Lentils for breakfast- welcome

Here is your invitation to sample beautiful recipes that are good for you, good for the planet and good to eat. They mainly feature plants, because that's what I try to eat the most. I am not a fancy cook, but I believe that food is one of our greatest pleasures and deserves to be celebrated. Real food, whole food, kind food. Welcome to the feast!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

How I failed the world's best date cake

I love the Guardian's online site (oops, almost misspelled it in best Grauniad tradition). I have the tab open all day and I visit in-between tasks at work for a little welcome refreshment.

So unsurprisingly I came across this recipe on the site. It's by the Guardian baking contributor, Dan Leppard. His recipes all sound mind-blowingly delicious and read as if they're really simple to make. I especially liked the sound of this Tamarind Date Cake because it contains tamarind.

I bought a jar of tamarind concentrate to make Neil Perry's lentils. I now realise I have about 100 years worth of tamarind, since most recipes only ever call for a teaspoon. And this recipe would unload another teaspoon. Every bit counts. Tamarind and dates? Intriguing possibility . . .

I don't bake very often, but the cake proceeded smoothly. The tamarind bit was straightforward. It all smelled gorgeous in the oven. I was pleased with myself.

The bit that failed? The icing.

The failed icing

I bought some organic icing sugar because I hoped it would be slightly less refined than powdery 'normal' icing sugar which I vaguely remember from the last time I made icing. When I was 12.

The recipe called for my entire packet of ridiculously overpriced icing sugar and the juice of half a lemon. So, I emptied the contents of the packet into a bowl and poured the juice over it. The aim is to make a thick lemony paste. I was concerned that the lemon would be insufficient liquid and I'd have to add water which would dilute the flavour.

Much to my amazement, the icing sugar promptly dissolved leaving me with this runny sauce. Dan says to spread the icing on top and let it drizzle down the side. Mine poured in a torrent down the side. It wouldn't sit on top. It looked awful, not at all snowy and enticing like it did in Colin Campbell's picture on the website.

I put the cake in a shallow bowl, and spooned the 'icing' from where it collected around the bottom and tried pressing it in the top. That kind of worked, but not really.

Later when I told my mother my sorry tale, she chuckled. Oh no, you have to add the liquid slowly to icing sugar. Apparently this is a well-known fact.

Dan Lepard's world's best tamarind date cake 

200 g chopped dates (impossible to stop pilfering bits of date while chopping)
50 g tamarind paste (I used 1 tsp tamarind concentrate)
250 g unsalted butter
150 g dark brown sugar (I used feather palm sugar)
2 large eggs
275 g plain flour
2 tsp bicarb
175 g walnuts, roughly chopped (ditto with the dates)
150 g icing sugar
juice of half a lemon
seeds from 6-8 cardamom pods, ground in a mortar & pestle (skipped this bit)

Line the base and sides of an 18 cm cake tin with non-stick baking paper. Heat oven to 180 degrees.

Put the dates, tamarind paste and 300 ml water in a pan and bring to the boil. Boil for a minute, remove from the heat, add the butter and set aside for 10 mins to cool.

Add the brown sugar, stir, then beat in the eggs until smooth. Beat in the flour and bicarb, then stir in the walnuts.

Spoon the cake mixture into the tin and bake for about 1 hour, or until a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean. Remove and leave to cool.

When cold, make a thick, smooth icing with the icing sugar, cardamom (if you can be bothered), juice and a little water (which you probably won't need). Spoon over the cake so it dribbles down the sides. If you're lucky.

The verdict

You know that Italian expression Brutti ma Buoni? Ugly but good? That was my cake.

Dense, rich, buttery and not too sweet. The icing that I managed to squash in added a caramel syrup dimension that was delicious. I think I could have been bolder with the tamarind. And there was no hint of lemon, which also would have lent a balancing tang.

I'm sure if I tried again I'd be more successful. But the trouble with having cake around is the guilt - guilt about wasting food if I don't eat it and guilt about consuming more than I need if I do eat it. Might have to make a salad next time.

In the meantime, do check out Dan Lepard. His recipes are delectable. And he's running sourdough courses in Little Portland Street in Feb, if you're interested. Sounds like heaven to me.

