Tag Archives: lentils

Fiery Lentil Soup

So what are you up to for Bonfire Night? Baked spuds around the fire, sweets or messy toffee apples?

Personally, I’m a big fan of a flask of soup with some bread to keep the cold out, and I’ve got a recipe that is a guaranteed winter warmer. It’s good old-fashioned lentil soup, which is probably one of the easiest soups to make and I think by far and away one of the most satisfying.

I’ve recently been adding a lot more spices to my food, and that includes a lot more chilli. I’ve actually started to get quite experimental, and I can only apologise to everyone who has been surprised to find allspice cropping up in a range of dishes (albeit – no disasters so far!).

However, today is not an exercise in culinary risk-taking. Rather, it’s my “normal” lentil soup which has been fortified by a sharp twist of lemon juice at the end, and a swirl of chilli paste (in the form of sambal olek). The result is something that is robust, satisfying and packs rather a punch in the flavour department. However, if you’ve got folks around who perhaps prefer things a little milder, adding the chilli at the end avoids them running around looking for glasses of water to kill the heat.

So if you’re off to some Bonfire Night festivities, wrap up warm, keep your pets safe, and have a great evening!

For spicy lentil soup (serves 4, easy to double/triple):

• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• knob of ginger, peeled and finely grated

• 3 clove garlic, finely chopped
• 2 teaspoons ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon ground coriander
• 1 teaspoon mild curry powder
• 2 carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
• 250g red lentils
• 1 stock cube
• 1 litre hot water
• salt and pepper, to taste
• lemon juice and chilli paste, to serve

1. Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the onions and cook on a medium heat until translucent (five minutes).

2. Add the ginger and garlic, and cook for two minutes (don’t let them burn). If they get too brown or start to stick, add a dash of water.

3. Add the spices and cook for 30 seconds. If it seems too dry, add some water – this will form a thick paste, and as the water evaporates, it will become oily and cook the spices. Don’t be tempted to add more oil.

4. Add the lentils and carrots and cook briefly, then add the water.

5. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Add the stock cube, and keep simmering until the lentils are tender. Add more water if the soup is too thick, then add some salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving, add a dash of chilli paste and a squeeze of lemon juice, erring on the side of caution!

Worth making? I think the addition of the chilli takes this from a good soup to a great soup. An excellent choice to keep the chill at bay this week!

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Spicy Lentils with Mint and Goat Cheese

I’m still in the post-Christmas health kick phase. There has been lots of walking instead of taking the bus, “body attack” classes at the gym, and I’m still sticking with my attempt to cook lots of healthy dishes based on lentils and beans. So mostly, I’ve been feeling the effects of exercise on a scale that I’m really not use to – ouch!

But on the culinary front – we did beans last week, so today, it’s lentils, and one of my favourite easy dishes.

This dish basically consists of lentils in a spicy tomato sauce that is enlivened with crumbled goat cheese and some shredded fresh mint. You’ve got a filling lunch or supper which is, in turns, warm, spicy, creamy, tangy and minty-fresh. It therefore lends itself very nicely to this time of year, but it’s equally suited to a lazy lunch or dinner on a warm day (remember those? Just a few months to wait…).

This is one of those dishes that is easy-peasy. I know that so many blogs promise recipes that are “really easy” (which begs the question – would anyone really post a recipe that requires three days in the kitchen???), but I promise you, this really, really is. You essentially throw everything into a pot, and then let it simmer slowly until the lentils are tender. Allow to cool slightly, then add the cheese and mint – job done!

For the spices, you can pretty much go with whatever you have to hand, so take this more as a guide rather than any sort of precise list. I like to add turmeric (for a slight yellowish tinge), paprika or piment d’Espelette, a dash of cumin and coriander, dried oregano and thyme, and a few cumin and mustard seeds for busts of flavour. Most likely I have never used the same combination twice – I just go with what I see in the store cupboard.

If you’re after more depth of flavour – and don’t mind some extra steps in the cooking process – you can fry the spices before adding the lentils (either dry fry or cook in a little olive oil), but that is about as complicated as this dish gets. I often fry the spices in oil, but when I’m in a lazy mood, I go for the “all in” approach and it works just fine.

The only thing that I add towards the end of the cooking process is a tiny pinch of salt – I read somewhere that it can make lentils tougher if added too early. I have no idea is this is true or not, but it’s become one of my kitchen rituals, so I guess it’s a habit that I am stuck with.

To make spicy lentils with mint and goat cheese (4 portions):

• 250g brown or green lentils
• spices, according to taste (around 4 teaspoons in total)

• 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
• stock cube or salt

• goat cheese or feta, crumbled
• fresh mint leaves, chopped

Rinse the lentils and put into a large saucepan with the spices.

Cover with cold water, bring to the boil, then add the tomatoes and simmer until the lentils are tender (around 30 minutes). Season with the stock cube or salt, then keep cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Serve warm or cold, with crumbled goat cheese or feta and some chopped fresh mint.

