There’s a great line in one of my favourite 90’s films; ‘I never did mind about the little things’.
I’m not a big one for violence – real or simulated. (The Hungry One now refuses to watch Game of Thrones with me. He says my squeamish squirming is too distracting. Meanwhile, I would quite like someone to create a PG version which features a safety screen that pops up at necessary intervals stating; ‘moments of unpleasant violence to follow in which x is slain by y’s hand‘ That way I can be party to all the scheming and the dragon rearing without the torture, rape and maiming).
Yet I have a weak spot for The Assassin (yes, I know it was also a remake of a far better French film, Nikita– but hush- this is about guilty pleasure, not prestige). It could have been Gabriel Byrne’s lilting tones. It might have been the amber sheen of Bridget Fonda’s hair. Or it might have been the Nina Simone soundtrack.
When everything goes to pot, Maggie is trained (by Anne Bancroft no less) to smile a little smile and say something offhand like ‘I never did mind about the little things’.
Granted, she’s more likely to utter it during moments of extreme physical distress. But I’ve found it’s a handy adage to remember when your house looks like the site of a savage battle between orcs at 5.45 pm. When you turn your back while building a veggie plot for 30 seconds and find your offspring plonking himself right in the only muddy puddle in the garden, marinating head to toe in muck.
When he inherits a virus so khaki- vile that the only way his crusted face can relax into sleep is sitting up on your lap.
When during meal times he’d rather throw his food with arms like a flailing helicopter than consume any. Also, when you breezily check your Amazon reviews and find that someone has just described your writing as asinine.
This is a soup for those sorts of days.
It was rustled together out of the bare bones of a cupboard. Red lentil soup is an outstanding easy standby. The Turkish Red Lentil soup in Cut the Carbs is my regular go-to. It’s cheap as anything, suitable for vegans/vegetarians/what have you and unlike other pulses, red lentils don’t need pre soaking. Win!
This is plumped up with sweet potato and chickpeas and given a Spanish sojurn care of a good dash of smoked paprika. There are very few substitutes for smoked paprika- it gives everything it touches a lusty sweet and charred flavour- in the same way that a few coins of chorizo or slivers of blistered pepper can reinvigorate the most limpid of dishes. It’s available these days at lots of delis or gourmet food stores.
There’s red onion and apple for a little bit of extra sweetness and cherry tomatoes for sneaky acidity. It would be easy to eat it as a rough and tumble stew, but blitzed with a stick blender it transforms into a calming bowl of soup (and for once, something that the smallest Hungry One will happily eat).
We ate it on Saturday night with frizzled croutons of melted Manchego. I froze some to deliver to my stepsister, who has just given birth to the most darling baby boy (slow carb food like this being quite a boon for those early weeks of feeding a small fry). I even deployed some at room temperature as an exotic hummus substitute with crudites. And I’ve portioned the rest out for Will. Some has since ended up on the floor. Some in his hair, giving it quite the amber sheen. Some ended up on the walls. But most (well, enough) ended up where it was supposed to go.
I’m trying not to mind about the little things.
Smoked Paprika, Sweet Potato, Red Lentil and Chickpea Soup
Serves 6 (makes excellent leftovers and freezes well).
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 tbsp smoked paprika
1 red apple, peeled and cut into dice
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into dice
350 g cherry tomatoes
1 cup of chickpeas, soaked overnight, or 2 tins of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups red lentils, rinsed
7 cups of water
Salt and pepper to taste
Here’s how we roll
1) Add the olive oil, onion, garlic and smoked paprika to the bottom of a Dutch oven/ heavy bottom pan. Sautee for 5-7 minutes until the onion is translucent.
2) Add the sweet potato and apple and sautee for an extra two minutes to combine the flavours.
3) Add the remaining ingredients, except the salt and bring to a boil.
4) Reduce heat and simmer for 35-45 minutes with the lid on (cooking with the lid on is the best way to get creamier, softer pulses, cook with the lid off if you want them to retain some bite) . You want to cook until lentils have started to break down, the sweet potato is soft and the tomatoes have split. Either season with salt and pepper to taste and serve as is, or blitz with a stick blender, reserving a few chickpeas whole for garnish.
5) Serve hot with chickpeas for garnish, or grate some manchego, or other hard cheese into a non stick fry pan and melt into ad-hoc croutons.