My real love for food lies in those dishes pervaded by a sense of warmth and richness, qualities which are epitomised by autumnal cuisine. The idea behind this dish came from a GoodFood recipe entitled Indian Winter Soup. However, it was used more as a guide for what one should do with pearl barley, something I had never cooked before, rather than as a set of defined directions. This meal was simply delicious, so warming and nutritious – this soup really does perfectly encapsulate what autumn, my favourite season, means for my kitchen.
At this time of the year butternut squash, one of my very favourite fruits, comes into season. Despite the unfortunate fact that it smells rather like a pumpkin the butternut squash, when cooked, develops a sweet and nutty flavour perfect for this time of the year. These wondrous fruits are also extremely low in fat and carbohydrates, yet are packed full of vitamins and fibre, which means that they are rather filling and are therefore jolly healthy.
As I mentioned above, this was my first experience of pearl barley, barley which has had its hull and bran removed, which turned out to be a very impressive grain. Once cooked it becomes tender and juicy very much like rice, which is probably the reason it can be used to make risotto – something which I shall attempt in the next few days. Pearl barley is also exceptionally cheap at a mere 68p for 500g, which is enough for five meals for three or four people making it an exceptionally frugal ingredient.
Right from the start I really wanted this dish to be as warming and as satisfying as possible. Caraway seeds, another unfamiliar ingredient, more than any other allowed me to attain this ideal. These little seeds look a little similar to cumin seeds but taste more like a cross between orange peel and aniseed, which made me feel a little as though I should be making mulled wine and not an Indian soup. Anyway, that’s quite enough about ingredients and flavours, please enjoy this delicious autumnal soup.
Autumnal Indian Soup
• 1 large onion, finely chopped
• 200-300g butternut squash, fairly large chunks
• 100g pearl barley, rinsed and cooked for 10 minutes beforehand
• 200g split red lentils
• 2-3 tomatoes, chopped
• Knob of ginger
• 2 large cloves of garlic
• 1-2 chillies, depending on taste
• Small handful of fresh coriander
• 2 bay leaves
• 1 tsp cumin
• 1 tsp ground coriander
• ½ tsp ground turmeric
• ½ tsp caraway seeds
• ½ tsp ground cinnamon
1. Make a paste out of the ginger, garlic, chillies and coriander – this can be done by chopping, or much quicker in a food processor. Fry the dry spices in a little oil until the caraway seeds begin to pop. Add the onion and the fresh paste to the pan and cook for 10-15 minutes.
2. Add the squash, pearl barley, lentils and tomatoes and around a litre of water. Simmer until the squash is tender and the lentils are cooked through. One may need to add a little more water. Serve with a little fresh coriander.
Cost: As they are coming into season a 650g squash costs exactly £1 which makes this dish exceptionally frugal indeed – the entire dish should cost little over £1 to make. This means that each portion comes in at a very tasty 25p. I don’t know about you but I think that’s pretty incredible.
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