Brr! It’s getting cold now, even in the city. And the rain this past month has been welcome for the water table, but not so much when I’m out and about. (Rain, stop driving in my face please, that’s just rude.)
(Also I lost my coat. Or maybe left it at the dry cleaner’s. Can’t remember tbh and I didn’t like it much anyway. Stop nagging me, Christy, I’ll get a new one at some point.)
A couple of weeks ago, I fancied a hearty lentil soup for supper. Ted got all excited, thinking I meant a dal soup. I didn’t, but compromised, and as so often with compromise we ended up with something better than either. (Hmm, maybe there’s a lesson here for all of us, are you listening world?)
Things I love about this soup:
- It’s a vegetarian recipe (well, vegan actually, but let’s not get too excited) that Ted, my meat-loving husband, is more than happy to eat.
- It’s made of storecupboard basics, aside from the fresh coriander, which is optional – so no last-minute dash to the supermarket on a rainy night.
- It will make you glow with warmth all the way from the top of your head right down to your new winter boots, which look great by the way – nice choice.
It also only takes about half an hour to get to the point where you can put it in the slow cooker and forget about it for a few hours. I love that – the flavours mingle together in this magical way, scenting the kitchen with the promise of tastiness to come.
(Anyone else watching the Sabrina reboot? It’s all gone a bit weird, hasn’t it …)
So it’s one I put on at lunchtime and then leave to bubble away until supper. But you can totally simmer it on the hob for about 40 minutes (or until the lentils are soft).
A note on the spices: We like things spicy, so consider that as you’re adding them – the measurements below are for gently rounded teaspoons. I like Bolst’s mild curry powder, which is yummy, but sadly based on a lie – it’s on the hotter side of medium.
The cumin is especially nice if you toast and grind it from whole, but today I just chucked it in whole because I was in a bit of a rush and it will probably still turn out fine.* The turmeric is added for colour and also because it’s a class-A germ buster, and have you seen all those disgusting people on the tube lately.
Check the salt levels work for you – we’re not big fans of salty food (which is partly why I make a lot of soup at home, seriously, have you seen how much salt is in the shop-bought ones?) so you may prefer it more strongly seasoned.
Finally, asafoetida is a funny little spice. Its name means “fetid gum” and true enough, it’s a funky-smelling bright-yellow powder that adds background savouriness, a bit like onion and garlic. It’s made from a kind of fennel and you can buy it at Indian grocery shops. I love it. Use it in small amounts in dal, curries and the like, and buy a very small pot, as it doesn’t stay fresh for long. If you can’t get it, maybe add another clove of garlic.
This makes enough for two for supper, plus a lunch the next day. It tastes great the day after.
Hearty curried lentil and coconut soup
- 1 onion
- 1 stick of celery
- 1 large carrot
- 2 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 can tomatoes
- 1 cup red lentils
- Half a teaspoon chilli powder (optional – go on, spice up your life)
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 and a half teaspoons of ground cumin
- Quarter of a teaspoon of asafoetida (optional – see note above)
- Black pepper
- 400ml vegetable stock
- 800ml hot water
- Half a cup of loosely packed grated cream coconut or one small tin of coconut milk
- Coriander, to garnish (optional but if you can, why would you not)
Chop the onion, carrots and celery into small chunks and fry in plain oil on a medium heat until golden brown. Add the garlic and fry for a minute.
Add the stock, water, tomatoes, lentils and all the spices. Bring to the boil.
Either transfer to the slow cooker for 2-4 hours or simmer gently on the hob for 40 minutes. (If the latter, check the lentils are soft and if not, cook for a bit longer.)
Add the coconut then blend with a stick blender until smooth. (Leave it semi-smooth if you prefer a chunkier soup.)
Pour into bowls and garnish with the coriander.
Serve with hot buttered nan bread and maybe a nice glass of Rioja. Mmm. Take that, winter.
* Yep, it still worked.