Lemon Lentil Soup and London

We have reached May already…. April has gone without any posts – things have been too hectic here to do blog hopping (sorry guys!) and posts.

This lentil soup is a copycat from Gaby’s Deli, a Jewish restaurant at Leicester Square, London. Not sure if I could succeed in copying it…. Or rather I should say I just tried to imitate their recipe, however, I like mine very much.


2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ginger root, freshly grated
¼ tsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh coriander stalk, finely chopped
100 g onion, finely chopped
70 g carrot, finely chopped
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
650 and 150 ml water
4 tsp no sodium vegetable bouillon (adjust according to the package instructions)
200 g dried red or yellow lentil, rinsed
1 tsp dried mint leaves
½ – ¾ tsp fine sea salt (adjust according to the package instructions)
1 juice of fresh lemon

fresh coriander leaves, to garnish
slices of lemon, to garnish


 ( For 3 -4 servings)

  1. In a large saucepan, put in the olive oil, ginger, garlic and coriander, then fry over low heat stirring consistently until fragrant. Add the onion and sauté for a few minutes but not brown. Spoon in the turmeric and cumin powder, and carry on until fragrant. Add the carrot and fry for further one minute.
  2. Pour the 650 ml water into the pan, stir in the lentil, bouillon, salt  and mint, and increase the heat to bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and cover to simmer for about 20 minutes or until tender.
  3. Purée the soup in a food processor or a blender until completely smooth. Let it sit for overnight if possible.
  4. Return the purée to the pan with 150 ml water and reheat over low heat. Pour in some more water if too thick. When boiled, add the lemon juice and simmer for a few minutes. Taste it and add more salt and/or juice of lemon if needed. Remove from the heat.
  5. Serve the soup in bowls and garnish with a slice of lemon and coriander leaves on top.

When in London, I pretty much enjoy Middle Eastern food. Below are the restaurants and shops I have tried:

Gaby’s Deli
Once it was forced to close, but fortunately still there! It’s no-frills but I enjoy their food and atmosphere. I pop in for a quick meal or when I’m away from home for a while and eager for vegetables.

Lentil soup (source: Yelp)


Honey & Co.
Very popular restaurant at Warren St. Booking is a must.


Mr Falafel


Hummus Bros


And I tried my blogger friend Kay’s recommendations last year. Thank you Kay for the posts, Yalla Yalla and the Barbary !

Yalla Yalla

At the corner of Green’s Court, found a nice Italian deli, Lina Stores and took away a cannolo.

I’ll definitely go back for their fresh pasta!


The Barbary

Halva ice cream


Restaurants and shops on my list:

Honey & Smoke  – Thank you Kay for sharing the review
Berber & Q – Shawarma Bar
Karma Bread Bakery
The Good Egg

Let me know if you have any recommendations! Also if you happen to know where I can purchase a bottle of Arak, Israeli anis liqueur.


If you badly want tons of Halva…

It’s a Greek restaurant, but try the Greek Larder at King’s Cross when Whole Foods Market’s tiny package cannot satisfy you! They would happily slice some for you  – I bought about 500 g 😀


Scotch Broth & Potato Scones and Isle of Skye

On St Andrew’s Day

Once I had a precious person up in the Isle of Skye, off the northwest shore of Scotland. Scotch broth is one of my unforgettable memories with the person.

When visiting Skye, I usually take a coach which arrives late in the evening. She always waited for my arrival with her homemade Scotch broth on stove because it was my favourite.

She was like my grandma, and I just loved her. I liked spending time together – attending Gaelic service, chatting and watching telly by the fireplace with a nice cup of tea and some biscuits…. Even the silence for a wee time in dim light before retiring to the bedrooms –  only the sound of clock, light wind and rain around us, and a seagull noise far away – I liked a lot.

My cherished memories.


For the broth (for 4-6 servings)

1.7 ltr water
250 g lamb shoulder (without bones)
50 g pearl barley
1 bay leaf
100 g potato, diced
100 g carrot, diced
100 g swede (Swedish/yellow turnip, rutabaga), diced
100 g  white cabbage (leaves, soft inner stems and leaf stalks), chopped
100 g leek, halved and chopped (white portion only)
50 g fresh or frozen green peas
salt and pepper, to taste

St Andrew’s Cross?

