Soup packages a gift from the garden. (Mary Lowther photo)

Mary Lowther column: Christmas from the garden

“I don’t even want to THINK about Christmas until December!”

By Mary Lowther

“I don’t even want to THINK about Christmas until December!” David announced, watching me assemble gifts. “That’s because you don’t make presents.” I pointed out. “If we want them ready by Christmas we have to start before December.”

“I DO make presents,” David protested, “I make Christmas cakes, and they’re better when they’re fresh so I wait until December.” He doesn’t make them like my mom used to — she cooked them in June and plied them with rum every few weeks so by the time Christmas came you could set them on fire. They tasted awful. David doesn’t liquor up his cakes so they don’t last beyond a few weeks.

I couldn’t argue with David’s logic, although I wanted to because I like to argue, but my presents can be made ahead and I have learned not to procrastinate — most of the time. Some gifts from the garden include packets of dried herbs or vegetables that have been sliced, dried in the oven or dehydrator and buzzed in a blender or food processor and mixed together. Mine contains tomatoes, zucchini, onions, and cabbage.

Here’s an unusual gift for those of you who have an abundance of small squash like acorn. I’ve got some small pumpkins, so I’ll use them. It’s a recipe for spicy squash/lentil soup. Not a squash lover, David nevertheless declared this soup “fine”, which is as high as his accolades go. Put the whole squash into a box or other container, along with the recipe, bags of the lentils, nuts and spices, wrap it up and it should stay just fine until the recipient unwraps it, because winter squash keeps very well. Here’s the recipe:

Squash Lentil Soup with Dukkah

1 small squash, halved and seeds removed

2 tsp oil

½ onion, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

½ cup red or yellow lentils

4 cups water or broth

Package #1 (include ½ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp ginger powder, 1 tsp curry, ¼ tsp. cinnamon, ¼ tsp salt, 1/8 tsp cayenne or chile powder and ¼ cup dried, flaked vegetables)

For topping (dukkah):

3 T. cashews or shelled pistachios

juice of ¼ lime

¼ tsp thyme

Package #2 (include 2 tsp. sesame seeds, ½ tsp coriander seeds, ½ tsp cumin seeds, ¼ tsp fennel seeds, ¼ tsp. peppercorns, ¼ tsp salt)

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 F. Brush squash with 1 tsp oil and place flesh side down on baking sheet and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Scoop our flesh and discard skin. Heat remaining oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and celery and cook until softened, then add package #1 and heat for 30 seconds. Pour in water/broth and lentils, bring to a boil and simmer about 20 minutes or until lentils are tender.

Meanwhile, make dukkah: toast the nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until golden brown, shaking often, about 4 minutes. Remove nuts from pan. Add all the seeds and heat until fragrant, stirring all the time, about 1 minute. Remove from heat, let cool and add to the nuts. Then coarsely grind the nut/spice mixture and set aside.

Stir squash, lime juice and thyme into soup. Puree soup in batches in a blender or right in the saucepan with a wand blender. If needed, thin soup with more hot water or broth.

Serve soup garnished with dukkah and wait for compliments.

Please contact mary_lowther@yahoo.ca with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Water in Lake Cowichan just fine, says acting mayor

Tim McGonigle said there is no truth to rumours of water advisories

Cowichan Caps help BCHL score commitment record

The BCHL saw 172 players commit to post-secondary institutions this past season

Murray Hatfield and Teresa present evening of magic and comedy streaming live May 29

The Duncan Volunteer Fire Department is inviting you to an evening of magic and comedy

Chemainus animal sanctuary needs your vote in nationwide contest

RASTA is up for $5,000 from Nutram; contest runs until May 31

Woman charged in fatal accident back in court on June 2

Sara Rosetta Thomas faces six charges in 2018 incident

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

As SD84 schools look to reopen, Kyuquot and Zeballos opt out

Schools in Tahsis and Gold River will open on June 1, with 30 per cent students expected to come in

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

CMHC sees declines in home prices, sales, starts that will linger to end of 2022

CMHC said average housing prices could fall anywhere from nine to 18 per cent in its forecast

B.C. Paralympian named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

Three-time world and Paralympic gold medalist Sonja Gaudet is part of 11-member class

Most Read