Once upon a time there was this wonderful lunch place in Stockholm, on Valhallavägen, called Soppatorsk. The plain but delicious Turkish food they served – especially soups, salads and sandwiches – was heavenly. They had both a rotating and a fixed menu, and among the fixed lunch items were my two favourites, which I usually ordered simultaneously: mercimek çorbası (lentil soup) and ıspanaklı börek (spinach filo pie). The latter did not have the traditional spinach-feta stuffing, but was a veganised version with spinach and tofu, and it was truly, utterly, mouthwateringly good. Yes, the combination of a pulse and vegetable based middle-eastern cuisine and a vegan-friendly Swedish setting was ideal!
For no obvious reason one day the place was closed down – much to my despair, for other than a Korean place nearby there were no good vegan lunch options in the vicinity of my workplace. So from that time onwards I started cooking my own version of red lentil soup – which came surprisingly close to the original. I made one attempt to replicate the börek, or spanakopita, as its Greek counterpart is called, but it wasn’t success. The winning recipe must be out there, so I’m sure that one day, I will be able to come up with a filo pie that can more or less stand in for that long-lost ideal. But in the meantime I did come up with something else, that actually pairs equally well with the soup: a puff pastry pocket with a walnut and spinach filling. And it’s not only me who is a fan, the rest of the household as well.
So if you usually don’t have much time to cook lunch on a Saturday packed with household chores, driving kids to and from leisure activities, and shopping, then this is your ideal lunch!
Recipes for 4 servings.
Red lentil soup
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves
- 4-5 carrots, sliced
- 3/4 cup red lentils, rinsed (I prefer the ones which are not split, as they retain more bite)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 4,5 cup – 5 cups vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 3/4 – 1 tbsp paprika
- dash of cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- flatleaf parsley for garnish
Fry the onions until translucent, add the garlic cloves, then the carrots. Stir for a minute or two, then pour in the stock and the red lentils. Bring to a boil, and add the tomato paste and spices. Let simmer until the lentils and carrots are soft. Garnish with parsley.
Spinach-walnut puff pastry pockets
- 2 chopped onions
- 1 cup walnuts
- 50 g gouda style cheese (I use Violife original or Wilmersburger classic), grated
- 100g spinach (I used frozen spinach this time, but sometimes I chop up fresh spinach leaves)
- nutmeg, salt, pepper
- 1 large puff pastry sheet; the vegan kind, of course (in Belgium, one can only find vegan puff pastry which is organic)
Finely chop the onion and walnuts in a food processor and then fry in some olive oil until the onion is nicely browned. Add the spinach, the grated cheese and spices, and let the mixture fry for a couple of more minutes, until the cheese has melted. Bring to taste with extra salt and pepper, if necessary. Then roll out the puff pastry sheet, cut it into evenly diveded pieces, spoon some of the mixture onto each piece, and fold into pockets. Bake in a pre-heated oven (200 degrees C) for ca. 15 minutes.