For the tattie scones (8 pieces)

250 g floury potato
25 g melted butter, and more for frying
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp buttermilk
70 g plain flour, and more for rolling
½ tsp baking powder
25 g grated cheddar cheese


Scotch Broth

  1. Put the lamb, barley and bay leaf in a large saucepan with 1 liter water and bring to simmer. Cook over low heat for 60 mins, skimming off the scum.
  2. Pour in the rest of water and add the vegetables into the pan, then bring back to simmer. Cook for 20 mins or until the vegetables tender.
  3. Take the lamb out of the broth, cut into small cubes and return into the pan. Add the peas and cook until tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

I didn’t skim off the fat for cold winters and for better flavour. Remove excess fat if you wish.
For better taste, let the broth stand overnight without adding the peas. Skim off solid white fat layer if desired.

Potato Scones

  1. Boil the potatoes until tender. Drain, peel, and mash thoroughly with the butter and salt. Stir in the buttermilk, then shifted flour and baking powder to form a soft dough. Add the cheese and mix well.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Knead lightly and divide into two equal pieces. Roll out to about 15 cm in diameter or about 4-5 mm thick. Cut into quarters and prick all over with a fork.
  3. Place on a hot greased griddle or heavy pan and cover. Cook over gentle heat for about 5-6 minutes or until golden brown and crisp all over on each side.

MUST Visit in SKYE

My photos cannot show you the beauty of Skye enough, so I downloaded some from isleofskye.com which gives you useful tips on the island.

Cuillin Hills (source: isleofskye.com Facebook page)

Old Man of Storr

Enjoy the walk up to the place where beautiful scenery awaits you. I also enjoyed cream tea – climbed up with a cream tea pack from Morrisons’ – at the foot of ‘Old Man’, whose face in profile you will see from distance on the main road.

source: isleofskye.com Facebook page
Can you see his face? (source: isleofskye.com Facebook page)

Neist Point Lighthouse

I had always wanted to see the site where some scenes of Breaking the Waves (1996) were filmed (also at the Quiraing), and eventually made it! Unfortunately, the weather was bad – no good photos at all – and it was quite hard to get to the lighthouse in the strong wind. Yet, it was still stunning! Hope you have a nice weather when visiting!

source: isleofskye.com website
source: isleofskye.com Facebook page

The Quiraing

One of the most spectacular landscapes in Scotland. It has appeared in many films, which attracts lots of tourists to Skye. Actually, I had never seen such an amount of tourists in the island before, and neither had the islanders.

source: isleofskye.com Facebook page

Talisker Distillery 

Islay whisky is wonderful and I like its smoky, peaty and seaweedy flavour – love to visit the distilleries one day – but mellow Talisker gives me more comfort.

Made a visit in 2011

free sample(s) – I think this was 10 yr old. Also sipped Talisker 57° North (alc. 57% !! )



What a shame! The Harbour View closed down…. So I tried a newly opened seafood restaurant, Cuchullin in Portree. Their mussels and oysters, along with a dram of Talisker Port Ruighe (pronounced ‘Portree’, old Gaelic spelling), were satisfactory. Book a table to avoid disappointment.

If you are a seafood lover and hungry enough, try the seafood platter!

Cuchullin’s seafood platter (source: tripadsivor)



I’m afraid there is no accommodation I can recommend at the moment, because my fave B&B has stopped taking any guests. I miss their porridge and poached smoked haddock for breakfast…. I will post here if they go back to business again.


How to get to the ISLE OF SKYE

We don’t have to travel on horseback any longer like Samuel Johnson and James Boswell did in the 18th Century 😀

If you are not driving up to the isle, Scottish Citylink coach services are available.

  • Edinburgh – change at Inverness – via Kyle of Lochalsh – Skye: runs along Loch Ness – you might bump into the famous monster!
  • Glasgow – (a few via Glasgow AP) – via Fort William and Kyle of Lochalsh- Skye: drives through Glencoe

En route, both pass by (or stop for passengers) the most romantic castle in Scotland, Eilean Dona Castle near Kyle of Lochalsh.

Many films were shot in the castle – Made of Honor (2008), Elizabeth – the Golden Age (2007), 007 – the World is not Enough (1999), Rob Roy (1995) etc. (photo from Eilean Donan Castle website)

ScotRail offers more scenic journey.

  • Inverness – Kyle of Lochalsh (then Scottish Citylink onto Skye)
  • Glasgow Queen Street – Fort William (then Scottish Citylink)

From London to Scotland, night train travel is an option.

from my trip in 2010

Caledonian Sleeper for Inverness and for Fort William (Glasgow and Edinburgh routes also available) depart from Euston, not from Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross 😀

@ King’s Cross Station

Book in advance, and you can get a bargain berth.

