I have pretty much always had a dodgy tummy. I was extremely lactose intolerant as a baby and had to be fed goat milk formula and from there my problems have developed. Through the years, my tummy would randomly reject foodstuffs that had previously been favourites. Sometimes resulting in explosive results - if that's not too much info. It was bad. I started to become one of those crazy people with lists of intolerances and allergies. I was convinced that I had IBS. It took having weight loss surgery to show me that I was wrong.
It turns out that for years a tiny bacteria, called H. Pylori, has been quietly burrowing into my stomach lining, randomly causing inflamation and vomiting. A lesson in how the mighty tree is felled by the tiniest insect.
I still have it. I cannot, it seems, get rid of it, despite the intensive, triple-therapy, nuclear treatment. This thing just refuses to die. (And on my two stays in hospital, since my surgery, it almost looked like, in the battle between me and H. Pylori, it was killing me.)
It's gotten a little better now - the little bug will allow some things into my tummy - and so I have become very acquainted with the joys and follies of all things soup, as that is what I am now mostly constructed out of.
I like to think of myself as a bit of a foodie, but during this time of starvation, dizziness and puke* the last thing I wanted to do was cook. So I tried soup from a can. Heinz, Baxters, Campbells, Grannies, et al. All had to be blended and sieved as my tummy wouldn't tolerate even a whisper of texture. But how long can a person live on canned food? I guess it's a good test for bunker-living after World War III, and I am at the cutting edge of the research.
Through all this, I had gone from being a comfort eater - one who consoles, rewards, and indulges in grub of every kind - to a girl who could hardly eat 300 calories a day or drink 1 litre of fluid and who ate the same soup day after day.
Now, I'm not denegrating soup. I love soup. My family has its own special lentil soup, which I only recently learned and will share with you. I promise it will warm the cockles of your heart.
I ate this soup at Granny's house, I ate it at Auntie Ellen's house, I ate it at my big cousin's house and even in my own, when Mum would get a sudden urge to make it on a cold day. We ate it every Christmas dayand New Years day. But I never had the recipe, though I did try to invent my own version, until 2 weeks ago, when Aunt Ellen finally handed over the goods.
My version involved sweating vegetables in a knob of butter for 15 minutes, before adding the stock and the lentils - all very worthy. My family version is much more simple, cunningly clever and just a little bit trashy. There are no herbs. You don't need to make your own stock as it uses these.
All 8 of them! I, personally, would opt for 6 max, due to their insane salt content, but that would be to pollute the family recipe and I have to admit that it tastes better their way. It uses only a handful of ingredients that are simply popped in the pot and boiled for around an hour. So how come it tastes so bloody brilliant?
I also learned a top tip that I'd never come across before - If you want your veg to be melty and soft, don't saute them first, just plop them into the soup water and let the magic happen. Frying them first seems to make them retain their bite. Since learning this, the blender is no longer necessary for my annoying tum! Everything gets perfectly mushed in me gob.
Simple Scottish Lentil Soup
- 3 or 4 carrots, diced small
- 1 large white onion, diced small
- (I add a few sticks of celery diced into the same size dice - my family don't)
- 500g red lentils
- 8 Knorr ham cubes
- Plenty of water to make a good, big pot-full.
Method - Chuck everything into a big stock pot and bring to the boil. Simmer for around an hour. Eat topped with lots of pepper (my way) and some nice crusty bread (I wish this could be my way - maybe some day).
(Note how I try to fool my brain that I am eating a proper amount by scaling everything down - a tea cup is my bowl and a tea spoon does the honours nicely!)
*This is only my experience due to H. Pylori. Most people can eat what they want after 2 months recovery from surgery. In fact, Brie ate chicken six weeks out!