Birdie- and human-friendly recipes are always highly valued at Bistro Gerard, and they mean that I can double the amount of fun: first of all, I get to sample the vegetables before they are cooked, and then I get to share my meal with Mummy and Daddy. The idea for this recipe was inspired by a red lentils and coconut soup recipe published in the July 2010 edition of delicious. The Bistro Gerard team are great fans of lentils of all colours, so we’d had this combination on our must-try list for quite a while now. So one day, we finally decided to put our creative hats on, spend some time foraging in the fridge and pantry, and see if we can come up with a dish to be enjoyed by humans and parrots alike
First find: red lentils! We fell in love with red lentils a long time ago and, since Mummy started her quest for introducing pulses and whole grains into our menu on a regular basis, we often use them in lots of different dishes, so watch this space for more posts on this. However, we have only recently been introduced to Persian red lentils. These are slightly darker in colour, and maintain their shape when cooked – which makes it easier for a baby parrot to spot them in your soup bowl and want to try some.
Second find: coconut milk and fresh coconut! Coconut milk is always one of our pantry staples, so there’s usually at least one can lurching somewhere at the back of the pantry. “And, what?”, I hear you say, “you just happen to have some fresh coconuts lying around in the fridge at all times as well?” No, of course not, it’s just that while shopping last week Daddy got some in the hope that Mummy will cook his favourite fish curry in the whole world, Rick Stein’s Malaysian fish curry with tomato and okra. Mummy, however, was very keen to try a spicy fish stew recipe from her new cookbook which didn’t require any coconut – suffice to say that this is how we ended up with one spare coconut and one very disappointed Daddy…..As you can see, the pressure was mounting on us to produce a nice enough replacement for the fish curry that never eventuated, so there were very high expectations for that poor coconut…..
Third find was some lovely butternut pumpkin, which is a favourite for both Mummy and Jerry, and is usually found in generous portions in our weekly box. Now, if you ask me, I can’t possibly imagine what else you need when you’ve got lentils and pumpkin, but Mummy has got strong ideas about what constitutes a balanced meal, so we kept foraging through the fridge, and we discovered some chicken, more veggies and greens, so we knew we had enough ingredients for a lovely soup.
And we succeeded – everybody at Bistro Gerard enjoyed this, and here’s why. This recipe is great to make during the week, because it doesn’t take long to put together (which leaves you plenty of time to play Step-Up or some other interesting game with your baby parrot), you can make it 1 or 2 days in advance (we found that the flavours improve with time), it’s a one pot dish, and it makes a great lunch the following day if you’ve got any leftovers.
This is what you’ll need for our Chicken, Red Lentil and Coconut Soup
1 chicken breast fillet, cut into thin strips or diced
1 cup red lentils, rinsed
1 fresh coconut, flesh finely grated and liquid reserved
2 tbsp olive oil
1 can (400 ml) coconut milk
500 ml good quality chicken or vegetable stock
2 leeks, white part only, thinly sliced
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 carrot, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2.5cm piece fresh Ginger, grated
1 piece (approximately 400-500g) pumpkin, cut into 2 cm cubes
1 bunch bok choy or other Asian greens of your choice
1 lime, juiced
fresh coriander, to garnish
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes, until lightly browned on all sides. Remove the chicken pieces and place on a separate plate. Set aside.
Add the leek, celery, carrot, crushed garlic and ginger to the pan and cook over moderate-high heat for 1 minute, then turn the heat to low and cook for another 5 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften. Return the chicken to the pan, and add the grated coconut flesh, coconut liquid, coconut milk and stock, and bring to the boil. Add the lentils and diced pumpkin, cover and simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until the lentils are cooked. Add the bok choy and cook for a further 2 – 3 minutes. Add the freshly squeezed lime juice, season to taste with salt and pepper, and garnish with coriander leaves. Serves 4.