I love books, and book clubs are a great place to gather for book lovers. Throughout my life I’ve always made time for reading and I truly enjoy fantastical and fiction-themed stories that take me away to another world. When a new friend suggested a Book Club with a gathering of like-minds and plenty of food and drinks, there was no way I could miss it. I couldn’t think of a better way to explore stories with engaging conversation. Plus, the opportunity to get to know new friends who clearly share my interests was an opportunity worth taking. We’ve since filled the cold months with warm fires, four great reads and plenty of conversation on and off the topics of the books themselves.
Our most recent book club read was a longer novel called, Watership Down written by Richard Adams and published in 1972. The story focuses on a band of rabbits who choose to leave the warren they’ve inhabited all their lives due to a great impending danger. It follows them through the struggles, triumphs and stories related to their journey; highlighting true instincts and behavior of wild rabbits with the author’s diligent research. The novel began through a succession of short stories Adams’ would create for his two daughters during long car rides. The author’s daughters were absolutely insistent that their father write the stories down and so, the book was written.
In addition to the novel discussion at our book club gathering we often have a theme for food. This month’s theme was a ‘bunny-friendly snack’ and we had an incredible spread; including a Fresh Balsamic Pear Salad, Gluten-free Quiche with Scalloped Potato Crust and a Carrot & Red Lentil Soup with a little spicy kick.
Carrot & Red Lentil Soup has been on my “Recipe To-Do” list for a few weeks now. The timing to finally try it was perfect though, because this dish was meant for a ‘bunny-friendly’ book club feast. I may be alone in this feeling, but I like to try new recipes when surrounded by a group of people rather than enjoying and/or critiquing the flavors on my own. If the dish isn’t perfect, don’t worry! On most occasions, people are just happy for a home cooked meal when they aren’t stuck doing the dirty dishes. Plus, a big group is the perfect place for a recipe critique debate. The world is filled of people with so many different palates; its nice to have the opportunity to cook a meal once, and have a varied group of taste testers throw in their “2 cents.”
Carrot and Red Lentil Soup
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 red onion sliced
- 1 leek, white part only, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 large tomato (blanched, peeled, seeded and diced)
- 1 tablespoon double-concentrated tomato paste
- 2 cups carrots (peeled and sliced, about 4-5 carrots)
- 1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed and sorted
- 4 cups cold water
- 1 bay leaf
- Sea salt and pepper
- 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk (or more to taste)
- Lime juice
- coconut milk or cream
- Chopped cilantro
- Crushed red pepper flakes
In large heavy pot melt the butter over medium heat. Add the oil, then add onion, leek, cumin, and thyme, cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring until fragrant and the onions are soft. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the tomato and tomato paste, cook for 2-3 minutes until tomato has softened. Add the carrots, lentils, cold water, and bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until the carrots and lentils are soft. Remove from heat, discard the bay leaf and transfer to a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth. Return soup to the pot and stir in coconut milk. Reheat and check seasoning for coconut milk and salt and pepper. Serve topped with a dab of coconut milk, a squirt of lime juice, cilantro and crushed red pepper.
The only way to get better at something, is to try. I encourage you to follow your interests and get involved. Anything in the world that sparks your passion will have a book, a teacher, a club out there that can help you build this interest and skill.
Follow your passions, they’ll lead you in the right direction.