Our Lenten journey has begun. The church has been dressed in violet and our promises to God for these forty days have been made. The chants for the season speak of hope, transformation and a return to God. In the monastery, it is traditional to simplify life, not only in our work but also in our attitudes and our eating. Many monastic houses fast from meat during Lent – a simple soup and bread for lunch and dinner are the norm. As we harvest the last of our winter squash from our garden, this simple yet hearty soup is the perfect beginning to this special season of the church year.
Vegetable and Lentil Soup from a Monastery Kitchen
- Melt the butter and olive oil in a heavy bottomed stock pot. Add the diced leeks, celery, carrots, parsnips, butternut squash and a small amount of the dill and parsley and sauté until golden and the vegetables are beginning to soften, stirring occasionally. Adjust the heat so the vegetables are sauteing, but not burning.
- Add the lentils and continue to sauté for a few more minutes.
- Add 6 cups of hot chicken or vegetable stock and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
- Cook for about 8 min. over medium heat, simmer, but do not boil.
- Add the diced zucchini and continue simmering until the lentils are cooked and the vegetables are softened, about 15 min.
- Remove from heat and add the baby spinach, the herbs and the lemon zest and juice and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. If desired, serve with grated parmesan cheese.
I never cease to be amazed at the number of Sisters who love to bake bread or want to learn how. It always results in a most satisfying experience for all, both those who make it and those who eat it. So we bake and serve a wide variety of breads for the convent and for our guests. But like every other category of foods, there are always some that have more appeal than others and become old standbys. This is the case with our SAVORY dill bread , which is a favorite all year round, but especially at this time of year when fresh dill is flourishing in our herb garden.
This is a flavorful soft textured dough that can be formed into loaves for slicing or various shaped rolls to accompany salads or dinners. Whatever shape they are baked into they are sure to please.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Dissolve yeast in warm water; add milk, sugar, onion, dill, salt, eggs, shortening or margarine, and 6 cups of flour. Mix well.
- Add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough. Knead until smooth and elastic.
- Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour).
- Punch down and form into rolls or loaves. Place on a greased pan and let rise until doubled in bulk.
- Bake for 12 to 15 minutes for rolls or 20-25 minutes for loaves.
The convent is very fortunate to have so many sisters who love to bake bread. As a result we enjoy it with many of our meals. Years ago we started making our own whole wheat bread (even grinding our own wheat) and ever since, it has become breakfast toast most mornings. Then we experimented with other varieties as more sisters became interested in learning to bake. One sister is now especially acclaimed for her Italian bread sticks, foccacia and pizza crusts. Another specializes in calzones and yet another in whole wheat pita pockets to go with her own homemade hummus.
Every Wednesday night during Lent we have a simple supper of soup, salad, fruit, and home baked bread while we discuss the week’s study topic. Last week we enjoyed a great oatmeal molasses bread — one of our most popular varieties. But tonight we are having our special dill bread. Beautiful golden braided loaves, equally as appealing when baked into little bow knot rolls.
If you have never tried your hand at baking bread you might be surprised to discover as so many others have that it is really very easy, very therapeutic and tremendously rewarding
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Dissolve yeast in warm water; add milk, sugar, onion salt, eggs, shortening or margarine, and 6 cups of flour.
- Mix well.
- Add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough.
- Knead until smooth and elastic.
- Place in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour).
- Punch down and form into rolls or loaves.
- Place on a greased pan and let rise until doubled in bulk.
- Bake for 12 to 15 minutes for rolls and between 30 to 40 minutes for loaves.