Took the upper bed.
Scottish breakfast – morning delivery (included in the fare)

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

As I wrote the other day, I received a birthday postcard from one of my Postcrossing friends in Germany. The curried butternut squash soup I am posting here is based on her recipe she had shared with me earlier. (In return for the recipe, sent her a tourist postcard while in Scotland, and then the birthday card reached.)

Oh, what a timing! Just received another mail from her – with a cutting of newspaper article on a German pumpkin festival on the very day of Halloween!! Danke!!

Have to study German really hard, don’t I??

I followed her recipe with some simple alterations: used butternut, shallot, coconut sugar and vegetable bouillon instead of pumpkin, onion, white sugar and chicken bouillon, added ginger and coriander, and also sauté process. Quantities of the ingredients were not specified, so I prepared them according to my taste.


3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ginger root, freshly grated
50 g French shallot (eschallot), finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh coriander/cilantro stalk, finely chopped
1 ½ tsp curry powder
1 kg butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cubed
150 g potato, peeled and cubed
800 ml water
2 tbsp no sodium vegetable bouillon
1 ½ tsp fine sea salt (adjust according to the bouillon package instructions)
¾ tsp ground cumin
½ tbsp coconut sugar
a smidgen – a pinch of cayenne pepper, to adjust
ground black pepper, to taste
fresh coriander/cilantro, coarsely chopped (optional)
crème fraîche
fresh coriander/cilantro leaves, to garnish


 ( For 3 -4 servings)

  1. In a large saucepan, put in 2 tbsp olive oil and the ginger and fry over low heat stirring consistently until fragrant. Add the shallot and coriander stalk, and sauté for a few minutes but not brown. Spoon in the curry powder, then carry on until fragrant. Add the rest (1 tbsp) of the olive oil and increase the heat to medium. Add the squash and potato, and cook stirring constantly until it starts to soften but not brown.
  2. Pour the water into the pan, stir in the bouillon, salt, cumin, sugar, cayenne and black pepper, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and cover to simmer for about 20 minutes or so until the vegetables have softened.
  3. Purée the soup in a food processor or a blender until completely smooth. Return to the pan and reheat over low heat. Pour in some water if the soup is too thick. Taste and add more seasoning if needed. (optional: Stir in the chopped coriander and ) remove from the heat.
  4. Serve the soup in bowls with swirls of crème fraîche and coriander leaves.

Mmmmm so tasty! I like the soup so much that I can eat this enough for two, or even three! 😀  Thank you, my dear Postcrossing friend  in Germany. I will write you back later on. 🙂

with my Rhine postcard collection

Cullen Skink (Scottish Fish Soup) and Glasgow

Cullen Skink – a Scottish gentleman told me about the unfamiliar dish long time ago.

near Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye

Once I studied Scottish history. Unlike today, it was much harder to collect primary source records from outside the UK. One day an ad on the Scots Magazine I was subscribing caught  my eyes, then faxed an enquiry to the secondhand bookshop in Glasgow (email was not yet common those days!) . Very luckily,  the owner made his best endeavour for me and found out a useful material, which was more than I had expected, and besides, even a research book on my study!

catalogues he found for me
Scottish Lion Rampant on the back

In the following year, he and his girlfriend kindly invited me to their place for dinner while I was doing some research in Glasgow. At the table, he told me about his favourite Scottish dish and explained how tasty Cullen Skink is. The name sounded really weird to me (skink? stink?? stinky soup???), but it turned out some time later that he was absolutely right, and it attracted my appetite as well!

City of Glasgow's Coat of Arms
‘Let Glasgow Flourish’ : City of Glasgow’s Coat of Arms with its motto @ Loch Katrine – the waterworks linking the loch to the city was officially opened by Queen Victoria in 1859.

This is the story of Cullen Skink and I. The soup reminds me of him whenever I eat it, but unfortunately, I have lost his contact. I cannot say thank him enough because I couldn’t have completed my thesis without those materials, which gave me lots of ideas and helped to construct the argument.

