Thursday 7 December 2017

A fab restaurant and a protein soup

As many of you may know, I enjoy cooking easy and simple foods. Those ones that don't take ages to prep and make, but at the same time are wholesome and hearty.

This week I am celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary. My husband booked a table at my current favourite restaurant in London: Lyle’s. The first time I went there I was so impressed with the dishes that I kept going on about it with Dean. So he (rightly) thought it would be a good idea for us to go back.

One thing that defines chef James Lowe’s food to me is flavour. He is former head-chef of St John Bread and Wine and part of the defunct Young Turks Collective. Oh my god, the man knows how to mix and match, creating surprising and intriguing meals - sweet, bitter, umami… - you count it. The restaurant has an à la carte menu during lunch time and a small 5 dish tasting menu for dinner (but with the little extras, you end up eating more than that).

I am not crazy about some game meat but I am always open to try whatever the chef proposes. Thank goodness that night wasn’t pheasant. I mentioned my dislike of the strong gamey taste to the ever so lovely waitress and she hesitated to bring me the first nibble. It was a small shortbread biscuit made with treacle and duck fat, filled with goose and mallard liver paté and damson jelly. It was rich (but not sickening), smooth and delicate. I was so glad she brought it for me to try.

The second nibble was a 24-hour fermented sourdough flatbread with roasted Cornish mussels, neal’s yard cheese and chervil. Really good!  

Other excellent dishes we ate: pollack and turnip tops, quail, grumolo (a mini variety of radicchio) and pickled quince. Dessert was a delicious coffee and caramel (coffee and raw goat’s milk ice-cream).

To drink, we ordered a robust and full-bodied red with a refreshing taste of black berry fruits: Cuvée Des Drilles 2016.

But the highlight to me was the first dish: pumpkin and whey broth. On my first mouthful, angels descended from heaven.

The next day, I had to try and recreate it at home in the form of a soup. I conveniently had a Crown Prince pumpkin that came with my farmer’s veggie box this week, and I also had some whey liquid leftover from the labneh (see a recipe here and another here) I made two days before. I had no idea how it would turn out or if the amounts of ingredients were right, but I gave it a go. *

To wrap up the evening at Lyle’s we ordered a fresh peppermint tea which came accompanied by the most delicious mince pies - no exaggeration here.

If you haven’t visited Lyle’s yet and do appreciate good food, make your reservation now.

* James Lowe generously shared his method with me this morning, but my dish was already done at that stage and I didn’t have the time or the ingredients to cook another batch. His ratio of pumpkin to whey is nothing like the one I used in my soup. He also used delicate pumpkin which is slightly milder and lighter in colour than the Crown Prince. But I was happy with the result. The flavour was all about the pumpkin.

Dinner menu
The rich but light shortbread with mallard and grouse liver pate.
Roasted Cornish mussels on sourdough bread.
The delectable pumpkin and whey broth.
Coffee and caramel. Yum!
My husband's dessert: Pear, oats and Innes Bur cheese.
To wrap up, the best mince pies ever!

Roast pumpkin and whey soup

The whey liquid lends a protein boost to this hearty soup. It’s now on my regular winter menu.

The stars of the soup
The pumpkin wedges smeared with butter, seasoned with sea-salt and "bathed" in whey.

Roasting the pumpkin wedges and seeds.
Roasting is ready.
My pumpkin and whey soup with roasted pumpkin seeds and pumpkin oil.


For the roast
1 Crown Prince pumpkin – 1.3kg
1 cup of organic whey liquid
15g organic butter, room temperature

for the soup
1 medium onion
2 cloves of garlic
30g organic butter
850ml vegetable stock
sea-salt, pepper and nutmeg to season


Preheat the oven to 190C. Halve the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds (you can roast the seeds too, if you like). Cut into wedges, rub some of the butter on the flesh, season and run the whey liquid over them. Roast for 45-50 minutes or longer, until the pumpkin is easily pierced through with a fork. Set it aside.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the onion and let it cook for about 5 minutes, add the garlic and cook a bit more, stirring occasionally, until translucent.

Turn the heat down, add the stock to the onion and garlic mixture, and let it simmer. Now add the flesh of pumpkin (no skin), season with salt and pepper. Cook for 10 more minutes. Blend it, add more water if you wish. I like mine a bit creamier.

A healthy note: Pumpkin (Curcubita pepo): is a great source of carotene, vitamin C, vitamins B1, B5, B3, B6, folic acid, potassium, and dietary fibre.

Greek doctors considered Whey as “healing water.” It contains probiotic organisms that help maintain a good balance of the digestive system, encouraging repair of digestive problems. Whey contains potassium and other minerals and vitamins. It allows protein to become more available for muscle repair and muscle building, that’s why is a great choice for athletes, especially after workouts.

You can drink it straight or mix it in your juices, teas, soups or smoothies; freeze it into ice cubes then add it to your smoothies. You can also add some whey liquid to the water you are soaking legumes (beans, lentils etc) or cooking grains in to improve digestibility.

Till next week!

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