It is always the greatest irony, that a wet August will give way to glorious sunshine in September, when the schools go back. Working in education means September is a very busy month for me, but it’s also a month when I feel energised and able to rise to new challenges. I love the crisp mornings, the scent of autumn in the air, the kiss of the sun, the light dancing through leaves. This is the opportunity for me to bring back my habit that dominates most of the year, of making soup to take to work for lunch. But it is also balanced with lovely salads.
Today’s salad is a much-loved favourite of mine. You can vary it with different things, such as different flavours of hummous, or different kinds of olives, different dressings and different veggies, but for me, in its simplest form, this salad is filling, delicious and incredibly satisfying. Serve it with wraps or flatbread and you can’t go wrong. Try to stick to organic veggies where you can.
4 leaves of romaine lettuce
a large handful of spinach or baby spinach
2 spring onions
3 small sweet peppers or one large sweet pepper.
1 carrot, grated
sweet tomato chutney or something similar
To make the salad:
First, get a frying pan hot and toast the pumpkin seeds, then set aside.
Wash the leaves and shred with your hands into your salad bowl.
Sprinkle on the carrots and chopped peppers and spring onion.
Blob on some nice big spoonfuls of hummous
Toss in the olives
Blob on a few teaspoons of your chutney
Sprinkle on pumpkin seeds
Finely chop about half a block of smoked tofu and sprinkle that over the top.
Finely chop some fresh basil, parsley or coriander, if you have any.
I love this salad. It’s crunchy, sweet, salty, creamy, tangy and piquant, all at the same time. And it’s filling. It’s a great balance of textures and flavours with plenty of protein to keep your energy up and keep you feeling full.
And now . . . soup
If you are a regular reader, you will know I love soup. I like to vary it as well, as it makes for an interesting life. Having something warm and delicious in my soup flask for lunch helps keep me going but also allows me to slow down and enjoy my lunchtimes during the working day.
This soup is an oriental-inspired spicy soup full of fresh veggies. Rather than use expensive and exotic ingredients however, I use things I keep in my store cupboard, and I recommend you keep them in as well as it means quick and easy meals are only a few minutes away.
This soup CAN be made with noodles, but the version below uses spiralised carrots and courgettes instead. You can get a spiraliser for under £20 and they are fun!. Enjoy
1 carrot, spiralised
1 courgette, spiralised
Fresh corn, off the cob
1 sweet pepper
4 spring onions
Finely shredded spinach, cabbage and/or Kale.
1 small white onion
A 1 inch cube of fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves
Vegetable stock cube or powder
Coconut milk or coconut milk powder (the powder is great to keep in the cupboard and is much cheaper than buying the tins)
1 lemon or 1 lime
1 tablespoon Miso (optional – I keep miso in the fridge but if you don’t have it, don’t worry).
Toasted sesame oil
Arrowroot to thicken (optional)
Chopped fresh chillies (to your own preference – I like my soup very spicy so I use a lot)
To make the soup:
In a large pan, heat the coconut oil. Peel, crush and chop the garlic, chillies and ginger and toss into the oil.
Chop the white onion finely, and add to the oil, stirring well.
Boil the kettle, and while it is boiling, toss in the green veggies, the pepper (finely sliced) and the sweetcorn, and give them a good stir. Then, add boiling water to the desired level, and add the spiralised carrot and courgette. Simmer for about five minutes, then add some lemon/lime zest and the juice of the fruit. Stir in the miso, vegetable stock and add the coconut milk or powder and a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil. Taste, and if necessary add soy sauce to your preference. If you want a thicker soup, add a little arrowroot or cornflour. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Finally, just before serving, sprinkle on some fresh coriander and finely chopped spring onions.
Other options: you could add tofu, seitan or even some of the mock duck you can get in a tin, finely chopped, to give more body to your soup if you wish.
It’s a lovely, warming soup and so tasty and delicious. You can make it as mild or as spicy as you wish. I often take the soup AND a salad for lunch during September, and I am not afraid to admit that I often have them for breakfast as well as lunch. There’s nothing better. These amounts should make 2-4 servings, but you can make more volume and freeze the soup if you wish.
And finally . . . . a quick reminder of my quick, easy and very heartening soup for those with not enough time or resources to make such a complicated soup. A quick lentil and tomato soup is perfect and is done in 30 minutes.
1 tin tomatoes
A heaped handful of red lentils
Veg stock cube.
Chop the onion and carrot roughly, and put in your soup pan with the other ingredients. Add water (fill your tomato tin once or twice), bring to the boil and simmer. After 20 minutes, blend with a stick blender, simmer a little more, and taste. Adjust seasoning if necessary. You can serve this with a drizzle of chilli oil if you like a spicy soup. And it doesn’t get much simpler than that!