giveaway: nigel slater's 'the kitchen diaries' (and his recipe for dal and pumpkin soup)

I PICKED UP Nigel Slater’s “The Kitchen Diaries” last night from the shelf it’s lived on between uses here since 2006, when first released.  I have all these winter squash, you see, and all these onions, and I recalled a happy marriage of them within its pages. What a serendipity to find that the book has recently been re-released after a time out of print, and that I could get a couple of copies to share with you. The latest giveaway, then, and Slater’s recipe for a soup of the moment, the one that kicks off the book’s year of in-the-moment cooking: dal and pumpkin, topped with onions sautéed with a kick of chili and garlic.

I almost went for Nigel Slater‘s baked onions with Parmesan and cream, and oh, the chickpea and sweet potato curry called out, too (it calls for pumpkin and onions both).

“The Kitchen Diaries” is a book about “right food, right place, right time,” in Slater’s words, and though the precise diary days he fills in this delicious year may not match mine, exactly—Slater is in England—they unfold in similar order.  “Learning to eat with the ebb and flow of the seasons is the single thing that has made my eating more enjoyable,” he writes, eschewing the modern-day supermarket’s all-possibilities-all-the-time approach.

Slater’s kitchen doors open onto a small urban London garden, and as I read the recipes and other musings on the weeks and months in the year, I can imagine him moving in and out to gather springs of this and that as a recipe bubbles on the stove–the dish evolving with each such interaction. His handcrafted, informal approach to cookery encourages us to improvise and find our inspiration with the moment of the market, and the garden.

“By growing something myself, from seed or a small plant,” he writes, “I feel closer to understanding how and when a pear, a crab apple, a fava bean or a raspberry is at its best.”

And so today is the day of onions and pumpkins, and into the pan and pot they’ll go, hopefully coming out like this (in Slater’s words and a photo by Jonathan Lovekin, all from the book):

nigel slater’s dal and pumpkin soup

Recipe and photo excerpted from THE KITCHEN DIARIES by Nigel Slater. Copyright (c) 2012 by Nigel Slater. Reprinted by arrangement with Viking Studio, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc.


  • a small onion
  • garlic – 2 cloves
  • ginger – a walnut-sized knob
  • split red lentils – 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons ground turmeric – 11⁄4 teaspoons
  • chili powder – 1-1/4 teaspoons
  • pumpkin – 2 cups
  • cilantro – a small bunch, roughly chopped

for the onion topping:

  • onions – 2 medium
  • peanut oil – 2 generous tablespoons
  • chili peppers – 2 small hot ones
  • garlic – 2 cloves


Peel the onion and chop it roughly. Peel and crush the garlic and put it with the onion into a medium-sized, heavy-based saucepan. Peel the ginger, cut it into thin shreds and stir that in too. Add the lentils and pour in 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to an enthusiastic simmer. Stir in the ground turmeric and chili powder, sea- son and leave to simmer, covered, for twenty minutes.

While the soup is cooking, bring a medium-sized pan of water to a boil. Peel the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds and pulp, then cut the flesh into fat chunks. Boil the pumpkin pieces for ten minutes, until they are tender enough to pierce with a skewer without much pressure. Drain them and set them aside.

To make the onion topping, peel the onions and cut them into thin rings. Cook them in the oil in a shallow pan until they start to color. Cut the chili peppers in half, scrape out the seeds and slice the flesh finely. Peel and finely slice the garlic and add it with the peppers to the onions. Continue cooking until the onions are a deep golden brown. Set aside.

Remove the lid from the lentils and turn up the heat, boiling hard for five minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, then add the drained pumpkin. Puree the soup in a blender (for safety, a little at a time) until smooth, then pour it into a bowl. Stir in the roughly chopped cilantro and check the seasoning. I find this soup likes a more generous than usual amount of salt.

Serve in deep bowls with a spoonful of the spiced onions on top. Makes four good-sized bowls.

more about nigel slater

NIGEL SLATER is a prolific producer of award-winning books, exceedingly popular BBC cooking series and documentaries, and food columns for “The Observer.” His latest book, “The Kitchen Diaries II,” was released in September in the UK, and is gradually making its way here. Oh, dear, seems as if another cookbook is eventually headed to my already-sagging shelf.

how to win ‘the kitchen diaries’

ENTER TO WIN a copy of the newly reissued “The Kitchen Diaries” by Nigel Slater by commenting below, answering this question: What ingredients are “in season” for you right now–the ones you think are the “right food, right place, right time” at this very moment in your year?

