I can’t believe I’ve only got round to blogging this soup, as it’s definitely one of my favourite chunky broths. With spring bringing us giant leaves of seasonal spinach, I thought that I should get the recipe for this perfected and ready to post. This is vaguely based on a recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall which was one of the first soups I ever started cooking when I turned vegan, but I’ve tweaked it quite a bit since then. In mine, Puy lentils and carrots are cooked in a rich tomato and thyme broth which is brightened up with lemon and parsley right at the end. Fresh spinach is thrown in at the end also, but not cooked with it so it just has the opportunity to wilt in to the hot soup and retain it’s bright green colour. Of course, it’s got a little kick from chilli too, making this warming and healthy bowl perfect for when you’re feeling under the weather.
The vegetables can be changed up too; I make this through the winter with shredded kale instead of spinach, or the carrots could be substituted with sweet potatoes (bear in mind that sweet potatoes take less time to soften than carrots so would need to go in 15 minutes after the lentils). Brown or green lentils will work too, although I love the elegance and the ‘bite’ of Puy lentils.
- 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
- 100g onion (1 medium), chopped
- 10g garlic (2 cloves), crushed
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp salt
- 3/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 can chopped tomatoes
- 100g puy lentils
- 250g carrots, chopped in to 1/2 cm cubes
- 800ml vegetable stock
- 60g spinach, roughly chopped
- 6g parsley, stalks finely chopped but leaves roughly chopped
- 3/4 tsp lemon zest
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- Heat the oil in a medium sized pan over medium heat and fry the onions for about 5-10 minutes, until soft.
- Add the garlic, thyme, salt, chilli flakes and black pepper and fry for a minute more.
- Add the tomatoes, lentils, carrots and stock, and bring to a boil. Then, turn down the heat and place the saucepan lid slightly ajar on the pan, and simmer until the lentils have softened: about 25-30 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and throw in the spinach, parsley, lemon zest and lemon juice. Allow to sit for a few minutes so that the spinach can wilt, and then serve!
For many reasons, this changeover period where summer becomes autumn is probably my favourite time of the year. Getting my coat back out of the cupboard, the crisp morning air and the trees possessing leaves with both of my favourite colours (green and red), and every colour in-between are all solid aspects, although second best (of course) to the vast food benefits that this time of year presents. When you try to eat seasonally, certain vegetables will appear in your cooking repertoire for several months, disappear for several more, and then re-appear again once they back in season, to extreme amounts of excitement if you’re anything like me (you’re probably not). I can’t express the delight I felt upon discovering that the first of the season’s celeriac was ready the other week, knowing that I would be eating celeriac ‘slaw right through until next spring. It’s swings and roundabouts though; with this revelation I knew that in a matter of weeks, it would be time to say goodbye to local courgettes until next June, and pretty much give up salad for the winter.
What’s great about this exact point in the year is that despite the weather taking a drastic turn for the chilly and wet, the beginning of the winter roots season has started, yet summer vegetables are still in their last few weeks of being harvested. This means that while turnips, celeriac and swede are just becoming available, tomatoes, summer salad leaves and courgettes are still around too! This wonderful selection of vegetables are rarely available together in the UK, and I plan to enjoy and appreciate this small crossover window. In the spirit of this juxtaposition, as well as acknowledging that cooler days beg for warming soups and stews, I present my Thai-spiced parsnip soup. The earthiness of this root vegetable contrasts wonderfully with the exotic, aromatic Thai spices like lemongrass, chilli and coconut, creating a strange, yet beautiful, pairing. The perfect transition soup to welcome the cold months, whilst the memory of warm summer still lingers.
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 5 garlic cloves
- 1 jalapeno chilli (seeds removed)
- 1 lemongrass stalk
- 25g ginger
- 2 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 650g parsnips, chopped in to chunks
- 1.25 vegetable stock
- 100g creamed coconut
- Fry the onion in coconut oil until soft.
- To prepare the lemongrass, lie the stalk down on a chopping board and lay the side of a large knife on top of it. Press very firmly down on the knife several times to crush the stalk. This should loosen the outer layers which you can now remove, along with the top and bottom of the stalk, which you should chop off.