Worth making? Definitely worth making – this is quick, easy and very, very tasty. Tweak the spices according to preference, and you get a delicious lunch for the next day too!

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Split Pea and Lentil Soup

Oh, we had a shocker of a cold day recently. It has been great – warm and sunny – then wham! It gets nippy and you remember the unpredictability of living in London.

So…I rooted around in the cupboard and found a packet of split peas that had been languishing in the corner. I had bought them a while back to use in a curry from an Anjum Anand recipe , thinking they would make a decent substitute for pigeon peas that she recommended. I thought this on the basis that they look the same and are the same colour.

Well, that particular episode ended in a bit of a disaster – choosing ingredients by colour alone is not a great rule of thumb, as I hadn’t realised that pigeon peas and split peas have significantly different cooking times. So the vegetables were cooked and starting to get soft while the peas remained stubbornly hard. I had not choice but to cook until the peas were soft, and it did all break down into a tasty spicy broth, but I’ve since started making that particular curry recipe with yellow lentils (cooking time – around 20 minutes – and it’s de-lish!).

But back to the languishing split peas…for a cold day, what could be more fitting than split pea soup? This time, armed with the knowledge that these can be pesky little critters to cook, I left them to soak overnight. I’m not sure that this is entirely necessary, but it worked so if you’re not in a hurry, go with the soak. I also paired this up with some yellow lentils. The theory was that the lentils would break down as the soup cooks, and leave the split peas whole (but this time – hopefully cooked!) for a bit of texture.

I thought about whether I should spice this recipe up. Curry? Cumin? Coriander? All possible, but in the end I just added a little freshly ground black pepper and left the flavour of the peas as the main highlight of this soup. I might play around with the flavouring when I make this again, but I thought it was rather delicious just as it is.

It was perfect for a slightly more inclement weather, with a drizzle of olive oil and a few croutons on top for some crunch.

And the next day, the hot weather came back!


To make Split Pea and Lentil Soup:

• 150g yellow split peas
• 150g yellow or red lentils
• 2 large onions
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
• 1.5 litres water
• 1 stock cube

Leave the split peas to soak overnight in cold water. Drain the next day.

Peel and finely chop the onions. Put the onions, olive oil and pepper in large saucepan and fry over a low heat until the onions are soft and slightly browned.

Add the drained peas, lentils and water. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a low heat and simmer for 1 hour until the lentils break down and the peas are soft. After the first 30 minutes, add the stock cube and stir well.

Just before serving, check the seasoning and adjust

Worth making? Get past the time for soaking, and this is a very easy and tasty soup which takes very little effort. It’s great on its own, or can be boosted with a little spice.

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Lentil and Chick Pea Curry

If you’re a health nut (I am not, but still in the post-holiday-I-ate-too-much-and-need-to-get-back-in-shape phase), this is a great recipe. The only fat is from the oil you need to fry the onions, garlic and spices. It’s rich and seemingly creamy, but this comes form the lentils, which you cook long enough for them to soften and start to break up. It’s also super-easy to customise this. I’ve made it variously with cauliflower florets, chunks of butternut squash, peppers, potatoes (waxy sort), peas, string beans and cubes of paneer cheese. Another of those “what is in the cupboard” recipes that can be endlessly varied.

This is one of my favourite dishes. Provided you have lentils and the spices in the house, you can make it with virtually anything. Healthy, delicious and satisfying. Perfect for the early days of autumn as the leaves turn and it starts to get nippy…

To make the lentil and chick pea curry (serves 4):

• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 1 onion, chopped
• 3 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 knob of ginger, peeled and grated
• 3 celery sticks
• 2 teaspoons cumin powder
• 2 teaspoons mild curry powder
• 1 teaspoon coriander powder
• 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
• 200g lentils
• 500ml vegetable stock
• 1 tin chick peas, drained and rinsed
• 100g marinated tofu chunks

Heat the oil in a pot on a medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it is lightly brown (around 5 minutes). Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute. Add the celery and cook for another two minutes.

Add the spices to the pot and stir well. Cook for another minute, but if you find they are sticking or seem to be burning, then add a little water. Add the lentils, and cook for another minute, stirring all the time to prevent burning/sticking.

Add the stock, stir well, and then add the chick peas (or whatever other vegetables you are using). Cover the pot and cook on a low heat until the lentils are soft. Check from time to time, adding more water if necessary.

Check seasoning and adjust if you want to. Finally, add the marinated tofu chunks, cook for five minutes, and serve with rice or naan bread, plus a little raita and spicy chutney.

To make raita: grate a piece of cucumber, and squeeze of any excess liquid. Mix with yoghurt, a pinch of salt and some shredded mint, and allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving. As for chutney – I buy mine in M&S.

Worth making? A very easy, quick, dependable dish. As you can play with the recipe quite a lot, it also makes a good choice when you have a lot of spare vegetables and no idea how to use them all up.

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Spicy Lentil Soup

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.

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