Some people love green smoothies, some find solace in kale. I can’t remember the last time I had a smoothie let alone a green one, and I prefer rocket (arugula) over kale. Health and food trends come and go just like fashion trends, therefore I stopped paying attention long ago and feed my body what it likes and definitely enjoys. By all means if you love them, enjoy them with all your heart. The key here is to remember that food is nourishment, but it is also pleasure and memories.
Cue soups (and dark chocolate). I know, I know, it’s getting a bit ridiculous with this being the 3rd soup amongst a very short list of ‘main meal’ recipes on So Matcha To Love. Call it genetics, but ‘soup love’ runs deep.
July this year I went up to the Padina Plateau, in the Bucegi Mountains of Romania with my cousin and his girlfriend. After a day of hiking and fresh mountain air, we returned to Sinaia, a fairytale-like town and mountain resort of my childhood, with an intense hunger and one simple goal in mind. An extraordinary soup.
My cousin had this place in mind and would not budge, he insisted their beef soup is worth it. I honestly would have been happy with anything, my stomach is easily appeased after exercise. Less connoisseur than usual. We sat down. We perused the menu but we knew what we were getting, so the waitresses response that she had sold out was less than desirable but I could get anything else off the menu, right?
Wrong. He was so passionate about this soup, much to even my discontent, that we visited several restaurants until we landed on one that hadn’t sold out of this mystical soup. Boy, was it delicious. That night we devoured soup, freshly baked bread, and I had a side of goat’s cheese as per usual. Here is a snap I took at the table that night that really captures the atmosphere – Traditional Romanian.
I’ve since come to realise Australians are less passionate about soup than we are, and that’s totally okay as well. As spring is now in full swing ‘Down Under’, I’ve created this simple soup of fresh spring produce like asparagus and green beans, with a few delicious twists in the form of chilli flakes, fennel seeds, and lime. I served it with a perfect poached egg per bowl (quick instructions below), crumbled goat’s feta and a side of buttered rye sourdough toast. I imagine peas, zucchini (courgette), leeks, spring onions, chives, sugar snap peas or anything green would be great additions. Fresh, delicate, comforting yet not in the absence of an element of surprise, this soup highlights everything that’s important to me when it comes to enjoying my meals. Furthermore, it brings up beautiful memories like that night up in the mountains. Poftă bună!
Asparagus, Green Bean & Lime Spring Soup
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil or butter
- 1 onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- ½ teaspoon red chilli flakes
- 1 Tablespoon fennel seeds
- sea salt
- 350g green beans, trimmed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 1 bunch asparagus, ‘woody’ root ends snapped off (just bend until it snaps – magic), chopped into bite-sized pieces and halved lengthways
- parmesan / pecorino cheese rind (optional but delicious)
- 1 lime, zested and juiced (or lemon if preferred)
- 1.25 L / 5 cups of water (or stock if you have on hand)
- 1 x 400g tin lentils, drained (I used the brown ones)
- 20g coriander or parsley, leaves picked and set aside
- 2 Tablespoons capers
- sea salt and black pepper
- poached egg, wild rice, goat’s feta, to serve
- buttered rye sourdough, to serve
Heat the olive oil/butter in a large pot over medium heat, add the onion, garlic, chilli flakes, fennel and sea salt. Sauté for 5 – 8 minutes or until the onion is soft and translucent.
Add the green beans, asparagus and lime zest, and give this a stir – cook for a further 3 minutes. Now add the water/stock, parmesan rind (if using) and bring to the boil. Simmer for a further 5 minutes, we do not want to boil the crisp vegetables for too long – they should be perfectly tender. Add the lentils, capers, lime juice, coriander/parsley leaves and take off the heat. Season with salt and pepper.
Ladle the soup into bowls (with a base of wild rice if preferred), and serve with crumbled goat’s feta, rye toast and a perfectly poached egg. Plus extra pepper is always nice.
Notes: you can always substitute ingredients with what you have on hand or easily obtained. For example tinned white or cannellini beans can be substituted for the lentils.
Quick Poached Egg
In a small saucepan, bring a lot of water to the boil. Add a big splash of apple cider vinegar (or any other vinegar) to the pan and decrease heat until it’s a simmer. This is crucial as we do not want the egg to break apart by a violent boil. Crack the egg in a little cup and lower smoothly into the water in one motion. For a semi-runny yolk I find 3 minutes to be a good guide. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and place on a tea/paper towel to soak up the excess water. Then use to top your soup, toast or salad.