- Then, finely chop the garlic, chilli, lemongrass and ginger and add to the pan, and fry for a minute
- Add the cumin, salt and pepper and fry for another minute
- Add the parsnips and vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook until the parsnip is tender
- Turn off the heat, add the creamed coconut and let it melt in to the soup. Now, blitz the soup- I use a hand blender- until smooth.
- Garnish with dessicated coconut and chilli flakes.
As I write this on the hottest day of the year (or hottest in 9 years apparently) I wonder whether a hot, creamy and stodgy soup is really appropriate, or something that anyone reading this is actually going to consider eating. While many of us may prefer the sound of a light salad or iced coffee in this ludicrously hot sun, there is of course a correlation across the globe between hot weather and spicy food consumption. The benefits of eating hot foods on hot days has also been scientifically proven (it actually cools you down!). Additionally, this dish is inspired by Indian flavours and ingredients anyway, and Cambridge, UK, 15.30 (where I am now) is the exact same temperature as it is in New Delhi, India, 19.00 as I write this. Also, if you are anything like me anyway, you will be hiding indoors in the cool, wearing only your underwear, so soup isn’t such a strange choice after all.
Anyway, this chana dal soup is one of my favourites and a brilliantly frugal one too: a little lentil goes a long way. It is cooked in a similar way to a dhal, where the lentils are cooked in water until soft, and a selection of spices are tempered in hot oil in a separate pan and added to the lentils at the end. This recipe is a little more watery than a traditional dhal, edging its way in to the soup category (just), but could easily be eaten alongside rice or flat bread, especially if made ahead and left to thicken up.
This recipe makes about 15 portions (!), but due to the excessively long cooking time, it is really more economical to cook it in bulk, especially as it freezes so well. If you are constrained by the size of your saucepan, of course halve or quarter all the amounts to make less.
Lastly, I’ve used yellow split peas as they’re grown locally here, but chana dal (and I’m sure many other split peas and lentils) work fine too.
- 1 kg chana dal lentils or yellow split peas
- 2 tbsp vegetable or coconut oil
- 3 onions, chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, chopped
- 60g ginger, grated
- 2 tbsp of ground cumin
- 1.5 tbsp EACH of: salt, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds
- 1.25 tbsp ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp EACH of: garam masala, mild curry powder, turmeric
- 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper (or more to make it spicy)
- 200g block of creamed coconut, roughly chopped/shaved in to smaller pieces.
- Fill a large pan with the lentils and 5 litres of tap water. Bring to a boil, and then turn down and simmer for about 1.5 to 2 hours. Do not put salt in the water; this will inhibit the cooking of the lentils.
- Meanwhile, in a medium-sized frying pan, fry the onion in the coconut oil until soft.
- Add the garlic and ginger and fry for a minute more.
- Add the dried spices: cumin, salt, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, black pepper, garam masala, mild curry powder, turmeric, cayenne pepper and fry for another minute. Then, turn off the heat.
- When the lentils have broken down enough, and the water and lentils have become 'harmonious', they have had sufficient cooking. I like to still have a little bit of chunky texture in my soup, but the more you cook, the more the lentils will break down and the smoother the soup will become. When you are happy with the consistency, it is time to add the spice mixture to the lentil mixture, and stir in. Add the blocks of creamed coconut and allow everything to cook for a further 10 minutes or so.
- Depending on how you like your soup, you may want to thin it down with some water (to produce a thinner soup) or continue cooking with the saucepan lid off (to produce a thicker soup)
- When you are happy with it, taste for seasoning and serve with fresh coriander, dessicated coconut and chilli flakes (all optional of course)
- As this soup sits, it thickens up like crazy. Just thin out with some water as you reheat.
Soup is usually a great recipe for using up leftover vegetables in the fridge but during this ‘hungry gap’ when UK produce is fairly sparse, I turn to my favourite ever ‘store-cupboard’ lentil soup. This is a ridiculously quick, easy and simple recipe which doesn’t differ hugely from the basic recipe my mother taught me! Cheap, nutritious and always a hit, I would recommend cooking up a huge batch right now. After all, the weather might seem sunny and warm at this particular moment, but we are still in Britain; you never know when it might turn stormy or grey and if this happens, you’ll need a portion of this lentil soup ready in the freezer to get you through.
