Cumin-roasted Squash and Lentil Soup with “Tabbouleh” Dumplings

Soup is one of our easy meals, it usually takes less than half an hour – an hour at the most – and is a case of chuck it all in a pan (occasionally roasting it first)! This one is a little different though. It’s from the February edition of Olive and it is a bit faffy. Not one to attempt as a first soup recipe or if you’re tight for time! It is delicious though and we will definitely make it again. It probably seemed like more work than it was because we also baked two loaves of bread and made stock from a guinea fowl carcass at the same time – our little kitchen was working hard last night!

The soup itself is a lentil based soup with chunks of roasted butternut squash, chopped, fresh spinach and pine nuts and is flavoured with lemon and cumin. The real star of the show is the dumplings, Bird especially could probably just eat a whole bowl of these! They taste like tabbouleh in dumpling form which can only be a good thing. They are made from finely chopped onion, fresh herbs, cracked bulgar wheat, flour and a tiny bit of suet. Absolutely gorgeous! Fluffy, light and full of flavour, we’ll be making these again to go on lots of different soups.

Brown lentils are surprisingly photogenic! Photobombed by rosemary from another recipe...
Brown lentils are surprisingly photogenic! Photobombed by rosemary from another recipe…

Firstly cube the butternut squash into small cubes, coat in oil, seasoning and ground cumin and roast in the oven for around half an hour, turning once, until soft and lightly golden around the edges. Put half of this into a clean saucepan along with the lentils, the recipe suggested Puy but we had brown in so we used them. Cover with chicken stock, bring to the boil and then turn down to simmer for around 40 minutes or until the lentils are cooked.

Squash for Soup

Meanwhile start making the dumplings. Bring a pan of weak chicken stock to a gentle simmer. Mix together equal weights of plain flour and cracked bulgar wheat, half the weight of suet and finely chopped onion along with coarsely chopped fresh parsley, coriander and mint. Season this mixture well and then bring together with cold water to form a dough. Like all dumpling mixtures it will be sticky so keep your hands well floured throughout! Roll the dough into small balls – slightly smaller than a golf ball – and then drop into the simmering stock to poach. You may need to cook these in batches as they need some room to move. They will take around 20 minutes to be perfectly fluffy.

Tabbouleh flavours in dumplings? Yes please!
Tabbouleh flavours in dumplings? Yes please!

Dumpling mix 2

After this time your dumplings should be just about ready and your soup should be too, using a stick blender give the soup a quick whizz up – you don’t want to puree it, you just want to thicken the liquid by breaking down some of the lentils and squash while still leaving most chunky. Then add in the rest of the squash you reserved and a couple of big handfuls of roughly chopped fresh spinach. Let this wilt in then stir in lemon zest and juice and toasted pinenuts. Serve up the soup and top with some pine nuts and the delicious dumplings!

Cumin Squash Lentil Soup Done

Would we make this again? Probably! It was delicious, but we would save it for a day when we didn’t have quite so much to do at the same time. We’ll also definitely be taking inspiration from it, those dumplings would be delicious in a delicately spiced chicken broth while the addition of toasted pine nuts to soup was a lovely one which we haven’t tried before. If you’ve never checked out Olive then you definitely should, we get tons of inspiration from it and their recipes nearly always work perfectly!

Cranberry, Orange and White Chocolate Muffins

Just a quickie here, these mini muffins were whipped up for Bird to take into work for her belated birthday cake and they all disappeared very quickly! There is still a hint of the festive with the cranberry and orange combination, but cranberry and white chocolate is a classic that takes some beating. This recipe made 22 mini muffins (fairy cake sized cases) and would probably make 12-14 standard sized muffins.


