Friday, November 25, 2011

Lentil Chestnut Pancetta Soup- a hearty winter meal in a bowl.

 "Beautiful Soup! Who cares for fish,
Game or any other dish?
Who would not give all else for two
Pennyworth only... of beautiful Soup?"
   Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.      


Lentils-  I used Goya (2 cans as there were time issues over the holidays)
             next time I will use the better choice, Puy Lentils
Bay leaves - 2 are fine
Olive oil – I used grass fed Leaf Lard that I recently rendered.  Just a dab. Or two tablespoons of EVOO – but please never use industrial seed oils like corn, soy, canola, etc. NEVER EVER. Bad stuff, unhealthy.
Pancetta- ½ lb. mine was Garlic and sage chopped – next time I would use more (1 lb +) - it really made this soup special.  I do not think Bacon would work nearly as well, it should not have a smoky quality
Roasted Chestnuts- about a pound broken into pieces
Small onion, a small carrot and a small stalk of celery- Onion ( 50%) Carrot (25%) and Celery ( 25%) is a classic mirepoix used to start almost any dish.
Fresh Thyme leaves-  to taste
Fresh chopped Sage leaves- to taste    
Ginger from root- to tatse
Red wine- ½ bottle of a red ( a malbec or any good Burgundy- use a wine that you would drink or not at all) but I might try a white next time. 
Beef stock- I used a cup but add slowly and be a judge to the consistency you like.
Tomato water-  see link  about a ½ cup
Tomato paste
Red Chili Paste- Mexican, Thai, Indian- you pick, even a slightly roasted Habanero will do, seeds or not.


Roasting chestnuts, NOT on an open fire-  but on a cookie sheet pan in an oven. Peeling off shell, then crumbling.
Slicing and chopping carrots, onions and celery to make a mirepoix with a chef knife
Dicing pancetta with a chef knife
Open a bottle of wine then pouring into the pot and a glass.
Stirring with a wooden spoon.
Tasting as you good with a metal spoon. Going mmmmm, so others can hear.  

 The chestnuts - split with an “X”, and place on roasting pan – about 375 for about 15 mins.

In the meantime:
Let’s start with the pancetta. I cook in a small red Dutch Oven, my favorite big pot for soups stews and the like. chop, dice pancetta into small uniformed pieces, use a very sharp knife and don't cut yourself like I do (sometimes).

I used a small dab of the Lard to put a sizzle on the pancetta as it hit the pot (Dutch oven) and let it brown on a reduced heat- no rush. Burning is bad.

Using the rest of the Lard or OO in another pot-  sweat the Onions, follow with the carrots and celery. This takes about ten minutes then dump into the Dutch Oven Pot with the panchetta, stir.

Add the two Bay Leaves with half the wine and a can of the lentils ( no water from can please), stir on a Medium to low heat- the Dutch Oven loves to stay hot so keep an eye on it. Never let it boil. Allow some of the wine to evaporate. Again no rush. Enjoy the aromas.

While the pots are on low, shell the chestnuts, then crumble by hand and add to the mix.

Pour the tomato water (1/2 cup) and a little of the beef stock into the pot along with the other can of lentils, stir while adding the remaining herbs and set on low.  Allow to cook for about thirty mins after adding the tomato paste (any tomato product will do like stewed or crushed if you like -it’s your soup)- watch and judge your stoves heat, adding the rest of the wine and chili paste which adds a slight dimension of heat. Save the additional beef stock if you need to thin out the soup if you like.  Also add liquids or any herbs slowly and taste as you go.  The soup should and will rest over-night before serving as it gets a bit hotter, bolder and heartier.  


Next time I might puree some of the lentils and add a little more stock to it, perhaps chicken if I make some. ( but still use Beef as the main stock) and use the better lentil, the French green lentils (lentilles du Puy).
I will use more pancetta if I can get it from PorcSalt in Warminster, PA.
Might kick up the chestnuts after they roast and pan fry them for a few seconds. 
Yes, I used no garlic but I may next time around serve with some soft roasted garlic on a hard rye or a day old sourdough.
Guess what the other half bottle of wine is for?  

                      Photograph by Michael Plunkett copyrighted 2011   all rights resevered- no permission to use. NONE
                             Buy it or get a camera. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Watermelon Radish

Mainly harvested in the autumn these round pale green skin- pink on the inside- are turnip shape and "they" say, grows to the size of a baseball, though mine were no bigger than a golf ball. Sweet with a crunchy texture with a peppery bite, the watermelon look of the radish should, not only add brilliant color to a plate, but a few smiles and conversations as well. A win-win. 

Use like any other radish or daiken, I'm going to quick blanch a few and add to a "Mash" of potato, turnip and cauliflower and see if the pink hue adds anything to the dish. I'm sure the peppery taste will be nice and should hold up to all the sweet potato, and cranberry dishes this holiday.

Photograph by Michael Plunkett copyrighted 2011   all rights resevered- no permission to use. NONE
Buy it or get a camera. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011


The extremely hot, dry summer did produce some wickly hot Habaneros from my New Jersey Community garden.  And you cannot hide the heat when you cook with them so be careful with how much you use.

Even though I'm Irish, I still like the color of this chili pepper when blended into a Irish colcannon of
potatoes with cabbage or kale.

Photograph by Michael Plunkett copyrighted 2011   all rights resevered- no permission to use. NONE
Buy it or get a camera.