RECIPE: Simple and effective lentil soup [v]

The cost of the ingredients to make this vegan-friendly soup must amount to less than the loose change currently hiding down the back of your sofa, and yet a family of four will slurp their way through a big bowlful each and be giving it the whole “Wow this is delicious how did you make it?”. The secret seems to be, and you won’t be expecting this… simplicity.

Serves 4
Lentils 1 mug
2 medium
1 large
1 medium
Celery (optional)
1 stick
4 cloves
Bay leaves
3 or 4
Parsley, spinach or kale leaves
A small bunch
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
To taste

Scrub and dice all the veg. The potato can be thumb-sized wedges, the carrots can be about a centimetre, whereas the onion should ideally be a bit finer. The garlic cloves should be peeled but left whole and pierced with the point of a knife. The greens (and I include parsley) can be roughly chopped or left whole.

In a heavy bottomed casserole dish on a medium heat fry everything except the bay leaves, lentils, tomatoes and greens in a small glug of olive oil until everything has got a bit of a frazzle but nothing is burnt.

Add the washed lentils, chopped tomatoes and enough water to reach about two fingers below the rim of the pan.

Add about three bay leaves and a few big pinches of salt and simmer uncovered – stirring occasionally – until the liquid has reduced to about four fingers below the pan rim and the lentils are soft enough to easily squash between finger and thumb. Turn off the heat, add the greens, cover and leave for 10 minutes.

Correct seasoning (plenty of black pepper) and serve with a drizzle of olive oil in each bowl, lemon wedges and some toast on the side.

This basic soup can be given a French twist by using Puy lentils, adding bacon alongside the veg, and using butter instead of olive oil. Or repurpose it into a Spanish style potaje by frying some chorizo and cubes of fatty pork at the beginning and cooking the soup slower and longer until it reduces to a thicker consistency. A sprig of thyme and/or rosemary could be added in both of these cases. Alternatively any quantity of the plain lentil soup you have leftover could be blended up and stirred into a pan where you have fried cumin seed, green chilli, lots of garlic, and turmeric in ample vegetable oil or ghee. To finish off this quick dal add coriander or even better curry leaves and a pinch of garam masala.

Nutritional tip: However you eat these lentils, a squeeze of lemon/lime into your bowl will help your body absorb more of their iron.