Here is my recipe. I used smoked salmon in place of smoked haddock because salmon appears in Glasgow’s Coat of Arms (see the pic above)… I’m kidding 😀  The truth is that smoked haddock is not available here… tried fresh fish instead and even smoked it myself, but both were something different!  So I followed the one I had at a restaurant in Isle of Skye, and smoked salmon worked so well!!


cullen skink



(for 2-3 servings)

3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
550 ml whole milk (ideally non-homogenised)
200 g smoked salmon
1 bay leaf
15 g butter
1 large French shallot (eschallot), peeled and finely chopped
1/2 leek, thinly chopped
50 ml white wine
2 tbsp sour cream
salt and pepper (to taste)
chives, finely chopped (to sprinkle)


cullen skink w/ Scots Magazine



  1. Put the potatoes into a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil over medium heat and cook until soft. Drain well and dry them out tossing continuously over medium heat. Take a third  out of the pan and set aside. Mash the rest and pour in 50 ml milk, then whisk for a few minutes on low heat or until fluffy.
  2. Place the salmon in a pan with 300 ml milk and bay leaf. Gently bring to the boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat and poach in the milk for 5 minutes. Take the fish out and strain the stock. Break the fish into flakes and set aside.
  3. Melt the butter in a frying pan on lower heat and sauté the shallot and leek until tender. Add the wine and simmer for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Pour the fish stock into a pot with the rest of milk, the sautéed leek mixture and the mashed potatoes. Blend well over medium heat and bring to the gentle simmer, then reduce the heat. Add the diced potatoes and the fish. Reheat gently for a couple of minutes but not overcook the fish. Stir in the sour cream and season to taste.
  5. Serve in a warm bowl with chives.



Cullen Skink @ View Restaurant
cullen skink @ the View Restaurant in Skye (March 2013) I will ask for the recipe next time 🙂


MUST EAT in Glasgow

Afternoon tea at the Butterfly and the Pig

afternoon tea @ the Butterfly & the Pig


MUST SEE in Glasgow

Architecture and designs by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

willow tea rooms
Another option for tea @ the Willow Tea Rooms

The Glasgow School of Art (NB: No visitor access to the interiors  due to the damage by fire in May 2014. What a disaster!!!!) and the Hill House (in Helensburgh – about 50 min train ride away from Glasgow Queen St Station. Check with ScotRail) are highly recommended!


Scotland’s favourite painting: Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross

If you visit Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum to see the painting, you may want to have a stroll in beautiful Kelvingrove Park where the gallery located. The park was designed by Joseph Paxton who also designed the Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London. If you learn the history of the museum and the park – about Charles Rennie Mackintosh as well, you would also learn how Glasgow enjoyed its prosperity in Victorian and Edwardian periods.

cullen skink

Ukrainian Borsch

Still playing with beetroot at weekend 😀

beetroot flipped (sig)

The Ukrainian school girl, who sent me a birthday card last October, kindly gave me a Borsch recipe with a ‘Ukraine National Dish’ postcard. Her recipe doesn’t have ingredient quantities, so I tried as follows:



[soup stock]
1 liter water
200 g beef
200 g pork

1 large or 2 small beetroot, shredded (stems and leaves, chopped)
1 large carrot, shredded
1 medium onion, sliced
vegetable oil (to fry)
1/2 tbsp tomato paste

600 cc water
salt & pepper (to taste)
1 large potato, diced
4 cabbage leaves, thinly chopped (make double if no beetroot stems and leaves available)
200 g cooked or 1 tinned haricot beans, drained
1 clove garlic
1 bay leaf

fresh parsley (to sprinkle)
sour cream (optional)

Ukraine Borsch


  1. For stock, wash the meat in cold water and place in a large soup pot with 1 litre water. Then bring to the boil and simmer on low heat for one hour and a half skimming off the scum when it appears.
  2. Meanwhile, fry the carrot and onion until the onion becomes translucent. Set aside.
  3. Fry the beetroot for a few minutes. Spoon in the tomato paste, mix well and fry for another 8 mins.
  4. Remove the meat from the stock. Put in the potato with 600 cc water and bring to the boil again.
  5. Add the cabbage with some salt, then cook for 5 mins over low heat. Stir in the beetroot and simmer for further 10  mins. Add the carrot, onion and beans, and cook for a few mins.
  6. Put in the raw garlic and bay leaf. Taste, and season with salt and pepper. Cover and turn off the heat and let stand for a while.
  7. Ladle into serving bowls, and serve with a dollop of sour cream and the parsley.
  8. Enjoy the result!


borsch postcard


I followed her recipe with some simple alterations. It doesn’t specify ‘what’ beans, so I chose haricot – red kidney beans might be better because of its colour. The Borsch is deeper in colour than the soup I usually make – more reddish and beautiful! Maybe because I add some lemon juice or vinegar, and don’t fry tomato paste but just put into broth. It doesn’t have meat itself but satisfying enough – with lots of vegetables and beans. I like this so much that I will follow this recipe from this time forward.

