September has been a weird, and busy, month. My house would go from full of people all trying to share the same space at the same time – my partner’s parents have been a-visiting – to just me all on my lonesome – September is the month of conferences, so my partner had a few and disappeared during the week, and I had one and disappeared on a weekend.
I don’t mind being on my own. Actually (don’t tell anyone), I rather like it. And sometimes, I desperately need to be on my own because I am either not fit for company or won’t be, if I’m not allowed to be somewhere by myself for a while. Sometimes people laugh when I tell them I’m an introvert, because I am confident, sociable, talkative and loud. It’s true, however. Interacting with people drains me. I like it, and I’m good at it, but it still enervates me.
I have a family full of extroverts, so I do not know how I turned out this way. No where in my childhood home was private space. It was very unusual, until most of us hit our teens, for the toilet door to be shut. I made my own space by being outside, usually up a tree. I think this is where my love of the outdoors stems from, and why I prefer it empty. That’s MY outside, not yours. (Although we can share if you’re real quiet-like.)
What I don’t like doing on my own is eating. Surprising to me, I have ended up in a long-term relationship that doesn’t really look like winding down. I always just expected I would spend most of my life alone and yet, here I am, eating most of my meals with another person and looking like I will keep on doing that for a long while.
Occassionally, he goes away and I am left at home to fend for myself. I start with grand intentions of cooking and end by having slap-dash meals not quite worthy of the title. I am so bad at eating on my own that I don’t even make a sandwich for dinner: I just eat the individual ingredients directly out of the ‘fridge (except the bread, of course, which I frequently toast – ta da! hot meal).
I promised myself to be better this September, when my partner and I passed each other, like ships in the night, going to and from our respective conferences; we saw each other only one evening out of an entire fortnight and I got to joke (oh I am so witty), “Who are you? What are you doing in my house?” to which he replied, “Who are YOU? What are you doing in MY house?” The fun times we have.
My first week alone, my dinner menu was:-
1. Ate out
2. Lentil soup;
3. Lentil soup;
4. Sausages with lentils (the very last of the lentil soup).
My second week alone, my dinner menu was a bit more varied:
1. Rice, with stir-fried vegies;
2. Fried rice with kim chi;
3. Leftover fried rice with kim chi and a fried egg;
4. Ate out.
So, I did alright.
Here’s my lentil soup:
The recipe is inspired by Heidi of 101 Cookbooks’ Lively Up Yourself Lentil Soup, which my partner made one day and, with variations, is a regular in our eclectic repertoire. It can be made in huge quantities and keeps for, like, ever.
- Olive oil
- Garlic (a few cloves, roughly minced)
- Onion (small, diced finely)
- Potatoes (two small or one large, diced finely)
- Lentils (a cup of; any green is good; puy is best)
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes (400gms)
- Sun dried tomatoes (4 or 5, finely diced)
- Greens (2 big handfuls once chopped; any will do: kale is great; spinach and cabbage are good; zucchini/courgette/broccoli will do just fine in a pinch)
- Seasoning: salt and pepper; good powdered vegetable stock (I have Gallo Organic and Marigold Bouillion); mixed herbs (I alternate between a mix of oregano and basil and a blend of ‘spaghetti’ seasoning that we picked up from Italy)
- Water (quite a few cups)
- A nice big saucepan / stockpot.
What to do:
- On medium high heat and in a small amount of olive oil, fry the garlic and onion for a few minutes until onion is translucent. You can do both together or add the garlic after a minute or two, depending on how finely you have minced your garlic (if fine, add garlic later; if pretty rough, add it the same time as onion).
- Toss in your finely diced potatoes and a teaspoon of powdered vegetable stock, some cracked pepper and a teaspoon of herbs.
- Give everything a good stir until the powdered stock covers the potatoes.
- Toss in the lentils and stir.
- Toss in the sun dried tomatoes and stir.
- Don’t worry if things get stuck to the bottom.
- Empty the tin of chopped tomatoes into your mixture and another two cans full of water.
- Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and let it simmer for about 20 minutes to half an hour. The time will depend on the type of lentils you have used (puy cook faster) and how finely you have diced your potato (the finer, the faster).
- When the potatoes and lentils are soft-ish (I like my lentils a little al dente, but you can cook your soup however you like your lentils. If you like them real soft, you might want to pre-soak but I have never, ever pre-soaked lentils because I’m just not that organised), add your greens until they’re cooked.
- Greens are usually cooked when they turn a bright deep green. Obviously, this time will vary depending on the types of greens you’re adding. I find spinach is pretty speedy (a minute); cabbage is quite slow (5 – 10 minutes depending on the type of cabbage); and kale halfway between the two although I do add the stems first and the leaves a few minutes later but about 5 minutes usually does it.
- Add more seasoning if needed.
- Serve as soon as the greens are cooked.
- Make sure there is heaps of leftovers.
To eat the leftovers, re-heat. I like to add more fresh greens when I re-heat this soup (usually because in my first eating I have eaten all the greens …). If adding more liquid, also add a little tomato paste.
On its third outing, there was barely any liquid left so I decided to make my sausages with lentils, using the remainder of the lentil soup. I fried some pork sausages, until they were nicely brown (and in some places, black), then poured the remainder of the soup onto the sausages and set the mixture to boiling before turning the heat down to a simmer. Dinner was ready when what little of the liquid that was left had evaporated. Then I ate it with toast.
It’s important to have toast at least once if you’re eating on your own for a week.