Minestrone & Socca.

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In the series of  easy and satisfying Saturday soups I now present the magnicifenct minestrone. This was what we had two weeks ago, with socca – a savoury mediterranean chickpea flatbread or pancake stemming from the French and Italian Riviera – on the side. At the end of lunchtime, everything was gone!

Let’s not waste any words on describing how very, very simple and delicious this is – here come the recipes.

 

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Minestrone & Socca.

Minestrone

Ingredients

  • 150 g uncooked Puy lentils, rinsed (if you prefer borlotti or cannellini beans, or a blend of both lentils and beans, go ahead) + 3x the volume in water, for cooking
  • 1 onion
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 can finely chopped tomatoes (or the equivalent of fresh ones, ca. 400g)
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • ca. 6 – 7 cups vegetable broth (1,5- 1,75 l)
  • 1/2 cup tiny pasta shapes (vermicelli or alphabet pasta, or whatever at hand)

Directions

  • Boil the lentils in a separate pot. You don’t want to add them straight to the pot in which you’re preparing the soup, for otherwise they’ll add a murkish brown hue to your soup – and you do not want this, right? So boil them separately, drain and rinse them again, and then add them to the – bright red – soup in the final stage..
  • Sauté the onion until translucent. Add the finely chopped carrots and celery. After some minutes, pour in the broth, tomatoes and tomato pastetogether with the bay leaves and rosemary.

Socca

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chickpea flour or besan (there is actually a slight difference between the two; what I use is this besan or gram flour which I procure from an Asian store. This is a versatile, ingredient and very practical ingredient to have in a vegan kitchen, as it can quite often function as an egg substitute in a wide range of recipes, from quiche, omelette, to even cookies).
  • 1 cup water (one can increase and decrease the volume of water, depending on the thickness of the flatbread you would like to achieve).
  • 1-2 TB olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • herbs and seasonings of your choice; I used a TB of an Italian herb blend, which also contains some extra salt, and also added a garlic clove or two.

Directions

  • Gradually mix in the water into the besan, careful not to make any lumps. Whisk until you have a smooth batter, and then add the olive oil, salt and the optional herbs.
  • Let the batter rest for at least half an hour, but preferably longer. (Do NOT taste the batter in the meantime. Gram flour has a very distinct, raw flavour when uncooked, so refrain from pre-tasting, as it will only disappoint you. Not so much the final result, though. So practice some patience here.)
  • Pour the liquid into a skillet and bake. — Traditionally socca is oven-baked and broiled, but since I do not have any oven-proof skillets, I just use my stove. And that works fine too.

If you google images of socca, you will find that a socca’s thickness can range from several mm, to quite thin. The one I made kind of occupied the middle ground between those two extremes.

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Sweet & sour vegan meatballs with vegetable fried rice.

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Don’t let the not so perfect photo above mislead you – the dish pictured is extremely tasty! And what’s more, it’s easy to prepare, and can please spouses and offspring alike. Today I felt like preparing the vegan meatballs I had in the fridge (of course one can make ‘cheatballs’ from scratch too, but as a vegan one usually cooks already so often, that sometimes ready-made food is very welcome). I know my husband likes them with a sweet and sour sauce, and I thought maybe vegetable fried rice would be a good match. And it was.

Vegan meatballs with sweet and sour gravy

4 portions

Ingredients

  • ca. 350g vegan meatballs (home made or storebought)
  • 2 onions, finely chopped or sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 250 ml passata (sieved tomato sauce)
  • 200 ml water
  • 125 ml balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp vegan Worcester sauce
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 100 – 125 ml muscovado sugar
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp chili paste
  • salt

Instructions

Fry the vegan meatballs and then transfer to a plate.

Fry the onions in some olive oil until translucent, then add the garlic. Then add all remaining ingredients for the sauce and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, add the vegan meatballs and let simmer for about 15 minutes.

Vegetable fried rice

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup or 210 ml brown rice, and double the amount of water
  • 2 scallions
  • 3 – 4 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup or 250 ml peas
  • toasted sesame oil
  • soy sauce to taste
  • (optional: a batch of scrambled tofu – I’ll post a recipe for this soon!)

Instructions

Boil the rice and set aside until somewhat cooled and ready to use, or use leftover rice. (I hadn’t planned this dish in advance, so I did the first). Heat some toasted sesame oil in a frying pan, add the sliced carrots,  and after a couple of minutes, add the rice. Fry until heated through, and fully coated with some of the oil. Lastly add the peas and some splashes of soy sauce to taste. If you’ve got the time to make scrambled tofu ass well, you could of course add this too!

Turkish red lentil soup & spinach-walnut puff pastry pockets

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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!

 

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Recipes for 4 servings.

Red lentil soup

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

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

Ingredients

  • 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)

Instructions

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.

Enjoy!
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Toast with cashew cheese and apple.

Let’s take an easy lunch idea to kick off this blog: cashew cheese toast with apple. This is a quick toast which rotates at regular intervals in our houseld. I stumbled upon this recipe for pepper-crusted cashew goat cheese years ago, and it immediately became one to stay. It doesn’t require many ingredients, and you probably have most of them at hand. If you lack tahini, it’s entirely possible to skip it (I’ve done it plenty of times), but if you do have it somewhere in your pantry, even if you have to look somewhere in the back of your fridge or cupboard, do include it. It adds a nice tangy taste and  boosts the nutritional value of the spread.

Initially, I followed all steps laid out in the original recipe, but I soon felt that the hassle of draining the cashew cheese mixture in cheesecloth and subsequently baking it added fairly little value to the final product. To me, even though it might not look as fancy as a peppered cheese roll (which really does look amazingly fancy), the plainly soaked and mixed version of this cashew cheese will do just as well. It can be readily used in hearty dishes, quiches and even stews, but it does requires some advance planning, as you need to soak the cashews overnight. For those amongst you that are bad at planning ahead of time: don’t despair. There’s actually also a quick-soak shortcut: when soaking the cashews in boiling water, you should be able to mix them – without ruining your food processor – within 15 – 30 minutes.

I prefer this cashew cheese on a simple toast, with some apple slices, agave syrup, pine kernels and cracked black pepper, as pictured below. You might also opt for puff pastry instead of toast, and turn these ingredients into a hearty stuffing for puff pastry pockets.

(I don’t have a decent camera for the time being, so excuse the low quality image taken with my smartphone).

 

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