Feeding a cold (with lentils)

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I write this swaddled in a blanket, trying to get over a cold which my loving husband passed on to me last week. It is taking its sweet time to leave. I’ve tried nudging it with Night nurse*, smothering it with sleep and Sudafed*,  and now I’m going to flush it out with food – chicken soup, stews, all the good, warm, autumnal stuff.

*Other cold/flu medicines are available.

One of my recent favourites that might help to do the trick is a kind of lentil stew with tomatoes, mustard, garlic and thyme. It’s from a book the OH and I are a little obsessed with at the moment: A Modern Way to Cook by Anna Jones. All vegetarian/vegan dishes, all amazing. There will be more of her recipes on this blog soon.

I admit, lentils don’t tend to get people excited, but these are blinking tasty – I’ll let the photo’s convince you…

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Garlic & thyme lentils with roasted tomatoes, breadcrumbs, and mustard cream 

lightly adapted from A Modern Way to Cook

Ingredients

For the lentils:

300g green/puy lentils

4 cloves garlic

1 tomato

a few sprigs thyme

2 bay leaves

1 vegetable stock cube

Glug of oil and splash of red wine vinegar (optional)

For the tomatoes:

400g cherry tomatoes, cut in half

Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

olive/rapeseed oil

2-3 slices wholemeal bread, blitzed into crumbs

small bunch fresh thyme (or equivalent dried)

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

For the mustard cream:

2 tsp english mustard (or to taste)

100g cream cheese

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1. Preheat the oven to 220C and boil a kettle of water.

2. Put the lentils in a large pan with the tomato, the 4 cloves of garlic (unpeeled), the bay leaves, and the sprigs of thyme. Dissolve the stock cube in 1 litre of boiling water and pour over the lentils. Bring the pan back to the boil, then reduce to a medium heat and simmer gently for 25-30 mins, until the lentils are tender and most of the water has evaporated.

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3. Whilst the lentils are cooking, put the cherry tomatoes on a roasting tray – cut side up. Drizzle over some oil, sprinkle over the lemon zest, and season with salt and pepper. Put in the oven and roast for around 15 minutes.

4. Whilst the tomatoes are roasting, put the breadcrumbs on another roasting tray with the thyme leaves and the chopped garlic clove. Drizzle over some more oil and put in the oven with the tomatoes for a further five minutes.

5. Meanwhile, mix the mustard with the cream cheese and set aside.

6. When the lentils are cooked, scoop out the tomato, the garlic, and the bay leaves. Discard the bay leaves and put the tomato into a small bowl. Pop the garlic cloves out of their skins and mash into the tomato to create a rough paste, before stirring this back into the lentils. Check the lentils and add a glug of oil and a splash of red wine vinegar to the mixture, and extra seasoning if desired.

To serve: Ladle the lentils into a bowl and spoon over some of the mustard cream. Scatter over the roasted tomatoes and the breadcrumbs, and get cosy…

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Hopefully this will get my cold moving – wish me luck!

Bake-Off Wednesdays: Desserts

On the weekend, the OH and I walked some of the Bath Skyline Walk. This is a 6 mile walk around the outskirts of Bath, featuring hills, fields, woods, a ‘sham castle’ and views of the city. We only had time/energy for about half of it, but managed to fit in all of the above!

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Views of Bath and the ‘Sham Castle’ built in the 18th Century by Ralph Allen, to improve the view from his house!

We took a tub with us in the hope of collecting some blackberries, and we weren’t disappointed.

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Although a lot of the bushes weren’t quite ripe yet, we managed to fill the tub, and eat a couple… In a couple of weeks time I don’t think you’ll be able to move for blackberries on the walk – we may have to go back!

I’d decided to incorporate some blackberries into this week’s bake-off challenge, and because this week we are trying to be healthy-ish (to combat the excesses of the last couple of weeks!), I tried to find a dessert that wasn’t completely naughty.

I remember Crème Caramels were made by the bakers one year, and so decided on one of its distant relatives – the Panna Cotta.

Panna Cotta, the dessert made with mountains of double cream? I hear you. Not what automatically comes to mind when thinking of healthy desserts, but I had a thought it could be made with yoghurt, and a quick search of the internet provided me with a few recipes that seemed to agree with me.

Most seemed to incorporate greek yoghurt with some double cream and milk, so i bought both and had a go….

Now, this didn’t end up as healthy as I’d hoped, because I had to make them twice…  It all tasted lovely the first time round, but didn’t set properly, so was more like a very creamy yoghurt dessert than a set dessert – see photo below!

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I’d followed one recipe in terms of the gelatine to cream/yoghurt ratio, but looking at other recipes they all seem to have more than mine did. So I tried it again, and upped the gelatine content substantially.

This time things looked more promising!

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Flavour-wise, I decided to infuse the cream with some thyme that we had leftover in the fridge, and used honey-flavoured greek yoghurt to add a bit more flavour.The blackberries were great, I just left them fresh, but you could make a coulis with them if you wanted. I also crumbled up a butter galette biscuit to add some texture – a ‘biscuit crumb’, if you will 😉

We ate this for breakfast as it didn’t feel as naughty as a traditional Panna Cotta!

Thyme and Honey ‘Panna Cotta’ with Blackberries

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

3 Gelatine Leaves

175ml Milk

50ml Double Cream

250g Honey-flavoured Greek Yoghurt

20g Caster Sugar

Approx 4 sprigs of Thyme

Blackberries

Put the gelatine leaves into a bowl of iced water and leave to soften for five minutes.

Put the milk, cream, sugar and thyme sprigs into a small pan and bring slowly to the boil.

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Remove the softened gelatine from the iced water, gently squeeze out the excess water and stir into the milk and cream (discarding the thyme sprigs). Remove from the heat and stir until the gelatine has dissolved.

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Pour this mixture through a sieve to get rid of any lumps, and pour into the greek yoghurt slowly, whisking as you go. When thoroughly combined, pour the mixture into your moulds (I used tea cups), cover with cling film and place in the fridge for at least 5 hours.

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When ready to serve, run a sharp knife around the rim of the mould, and briefly dip the mould into hot water to help loosen the panna cotta. Jiggle it around again, repeat if necessary, and gently pull away from the sides with your fingers or a spoon. It will come out eventually! Alternatively, if you can’t or don’t want to get it out you can serve it in the mould/teacup etc – see photo below. It still looks pretty, just slightly less impressive! If turning out, do so onto your serving plate and garnish with blackberries, biscuits, and another small sprig of thyme (if desired).

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This dessert definitely tasted healthier than a normal Panna Cotta, I think the yoghurt gave it a fresher taste, and the thyme made it slightly more savoury. It still tasted good though, and I will definitely be making it again next time I want a ‘lighter’ treat!