And tell me your baking disasters. How good are you at making icing? Whip it up, never think twice - or floundering in foreign waters? I'd love to hear your stories.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

The easiest show-off food to make at home: labneh

One evening recently, my husband, daughter & I went to see Michael Pollan in conversation at the Sydney Opera House.

I love Michael Pollan. I read every word of his I find and his writing has profoundly shaped my own views. And I met him in my publishing days. He's a gentleman, as you'd expect.

So, I had a contented time listening to one of my heroes, but the family were less entranced. Not that they were not impressed by what he had to say, his easy but persuasive conversational style or the weightiness of the topics . . . but they were hungry.

Labneh with dinner

It was cold & rainy, mid-week. We went to El-Phoenician at Walsh Bay, around the harbour from the Opera House under the giant shadow of the Bridge. It was deserted in the black streets and only one other table was taken in the restaurant.

The food was beautiful. It was so comforting to come in from the cold, order some wine, go to the loo, and then eat well-prepared dishes that happen happily to be vegetarian. I'm sure Michael would have had a lovely time with us, talking about his talk.

I was besotted with the labneh. Thick, creamy, salty. I slathered it on everything. I asked the waiter if it was made by the kitchen. He seemed puzzled by my interest, but kindly brought me a container of more luscious labneh to take home.

Yoghurt + muslin = homemade labneh

Then I remembered that I have a recipe for it in Wholefood for the Whole Family by another of my heroes, Jude Blereau. And it calls for muslin, which - thanks to my attempts at poaching a quince - I now possess.

Whenever I looked at that recipe in the past, it always struck me as the kind of thing serious, confident cooks would make. But looking at it anew with enthusiastic eyes (and as a proud muslin-owner) it all seemed achievable. What if I could concoct that gorgeous creation for myself . . .


A pinch of sea salt
500 ml jar of plain, full-cream, non-homogenised yoghurt
A handful of fresh herbs (we used parsley and coriander, but thyme would be insane)

Line a seive with 4 layers of muslin. Set it over a bowl to catch the whey.

Mix the salt into the yoghurt, then spoon the youghurt into the muslin-lined seive. Leave in the fridge for 24 hours. The cheese will be soft, but still dense.

If you want a firmer cheese, fold the muslin corners over the yoghurt and weigh it down with something heavy. We placed a small plate on the muslin and a can of beans on the plate. Then walk away. It's all done for now.

When the cheese is your desired consistency, finely chop the herbs and place in a shallow bowl or on a plate. Roll the labneh mixture into small balls, then gently roll in the herb mix to coat.

Gently place in a dish and serve. Or place in a clean jar or bowl with 1-2 sliced garlic cloves and a generous grind of black pepper. Add enough olive oil to cover the labneh (loads: about 400 ml), then cover and refrigerate.

The verdict

I kept sneaking a peak at the yoghurt when it was transitioning to labneh with an increasing sense of excitement. It's working!

And I was inordinately proud of the result. Five sweet little green & white balls, with a beautiful mild creamy flavour. However, my husband actually did the rolling-in-herbs, covering-with-oil stage - so all I did was line the sieve and spoon the yoghurt.

But it was still a tremendous thrill to make this recipe. It wasn't quite as lush as El-Phoenician's but still di-vine on toast with gravlax the next morning.

Later in the week I had it with a roasted vegetable ratatouille for lunch at work. Mmmm. And the oil was gorgeous to drizzle on just about everything afterwards.

And you? What's your most show-off-y creation? Do you love labneh, or have you always been put off by the notion of 'yoghurt cheese'? Let me know what you think in the comments.

More Michael

And if you'd like a little taste of Michael, as it were:

Unhappy Meals
This was an influential story in the NY Times and an excellent introduction to his thought.

Food Rules
You probably know the 'Eat food. Mainly plants. Not too much' dictum. Here's where it started.

Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch
This article was published around the release of 'Julie & Julia'. It made me laugh.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Sunshine on toast: homemade sunflower seed butter

This recipe's full title is cinnamon vanilla sunflower butter. I found it on 101 Cookbooksthe beautiful blog of Heidi Middleton, the 1st food blogger I started to follow.

Heidi's photos are so gorgeous and so exquisite that I want to sob with envy when I gaze upon them.  Her palate is white and ethereal and the lines are clean and modern, while the styling features much-loved old or found objects that suggest reverence for cooking past and gone.