I’m still working on my crop of homegrown Brussels sprouts (usually just roasted), and of course all those winter squash I mentioned.

If you are feeling shy, just say “count me in” and I will, but I’d love to hear what’s in your pantry or pot. I’ll choose two winners at random after entries close at midnight Thursday, December 20. Good luck to all!

December 11, 2012


  1. Alan Martens says

    Carrots, Parsnips and Turnips stil coming out of the ground…lots of squash and onions from cold cellar…and of course apples, lots of apples. Roasted veggies and apple crisp using my Grandmother’s recipe!

  2. Rebecca says

    Sweet potatoes and baking potatoes, skins on, cut in wedges and roasted in the oven with olive oil, rosemary, a little salt. Small red beans, soaked, cooked, then made into spicy chili. Fresh cranberries and tart apples in a muffin recipe. Oatmeal cookies with sweetened dried cranberries and freshly grated orange peel. All this hearty food calls for long underwear and plenty of fresh-air exercise…heading out just now, in the pre-daylight stillness! Have a great day!

  3. Cary says

    Sounds like a wonderful writer to read, thanks for the introduction! I’ve been storing 2 gynormous cabbages, one savoy and the other green standard on my screen porch bought from our local farm stand. They’ve made it through cold freeze and thaw and are still my friends. I’ve been dreaming of making Korean pickled kimchi since my Hawaiian honeymoon 30 years ago, and the savoy cabbage gave itself up to kimchi this past weekend. So grateful for this gorgeous cabbage and for delightful kimchi for days to come. Still also pulling beets from the ground and enjoying turnip greens sauteed with scrambled eggs on the weekends. Thanks for asking Margaret.

  4. Earen says

    Pomegranates, yams, onions, spaghetti squash, and winter greens. I love my CSA share! (ok, poms are not local, so thosee are from the grocery)

  5. says

    In the markets, the cole crops, potatoes, onions and the brassicas, as well as cranberries! The root veggies are just begining to come in as well. Sounds like a great book since I try to eat seasonally.

  6. Larrey Riddle says

    December 11th, 2012
    Madison County, KY
    Zone 6

    I have kale, lettuce, French sorrel, thymes, sages, and celery leaves, which I ‘ve been using in soups.

  7. Beth says

    Lentils, butternut squash, sweet potatoes and Ras el Hanout sprinkled over everything! Can’t get enough of those warm, aromatic Moroccan spices!

  8. Kathy apRoberts says

    Apples, lots of them! Applesauce, apple breads, apple stuffing for our winter squash, and the rest are being dehydrated.

  9. MissyMooreBoudreau says

    Rosemary garlic roasted potatoes, onion soup with gruyere and bakery baguette, lots of roasted veggies. Pasta e fagioli using still-from-the-garden swiss chard. And lots of apple crisps! Would so enjoy the “Kitchen Diaries”, seems like a perfect companion for me now, on my own kitchen adventures!

  10. Kelly M says

    Persimmons …. discovered them this year and am enjoying them totally.
    Just picked the last of my kale from the garden.
    Also, apples are still big in my kitchen right now … applesauce and apple muffins top the list.
    So please count me in for your giveaway.

  11. Marianne Link Alexander says

    Just dug up several fat stalks of Leek from the Garden, even after a snow yesterday! Ready to make some Potato Leek Soup, using
    my mothers old German recipe!

  12. Jesse M says

    I just recently moved to coastal Northern CA and am still learning what is seasonal at what point here, pretty sure a lot of greens mostly right now :)

  13. MiSchelle says

    I can’t seem to stop the orangey butternut squash, sweet potatoes and pumpkins from showing up in meals this time of year. The forementioned, and kale seem to be my go-to foods. Then there are apples and feshly-fermented sauerkraut, a great combination with their tart-salty-sweet flavors (with a little bit of fennel seed thrown in -YUM!). Fall and winter are my favorite cooking seasons as I love the hearty, earthy flavors of these seasonal vegetables.

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