with some yellow lentils. The theory was that the lentils would break down as the soup cooks, and leave the split peas whole (but this time – hopefully cooked!) for a bit of texture.

I thought about whether I should spice this recipe up. Curry? Cumin? Coriander? All possible, but in the end I just added a little freshly ground black pepper and left the flavour of the peas as the main highlight of this soup. I might play around with the flavouring when I make this again, but I thought it was rather delicious just as it is.

It was perfect for a slightly more inclement weather, with a drizzle of olive oil and a few croutons on top for some crunch.

And the next day, the hot weather came back!

To make Split Pea and Lentil Soup:

• 150g yellow split peas
• 150g yellow or red lentils
• 2 large onions
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
• 1.5 litres water
• 1 stock cube

Leave the split peas to soak overnight in cold water. Drain the next day.

Peel and finely chop the onions. Put the onions, olive oil and pepper in large saucepan and fry over a low heat until the onions are soft and slightly browned.

Add the drained peas, lentils and water. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a low heat and simmer for 1 hour until the lentils break down and the peas are soft. After the first 30 minutes, add the stock cube and stir well.

Just before serving, check the seasoning and adjust

Worth making? Get past the time for soaking, and this is a very easy and tasty soup which takes very little effort. It’s great on its own, or can be boosted with a little spice.



Filed under Recipe, Savoury

Endive, Pear, Feta and Pecan Salad

I am sitting on the sofa and can see sunlight streaming through the clouds. Might Spring be here?

Making a huge leap of faith, I have assumed that the start of March really does mean Spring is actually here, so time for a salad. This is a tounge-tingling combination of bitter endive, sweet pear, creamy/salty feta and sweet pecan nuts, topped with a simple light olive oil and white vinegar dressing, all of which looks quite dramatic on the plate, like this:

Endives are something I am very familiar with from my time living in Belgium, must usually seen baked. I have to admit, I am not a fan of the grey, sad witloof or chicon sitting in water when brought to the table. Maybe I will work out how to prepare baked endive one day, but for the time being, I like them raw and crisp, to add an interesting dimension to a salad. The white leaves, fringed with bright yellow-green also hint at Spring arriving. My research also revealed that they go by many names. I usually call them chicory, but that can be confused with the blue flower of the same name. Then I happened to see an episode of the dreadful Hell’s Kitchen USA, with everyone talking about en-dive (rhyming with hive). Maybe I’m just posh or wrong, but I thought it was pronounced like believe. I digress.

The pears in the vegetable shop at this time of year actually work quite well here – they stay quite firm and have a little crunch, which makes the salad more interesting that using their riper – but softer – cousins in the middle of summer. The trick is to try and get them into thin, tapering slivers that look good on the plate. You can keep them pale and interesting by dropping them into acidulated water – that’s water with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to you and me.

As the for the nuts, I was fully planning to use walnuts, but realised that I didn’t actually have any. I did, however, have pecans. Walnuts are more of a nutty “savoury” flavour, but with the tang of the endive and the salty taste of the cheese, I figures that sweeter pecans could work. Well, they would have to work, as I had not checked I had everything at home before starting, and I was mid-recipe when I worked out that it was pecans-or-nothing. In the event, they worked, and worked very well. And the silver lining is that pecans are the less obvious addition than walnuts, and add an interesting flavour element to the salad. Playing fast-and-loose with the classics, eh?

I loved this salad – interesting flavours, lots of texture, and a sharp simple vinaigrette with white wine vinegar and the last of my monocultural olive oil from holiday last year. Maybe time to start looking at a little trip too?

To make endive, pear, feta and pecan salad (starter for four):

• one pear
• one endive
• 100g feta, crumbled
• 30g pecans, chopped

Peel the pear. Cut into thin slices (removing any of the core or pips) and place the pieces in acidulated water (i.e. water, with a little lemon juice – this stops the pear turning brown).

Separate the endive, and cut each leaf in two lengthways.

Just before serving, drain the pear slices. Arrange the endive, pear, feta and pecans on each plate, and add a little of the dressing.

For the dressing:

• 6 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
• 1/2 teaspoons salt
• 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
• pinch of white sugar

Add all the ingredients to a jam jar and shake vigorously until the dressing is smooth.

Worth making? This is a nice, simple and tasty dish. The flavours mean you will probably prefer this as a starter, but add green salad leaves to bulk out, add some croutons and a bit more feta, and it can also make a substantial main course. And of course, it’s great to eat outside in the warm weather that it just about to arrive…any day now…


Filed under Recipe, Savoury