Red lentil and roasted carrot soup with za’atar

November 8, 2020 at 4:02 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Fall recipes, Middle East / N. Africa, Other, soup, Spring recipes, Winter recipes) ()

This is another recipe from the cookbook Home Cookery Year by Claire Thomson. I chose it because I had a lot of carrots to use up, and because I have very few recipes that call for zaatar. The recipe is pretty simple. You toss carrots and onions with ground cumin and coriander and olive oil, then roast them in the oven in a covered roasting tin until tender. Meanwhile you cook the red lentils. When the veggies are cooked you puree them with the cooked red lentils. The final soup is drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with za’atar.

The recipe calls for 500g carrots, which sounded like a lot, but actually was only like 3 of my very large carrots. I decided to make 1.5 times the recipe, but when I went to start the lentil I discovered I actually only had 300g of red lentils, enough for slightly more than 1 recipe (which calls for 250g). So I used mung dal for the last 100g or so of red lentils. I don’t know how that changed the flavor. I quite liked the recipe. The soup by itself I found rather plain and uninspiring, but when drizzled with olive oil and za’atar it really popped. I loved the herbal note the za’atar added.

Alma begged me not to make this dish, and refused to even try it at first. So I put hers through a sieve. (My stick blender didn’t get the soup all that smooth, and the little textured bits bothered her.) Then she said she *loved* it, even though she wouldn’t let me add any olive oil or za’atar to hers. She had two small bowls of sieved soup, but then when I served leftovers for lunch a few days later she refused to have any.

Derek said he thought the base soup was fine…. pleasant. Not thrilling but solid. He said it tasted like something he’d get at Cafe Schrill. He wasn’t so excited about the za’atar on top. He didn’t disliked it, but he didn’t think it added all that much. Weird. He rated it a B.

I think this is a nice mostly-pantry-ingredients recipe. Carrots aren’t strictly pantry ingredients, but I usually have them around, and all of the remaining ingredients truly are from the pantry. This soup would make a nice starter before some very tasty but hard-to-make-a-lot of recipe, or before or tasty but lighter main dish.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Sesame fried tofu, bok choy, and quick pickled carrots

November 1, 2020 at 11:05 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Cruciferous rich, East and SE Asia, Tofu) ()

A friend gifted Derek a copy of the cookbook Home Cookery Year by Claire Thomson (thanks Satnam!) and I went through it on Friday and chose a couple of recipes to try. The first one we tried (for lunch today) was a recipe for sesame fried tofu, bok choy, and quick pickled carrots.

Overall, the results were mixed.  Derek felt it mostly tasted pretty good (though a bit like something you would get at an upmarket “healthy Asian” fast food place, “healthy Asian” is a joke — it involved 6 Tbsp oil for what is supposed to be a “light lunch”).  I felt it was too acidic and unbalanced and somehow made me feel icky afterward (a bit like the Ottolenghi recipe with soba, mango, and eggplant that everyone raves about).  Alma barely touched it (but we kind of expected that).  We both agreed that the fried tofu didn’t have much flavor on its own had a distinct note of raw cornstarch.  It mostly just tasted crunchy.  Our usual method of sauteing tofu in the pan would have been preferable.  This could indicate we did something wrong, but since the frying instructions were not detailed, it’s hard to know what.

We had some issues with the recipe:  1. It seemed to call for a huge amount of cornstarch and sesame seeds.  We were not surprised when the tofu ended up tasting like cornstarch and somewhat raw sesame seeds.  2. It said to drain the carrots after adding some salt, but no water came out even after letting it sit for quite a while.  And even after adding the lime juice the carrots didn’t really taste pickled to me. They just tasted like grated carrots with lime juice on them. 3. The recipe called for “2 bok choys, halved” but we had enormous bok choys from our CSA farm (about as big as Derek’s head!), so it was hard to know exactly how much to use or how to cook them.  4. We didn’t know what light soy sauce was (so we our regular soy sauce and cut the amount in half and it was still plenty salty), and we didn’t know what “runny honey” was, so we just used regular honey.  5. The recipe called for 3 Tbsp oil for frying the tofu, but this mostly got absorbed by the first batch, so we had to add additional oil for the second batch.  Also, we didn’t have sunflower oil, so used olive oil. Could this have affected the absorption?  Seems unlikely.

Overall, Derek thought the combination of flavors was good and would make it again except with our normal sauteed tofu preparation.  I thought the flavor profile was broadly similar to the “tofu steaks” and bok choy dish from Peter Berley, but I much prefer that recipe.

If we were going to try to make the sesame crusted tofu again I think I would toss it with just a little big of cornstarch (not 100g!) and sesame seeds and bake it on a pan in the oven.

The recipe says to serve it with avocado (optional), but we didn’t have any. I doubt the addition would have changed my overall opinion.

Derek: 3/5
Rose: 2/5

Permalink Leave a Comment