  • 300g self raising flour
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 170g unsalted butter, melted and cooled a bit
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (not essence!)
  • 200ml milk, we used semi-skimmed
  • 100g white chocolate, chopped into small squares
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • zest of half an orange

White Chocolate, Orange and Cranberry

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the sugar. In a jug mix together the milk, eggs and vanilla extract. Pour this mixture into the bowl and mix together being careful not to overmix. Add the melted butter, again mix gently and then fold in the chocolate, cranberries and orange. And that’s the mix done! Easy peasy.

Muffins in Cases

Spoon the mix into cake cakes in a muffin tin (or use 2-3 cases inside each other on a baking tray if you don’t have a muffin tin) and place into the oven. Ours took around 15-18 minutes to be light golden on top and baked through but if you’re making these full size then they will take longer, around 25 minutes probably. Take them out, leave them to cool and then dive in! Or if you’re saintly like us, feed them to your colleagues while they complain about January dieting. The perfect antidote to the worst Monday of the year!

That'll be what, 2 servings?
That’ll be what, 2 servings?

Our Christmas Gifts 2013

Happy New Year! We hope everyone has had a good start to 2014. We’re back at home now after a brilliant holiday with Fats’ family, lots of films, lots of slobbing in front of the fire, a few walks and LOTS of food! We were also extremely lucky and got some fantastic gifts, most of which were food oriented so we thought we would share them with you! It was also Bird’s birthday over the festive period so a couple of these gifts were for that too.


1. Italian Cheese Kit – this looks like so much fun! Apparently you can make lots of different types of soft cheese with it and it makes 6kg (!!!) of cheese. Looks like any ambitions to lose weight in 2014 are off.

2. Chocolate selection – you can’t go wrong with this… 6 mini bars of chocolate – some milk, some dark, with varied flavours. We plan to use some in cooking/baking and some we’ll probably just scoff!

3. Green & Blacks Sea Salt Milk Chocolate – we love this stuff, it’s beautiful, creamy milk chocolate with little flakes of sea salt. We might bake a bit with it but again, this will probably get nibbled while watching our new David Attenborough DVD.

4. Mini copper pan – pretty much THE CUTEST pan imaginable this was a gift from Fats to Bird, she wants a collection of them one day so this is the first one. It will be perfect for making sauces in, hopefully it will feature in a blog post in the not too distant future.

5. Australian ground coffee and a subscription for 3 months of a coffee club delivery – this is a great gift, we love coffee so the prospect of a different coffee every month is very exciting! We’ll let you know which ones we get and what we think of them.

6. Mason Cash Bread Baking set – a gift from Bird to Fats, this is a terracotta mixing and proving bowl with a lid that doubles as a bakestone and promises to give a great crust because it helps draw moisture away. We’re especially excited to try making focaccia on this.

7. Sloe gin – Bird has been a bit hooked on sloe gin since her grandparents let her try some of their homemade stuff as a teenager. We’ll get a couple of cocktails out of this and feel classy for an evening!

8. Le Creuset Espresso mug – isn’t this adorable? Someone obviously read our gift guide as Bird unwrapped this little beauty on Christmas morning. We’ve heard rumours that Bird’s dad got two of these for his birthday (Happy Birthday for yesterday Daddy Bird!) so we might have to buy Fats one so he doesn’t feel left out.

9. Le Creuset Petite Casserole – this was a birthday present from Fats’ family to Bird along with a continuation of the Olive Magazine subscription that they got her two years ago. It’s absolutely gorgeous, you could make a meal for one or a brunch for two and it would be great for melting cheese in…

10. Handcrafted mug – Fats finally has his own mug! He’s been borrowing Bird’s flowery number up until now but he finally has his own, very manly, chunky mug.

11. Apron – Bird finally has her own apron! This is a short apron (perfect for shorties) with a beautiful chilli print and huge pockets at the bottom.

12. Tapas bowls – this picture really doesn’t do these justice, three gorgeous little bowls which are crying out for a dollop of hummus and some dolmades…

13. Mr Vikki’s Chilli Jam – chillies? Jam? Sold. Apparently this is also great in stir frys so we look forward to trying that out. Made locally to Fats’ parents in Carlisle!

