A little music
Lentils. Totally underrated, which is a crime in my opinion. Vegetarians know how to use lentils but us meat-eaters tend to consign them to the occasional spicy soup, or stew, or a shmear of puy lentils under a nicely grilled chicken leg. They suffer from a bad reputation, plus confusion over how long they have to be soaked or cooked for. In reality, they are very simple to cook and full of protein, perfect for those of us who miss out on much grain-based protein.
Molly calls this a quiet soup. Delicate she describes it as. Refined. I agree with the last two adjectives but quiet this is not. It’s certainly not loud but the flavours here work so well, are in such perfect harmony that it sings, just a little, plays gentle music in your mouth. Warming, but not hot, flavourful, but not overpowering. The lemon is the key. It unites all the flavours. You can’t taste it as such but the difference it makes (taste before and after you add it) is vital to this soup’s music. Half an hour is all this takes, with ingredients you already have in your house. Make it today. Or maybe tomorrow.
The key to this soup is to add more liquid than you think it needs. It will start out looking watery, but by the time the lentils have cooked and plumped up, and you’ve blended half the soup, the extra water will stop it from being too thick.
1 white onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
500ml additional water
1 cup red lentils
1 carrot, diced
Juice of half a lemon
Handful chopped coriander for garnish
1. Pour a drizzle of oil into a large saucepan and add the diced onions and minced garlic. Over a low heat cook for about 5 minutes, until onions are translucent.
2. Add the tomato puree, cumin and cayenne, and stir for a couple of minutes, until fragrant. Pour in the stock, the red lentils and add the diced carrot. Add another half litre of hot water. Taste and add salt, depending on how salty the stock is. Add some black pepper.
3. Bring the soup to a simmer and leave over a medium-low heat for about 20-30 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked through. Stir regularly and make sure the heat isn’t too high; red lentils have a relatively high sugar content so they burn quite easily. If the soup looks to be getting too thick, add some more water.
4. Once the lentils are cooked take the saucepan off the heat, cool for a couple of minutes and then, using an immersion blender, blend the soup for about 40 seconds; mine still had nice chunks of carrot and onion in it, but was about 50% smooth. Now taste, add the lemon juice, stir and taste again. Revelation. Recheck the seasoning, then serve in bowls topped with chopped coriander.
Serves 3. The picture above is half of the soup in a bowl. It was quite a large bowl and I felt extremely full afterwards. Divided 3 ways this would give more reasonable portion sizes. If you want to save a portion for the next day add a little extra water to thin it out before reheating it.