Cozy Lentil Baguette Soup

FOOD

Historically, there are three things that I am not a huge fan of:

1. soup

2. (especially) tomato-based soup

3. soggy bread

I have noted these things on several occasions to my family and friends. These are established facts.

But when in some fit of insanity I made this soup, which has all three of those things, I absolutely fell in love with it.

What is the world coming to?

Yesterday I went to the famous Portobello Market and bought a baguette which turned out to be very, very crusty and extremely difficult to eat without soaking it in something. Yesterday, I dunked it in a hot chocolate. But the edibility of this little guy was not going to last until morning, I knew. So I decided to make a bread soup. I’d seen it done many ways on Food Network, and soup is a simple thing to make without many supplies and on a budget, so why not try something new? Lentils for loads of protein, tomatoes for lightness, mixed vegetables for flavor and vitamins, and bold cheese for flavor. It was just perfect.

It was creamy, soothing, and very healthy. The bread was not soggy or unappetizing–it added a richness and starchiness that you might get from potatoes or something of the sort. The following recipe is a basic one. I don’t have a large pantry at the moment, so in an ideal world I would have added italian herbs, fire roasted tomatoes, and so forth. Be adventurous with it!

Lentil Baguette Soup

1/2 cup lentils

2 cups frozen vegetables

1 can diced tomatoes

1/2 tsp black pepper (or to taste)

1/2 baguette, torn into bite-sized pieces

1/4 cup (app.) aged firm cheese (such as an aged parmesan, etc.)

salt (to taste)

In large pot, place lentils, frozen vegetables, and 1 cup water. Heat on high until boiling, then turn heat down to medium-low to simmer until water is absorbed. Add diced tomatoes, black pepper, and another cup of water. Stir to incorporate, then stir in baguette pieces, pressing down on bread to saturate. Add 1-2 cups of water, and simmer until bread is mostly dissolved and soup is creamy, stirring occasionally. Add water as needed to achieve desired thickness (this soup could be more stew-like or soup-like depending on preference). Crumble cheese into soup and continue to simmer for about 10 minutes. Add salt if desired. Garnish with more cheese, fresh herbs, or tomatoes.

Unfortunately, I had to make the soup in a pan like this. It was quite difficult, and I had to do it in weird half-batches. Maybe I should invest in a bigger pot?

Another great thing about this recipe is that it made a TON for one person. I have 7 meals out of this one recipe!

As a sidenote, I also got AMAZING strawberries at the market, and am currently eating a to-die-for almond croissant. I mean, £1 for all of these strawberries? So good.

TRAVEL

Here it goes. I have A LOT to catch you up on. So much. I do believe my last post ended on Wednesday afternoon. So we’ll take it from there.

Wednesday Night

What a truly SPECTACULAR evening. I have not yet met my elusive roommate–not sure if she’s just never here or if she’s been ignoring me, but hopefully she’s nice! The flat 5A-ers and I went to a Sherlock Holmes pub which was really, really cool. It was decorated according to the stories and it was very cozy and warm, and the food was decent. Not spectacular, but decent. There are two things I learned about dining out in the UK/Europe. The waiters never come to your table. They come to take your order, bring your food, and bring your check. That is it. So, if you want full service like in the US, too bad. Go flag him down if you’re that desperate for help. Also, nobody brings things home!! The European students in our group were flabbergasted when we suggested that we couldn’t eat the whole thing and wanted a box to bring our food home. Apparently people just don’t do that here–if they aren’t hungry enough to finish, they leave what is left over. It explained a lot to them concerning why all of us Americans aren’t the size of elephants, as they all thought we were able to eat the entirety of the portions we are served in America. I think the international students expect us all to be about 1000 pounds. Surprise!

After the pub, we meandered about the area, which took us to Big Ben and the London Eye. It was absolutely GORGEOUS to see them at night. We didn’t go on the London Eye, as it was closed, but it was still lit up and absolutely beautiful. Although, I hear that Big Ben has been renamed? I haven’t checked on that extensively, but that seems rather silly to me. It’s known by that name–why change it?

Sorry it’s so blurry–regrettably, my camera does not have night vision. :P Well, after all that, we took the tube home, and when I was leaving the station the attendent made fun of me for not smiling, so I flashed a huge smile and then proceeded to leave. We were taking a moment to get our bearings, when he came over to me and turned me around to tell me that I looked beautiful that night. That was really, really nice of him, and topped off a fantastic evening. By the time we got home, all of us were exhausted from a long day, and went to bed. Again, I didn’t have a blanket or a pillow. But sleep was lovely nonetheless.

Thursday

Today, the official international orientation began, so much of the day was spent in seminars, during which we discovered that we go to a difficult school (…duh), have to deal with a ridiculous course enrollment process, and other such stresses. It was exhausting, and it made me very nervous about getting my proper schedule. I hope that I don’t have problems, as I really need some particular courses to transfer back home. I can’t complete the process until Monday though, so we’ll see how that works out. To break everything up, I did have some nice falafel at a campus café, and later laughed at the necessity of using a frying pan as a plate in my room. As you can see, I’m still transitioning and trying to get everything I need to live reasonably comfortably here.