Heidi's blog does a wonderful thing: suggesting a lovely life, glimpsed softly through lace curtains.

But I have had a couple of epic fails with her recipes. One was a dal that produced a kind of pale yellow gruel that I threw out in disgust and frustration (but later wished I'd kept to use as as stock for another batch). The other was a chocolate-y, salty, banana confection. Intriguing . . . but odd and ultimately uneaten.

I've never cooked anything else. I just sigh over the beauty of each post and marvel at the number of comments she receives and the ads she runs and the archives she has accumulated and the cookbooks she has published.

Talented cooks are not like everyone else

I have this theory that talented cooks have their idiosyncratic signature. What they make tastes delicious in their unique way. But it doesn't necessarily translate when you try to capture it in that imperfect communication device: the recipe. Just because it has been bound into a set of instructions and measurements does not mean you too can cook it like the angels.

My husband's salad dressing is the ultimate union of oil and acid. But mine tastes nothing like his, even when he's standing next to me telling me what to do. He has a gift for cooking and his food always tastes wonderful. It just does. And I'm sure Heidi's partner would say the same thing. Whereas me . . . I plod through recipes, making mistakes.

And that's the other thing. If I try to follow a recipe properly and not go off at my uninformed tangents and it doesn't work, I always assume it's my basic incompetence. So, my failed attempts at following Heidi's recipes are quite likely to be the result of my lack of skill and absence of that instinctive kitchen alchemy that separates the plodders from the angels.

Sunflower butter

Which brings us to cinnamon vanilla sunflower butter.

Do you love nut butters? I do, particularly macadamia nut, which I would eat direct from the jar in a frenzy if I wasn't so preoccupied with my soft little tummy. I also love big fat artisinal loaves of bread. Nut butter on a fresh loaf of Iggy's sourdough? Ecstasy.

When I read this recipe I thought of that perfect moment of biting into a slice of bread. And that's when I decided to try it.

Cinnamon Vanilla Sunflower Butter

225 g raw sunflower seeds
60 ml oil (I used macadamia because I had some; Heidi suggests sunflower, which makes sense!)
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp vanilla bean paste (I used the award-winning Heilala Vanilla)
3 tsp ground cinnamon
zest of 1/2 a lemon

Heat the oven to 165 C. Toast the seeds on a rimmed baking sheet until fragrant and golden. Stir a couple of times to make sure they toast evenly. Cool for 10 mins.

Puree the seeds in the food processor with a generous spoonful of oil and the salt. As the motor runs, drizzle in another 2 spoonfuls. Scrape the mixture down the sides once or twice along the way. The aim is an even, smooth consistency, so take your time.

Once the mixture starts to look smooth, add the vanilla paste and cinnamon. Pulse to incorporate.

Evaluate the consistency. Add more oil if it is on the thick, pastey side. Add more salt if you want and the lemon zest. Pulse again and voila. Store in a jar in a cupboard.

The result

My butter was far too thick to start with. Sticking-to-the-top-of-your-mouth thick.

Heidi lists 60 ml of oil in her ingredient list, but suggest using just 3 tablespoons of oil in her method. That wasn't enough. A day after I'd made my butter, I remixed it again drizzling in more oil to make it creamier and easier to eat. So, I would say keep assessing how your mixture is coming together and use as much oil as it seems to need.

How does it taste? Not overly sweet, certainly nutty and dark and spicy.  It would be particularly delicious on fresh apple because it tastes to me as if it needs something sweeter to complement it.

Are you a nut butter fan? What's your favourite? What do you most love to spread on bread? Hard one to answer, there is so much that I love to spread on bread! Let me know what you think in the comments.

Bread + butter

I watched this hilarious video recently: David Mitchell ranting about the Atkins Diet in the Guardian. He has some sensible points to make about those reliable foods that keep soldiering on and that we love for a lifetime, like bread and butter. His view that there is no better food than bread and butter illustrates brilliantly how Paleo is unlikely to ever go mainstream. If you have 4 mins, it will cheer you up. Unless you're a Paleo, in which case prepare for some eye-rolling.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Spice up your lentils with this secret ingredient

People often give me a knowing smile when I say I've made a lentil dish. Oh yes, you're the lentil lady. You really love your lentils don't you?

