Socks and Soup

Hygge: A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture).

This first week of wintery weather has seen me getting my “hygge” on. I’ve moved a little closer to the fire and taken out my knitting needles again.

I’m not sure what it is about knitting socks. I made my first pair about three years ago and can’t seem to stop knitting them. (Maybe it’s my practical Virgo nature.) I find it impossible to imagine anyone not loving a pair of warm, wool socks to lounge around the house in when the temperatures outside dip below freezing. That said, I’m not sure anyone outside my family has the same love affair with socks, but that hasn’t stopped me from giving them as gifts. I started this pair in the summer but didn’t make any serious progress on them until last week when winter set in.


This brings me to another staple in our house during the inside months when “hygge” becomes a lifestyle in our home. Lunch is only a ladle away when there is a fresh pot of soup simmering  on the stove. I make soups at least once or twice a week during the winter months. Awhile back as I was scanning my shelves for the ingredients for my next soup, I came across the red lentils and for some reason remembered one of my favourite soups that I used to make regularly “way back in the day” but hadn’t made for years. It is one of the recipes from the cult classic Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé. It’s not in the small paperback original (pictured here) but in a later edition. Luckily, I had made it so many times that I was able to re-create it from memory, but just recently found it online at Food 52. They seem to think it’s just as good as I do. It is the simplest, most forgiving soup you could possibly make – raised a notch or two by the secret ingredient, a 1/4 cup of sherry added at the end.



Lentils Monastery Style

  • Servings: 4 to 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A richly flavoured lentil soup made from basic kitchen ingredients with sherry added at the end.

Credit: Diet for a Small Planet (Ballantine Books, 1991). Adapted slightly by Food 52 (and me).


  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 carrot chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 3 cups stock
  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 398 ml can of tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 2/3 cup grated Swiss cheese


  1. Heat oil in a large pot and sauté the onions and carrot for 3 to 5 minutes, until softened and onion is translucent. Add dried herbs and sauté 1 minute. Add stock, lentils, salt, pepper, parsley, and tomatoes. Cook, covered until lentils and carrots are tender, about 35 to 40 minutes. Add sherry. Check for seasoning.
  2. To serve, ladle into bowls and add two tablespoons of cheese  on the top of each one.


*This recipe is very, very forgiving. Want more carrots? Onions? No problem. Too thick for your taste, add more stock. I always add a pinch of salt and pepper as I go along. The amount depends to a large extent on taste and the saltiness of the stock you used. Always, always check the seasoning at the end before serving.

I hope this becomes a household favourite for you too. Enjoy!

Three Simple Kitchen Tools

We had family visiting last weekend and I was appreciating once again how well the kitchen works. It is not the biggest kitchen nor the most modern, but it is well equipped and functional.


I have a great selection of knives within arm’s length, the onions and garlic sit in baskets on the counter, and the olive oil and vinegars are an easy reach away. For me, when it comes to cooking, it’s about easy access to all the major kitchen tools. And by this, I don’t mean fancy electric machines. I thought I would show you this morning the three tools I reach for the most often when I am cooking – the ones I can’t do without.

The first is my Santoku kitchen knife.

IMG_3063.JPGThis one is a Henckel 7 inch and is lightweight and always sharp. These knives come in different qualities and at different prices. You use a knife every day, so I would recommend buying the best quality one that you can afford. (That said, I have used cheaper knives that also seem to work just fine.) This Santoku seems to satisfy most of my cutting needs. My advice is to find a knife that works for you. There are many great knives out there, but it has to have a comfortable grip and be the right weight for you. When you find your knife, you won’t look back!

I use this Japanese Benriner mandoline every day.


It lives in the drawer below the counter and is simplicity itself: small, portable and easy to clean. I bought it years ago at a Chinese grocery store (Kim Phat for those who might be reading in the Montreal area), but you can order them online at Amazon. I know there are lots of fancier ones on the market, but again I return to my theme of simplicity. They come with multiple blades, but I seem to only use the slicer and it can be easily adjusted for thicker or thinner cuts. I use it to cut cucumbers, onions, radishes, fennel and anything else that requires thin slicing. I also use it to slice potatoes for scalloped potatoes and cabbage for coleslaw. It comes with a plastic guard that really does need to be used, especially when you get near the bottom. The blade is sharp! They come in two widths. The one I have is the narrower of the two, but when I upgrade I will go for the little wider one.

The last simple tool that I use often is this rasp that I bought at Lee Valley Tools years ago.

FullSizeRender 5

It has become a bit dull over the years. This is a testament to how often I use it. Grated parmesan on the rasp is light and airy and you’ll find you don’t need as much as when grating on the regular box grater. Bring it to the table after and allow people to grate their own. It is also a super zester for lemons and limes and makes quick work of ginger and garlic. (If you are interested in purchasing the rasp, I have included the link here.)

Voilà, three simple tools that you might not be able to live without either.

I am wondering if you have a kitchen tool you can’t live without? If so, why not share it in the comments. Maybe I’ll find a new favourite!