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Spider web carrot and lentil soup

Growing up in Australia, I never remember doing anything for Halloween and it still surprises me how much of a deal it has become here in the UK. But it is a great excuse to let your imagination run free and add some fun to your meals, something that Nicholas is appreciating more and more.

I saw the idea for the olive spiders on Pinterest quite a while ago and loved how simple yet effective they are (I so adore Pinterest for getting the creative juices flowing!). And where there are spiders, there has to be spider webs, and ‘drawing’ a yogurt web on a bowl of soup is super easy.

I was originally thinking of making a butternut squash soup I regularly make in the colder months, but then I came across the lovely Blue’s recipe for a wonderfully thick and lightly spiced carrot and red lentil soup. It’s the perfect soup to continue my ‘crusade’ to add some spice to Nicholas’ palate!

I usually use homemade stock for soups, but if you use the freshest ingredients, you can actually get away with just using water instead of stock (add a bit more seasoning though).

SPIDER WEB CARROT AND LENTIL SOUP

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Makes 4 servings

1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
A pinch of chilli flakes
600g carrots, washed but not peeled, coarsely grated
1 onion, roughly chopped
140g red lentils
1 litre hot vegetable or chicken stock
125ml milk
Salt and pepper
Plain yoghurt to serve
Black kalamata olives to decorate

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the cumin, coriander and chilli flakes. After a minute or so, when you can smell the spices, add the chopped onion and carrot. Season to taste. Stir and let fry gently for a couple of minutes.

Add the hot stock, lentils and milk. Bring almost to the boil then drop the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the lentils are tender and cooked. Check if you need to add more seasoning.

Puree the soup until smooth.

To serve, use a spoon to make a spiral of yogurt on top of each bowl of soup (or use a piping bag if you want to be more precise). Then make more yogurt lines starting in the centre and lightly dragging them to the edge to create a web-like pattern.

Decorate with olive spiders by using half an olive for the body and slices of the other olive half for legs.

How are you letting your creativity shine for Halloween?

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Creamy lentils

Lentils are a great food. Full of protein and fibre, cheap and easy to cook. Puree them for your baby, keep them whole for your toddler, feed them to your whole family. They’re also low in calories so a great meal to fill a mummy up if she’s trying to lose her baby weight.

Red lentils break down more than other types when they cook, so they’re perfect for our little ones. They’re great too if you want to make a thick soup. The following recipe would also work really well as a soup. If after pureeing it’s too thick, add a little stock. And it’s easy to add some chopped vegetables like carrots, leeks, celery, etc.

A little while ago I came across a mummy blogger who freezes cooked lentils. Her favourite thing to do is add the frozen lentils to cooking rice. I haven’t tried this, but it’s a good way to add some extra protein to a meal.

My creamy lentils uses the tomato pasta sauce I often make for Nicholas and always have in the freezer. You could use some chopped tomatoes or some tomato puree instead. Add chopped tomato (chopped as small as you can) after you’ve drained the cooked lentils and cook them over a low heat for a couple of minutes to break the tomatoes down.

CREAMY LENTILS

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 15-20 mins
Makes about 4 toddler servings
Freezable

1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed
1 shallot, finely diced
7 tbsp homemade tomato sauce
1/4 tsp dried oregano
Drizzle of olive oil (optional)

Put the lentils in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and then drop the heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the lentils are soft. Drain off the excess liquid.

While the lentils are cooking, put the shallot in a small microwave-safe bowl, add 1 tablespoon of water and cook on medium in the microwave for 2 minutes. Drain.

When the lentils are cooked and drained, add the shallot, tomato sauce and oregano and mix well.

If serving to a baby or as soup, puree the mixture until smooth.

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil over the top if desired.

Variations:

  • use onion intead of shallot
  • add a little garlic
  • add chopped vegetables to cook with the lentils (such as carrots, leeks, celery)
  • use tomato puree or chopped tomatoes instead of the homemade tomato sauce

Other uses:

  • add to other soups or stews
  • add to cooked rice
  • serve as a side dish to meat or fish