24 January 2009

Let us be well

My Very Patient Reader, today I’m going to talk rot, I’m afraid. I am really sorry about it, but this is what I do lately. So please breathe in and pull up a chair – I’d simply love to chat away with you today.

I would be glad to be able to tell you that I got a new photo camera. Alas, I did not. For reasons unknown (or at least untold) to me, this dear friend of mine, Luke, caught an unprecedented, beastly flu, and is temporarily demobilised in his home, coughing explosively and taking naps. For me, it only means I should be tactful enough as to stop complaining and let the man recover properly. (To keep things clear, this dear to me person is the one who will generously, that is, within my budget, sell of his camera to me.)

Speaking of colds and such, I snatched one myself, too. “Not a big news”, I hear you thinking. I beg to differ because the source of my cold is rather, well, remarkable. It is…soup.
Please understand, I did not have an engagingly swift intelligence at the moment as to stop myself from recklessly taking a spoonful of it out of the refrigerator. And I – I must admit! – am very susceptible to getting a nastily sore throat exactly this way, that is, gulping down edible refrigerated liquids. Take ketchup, for example. Back in time, when I still did not seem to be bestowed with much interest and desire to cook as I am now (God knows), I fixed my meals quite simply – I drowned whatever-it-was-on-my-plate in ketchup. Massive lots of it. And – spot-on you are! – I used to drink it, too. Right from the bottle; right from the fridge. To the glorious extent of having my voice lost for a few days. (Incidentally, those voiceless days were also the days when I was due to give project presentations at high school.) Such was the scope of effects of my culinary illiteracy, you understand.

But let’s continue talking soup instead. The fact that I got a sore throat from it (sounds heavily ridiculously, I know) should not gross you out – that was entirely my recklessness to swear at; or impatience at a pinch. But the other fact that I made this soup three times within the last seven days (all for myself) speaks for itself: it is a winner.
Ironically, it is also a must for those wrestling with head colds, flues and the like, for, when eaten hot or reheated, this soup, I discovered, has all the requisites to speed up your recovery. Tomatoes and turmeric make it colourful, lentils take care of its nutritious property, a medley of spices gives it its – Indian - character and bite, and it is so simple to make (especially topical when you are unwell).
Also, given that I made the soup in question more times than I was going to, I learnt that, among much else, it is mightily versatile. Instead of using lentils, you may go for chickpeas, quinoa, rice, even potatoes. Of course, textures and flavours will vary slightly, but the big thought at the back of all this is that you might as well never get bored with it, I’m telling you.
And, by the way, let us be well! And if we are not, let us recover soon.

The source recipe you may find on Delicious:days. I, on my part, will extend on my slightly modified version of it.

Tomato Soup with Lentils

2 Tbsp olive oil

¼ tsp cumin seeds, freshly ground

½ tsp garam masala

1 garlic clove, finely diced

1 small dried chilli, crushed

¼ tsp each coriander seeds and black peppercorns, freshly ground

¼ cup red lentils
400g (1 can) canned tomatoes, with juices (mash or dice the tomatoes before using)
3 cups (725 ml) vegetable stock or water (I used the latter and was not disappointed at all, as you see. Also, the original recipe has you use 2 cups water/stock, which left me at the first time with a rather thicker consistency than I like, so I suggest a trifle more contents of liquids here)
1 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp turmeric powder

1/4 ~ 1/2 tsp sea salt
2cm (~1 inch) cinnamon stick (the sweetness that is in cinnamon accentuates the tomatoes taste so well too, I found)

½ tsp brown mustard seeds

Fresh flat-leaf parsley or cilantro for garnishing (I used parsley)

1. In a medium pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the ground cumin, chilli, coriander, black pepper, garam masala and minced garlic, and sauté for a few minutes stirring continuously.

2. Add the lentils, the canned tomatoes with juices and water/vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, season with sugar, salt and turmeric. Add the cinnamon stick. Lower down the heat, cover the pot with a lid and simmer for about 20 to 30 mins.

3. At the end of cooking time, roast the brown mustard seeds until they start to pop up, and add them to the soup. Check and adjust the seasoning to your taste. Discard the cinnamon stick.

4. Garnish with fresh herbs and enjoy.

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