Sunday, 25 November 2018

Zanzibar-inspired Carrot and Coconut Soup

Recipe: Zanzibar-inspired Carrot and Coconut Soup · Lisa Hjalt

This Zanzibar-inspired carrot and coconut soup is delicious, tasty and creamy. My body literally screams for it in autumn when the new crop of carrots appears in supermarkets. The recipe is from a friend's cookbook, Sigrun of CafeSigrun (remember the fun I had when helping her with the manuscript?). Sigrun has travelled frequently to East-Africa and this soup was inspired by days spent on the island of Zanzibar: She was sitting with a bowl of carrot soup admiring the view of the Indian Ocean, the air filled with the aroma from the Forodhani Food Market, in the historical city of Stone Town. The soup is vegan, easy to make (you need a hand-held blender or a food processor), and it will provide you with essential vitamins and dietary fibre.


2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 large onion
4 cloves garlic
a small piece fresh ginger
300 g organic carrots (2 cups)
150 g sweet potatoes (¾ cup)
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 organic vegetable stock cubes
750 ml water (3 cups)
150 ml coconut milk (5 oz)
½-1 teaspoon sea/Himalayan salt
optional: pepper to taste
optional: 7-10 saffron strands

Rinse the carrots (brush if needed) and peel the other vegetables. Chop everything coarsely. (Peel or scrape the carrots if they are not organic.)

In a saucepan, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add onion and fry until tender. Add the garlic and ginger and fry for a few more minutes before stirring in the curry powder (I prefer hot but mild is fine).

Stir in the carrots and sweet potatoes. Add the water and vegetable stock cubes, increase the heat and stir. Bring to the boil and stir in ½ teaspoon of salt. Reduce the heat, cover and let it simmer on low heat for 25-30 minutes.

Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add the coconut milk and saffron strands. Use a hand-held blender to purée the soup until you have a smooth texture. Be careful, the soup is very hot: Hold the blender straight up and down and press the button when the bottom part of the blender is in the soup (if using a food processor/liquidizer, allow the soup to cool slightly before puréeing it in batches).

Finally, reheat gently to simmering point and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Serve the soup with freshly baked bread or bread buns.

Friday, 16 November 2018

№ 17 reading list: Author loyalty

№ 17 reading list: Author loyalty · Lisa Hjalt

In 1971 Joan Didion wrote an essay on Doris Lessing, beginning with the words: 'To read a great deal of Doris Lessing over a short span of time is to feel that the original hound of heaven has commandeered the attic. She holds the mind's other guests in ardent contempt' (The White Album, p. 119). Intriguing. I will keep her words in mind when I read Martha Quest, the first book of five in the Children of Violence series. My new reading list is somewhat based on author loyalty: Lessing's novels The Grass Is Singing and The Golden Notebook were on list № 7 and on my previous one were books by Didion, Johnson and Baldwin.

№ 17 reading list:
· Martha Quest  by Doris Lessing
· Two Lives  by William Trevor
· Housekeeping  by Marilynne Robinson
· Where I Was From  by Joan Didion *
· Play It as It Lays  by Joan Didion
· The Uncommon Reader  by Alan Bennett
· Jesus' Son  by Denis Johnson
· Nobody Knows My Name  by James Baldwin
· Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?  by Raymond Carver **

* From We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live, published by Everyman's Library. ** From Collected Stories, published by The Library of America.

For the first time I'm reading works by William Trevor and Raymond Carver, and Play It as It Lays is my first fiction by Didion. My next reading list will consist of Japanese literature. I promised the second Japanese list a long time ago and intend to keep that promise soon.

Monday, 1 October 2018

№ 16 reading list | Black History Month (UK)

№ 16 reading list | Black History Month (UK) · Lisa Hjalt

Libraries are my happy place. Or so I thought. Last week I was at the library with a notebook, in which I have written down some of the titles I would like to read. As you can imagine, on my way there I was like a little kid going to Disneyland. As I walked up the stairs and entered the floor of the humanities (this is the university library, it's big), I was in a state of bliss, walking between the rows of bookshelves. Browsing books, touching books. Removing books from the reading list I already had in my mind to make space for books that demanded to be on it. Putting books back on the list to perhaps remove them again. Normal library behaviour.

Then something happened, something I was not prepared for: I experienced a moment of panic. For a few seconds, as I stood by the first row of shelves of American fiction, it suddenly dawned on me how many books there were on that floor, on all those shelves: In this lifetime I would never be able to finish my to-read list, which keeps getting longer. I cannot be the only book lover who has experienced this fear. No way. There better be an afterlife, with a library that has all your unread titles just waiting for you. There better be.

№ 16 reading list:
· Blue Nights  by Joan Didion
· Go Tell It on the Mountain  by James Baldwin
· Sing, Unburied, Sing  by Jesmyn Ward
· The Human Stain  by Philip Roth
· Stet  by Diana Athill
· Train Dreams  by Denis Johnson
· The Bookshop  by Penelope Fitzgerald
· Do Not Say We Have Nothing  by Madeleine Thien
· The Collected Essays of Elizabeth Hardwick  (ed. by D. Pinckney)

On Saturday - you may have seen it on Instagram already - I read Didion's memoir Blue Nights in one go. She wrote the book after the death of her daughter Quintana, who was only 39 when she died. (She wrote The Year of Magical Thinking after the death of her husband, author John Gregory Dunne.) I liked Blue Nights. It's not a sob story that makes you reach for the tissue. Didion's style isn't emotionally overloaded. She is just trying to make sense of it all. Trying to find answers to questions that cannot be answered.

October is Black History Month in the UK (February in the US). I'm showing my support with two novels on the list, by James Baldwin and Jesmyn Ward. She won The National Book Award 2017 for Sing, Unburied, Sing. It was her second win; in 2011 she won for Salvage the Bones.