The other afternoon I was reading through Jerusalem, looking for dinner, when I saw the picture of those three soups down there. Yum! I thought. That one in the upper righthand corner looks delicious. I conferred with Alex, and he agreed. I then proceeded not to read the captions that went with the photos, but to decide which recipe went with which photo based on intuition alone. Alex got a migraine, the kids got cranky and went to bed, and I ended up eating the soup in the bottom right corner, the gross looking one that is bright green, alone. You might think I would have noticed a small color issue with my ingredients, but, you know, eh! Orange, green, they're all the same.

To be fair, the recipe did start me off on an orange note. We were firmly in ruddy-colored territory: mixing cumin and cayenne and cinnamon and a bunch of other earth-toned spices and tossing them with diced carrots and cooked chickpeas. But it turned out that was just the topping; the soup itself called for onions and spinach and watercress, most of which I had none of. 

I did not let this deter me. Instead I used cilantro and parsley and kale, and things turned out just fine. In fact, they turned out better than fine, and much better than I thought they were going to. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. I had no one to eat with, and after an hour of cooking and washing dishes, instead of sitting down to a cheery orange chickpea stew, I was staring at a thick bowl of steaming green puree. I spooned on some roasted chickpeas and carrots, as instructed, and a dollop of Greek yogurt, and resigned myself to a Bad Dinner.

But then! Something magic happened. I should have known—this was, after all, an Ottolenghi recipe—but I doubted. I won't again. Alex took it for lunch the next morning, and even reheated after sloshing around for hours in a glass container, it was deemed Excellent. Especially with that dollop of yogurt, and especially served with a little brown rice. So here you have it friends:


I'm not sure what to do here about the original ingredients versus what I used, so I'll offer both. If you're wondering, as I was, about ras el hanout—it turns out to be a spice mix. I didn't have any on hand but it comes together easily if you have even a fairly basic spice pantry. I used this recipe from Epicurious.

2 medium carrots
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 and 1/2 tablespoons ras el hanout
1 and 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 and 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
2 and 1/2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
7 ounces watercress (I subbed a mix of parsley and cilantro)
3 and 1/2 ounces spinach (I subbed kale)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
Greek yogurt or plain kefir, to serve

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Mix the carrots with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the ras el hanout, and a big pinch of salt. Toss well on a baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes. Add half the chickpeas, stir well, and continue roasting for another 10 minutes, or until the carrots are just tender.

Meanwhile, make the soup. Warm up the remaining olive oil in a large pot over medium heat and add the onion and ginger. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until the onion is completely soft. Add the remaining chickpeas, the stock, the greens, the sugar, and 3/4 teaspoon salt, stir well, and bring to a boil. Cook until the greens wilt (obviously, kale takes a bit longer than watercress, but somewhere between 2 and 10 minutes should do).

Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. Taste for salt. To serve, ladle the green soup into bowls and top with the hot carrots and chickpeas and a dollop of Greek yogurt.


FOR 2016 // elspeth

My grandmother passed away the day after Christmas. She was nearly 98, went on her own terms, and by all measures had a pretty good run of it. She knit that sweater down there, which is 5-year-old size, and a matching one, which is 2-year-old size, for me and my sister when we were kids. Just before the holiday my aunt passed them on for my girls, and somehow as I've watched them troll around the house, they've managed to sum up everything great about my grandmother and the things she's left on earth.

For starters, of course, there's her family, which was 45 members strong at her service Saturday. There was a private burial and then a lot of nice singing and praying in the chapel, all of which was to a tee as she dictated. This was followed by a nice reception, which was not exactly as she'd wished, since her instructions were that my mom and uncle serve only ice water. For those of us still in the land of the living at lunchtime on a Saturday, this seemed a bit harsh, so we had chicken salad sandwiches and a fruit platter and some cheese and crackers and punch instead. Hopefully she'll forgive us the extravagance.

At any rate, watching her move on has me thinking more than ever about our time here, and how we want to spend it. There are so many wonderful things to do in a day, and so few days until our time is up. Some goals are things we want to share, and other times they're things we want to sit with privately. Right now I'm in a private sitting kind of place. But for 2016, I can say this: I want to eat more popcorn, locally grown. I want to become an exemplary lunch-packer, with the goal of seeing every member of my household in exemplary health. I want to do my part to make our little corner of the world a better place. I want to buy less and reuse, reduce, recycle, swap, and collaborate more. I want to build some cold frames and have a good year in the garden and spend plenty of summer mornings with my girls, flying off the rope swing at Dyer Pond. I want to accomplish some Big Work Goals and some Big Personal Goals, and I want to eat more local seafood.   

If all that comes to pass, it will be a very big year indeed. We'll see. In the meantime, I hope 2016 is treating you well, and I'll be back soon with some proper pictures and a recipe. 


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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.