Thank you again, my dear postcrossing friend  in Ukraine. I will send you something later on 🙂


borsch postcard stamps


Ukrainian Borsch image


Grechka Soup – Russian Buckwheat Soup (and a bit about Japanese Soba)

The fourth try (as for 3rd, pls. see Apple Pandowdy), the recipe of which from St Petersburg, is a Russian dish again. The simple but nutritious buckwheat soup is ideal for winter, so I gave it a try on a chilly, rainy Sunday in late autumn.

buckwheat grains
buckwheat groats

I had learnt from PetersFoodAdventures that buckwheat is a common crop in Eastern Europe, and Russia is one of the largest producer and consumer. Buckwheat is consumed a lot in Japan as well; however, I don’t think I myself have eaten the grains – actually, it’s not a grain but a fruit seed though – or groats themselves (of course cooked ones!) except a tiny amount in buckwheat tea. I might have had some cooked with rice…. Hmmm… I can’t remember.  I like Gallete, a crepe from Brittany, but that is made from the flour.

In Japan, the large amount of buckwheat production/import volume is consumed as Soba. Soba is the Japanese name for buckwheat crops, and also refers buckwheat flour noodles, one of the most popular noodle dishes in Japan. For me, to be honest, Udon, thick white wheat flour noodle, is more familiar. There exist many food cultures in Japan, but basically it can be divided roughly into two groups based on regions: Eastern or Western Japan – you can find the most obvious differences in soy sauce or Dashi, soy sauce based broth. I’m not from Soba culture or Soba growing regions in the East, so this might be the reason I hadn’t had the grains themselves??? 😀 Well, it’s just because ground buckwheat products are much more commonly used for dishes in Japan. Actually, the grains cannot always be purchased from any shops, and it was a bit difficult for me to obtain them.

There are many varieties of Soba dishes, and the below in the photos are two of them:

Zaru Soba - chilled buckwheat noodles
Zaru Soba: chilled buckwheat noodles with soya based dipping sauce (above right: Tempura Maitake Mashrooms)


Soba - buckwheat noodle soup
Tempura Wakame Soba: buckwheat noodle soup topped with Kakiage (mixed vegetable tempura) and Wakame seaweed

There is another way to enjoy Soba. I mean it’s not the noodles but the hot water in which Soba has been boiled, which is called Sobayu (‘yu‘ means ‘hot water’). Sobayu is sometimes served when you order Zaru Soba (see the photo above) which comes with dipping sauce. After you finish the noodles, you can add some Sobayu to the remaining sauce, and drink it. It is not only tasty but also good for your health.

Buckwheat is rich in vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber etc. and very nutritious. Its beneficial effects are to lower blood pressure, control blood sugar levels, and increase liver function.  Lots of the nutrients are dissolved in Sobayu, so you cannot waste the liquid!!

Soba Cha - buckwheat tea
Soba Cha: roasted buckwheat tea – caffeine free – is also good for your health. You would love the toasty flavour!

Oops, sorry for the long introduction. Grechka soup in which the super grains are cooked must be as much nutritious and beneficial as Sobayu.  Here is the recipe:


(for 3-4 servings)

1,250 cc water
250 g chicken breast
1 bay leaf
1 large potato, diced
1/2 carrot, diced
1/2 onion, diced
50 g buckwheat groats
salt and pepper (to taste)
dill, parsely or chervil

Grechka Soup w/ postcards from St Petersburg


  1. Put the chicken breast in a pan with the water and bring to the boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 mins.
  2. Take the chicken out of the pan. Cut the meat into small cubes and set aside.
  3. Add the vegetables and the buckwheat groats into the chicken stock and cook over low heat for 20 mins.
  4. Return the cubed meat to the broth and season salt and pepper.
  5. Ladle into deep bowls and scatter with dill, parsley or chervil.
  6. Bon appetite!

stamps from St Petersburg

I followed the recipe (almost), but halved the quantity of the ingredients as none of my pans are big enough for 2.5 liters water 😦   and added onion, bay leaf and fresh herb.

Thank you so much for the winter recipe, dear Postcrossing friend in Russia! I like the grains very much, so will put in some more next time I cook it. Maybe double? 😀   I will also try Kasha, buckwheat porridge, and Kasha Varnishkes, kasha with farfalle bow-tie pasta I came across while I was browsing the soup on the web.

Grechka Soup w/ bread