What I had for dinner:

Spicy Lentil and Watercress Soup

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I didn't have much of a dinner yesterday. Last night was the official roll-out of Boddington in draught cans at the North Star Pub, courtesy of Whitbread (the owner of the brewery) and Labatt US (the importer). The place was packed. Wall to wall. Free beer will do that. A plain, ordinary bitter with a creamy head (the "Cream of Manchester"; scientists among you surely remember the ads on the back covers of the New Scientist in the past year), better than I remembered it from the pump, in fact.

To make sure, I had another one, and then a third while deciding whether to continue on to d.b.a. to do some research for Clay's New York City Beer Guide.

Our sense of duty prevailed, and Steve, a friend from Compuserve's Beer Forum, and I caught the M15 bus to 1st Avenue. Incidentally, I had a brainstorm at that point: The M15 bus passes along some 10 worthy beer emporia on or near 1st avenue, and could very easily turn into the backbone of a cold-weather outing.

At d.b.a. I took notes on the draught menu, while sipping a pint of hand-pumped Young's Oatmeal Stout. Ahhh! By the time I got home, after walking across to Christopher Street and finding the subway closed, then trekking up to 14th street where I waited a good half hour, I was hungry but not enclined to cook, so I made a quick collation of toasted sour dough and ajvar (eggpland-and-peppers spread from Slovenia).

Tonight, I had time to cook. I browned one sliced onion in a little olive oil, added 4 crushed cloves of garlic, one bunch of watercress, 5 slit chipotle peppers, some mace, a bay leaf, 1 small can of tomato sauce, and water to cover, and cooked it for 1/2 hr. Meanwhile, I sauteed small, trimmed pieces of ham steak ("Smoked Ham Product with Water" it says on the package) until dry and a bit leathery.

The soup was thoroughly blended in a food processor, strained through a sieve (the solids being pressed through as much as possible with a spoon), and the ham and 1 cup of lentils were added. The mixture was left to simmer until the lentils were done (about 1/2 hr), topped with a little chopped fresh coriander, and served with thick slices of pumpernickel. A satisfying winter repast. Enough for two or three, depending on appetite.

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