I couldn't ask more from a holiday. Two weeks visiting family/friends in Sussex in an early spring, with a two day London excursion in the middle. It was a perfect balance of visiting, relaxing, and entertaining escapades. The weather was ridiculously good-there were daffodils, and blossoming trees, and I am nonetheless even sort of glad to be home. Eventually, I will tell you all about it.
At the moment, however, I am beat. It was only a 20 hour trip, door-to-door , with no glitches or holdups beyond a not too awful delay on the A23 enroute to Gatwick, caused by a dramatically overturned crane. But it has more or less done me in. And in a way it would not have done when I was a Young Thing, I'm forced to admit. A day later, and I'm still falling asleep at the drop of a hat.
So here is what I have for you today, along with a couple of pictures of visiting friends on a houseboat, in a very attractive little community of houseboats on the river in Shoreham. This is a recipe for an surprising (to me) delicious and versatile lentil-walnut loaf, which my cousin and I made as part of a dinner party for vegetarian guests. I was surprised, because I'd never made a lentil loaf before, and thought it sounded pretty dull, and more improving, or therapeutic, than delicious. I was not encouraged by the source- a rationing era cookbook with the non-enticing title of "Beans". Shows what I know.
We had our loaf with an onion gravy (variant recipe below) and "roasties" (an assortment of roasted potatoes and root vegetables), baby yorkshire puddings (more onion gravy), and a salad. It was all pretty much devoured, but the few loaf leftovers were delicious cold, in sandwiches. I think they would also make a nice starter- served like a pate, with some crusty bread and a couple of gherkins, or some other sort of pickled things.
This is what you need to make the loaf:
6 oz. of puy lentils, soaked overnight, and cooked until soft
4 oz. walnuts, powdered in a processor
4 ox fine breadcrumbs, preferably whole wheat
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 onion, chopped very finely
pinch aleppo pepper (that's me, can't leave well enough alone)
1 clove garlic, snashed
1 tbsp olive oil
S and P to taste
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a loaf pan and line it with foil, lengthwise, with the foil extending past the two short ends. Butter the foil. Heat the oil and cook the onion and garlic until just beginning to change color. Combine with all the other ingredients in a big bowl. Pack into the prepared loaf pan, and fold the ends in. Butter an additional bit of foil to cover the top. cook for 1 and 1/4 hours. Remove top foil, and carefylly unfold the side foil extensions. Let it rest for a few minutes, then lift out by the foil ears, and set on serving plate. Cut into slices with a sharp, preferably serrated knife. Serve hot with onion or mushroom gravy. when the leftovers are cold, it can be sliced more easily, and more thinly.
This is not the gravy we had, as I had only one onion on hand at home, and no wish to go shopping. It is miserably cold here, and there was snow, which is definitely not what I would have ordered, if asked. Apparently I'm still jet-lagged, and this recipe is persistently jumbled and disorderly. But it is also nice, and quantities are adjustable and ad hoc. I will attempt a revision when I get my head screwed on the right way again:
Mushroom Shallot Gravy
Soak mixed dried wild mushrooms in madeira for an hour or two. Chop some shallots and a bit of red onion, and sweat them in a small, heavy pan in a little olive oil. Slice some cremini or ordinary fresh mushrooms, and chop the soaked mushrooms after wringing them out. Add the mushrooms, and saute until almost done. A little bit of thyme and a small sprig of fresh rosemary if available. Sprinkle the lot with a handfull of flour, and cook until the flour disappears and gets a little crusty. Add reserved soaking liquid, and some good quality vegetable stock (or any stock you like), and cook, stirring in the beginning, over a medium low heat until thickened to desired consistency and the flavors have blended.
And I did miss you, despite having a wonderful time.