The saga continues.
Remember back in the summer we had issues with our gas supply? Three different companies (the meter installers, the gas suppliers and the boiler fixers) all had to come on separate visits to tut-tut, shake heads and say noooo, there is a gas leak and I'm afraid we have to leave your gas (and therefore your hot water and central heating!) off. We can't look at x-type problems, only y-type, so you'll have to call somebody else. And after a lot of buck-passing, a technician finally checked out the boiler, pronounced it safe all along and reconnected the gas after 3 days of cold showers.
So this morning the gas man came for the annual safety inspection and started exactly the same panic all over again. It was like some sort of gassy Groundhog Day.
"Oooh, it's leaking. Turn off the gas."
"Yes, but I don't smell gas."
"No, just look at this metering device thingy of mine, the pressure is just plummeting."
"Yes, but my gas bill is no higher than it's always been – surely I'd notice?"
"Well, who knows but I still have to turn your gas off. It's procedure, innit? And since you don't smell gas in the house, there is probably a leak in the pipe. Which runs inside your kitchen wall, so they'll have to open up the side of the house."
Can you see the vein in the middle of my forehead throbbing with the effort of not doing some serious damage to this man with his own wrench?
If I hadn't been through the entire story before, I would probably have said "a leak? Clearly you know best – shut off the gas and I'll get the gas suppliers in". But as it was, I'd been there, done that, and had the cold shower, so I asked him nicely but firmly to keep testing till he could say with 100% certainty where the leak was.
The long and the short of it is that he finally traced the leak to the (ancient) wall-mounted boiler rather than the pipes (phew!) but still had to shut off the gas supply until he can return tomorrow. So now I have a working washing machine but no hot water and no central heating. But at least I'll have clean blankets to pile on my bed tonight as I shiver my way to dreamland
Given the above (plus another visit this evening from Tree-Hating Psycho Neighbour), is it any wonder that I feel in need of comforting? And for that I had to look no further than Ronel's lovely site. Her food is always down to earth and satisfying, but presented with an artist's flair for detail and interspersed with stories of her life in France. This soup is like a hug in a bowl – perfect for put-upon folk like me who are trying to warm up without the benefit of heating or a hot bath. Try it and feel comforted – thanks Ronel!
ROASTED PEPPER AND RED LENTIL SOUP
2 red peppers
200 g red lentils
500 ml vegetable stock
red wine vinegar
2 bay leaves
tablespoon red pesto
salt and pepper
Halve and seed each pepper and grill under a hot grill untill the skin starts to blister and blacken. Remove, pop them into a ziploc bag and let them sweat for about 10 minutes. You should then be able to pull the skin off easily.
Sauté the chopped onion in some oilive oil until translucent, add the vegetable stock, lentils and the two bay leaves and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Add the peppers and simmer for another 5 minutes.
Allow the soup to cool, remove the bay leaves and puree with a wand mixer until smooth and creamy. You can also press it through a fine sieve if you want it smoother, but I liked the fact that the soup had some texture.
Chek for seasoning, add salt and pepper as needed and add some red wine vingear for a little tartness. (You can also add a tablespoon of red pesto for flavour.)
Serve with shaved Parmesan and decorate with some parsley or coriander leaves.