You know when you acquire a reputation for something, and then you're not bothered about that original thing any more but everyone only ever associates you with it?  Well, that's me and lentils.

I haven't had lentils for breakfast for months, neither have I even cooked them for ages. Enough with the lentils, people!

But when I  saw this Neil Perry recipe I was smitten. Why? Well, it looked rich and satisfying and nourishing. And nicely portable for lunch. Plus it contained a new mystery ingredient: tamarind.

What is tamarind?

Glad you asked. It's a lovely word, isn't it - which is why, when you Google it, you are presented with links to a great many restaurants called Tamarind.

It's an ancient fruit, indigenous to tropical Africa. The early Arabic name was romanised to tamar hind: Indian date. Aptly named. It lends its particular sweet-and-sourness largely to the cuisines of south Asia and Mexico.

I didn't think I was familiar with the taste, but tamarind is a key flavour note in Worcestershire sauce and HP sauce. I ate bucket-loads of those when I was a youngster. That's what made them so devilishly delectable!

Tamarind water & paste

Neil's recipe calls for tamarind water, and he says it is readily available in Asian grocery stores.

There is an Indian grocery in Neutral Bay, so I went in and confidently asked the young Indian who was serving if I could buy some. He didn't have a clue what I was asking for. Never heard of it. But he showed me tamarind paste, which seemed to lend itself to making tamarind water, so that's what I came home with.

I riffed on Neil's recipe in the end because he uses canned lentils and their water. Ewww. Not only do I not like canned lentils (purist, sorry), I hate that canned water. It's thick and dark and sludgey.

And I wanted to test his flavours on the toor dal I had impulsively purchased earlier in said Indian supermarket. I don't come across too many recipes for toor dal, so maybe this was their time to shine.

Here is Neil's recipe, if you're interested in the maestro's version: Lentils with tamarind sauce 

Read on for mine.

Toor dal with tamarind sauce

1 cup toor dal (or red lentils or channa dal, you get the picture)
water, 1 sliced garlic clove
1 tsp tumeric
olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 minced garlic clove
1 tsp each turmeric & paprika
1 tsp tamarind paste melted in enough boiling water to bring it to a rich concentrate
approx 300 g tomato passatta
a scant half cup of stock (or boullion or water)
1 tsp each garam masala & cumin

For the dal: rinse and put in a pan with enough water to cover, plus the sliced garlic clove and 1 tsp of turmeric. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and cook gently for about 1 hour. Keep checking the water level. They stick to the bottom of the pan if you're not watchful!

When the dal is tender and the liquid has been absorbed, give it a whisk for a smooth, creamy consistency.

Slice the onion and fry in a heavy based pan over a medium heat. Stir frequently to avoid sticking and burning. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Then add the turmeric and paprika and stir around for another minute. Smelling pretty fragrant by this time.

Add the tamarind concentrate and the passatta. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Add the dal and top up with stock if the mixture seems too thick. Add enough until you are happy with the consistency. Heat through. Last of all, add the garam masala and cumin and season with salt and pepper to taste.

The sharp sweetness of the tamarind balances the astringency of the lentils and provides a satisfying depth of flavour. Gorgeous with a big fat dollop of natural yogurt.

And how do you like to cook with tamarind? Pulp or concentrate? And if you have tamarind water, where did you get it?! Spill in the comments.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Stephanie Alexander's poached and pot-roasted quince

Until recently I had never eaten quince. Not deliberately, I simply had never considered trying them - or even noticed them. Then I read a recipe by Stefano Manfredi in which he talked about how their aroma fills the kitchen. Intrigued, I decided to take a voyage of discovery.

I only purchased one quince because I didn't expect my husband or daughter to share my sudden enthusiasm. At home I consulted the recipe again - and learned that the cooking time was 8 hours. Really?!

Now, if you're a quince sophisticate, you would know this. But I was astonished. I've never cooked anything for that length of time before. I consulted other quince authorities for verification and finally decided to try Stephanie Alexander's poached quince recipe. She said at least 4 and up to 8 hours. Seemed a little more manageable.

Exotic ingredient alert: muslin
That was until I read that the core is cooked in a muslin bag with the quince. Where would I find muslin in suburban Neutral Bay?! In the healthfood shop, as it happens. The ever excellent Herbie's offer a length of muslin in their spice range. I chatted quinces with the nice lady. Oh yes, they like to take ages, she said. The longer the better.

