Tag Archives: recipes

My dad’s lentil soup

Since Lucia’s birth, I’ve been lucky enough to host all three sets of her grandparents in succession: first my parents, then Al’s mom and stepdad, and then Al’s dad and stepmom (and youngest brother). Al and I have really enjoyed kicking back (ha!!) these past few weeks and letting our loved ones cook for us and do our laundry (and of course we’ve enjoyed their company and emotional support). Turns out that infant care does not leave much room for domestic chores, including cooking, which is something I used to do every day. So I’ve let others make me food, and it’s been pretty great.

Snow day

Snow day

Today is a cold, snowy day and Al’s stepmom is cooking us dinner tonight. I suggested lentil soup, which is hearty and warming. I’ve always enjoyed my dad’s lentil soup, which he makes from scratch. Years ago, when I was fresh out of college and first learning to cook, I asked my dad to send me his recipe for lentil soup. He didn’t have it written down (I’ve never seen the man cook from a written recipe in my life), so he typed the whole thing out in prose form for me. It was like my dad was talking me through the recipe, step by step. Having a recipe in that format was really helpful at the time, when I didn’t know my butt from my elbow in the kitchen, but now I’m used to reading recipes written out in the traditional form. Today, I decided to transcribe my dad’s recipe so that I (and others) can more easily use it. So here is my dad’s delicious, foolproof lentil soup recipe: perfect for a cold winter day! Bon apetit.


1 c. lentils (any kind will do, but my dad favors the brown kind)

14 oz. can of tomatoes, diced

1 medium carrot

1 medium onion (yellow or white)

1 stalk celery

2 cloves garlic (or more to taste)

4 c. chicken and/or beef stock

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. dried parsley

1/4 tsp. ground cumin (optional)

1 tsp. lemon juice (optional)

1 c. chopped spinach, fresh or frozen

Bread or crackers (optional)


Rinse lentils and place in a soup pot. Add chicken or beef stock. Heat on medium-high. While mixture is coming to a boil, peel and cut up the carrot, onion, garlic, and celery. When the lentils are rapidly boiling, add in all the veggies, including the canned tomatoes. Stir well. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to medium. Mixture should be at a high simmer/”medium boil.” Add in all spices. Cook soup uncovered for about 45 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. If the mixture thickens too much add broth or water to regain the correct consistency.

After 45 minutes, add in spinach and lemon juice, if desired. Bring to high simmer/medium boil for another 20 minutes or so, stirring to make sure it doesn’t burn or stick on the bottom of the pan, adding stock or water to keep it soup-like. Cook until lentils are soft and seasoning is just right. Serve with crackers and /or bread (pita is great!) for dipping.

Pumpkin pie

To take my mind off my many health woes, I spent this afternoon making a pumpkin pie from scratch. And I mean SCRATCH. Scritchety-scratch.  This was my first time making pumpkin pie, so I was going into this thing blind.  And, since canned pumpkin and pre-made pie crusts don’t exist in this country, I was forced to get sort of Helga Homemaker and make everything myself. And it went pretty well, until I dropped the pie.  But we’ll get to that in a sec.

The final product

The first hurdle I faced was figuring out how I was going to get pureed pumpkin.  A survey of local grocery stores and markets turned up nada on the canned pumpkin front.  This meant I would have to buy raw pumpkin and puree it myself.  Getting the pumpkin was not a problem: I found raw, cubed pumpkin at my local fruit/veg market. But to puree it, I needed a food processor or a blender. I had brought my amazing, blocky Cuisinart food processor from home, but it turns out that it requires 650 watts of power to run (this is a lot) and the largest step-down transformer we could find in Joburg only went up to 100 watts. Ruh-roh.  So, I was forced to buy the cheapest immersion blender I could find, instead.  While I was at it, I also bought a rolling pin and a pie tin.  Since I had already bought the other ingredients for the pie, I was set.

