Today for Sunday Supper we talking about dishes that keep you warm. Which is a perfect topic to cover on this cold, wet dreary day. I don’t know about you but I don’t tend to eat a lot of soup during the summer, I do love it but I don’t really think about making it. But I go crazy for it come winter time. There is something about a bowl of hot soup that just warms you from the inside out. I have a lot of soup and stew dishes that I tend to stick to during the winter but this time I wanted to find something different. Other then in a potato soup I had never really used bacon in a soup before. And after trying this one I think I have been missing out all this time. The thick cubes of bacon with the lentils and just enough heat to add warmth made this a perfect soup for a cold rainy day. But just a warning, when a recipe calls for a certain kind of lentil before you substitute it make sure it will yield the right results. I actually had to make this recipe twice for this posting because the first time I just substituted the red lentils for some green ones that I had on hand. But green lentils don’t break down so the first result was too brothy and didn’t give you the stick to your bones feel I wanted. I tend to substitute without thinking sometimes and it was a good lesson to remind me to stop and do research if I am not sure. But round two was absolutely delicious.
So in England Summer is officially over, it is starting to get colder and we are beginning to unpack the sweaters and jackets. This will be the first time I have ever lived somewhere that actually has a winter it is a strange, new experience for me. I am not use to September being the time for sweaters, normally I would still be having BBQ’s and swimming. So to help warm up I decided some good old fashioned fried chicken would help us recapture the feeling of summer picnics. I subscribe to a wonderful website called Delish, from on of my favorite magazines EatingWell. And in one of their articles they had this recipe that sounded just perfect, and the best part is it is a lot lower in fat because you don’t fry it. But don’t worry it is just as crispy and juicy coming out of the oven as it would be out of the fryer.
I think the day I discovered that I didn’t have to follow a recipe in order to be able to cook changed my life in the kitchen. Not having any formal knowledge, my culinary skills have come from lots of reading and even more practicing. Not all of my attempts have been successful. I have had meals that turned out so bad that we went out to eat instead. The great thing about using a recipe is that it is a blueprint for a delicious meal and if you follow it you dish should be a success. But when you feel adventurous enough, learning to go off-roading in the kitchen can really change who you are as a cook. Whether it is altering a dish to fit your taste, creating an entirely new dish using a recipe as your foundation or by just taking inspiration from a concept and creating a dish from scratch, it is a exhilarating feeling. Because not only does it mean that you are growing in your culinary skills but it also means that you have grown to know what flavors go together, what herbs could be added to make the dish pop, how to substitute and get similar results. Just knowing these things without the aid of a recipe is very freeing and allows you to be as creative as you want.
Today’s recipe was a combination of several inspirations. My husband and I bought several beers from the farmers market over the weekend but we are trying to restrict our drinking to only the weekends so I wanted to use up the last dark ale so it wouldn’t be in the fridge tempting my husband during the week. My second inspiration came from the weather, being typical English weather it has been very unpredictable. I woke up to blue skies and warm sun but by noon the clouds had rolled in and the temperature took a dive and by late afternoon it was raining. So I decided I wanted something warm and filling. After doing some research I decided that Steak and Ale stew was just what I was looking for. But the only problem was I couldn’t find a recipe that utilized all of the ingredients I wanted in it. So I decided to experiment and use a recipe I found on BBCgoodfood.com and just alter it to fit with what I had on hand.