Destinations: A European Field Trip!

Hands up if you are dreaming of kicking back on a Greek Island, sipping on your favourite drink and soaking in the warm and welcoming sun glistening off the calm waters of the Mediterranean sea? Well, Australia is not the warmest of places right now and as this cold weather keeps plummeting down to below zero in certain parts of the country, I am dreaming of warmer days!

It’s been just over 10 years now since we last visited Europe, and in particular Greece, and I am so ready to go back and get acquainted once more.

I used to joke with my friends that I was taking my girls on a ‘field trip’ or ‘school excursion’ when we travelled to Europe. One of the advantages of home schooling meant you could travel anytime of the year and the money we would have paid out for a private school, well, we took Europe holidays instead!! I think that’s fair enough…lol!

What I loved about taking our girls to another culture was the exposure they would get to a different language, different foods and different customs.

I remember one time while visiting relatives in Charleroi, Belgium, our eldest daughter had had enough of the different foods and refused to eat what was served up by our very generous and welcoming relatives.

The meal was lovingly prepared by my 70+ year old aunty, and I didn’t have the heart to tell her my daughter was refusing her food.

Large beans baked in the oven with a Greek salad and crusty bread. I can’t quite remember what happened, but let’s say my daughter ate a lot of bread and a very small serve of beans – to keep me happy and save my face!

Fasolatha, a Greek-style bean casserole is something I grew up eating quite regularly but I failed to keep that tradition going with my daughters. But not all legumes were forgotten; I did cook up a mean Lentil Soup and that is something my girls did eat, well until they became young adults and then one of them just flatly refused to put it in her mouth!

Well, I can’t exactly complain, when my mum used to cook her version of Lentil Soup, which was a very plain and sour tasting soup, she would make us sit at the dinner table until we had finished eating every single lentil. Her mistake was that she would get on with what she had to do and left the table. That’s where we became very cheeky young kids and we would scoop the lentils into our serviettes (we must have gone through a lot of serviettes!!) and toss it in the bin. My mum never knew what we were up to, and no-one ever told her, to this day!

Which makes me wonder…what have my girls gotten up to that I still am yet to find out? Ah…best to keep it that way .. I don’t want to know girls!!!

But here is my version of Lentil soup - I am sure you will appreciate during these cold, wintery nights we are experiencing!

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Lentil & Basil Soup

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients

½ cup olive oil

2 large onions, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

½ teaspoon chilli, minced

1 teaspoon cumin

2 medium potatoes, cut in 3cm cubes

2 celery sticks, sliced

2 peeled carrots, sliced

1 bunch fresh basil, roughly chopped

1 bunch fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped

400g can diced roma tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 cup brown lentils, cover in boiling water

4 cups vegetable stock

1 cup pitted Kalamata olives

Salt and pepper, to taste

Method

In a large saucepan, heat oil. Add onion and garlic cooking until soft. Add chilli, cumin and potatoes. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add celery, carrots, fresh herbs, tomatoes and tomato paste. Mix through to coat with cumin.

Add lentils, stock and olives. Bring to boil, reduce heat and cover. Simmer gently for 45 – 50 minutes or until lentils are tender.

Season with salt & pepper and serve.