Next, I set about making the pumpkin puree-able.  Going off of this recipe, I popped my cubed raw pumpkin into the oven at 200 C for 45 minutes… but afterwards, the pumpkin was still pretty hard. I ended up leaving it in the oven for almost 90 minutes, until it was soft enough to smash with a fork.

Roasted pumpkin

While the pumpkin was cooking, I made my pie crust following this recipe (from a South African!), which turned out to be shockingly easy.  I felt so proud of myself, rolling the dough out with my new rolling pin.  I wanted someone to observe me doing this and say, “wow, look at you, rolling that dough like a pro!” but no one was there, and actually, I look terrible, so it’s probably best no one witnessed any of this process.

Dough, glorious dough!

When the pumpkin was finally cooked, I used my new immersion blender to puree it into velvety, orange goodness.

Aw yeah.

Then I added in the spices, evaporated milk, eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract, and poured that bowl of deliciousness into the pie shell, which I had flattened, more or less, onto the pie tin.

It was hard not to chug this. But I resisted.

Then I popped that baby into the oven at 170-200 C for about 45 minutes.  There was some mid-baking temperature adjustment because our oven is kinda wack.  I tested the pie’s doneness with a fork and when it was firm but moist, I slowly, painstakingly withdrew it from the oven, an oven mitt on one hand and a towel in the other.  I was inching it out of the oven when something – I’m still not sure what, but maybe a pie-stress-induced-seizure? – happened, and I dropped the pie.


It landed on the open oven door, praise Jesus (seriously) and did not flip over, but the side of it got kind of squashed.  Al was sitting out in the other room watching a show called “Space Mysteries” and eating gummies when he heard me scream in agony.  I then threw a really predictable type-A hissy fit about ruining my perfect pie.  Al tried to convince me it looked more “homemade” this way, and I appreciated the effort, but no.  It looked SO BEAUTIFUL before and now it’s ruined. RUINED, I tell you.  No one will love you now, pie!

It looked better before, I swear.

But I did taste a little bit of the filling that fell out, and daaaaaaang. It was good.  So it may not look perfect, but I’m hoping people will enjoy it tomorrow.  Inner beauty and all that.

Until then, happy Thanksgiving. I hope everyone has a joyous, turkey and stuffing filled day of family, friends, and food coma.


On Saturday evening, Al and I hosted our first braai (barbeque).  Braai is the Afrikaans word for barbeque or grill.  In a traditional braai, the meat is cooked over wood, but nowadays a lot of South Africans use plain ol’ charcoal briquettes just like everybody else.

Al went to the store on Saturday and purchased a barbeque, charcoal briquettes, and a twenty-two piece braai set (we might have gone a bit overboard).

Our new baby

We spent the afternoon preparing food.  Luckily, our apartment was sparkling clean since our new maid, the adorably named Precious, got the place ship-shape that morning while Al and I sat around awkwardly and wondered if we should offer to help.  We North Americans aren’t good with domestic help.

View from our balcony

Our menu consisted of rump meat, boerewors (a type of South African beef sausage), and biltong, plus my famous horseradish beet dip, guacamole, and cookies-and-cream popcorn, which turned out to be a huge hit.  Seriously, if you want people to like you, make them cookies-and-cream popcorn. They will be putty in your hands.

In preparing the side dishes, I had to make some adaptations based on what I found at the Pick ‘n Pay.  For example, I couldn’t find jalapenos for the guacamole, so I substituted little green chilis, which pack a more powerful punch and need to be used judiciously so as not to knock over one’s guests.  I also couldn’t find prepared horseradish for the beet dip, so I used something called “creamed horseradish.” Sounds a bit gross, but it did the trick.

Our guests arrived around five and we all set to eating and drinking until we were fit to pop.  Or maybe that was just me.  Oddly enough, only one of our guests was South African.  The rest were from Germany, America (f*** yeah), Nigeria, and Botswana.  Pretty sweet. Anyway, a good time was had by all (see photographic proof below) and I think we’ll be hosting many more braais in the future, despite our meat hangovers today.