One of my favourite things about working from home is being able to have whatever you want for lunch: no more preparing a hastily-assembled packed lunch before you scuttle out of the house at the crack of dawn, or buying a sandwich lunch on the hoof in your lunch hour. To say nothing of the fortune you save by eating in the comfort of your own home! And, of course, the choice of when (and where) you eat – in the conservatory or garden are my preferred options when the weather’s warm enough, but equally I have been known to snatch a bowl of soup in front of the computer… (a very bad habit, I know!).
I freely admit to being a passionate foodie, so cooking is one of my favourite ways to relax, be it after a long day slaving over the keyboard, or just when I fancy a break from my current project and decide to throw together a pot of soup for lunch. Often, though, I try and batch-cook in advance, so I invariably have a range of one-portion soups or casseroles in the freezer, ready for those frequent occasions when a deadline is looming and I really haven’t time to cook, but still want to eat something tasty, nutritional and home-made! Soup is my lunch of choice in the winter months, usually with home-made bread or the delicious sourdough loaf from my local village wholefood shop. In summer, lunch may be as simple as cheese and crackers with tomatoes from the garden, or, even better, leftover quiche or salad from the evening before. In fact, I often make more than I need, precisely to have enough left over for lunch – you can’t beat a delicious Salade Niçoise or broad bean and smoked haddock salad that has matured overnight in the fridge…. When my elder son was living at home, he often took leftover dishes from the previous night into work, to heat in the microwave, much to the envy of his colleagues – but, strangely enough, now he’s living in his own place and Mum isn’t there to cook, he has reverted to bought lunches, maintaining it’s far too complicated to carry home-made meals in on the packed commuter trains….
Here’s one of my favourite soup recipes, a delicious bean chowder, perfect to sustain you through a long day’s work at the computer –it makes enough for 6, so ideal to make one rainy weekend, or when you’ve a rare quiet moment from work, and freeze.
150g mixed dried haricot and butter beans, soaked overnight (use boiling water to start them off)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2-3 sticks celery, chopped
1 bulb fennel, chopped (optional)
300g carrots, finely diced
1 large green or red pepper, chopped
1 bay leaf
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 heaped tsp fennel seeds, crushed
Salt and pepper
Fresh parsley, chopped, to garnish
Drain the beans after soaking, add fresh water and bring back to boil. Cook fast without the lid for 10 minutes (watch out as they may produce a lot of froth and boil over!), then turn down the heat, cover and simmer for another 45 minutes or until soft, making sure they don’t boil dry – add more water if it looks to be running low). Drain and reserve the stock. (You could probably use tins of butter beans and haricot beans if you can’t face the bean soaking/cooking process – but then you’d lose out on the delicious bean stock and have to use plain vegetable stock instead, which would be a shame…)
Heat the oil in a large pan and gently cook the chopped onion and garlic until softened. Add the carrots, celery and pepper (and fennel if using), and cook for a further 10 minutes.
Purée half of the cooked beans with 560ml of the reserved bean stock (make up with water or stock if you haven’t enough) and the grated nutmeg. Add to the vegetables with the fennel seeds and the remaining beans. Bring back to the boil, cover and cook for 40-45 minutes, then season well, add the milk until the consistency looks to your taste, heat through and serve with fresh parsley to garnish (if you have it) and home-made granary bread.
For more soup/lunch recipes, do check out my “Rhubarb & Raspberries” blog, where I indulge my passion for all things food/allotment and garden….