I love to cook and I love to eat good food.  Alas, the fact that I work 9-5 means that I can't do either as much as I would like, and like many I am often stuck at my desk during my lunch "hour".  My solution is to try to bring my lunch to work as much as I can.  This is my collection of recipes, all made quickly the night before (either as lunch or as dinner with leftovers that can be taken in).  Happy eating.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

French onion and roast vegetable soup

So I had made my three-minute Spelt bread and had resisted the temptation to eat the entire loaf, warm out of the oven.  I thought that I would instead try to incorporate it into something slightly more substantial and meal-like.  I had some yummy, smooth and nutty tasting Doddington cheese purchased from Neal's Yard Dairy and I could just taste it melted on the bread.  A French onion soup would be perfect.  But I also happened to have some leftover roasted vegetables -- unusual since I tend to eat every last morsel of roasted roots whenever I make them.  ("Just a few carrots and potatoes?  That's not really enough to save.  Better finish them off now.")  There it was: a French-onion-style soup, with leftover roasted vegetables and melted cheese on toast.  Lunch, turned up to 11.

I did bring my second portion of soup to work the next day, sadly sans pain au fromage chaud.  It was still pretty good, but lacked that Je ne sais quoi.  I guess melted cheese really does make everything better.  Tant pis!

French onion and roast vegetable soup

Assortment roasted root vegetables (carrot, parsnip, celeriac, potato, etc), cut into 1 inch cubes
2 Roasted garlic cloves, or 1 large raw clove, minced
One large onion, thinly sliced
1 T. flour
4 C. vegetable broth
1 T. soy sauce
For each serving:
1 slice toasted Spelt bread with melted cheese

Saute onion in sauce pan over low heat until soft, golden and sweet (about 20-30 minutes).

Either add in minced garlic, or squeeze in the roasted cloves and mash with the spoon.  Stir flour through onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes, then add vegetable broth and heat until slightly thickened.  Add soy sauce (optional, but I like the extra flavor).

Melt cheese onto bread, then float in the soup.

Serves 2

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Speedy, seedy spelt bread

Bread may be my kryponite, my Achilles heel, my Watergate.  When faced with a warm loaf, my willpower blows away like the chaff from the wheat.  Bread recipes are the same.  Almost as good as tasting the bread, is reading about making it.  At least I try to rationalize the baking, so if I've spent the time mixing, kneading, and rising the loaf, then at least I've earned my daily bread.  

And so I obsess about different grains.  White, whole wheat, rye, buckwheat -- flours by the dozen.   A bag of spelt flour I had knocking around finally inspired me this morning and I decided I needed to use it.  I can't take credit for originating this recipe, which came from the Telegraph (found online -- not a regular reader) but I will certainly be using it again.

The article promises a gorgeous, seeded loaf with no kneading and no rising time.  Bread in 3 minutes sounds too good to be true.  But it isn't.  It's very good, and very true.  I guess I'll have to find another rationalization.

1 lb 2 oz/500g spelt flour
2 sachets/10g fast acting yeast
1/2 tsp salt
2 oz/50g sunflower seeds
2 oz/50g linseeds
2 oz/50g sesame seeds
17 oz/500 ml warm water

Pre-heat oven to 200c/400f.

Mix all dry ingredients, then add water and mix well.  Shape dough into an oiled loaf pan and bake for about an hour.  (Or let the bread rise overnight in a cool place for a slightly lighter result.) Remove loaf, take out of pan, and put it back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Lemon squares

It's about this time of year that it seems like we somehow stumbled through the wardrobe into the eternal Narnian winter, with no hope of anything but cold and darkness for the rest of our days.  We've just about used up our supply of optimism, rotated through all of our sweaters, worn out our hats, lost a few gloves, and gotten thoroughly bored of our so-called cozy winter evenings.   In our discontent of winter, what better than some little squares of sweet, lemony sunshine, full of the promise of the coming spring?

I was in the mood for something with lemons, wavering between a lemon pudding cake, a lemon tart, or maybe a lemon icebox pie.  I finally decided that a batch of lemon squares would do the trick.   They couldn't be easier: simple shortbread base, an intensely lemony topping, and a good dusting of powdered sugar to finish.  I like to spice up the shortbread with some finely chopped crystallized ginger, the exact amount depending on how gingerly I feel like treading.


These can be kept but are best eaten on the same day.  If an entire pan sounds a bit much, just get a few hungry friends (or one large boyfriend) around, leave them in the middle of the table, and I have never found it to be a problem.  Everyone will be much happier afterwards.

Short crust base:

1/2 C/1 stick/113 g unsalted butter

1/4 C powdered sugar

1 C pastry flour

1-2 T. crystallized ginger

1/8 tsp salt

Lemon topping:

4 large eggs

1 1/2 C granulated sugar

3/4 C fresh lemon juice

zest of 2 lemons

1/3 C all-purpose flour

3 Tbsp powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F and butter an 8 x 8 inch pan.

For crust: Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the flour and salt and beat until the dough just comes together. Press into the bottom of your greased pan and bake for about 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Filling: In a bowl whisk together eggs and granulated sugar until combined well and stir in lemon juice and flour. Pour lemon mixture over hot crust. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F. and bake until set, about 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan and cut into squares. Sift powdered sugar over bars before serving.

Makes 16 squares

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Lentil soup

Monday was a snow day in London.  We woke up to a great, whopping, six inches of snow, which paralyzed one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world.  Yes, we are wimps.  Living in the northeast for years, regularly getting storms that drop several feet of snow, I never once got to miss classes or work.  A few inches of powder here?  The entire city ground to a halt.

Forced to stay home, make snow men and snow angels, naturally I also had to cook up a good and warming lunch.  What better than soup?  Specifically a hearty, flavorful, meat on the cold bones kind of soup.  Lentils and potatoes did the trick, and the best part was, for once, I got to take a nice photo in natural light.  Working long days means it's dark when I leave in the morning and dark when I get home at night, so my poor dishes languish under unflattering energy saving lightbulbs (as do we all).  The beautiful, diffuse light in the snow made my soup look even better here than it did in person.

And why did it take me 5 days to upload this post?  One of the laws of nature: shorter weeks always seem longer and busier than normal ones.

Lentil soup:
1 medium onion or 1 large leek, chopped
1 fat garlic clove, minced
1 large carrot, chopped
1 C. brown lentils
2 medium potatoes (peeled or unpeeled), cut into 1 inch cubes
1 can chopped tomatoes
4-6 C. water or vegetable stock
2 C. broccoli cut into florets, or other greens (kale, savoy cabbage, spinach)

Saute the onion and carrot until they begin to soften.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Add the lentils, potatoes, tomatoes, and water, and let simmer for about 25 minutes until the lentils are soft and potatoes are cooked through.  Stir in broccoli and cook only a few minutes, until the florets soften but remain bright green.

Serves 4
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