Home with my muslin to embark on project quince - but the cast-iron pot that goes in the oven was full of my husband's weekend soup stock. It isn't often in such high demand.

The following day I tried again. I made the light sugar syrup that is the first step in Stephanie's recipe, thinking that things were getting ever more complicated. I made it with rapadura sugar as that is what we use, and it made a terribly dark sugar syrup. Hmmm.

Nothing daunted, I proceeded, cutting up the quince, taking out the core and tying it up with muslin (Herbie thoughtfully provides some string). Such is my inexperience I had 2 goes to get it right.

Then I realised that I couldn't put the pot in the oven for the rest of the afternoon - I need to roast some root vegetables for a frittata. My quince with its inexpertly tied core was oxidising in the dark sugar syrup  . . .  Do something. 

Stephanie also provides a recipe for pot-roasted quinces, courtesy of Maggie Beer. So I decided to do that instead. It required boiling the quince vigorously for 30 minutes and then simmering it for 5 hours. After some number of hours, I honestly couldn't say how many exactly, we were cooking dinner and needed the stove. So the cast-iron pot went into a slow oven for another aeon. Poor little quince.

Stephanie's poached quince
6 quinces, washed and peeled
2.25 L light sugar syrup
1 vanilla bean
juice of 1 lemon
lots of time

To make the light sugar syrup, heat 2 parts water to 1 part sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Preheat oven to 150 degrees C. Cut quinces into quarters or sixths. Cut out cores and tie loosely in a piece of muslin (trust me, you need a large square, especially for 6 quinces).

Put sugar syrup in a cast-iron pot with vanilla bean, lemon juice and muslin bag, then add quince. Cover tightly and bake in oven for at least 4 (and up to 8) hours until quince is deep red. Do not stir or the quince may break up. Cool and serve. Split the vanilla bean and scrape seeds into the gooey syrup.

The miracle of quinces is that they go from pale, citrusy yellow to deep carmine over all these hours. I was pretty impressed with my effort, and the rich, thick syrup that remained. How does it taste? Like quince paste. It's exceedingly rich, but not overly sweet and you need only the tiniest amount. And it's delicious on vanilla yoghurt.

Apparently the thing to do is to poach them overnight. In the meantime, I'll stick to stewing apples and pears. Ready in 8 mins. Not a full working day.

What about you, you cosmopolitan quince lover, you? What's your favourite recipe for this chameleon of the fruit world? How long does it take? If you need any muslin, I have loads. Talk to me in the comments.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Surprisingly substantial breakfast smoothie

I'm not a fan of smoothies for breakfast. I am never confident that a liquid breakfast could ever be substantial enough to last until 9.30, let alone lunch.

Smoothies are, of course, incredibly delectable and a great way of using up bananas. But whenever I make one, I always have to make a piece of toast as well. Just in case. Wouldn't want to starve now, would we.

Recently, however, my daughter showed me a recipe from Martha Rose Shulman on her iPhone. I was astonished that she was sitting there reading the NY Times, but she's downloaded the app. 'It makes me feel smart.'

It's a lovely recipe for Seeded Banana Frappe, a smoothie given extra muscle with nuts and seeds. It sounded as if it would make a solid, delicious, protein-rich, low-carb start to the working day, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.

Shopping and prepping
It took some organising. First of all, shopping. I had to buy the nuts and seeds and I decided also to use this as an opportunity to try almond milk. The affordable Soygood product in the supermarket lists cane sugar as its 2nd ingredient, ewww. Instead I purchased a sugar-free, organic almond milk in the healthfood shop - for $8.50.

Martha Rose says to peel bananas that are ripening faster than you can eat them and freeze them to use in the smoothie. Great tip! But ripe bananas are not that easy to come by, so there was much scrutiny of yellowing skins before I had 4 good specimens.

The first day I planned to frappe, I had forgotten to soak my seeds the night before. Probably because I do not normally do this, but Martha Rose is a recent convert to soaking and recommended it for the recipe. As with grains, it is to break down the phytic acid and protease inhibitors that block enzyme function and prevent the absorption of minerals.

