Over the recent hard winter, I have been making a lot of lentil soup. It’s great as a quick lunch, cheap as chips, and has the bonus of being a filling, healthy dish. I know that lentils are just about the stereotypical vegetarian food (up there with unflavoured tofu), but I really like them. Lentil burgers, croquettes, heck, even on their own.
It took me a while to get my recipe for lentil soup quite right. As a child, my grandmother’s was the lentil soup, so I guess that I have been trying to recreate that over the years. I’ve also realised that it is the sort of dish that everyone has an opinion about (probably based on what their grandmothers used to make as well). Some like lots of pepper, others very salty, thick, thin, lumpy, smooth…lots of scope to vary it. So mine is quite thick and still has the texture of the lentils and whatever vegetables I’ve added. I also chuck in a load of fresh garlic, ginger and other spices to give the soup a real depth of flavour. You could add a bit more water and blitz it to a puree, but I find smooth soups just really, really dull.
I blogged a couple of days ago about my recently-acquired Espelette pepper…and this recipe needs spice…so is this a marriage made in heaven? Nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I gave it a go – the usual recipe, but I added less curry powder, and instead threw in a generous teaspoon of the Espelette. And…this works so well. The smoky, paprika-like flavour was there and there was a noticeable warmth to the soup this time, and it is flecked with little bits of red which looks pretty cool. In place of the usual black pepper and a squeeze of lemon, I sprinkled a bit more Espelette on top. My timing was good as well – a holiday weekend in London, and the usual rain has rolled in. This was just perfect for sitting on the sofa and watching a film.
For the soup:
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 white onion, finely chopped
• knob of ginger, peeled and finely grated
• 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
• 2 tablespoons ground cumin seeds
• 1 tablespoons ground coriander
• 1 teaspoon mild curry powder
• 1 generous teaspoon Espelette pepper
• 2 carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
• 250g red lentils
• 2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
• 1 stock cube
• 1 litre hot water
Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the onions and cook on a medium heat until translucent (five minutes). Add the ginger and garlic, and cook for two minutes (don’t let them burn). Add the spices and cook for 30 seconds (if very dry, add another spoon of oil).
Add the lentils and carrots and cook for one minute, stirring all the time. Add the tomatoes, and stir well.
Pour in the water and add the stock cube. Stir well, bring to the boil, the simmer until the lentils are tender (at least 20 minutes). Serve with a sprinkling of Espelette pepper.
Worth making? This is a great soup, and is easy to adapt to what you have in the store cupboard. It takes spices really well, so feel free to be creative. It’s great on a chilly day, and freezes well in small batches.