We landed safely in England. It has been such a long time that I forgot just how beautiful it is here. The brick and flint houses, the thatched roofs, and the green hedges are amazing. This time of year, there are daffodils and tulips blooming everywhere. The rivers are crystal clear. I love looking at all of the long boats.
Apparently, we missed an amazing warm week last week. It's pretty chilly here right now. I am not complaining, though. I am so happy to be here. It's both fun and scary driving on the wrong (or, I should say "other") side of the road. In fact, I am going to go for a drive when I finish this article just to get a little bit of practice in. I love listening to all of the accents and looking at the different money. The tea and coffee taste better here. Of course, I am so happy to be spending time with all of Claud's family. There are new babies we hadn't met. They are all so beautiful and sweet. I feel incredibly blessed to be here.
After we landed, we stopped into a convenient store on the way to Claud's mom's house to get a snack and I told Jack it was gross for him to order another order of fries (because that is all he had eaten that day so far). The man next to me said, "Yes, it is! He should have chips instead. He's in England now." Jack and I laughed. We forgot that fries are called chips here and chips are called crisps. We need to brush up on our British lingo.
Lentil and Swiss Chard Soup
Claud's family welcomed us with a lovely supper - fajitas! That's not very English but it sure was delicious. Right now, I am looking out the window watching Jack wash down the horses he just rode around the marsh. He is in heaven hanging out with his cousins. There are so many of them. Daphne just returned from the town where she bought a huge bag of chocolate. So, she is extremely happy too. Everyone is having so much fun.
Well, everyone except for Claud who is in bed sick. Poor Claud. He felt sick the minute we landed. While I am practicing my English driving, I think I will run to the shops and pick up the fixings for this soup I made last week. I think it will make him feel much better.
The last few days before we left, I stopped shopping for food and tried my best to be creative with what was left in the refrigerator. So, for our last day, I made us some Swiss chard and lentil soup. I figured this would be a great way to use up the last of my vegetables. Soup is a fantastic way to make use of tons of ingredients. Then, whatever I had left over, I could give to my neighbors who will probably miss my cooking while we are away. I have been cooking with a lot of greens lately, especially kale, chard, and spinach. I throw some of any of these into my smoothies. I also roast them for a tasty snack, or toss them into pasta sauce or into soup. They are so good and very good for you.
Time: 35 minutes
1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups cherry tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 stalk of sage, leaves chopped
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
6 cups vegetable stock
(or chicken stock)
6 small new potatoes, diced
2 cups lentils
1 bunch Swiss chard, stalks removed
and leaves torn into small pieces
1/2 cup tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste
In a large skillet, stockpot or wok, heat the olive oil. Add the celery, onion, carrots, and garlic. Saute for five minutes. Add the tomatoes and saute for another five minutes until the tomatoes are easily crushed with a spoon. Crush the tomatoes. Add bay leaves, sage, and thyme. Add the vegetable stock. Add the potatoes and lentils. Bring to a boil. Add the Swiss chard. Lower the heat and allow it to cook for 25 minutes (until the potatoes are soft). Add tomato paste. Finally, add salt and pepper to taste.
This soup is made with Swiss chard. Swiss chard contains vitamin C, K, A and iron. So, by chucking (another good English term) them into something you are already making, you are boosting the nutrients of your dish. The chard is also delicious and tasty on its own. So it is a win-win for anyone you are feeding.
I also used lentils in the soup. I love cooking with lentils because they are so quick and easy to use. There is none of that time consuming presoaking or the two hours of boiling necessary to make them edible. Lentils cook in your soup in about 20 minutes. Recently, a great friend of mine gave me a pressure cooker, which I am going to start using to make my beans. In a pressure cooker, you can cook beans in minutes rather than the usual hours it normally takes to cook beans. I haven't had a chance to test this out yet. I am pretty excited about using the pressure cooker. I even borrowed a book from another friend with tons of recipes using a pressure cooker. So, be prepared to start getting some great bean dishes in the future.
Well, I guess I should get back to the family. Tonight we are having another big family meal. We have some relatives driving in from London. I am going to take tons of food pictures and hope to get a couple of good recipes out of some of these amazing cooks who live here. I am sure to have some interesting food to share with you next week. Cheers!