Also around dinner, I met my neighboring flatmate! Her name is Marie, and she’s very nice. She spends most of her time with the other French girls she came with, but hopefully we’ll all be able to do dinner once everyone arrives!

Later in the evening, we all made our way to the boat party! Somehow I lost my oyster card on the way to the train, so I felt like quite a bother having to get a new one, and when we were on the tube it seemed to be taking far longer that we expected. Actually, for a few minutes we were really concerned that we were going to miss the boat. I had faith though, and we made it in plenty of time. The boat was supposedly going to leave at 8, but didn’t leave until 8:20, so we were all good. On the boat we took in the stunning sights of Big Ben, the London Eye, and the London Bridge from the river, in addition to meeting a bunch of cool people. Seeing the London Bridge, where the Olympic rings were hanging only a few weeks ago, was so surreal. At that moment, I realized that I really am in London, England, studying abroad and living out a dream that I’ve had for years. Amazing.

Once we had seen those sights, however, the boat was on the water for far longer than originally anticipated, so we were quite tired and anxious to disembark by the time we did. The boat party ticket included a free drink and admission the club, Opal. It was far too crowded inside, though, and we had no place to put our stuff, so we left soon after arriving. It was crowded to the point of feeling like a sardine in a tin. Not pleasant. Hopefully future club experiences will allow a bit more room, even if it’s not a lot. By the end of the evening, absolutely every part of me was so tired from walking and everything that I felt swollen all over. That was, of course, not the case, but it sort of felt like it. Sleep, again, was welcomed, even still without a blanket.

Friday

On Friday morning, I slept in! It was beautiful. I then went to a scheduled library tour and met a couple more people on the way. And great news!! The libraries, starting this year, are open 24/7, so I’ll be able to study there whenever and until whenever I please. I was really concerned that they would be closing super early, so that was good to hear. After the tour I made a point of walking until I had acquired a towel, blanket, and the last essentials I needed. My walk took me through Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, Soho, and Holborn, and I did in fact get a towel and a really great blanket! I also had the best meal I’ve had since arriving from Whole Foods as I passed by–a vegan/vegetarian delight in a take away box. I was sooo hungry from the walking that it probably made it all taste ten times better, and I truly inhaled everything. Walking through Soho was wonderful–it’s really picturesque and the theatre geek in me just adored seeing the theaters and general charm of the area. At the end of the day and all of that walking, I curled up in my new blanket and watched This is War, which really tickled my funny bone and made it a very lovely, cozy day.

Saturday

Today I woke up bright and early to go to Portobello Market! I quite dislike crowds, so I wanted to get in before the rush. Unfortunately, once I got there, I was unable to find an ATM for so long that by the time I got money, the crowds were too dense for me to be enticed to stay. The only reason I was able to get money at all was because my Daddy gave me “memere money” before I boarded the plane to get here. He calls it memere money because whenever he would go off to school when he was younger, his grandmother would give him a little bit of money (despite not being well off at all). So now, whenever he brings my sister and I to school, he gives us a $20 bill for whatever we desire. It is really the cutest thing and traded for about £12, which was enough for me to get a baguette, strawberries, and a few other things later.

On the way back on the Tube, I was struck by the sheer beauty of the city. I wrote in my journal: “This city is a land of poetry. A bustling metropolis filled with beauty and imperfection and people of every sort. It is a place where we may experience mankind at its most real and its most illustrious. The gritty and dirty are perhaps even more beautiful than the most glamorous shop façade. There is a kindness in people that suggests a comfort and solidarity in our anonymity, no matter where we are from or how extensive is the perfection or brokenness of our English.” I know I just quoted myself. Judge me. But it is what I feel. There is magic in this city.

Anywho, it was actually really convenient that I wanted to leave Portobello, because after visiting Jamie Oliver’s store in Notting Hill (where I got a delicious gourmet hot chocolate), flat 5A was planning to go to Camden Market, which I think is far more enjoyable. I dressed up all cute, as I’m trying to live up to the fashion standards of London! I also met another flatmate just as I was leaving. While at the market, I got a really cute laminated Banksy poster (the picture of the girl with the red balloon) for just £3! I would really like to go find some of his artwork in London–the real deal.

After coming back, our feet in pain from the lengthy walk, we had an absolutely fantastic dinner. Everyone was eating and drinking and sharing conversation, and it got quite loud at some points and was just filled with joy and laughter. The others went on to shenanigans at the pub, and I skyped the fam, which was really nice. All in all, it was a lovely day from start to finish.

Sunday

Finally, today! It has been raining all day, and I tried to go out to find rain boots after making my soup, but was unsuccessful. Not having galoshes or an umbrella in London is not ideal, let me tell you. I was absolutely soaked, so I resolved to pick up an almond croissant and make myself some warm coffee to enjoy while writing this post and basking in the glory of my cushy bed. Tonight, I’m going to a club with a bunch of people, so that should be really fun :) And thus I have arrived at the end of this post. Soon I will be planning my trips to Paris, Rome, and Dublin, and I will surely keep you updated on my schedule and all of the shenanigans that will surely come my way. See you all soon, and please share this with anyone interested in traveling to the UK or cooking, or really anyone! Cheers!

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