14. Mary Berry Recipe for Life – another birthday present for Bird. Mary Berry is an absolute star, this will definitely be an interesting read and it might have some recipes in there too!

15. Niki Segnet Flavour Thesaurus – another one from our gift guide here, we’ve only had a brief flick through so far but it looks fantastic, perfect for us as there aren’t that many recipes, just hundreds of brilliant flavour combinations which are sure to provide inspiration for more recipes of our own invention.

16. and 17. Cordon Bleu Cookery Book and Mrs Beeton’s Everyday Cookery – these weren’t Christmas gifts but were kindly given to us by Fats’ grandparents, look out for some vintage cooking on the blog!

18. Rachel Khoo Little Paris Kitchen – Bird loves Rachel Khoo, her life in Paris seems like a dream, so we can’t wait to try out lots of these updated French classics.

19. Bordeaux Quay pastry course – this wonderful gift was a present from Fats to Bird for her birthday, in 2 weeks we are off to Bordeaux Quay (one of the best restaurants in Bristol in our opinion) which runs lots of different cookery courses. We’re learning to make several different pastries, both savoury and sweet, we can’t wait! Pastry is something we’ve only really dipped our toes in (not literally…) so hopefully this will help us gain some confidence and insider knowledge.

Before Christmas, we celebrated Bristmas – Bristol Christmas! Bird’s parents dropped off a little hamper and we had another few presents to unwrap before we made our way up north. Bristmas is a tradition we definitely want to continue!


1. and 2.  75 Simple Middle Eastern Recipes and 101 Global Dishes – presents from Bird’s friend who knows her very well! We always loved Middle Eastern flavours but fell even more in love after our holiday to Marrakech so we’re looking forward to trying out lots of these recipes which won’t require a trip back to Morocco to source the ingredients! The 101 Global Dishes looks like it’s full of inspiration too and as it’s produced by BBC/Olive we’re sure they will be foolproof.

3. Moroccan Spiced Chutney – we’ve obviously been banging on about Marrakech a lot! This will probably be lovely with salads, cheese and meats but hopefully we can find some different inspiration in our Middle Eastern recipe book too.

4. Pomegranate Molasses – another Middle Eastern staple, we can’t wait for the weather to improve so we can start having more salads that we can dress with this.

5. White Truffle Oil – a little bottle of indulgence, it suggests using on risotto, pasta and eggs and that is exactly what we intend to do!

6. Lindt Lindor – ’nuff said really. These are a favourite and probably won’t hang around for long!

7. Heston Chocolate Box – sadly we weren’t Golden Ticket winners but we are still the proud owners of a delicious box of typically inventive chocolates with flavours such as Thyme & Rosemary and Earl Grey.

8. Pepper Mill – our current pepper grinder is completely useless and we’re pepper fiends so Bird’s parents got us a replacement, we can season away to our hearts content without swearing at the pepper mill!

9. Confit Duck – gorgeous French confit duck with Toulouse sausages, we’ll save this for when we’re feeling lazy and in need of a treat.

10. Balsamic Vinegar – a timely gift as our last bottle just has a few drops left in it, Belazu is a fantastic brand too so we’re sure this will be delicious.

11. Fats & Bird Merlot! – you may have seen this on our Instagram but it’s our very own wine!!! Well… nearly. It’s a merlot made by Fat Bird which Bird’s dad painstakingly drew an “&” and an “s” onto! It had us fooled for a good few minutes and once we’ve drunk it we’ll definitely be saving the bottle.

12. Steamer – a new steamer to replace our old one which lost it’s lid in the depths of Bird’s student houses, this one is a considerable step up anyway with deep steamer inserts and a base and lid which can be put into the oven up to 180°C.

That’s our haul, we are so lucky to have such generous friends and family and we are looking forward to sharing these with you in more depth throughout 2014!