A day later, I was ready: bananas frozen (hey, it works!), seeds soaked and all other ingredients assembled. It was a fiddly operation, but the result was appetisingly thick and rich and not over sweet. Martha Rose suggests adding 2 teaspoons of almond or peanut butter for extra heft, and the second time I made the frappe, I added 2 teaspoons of macadamia nut butter (because that's what I had in the cupboard). It did thicken the texture nicely and added a delicate flavour note. Highly recommended step.

Seeded Banana Frappe
Serves 1
6 almonds
1 tbs sunflower seeds, soaked overnight and drained
1 tbs pumpkin seeds (ditto)
1 tps toasted flaxseeds or sesame seeds (ditto; but I used a tps flaxseed oil)
1 ripe banana, frozen if poss
1 cup imported, fancy-schmancy almond milk (or cow's or rice, whatever your budget runs to)
1/4 tps vanilla extract
1 tps honey
1/8 tps turmeric (had enough of all the fiddly teaspoons yet?!)
2 ice cubes
2 tps nut butter of your choice
Freshly grated nutmeg for garnish (so didn't bother with this)

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend at high speed for a full, noisy minute. Pour into a glass and enjoy while you madly finish packing your bag, making the bed, straightening your hair and trying not to be late again. Particularly recommended for organised morning types.

Didn't feel like that piece of toast. That might have something to do with the number of calories listed on the nutritional info: 388.

What's your favourite breakfast smoothie? Does it keep you satisfied all morning? Ever frozen a banana, you thrifty thing? Speak to me in the comments, folks!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Velvety smooth pearl barley broth

It's been raining for an endless number of days. Or so it seems. Definitely the weather for what Hugh calls a hefty soup.

I never cook with barley, so I'm not sure why this recipe caught my eye. It also calls for mace, a stranger to my spice cupboard. But I'm willing to try new tastes at the moment, so I purchased 2 large packets of 2 unfamiliar ingredients this week. Methinks there will be a few barley meals to come before the rainy weather clears.

To soak or not to soak
I didn't. Soak, that is, although Jude recommends doing so with hardier grains such as barley. This is to allow lactobaccilli bacteria to break down the phytic acids contained in grains, beans and legumes that interfere with the absorption of minerals such as calcium, magnesium and zinc. It also improves digestibility and reduces cooking times.

Her method is to soak grains and beans at room temperature overnight in a large bowl with a couple of teaspoons of yoghurt stirred through.

I'll be more barley-savvy next time, but in this recipe I just rinsed it and chucked it in all free and easy like. It still softened up beautifully.

Velvety texture
Hugh recommends pureeing a couple of ladles of the broth in for a thicker texture. I heartily recommend this step, despite the palaver of setting up and washing up the blender. It makes the soup silky smooth and creamy. A most luxurious mouthfeel.

And the mace? Left to my own devices I would have added oregano or sage instead of nutmeg and mace, but they added a delicate sweet flavour that seems characteristically English. Glad to meet you, mace. Pleased to make your acquaintance.

Pearl barley broth
15 g butter
2 large onions (I used one: 2 seemed like a lot)
1 bay leaf
A few sprigs of thyme, leaves only, chopped (fiddly)
1 small celery stalk, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 small parsnip, finely chopped
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (or a few gratings of fresh, if you're all fixed up with a grater)
A good pinch of cayenne pepper
A good pinch of ground mace
100 g pearl barley, rinsed
1.5 L vegetable stock
Small handful of fresh parsley
Salt and black pepper

Heat the butter in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat and gently sweat the onions with the bay leaf and thyme for about 15 mins until soft and translucent. Add the celery, carrot and parsnip and saute for a further 5 mins. Stir in the spices.

Add the barley, pour in the stock and add some salt and pepper.  Simmer gently for 25-30 mins until the barley is soft. Remove the bay leaf.

You can serve as is or scoop out a couple of ladlefuls and puree them in a blender of food processor. Or whizz away with your stick blender. (I could never use mine without ending up with soup on the ceiling.) Return to the pot and warm through. Stir in the parsley and adjust the seasoning if nec.

Hugh serves his barley broth with big fat croutons. sizzled in olive oil. This would be a sublime addition if you were serving it immediately. As I'm taking mine to work, I'm adding some pre-steamed ribbons of kale and keeping my carb count low as befits my sedentary day.

I'd love to hear from you. What's your favourite use for mace? Do you soak? Spill the beans in the comments.