Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bringing a Taste of Ireland Home

Last year, my parents, sister and I went to Ireland the week after Christmas. One of our favorite activities there was to have a bowl of vegetable soup and a piece of brown bread in the afternoon. Yes, we do travel around the world on our stomachs. But, in our defense, everywhere we went served phenomenal variations of vegetable soup and brown bread, and it was often chilly outside.

New Year’s Day, I was browsing the gift shop at the Cliffs of Moher (trying to get warm!) and saw Nuala Cullen’s cookbook Irish Soups & Bread. I couldn’t resist and very happily bought it.

I made my first soup just a day after getting back to the states. The recipe was for curried turnips and lentil soup, but you’ve probably figured out that I have no qualms about playing with recipes. I’m a New England girl and much prefer parsnips to turnips, so I substituted one root vegetable for another the very first time I made this.

Curried Parsnip and Lentil Soup

1 pound parsnips

1 cup dry lentils

1 large onion

2 large carrots

6 cups fat-free chicken broth

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp curry powder

2 Tbsp parsley

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp table salt

Instructions

Cut the peeled parsnips and carrots into small cubes. Finely chop the onion. Heat oil in large saucepan, add onion and cook until soft. Add the parsnips, carrots and curry powder; cook for five minutes occasionally stirring until oil is absorbed. Add lentils and broth and cook until the vegetables are tender and lentils are cooked, about 40 to 50 minutes depending on how long the lentils were soaked. Check seasoning and add more curry powder, salt and pepper if needed. The soup can be pureed in a blender if a smooth consistency is desired. Add fresh, chopped parsley before serving

This yummy soup is 4 points per serving and hearty enough to be a meal.

Naturally, the first time I made the soup I had to make some brown bread to go with it, and I turned again to the cute little cookbook I’d bought in Ireland. I was still at my parents’ house then, and my mom was thrilled to pull out the extra bread pans that my grandmother had given her. It turns out my mom has great memories of her mom baking bread and rolls, and making this bread together was a way for us to feel closer to Grandma even though she is no longer with us.

Wholemeal Brown Bread

2 ½ cups coarse wholemeal flour

1 cup pinhead oatmeal (pretty sure I used old fashioned oats)

¾ cup wheat germ

2 eggs

approx. 1 ½ cups milk

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon bread (baking) soda

1 ½ teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons sugar

Instructions

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Put the lightly beaten eggs in a measured cup, add the olive oil and make up to a pint with milk.

Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the milk mixture. Fold in the liquid quickly and thoroughly, incorporating all the flour, then turn into an oiled 2 lb loaf tin, smooth the top and make two diagonal cuts. Alternatively, put the dough on a lined baking sheet and shape into a round cake, making two cross cuts on top.

Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 375 degrees F for another 35 – 40 minutes. Check whether the bread is cooked by tapping on the bottom – if it sounds hollow, it’s done. Remove from the tin immediately, wrap in a clean tea towel and prop upright until cool.

I can guarantee that this soup and brown bread make a great lunch on a chilly fall or winter afternoon.

Do you have any recipes you’ve brought back from a great vacation?

Post Note:

You may have noticed that I posted pre-weight loss photos with this blog post. I thought they illustrated the points I was trying to make, and I think it’s healthier to post them than to not to do so because I’m fatter in them. I can’t wipe away the ten + years I was obese, and I had some great moments in those years. Ignoring them because I’m embarrassed that I was so big then is not a helpful thing to do in my opinion.

I am vain enough though that I feel the need to post a current photo of myself at the end of this piece. As of Tuesday’s WW meeting, I’ve lost 29 (28.8 to be exact) pounds. I can also fit into more of my 12s. I celebrated by buying a bunch of new, smaller clothes on Tuesday and by wearing a size 12, black skirt (bought to thin into a couple of years ago) with a medium red top for the first time on Wednesday. For quite a while, the outfit you see pictured here was my ideal of what a thin me could wear, and I topped it with a stylish, size-12-short-coat that I also had bought when it was massively on sale to thin into. I was walking on cloud 9 most of Wednesday morning.

4 comments:

lauragrahambooth on November 21, 2009 at 1:29 PM said...

Yum! Both recipes sound awesome, Michelle. I can't wait to try them!

You *should* show off your figure. You look terrific! It's an impressive transformation, and one you have every right to be proud of!

Michelle Butler on November 21, 2009 at 2:49 PM said...

Thanks, Laura! The recipes are yummy. I'll make them for you sometime, and let me know if you make them and like them.

The concept of "showing off my figure" is so foreign to me I almost laughed when I read that. Guess I need to do more work on body image, but thank you for the compliment.

Tami Brothers on November 22, 2009 at 7:58 AM said...

Wow! You look GREAT!!! I LOVE the "thin into" idea. I do that as well and it's always nice when I finally reach that goal!!!

Thanks a ton for the recipe. I'll have to try it. I had a great lamb stew at an authentical Irish pub in Macon, GA last year. The restaurant is owned by a family who also owns several pubs in Ireland. The stew is AWESOME and I thank you for this reminder. I'm going to have to find that recipe (or take another trip to the restaurant!!!).

Have a great weekend!

Tami Brothers
Petit Fours and Hot Tamales Blog

Michelle Butler on November 22, 2009 at 2:17 PM said...

Thanks, Tami!

There are a lot of great lamb stew recipes out there. Enjoy trying some out.

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