Additionally, it is essential you eat (or at least try to eat) this soup with rice cakes, marmite and apple dipped in to it. It is such a winning combination and the salty/sweet/savoury/smooth/crunchy/hot/cold medley will blow your mind and wonder why you never tried it before. Trust me on this.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic
- 3/4 tsp dried thyme
- 3/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
- 3/4 tsp salt
- A few twists of freshly ground pepper
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 400g can of chopped tomatoes
- 300g red lentils
- 1 litre stock (I use bouillon)
- In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil.
- Add the onion and fry for 5-10 minutes, until soft.
- Add the garlic and fry for another minute.
- Add the dried thyme, dried chilli flakes, salt and pepper and fry for a further minute.
- Add the tomato puree, chopped tomatoes, red lentils and stock and bring to a boil.
- Turn down to a simmer and cook until the lentils are soft, about 15 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and blitz to a smooth and creamy consistency.
I love tomatoes! When I was younger I would eat anything tomato-y (pasta sauce, ketchup, canned soup) but not actual tomatoes. I think this is the case for many children, and I would guess it is both to do with the texture of raw tomatoes, and the sugar/salt combination in all of the processed food products above that make them so appealing. Now, I realise what I was missing out on during that time and I fully appreciate how brilliant a good summer tomato can be, in all of it’s natural glory. My favourite way to eat them is raw- in salads or on bread- but this soup is a winner for when you get tomatoes that are somewhat lacking in flavour and need to be jazzed up.
I kept things fairly simple with this soup- a drizzle of maple syrup (to bring out the natural sweetness of the tomatoes) and a squirt of tomato puree (to remind them of their tomato-y-ness), plus a sprinkle of chilli flakes for a little kick. I’ve added white beans and cashew nuts in at the end to mellow out the flavour slightly as the tomatoes can be quite intense, and this dish would verge on being too rich. These also provide some protein for the meal, meaning that with a hunk of wholemeal bread on the side, you’ve got yourself a nutritious and balanced meal. Nutritional yeast is optional (as it’s not so easy to get hold of) but as always, it adds that ‘cheesy’ taste which works really well.
- 1.5 kg tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 1 large onion
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp course ground pepper
- 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
- 1 1/2 tbsp tomato puree
- 1L vegetable stock
- 1 can cannellini beans (or any other white beans)
- 15g fresh basil, roughly chopped
- 50g cashew nuts (preferably soaked for an hour or more to soften)
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
- Place the chopped tomatoes on a baking tray and drizzle with 1 tbsp of the oil.
- Smash the cloves of garlic with the side of your knife and add the whole smashed cloves to the tray with the tomatoes.
- Place in a 200 degrees C oven and roast for around 40 minutes.
- Meanwhile, fry the onion in the rest of the oil in a medium saucepan, over medium heat.
- Add the salt, pepper and chilli flakes and fry for another minute.
- Add the tomato puree, the stock, the roasted tomatoes (along with the roasting juice) and the garlic (after removing the skins).
- Bring to a boil and simmer for around 10 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and add the remaining ingredients.
- Blend the soup using a blender or a hand blender, bearing in mind that a hand blender will not achieve a completely smooth consistency because of the cashew nuts. Either way though, it will be delicious!
Beetroot is a beautiful vegetable which is as versatile as it is delicious. I love to use it raw in salads, boiled in stews or roasted in pretty much anything. I also hold it in fairly high regard due to it’s seasonality in the UK for a very large chunk of the year. This soup truly lets the earthy flavour of the beetroot sing, although I do glam it up with the addition of spicy fresh ginger and creamy coconut milk. Depending on what’s available and what’s seasonal, other greens work in this recipe too: different cabbages, spinach, chard and so on. In colder months, I like to use beetroot and white cabbage as a nod to my Eastern European roots. This is a relatively simple recipe, which truly lets the unique taste (and colour!) of the beetroot speak for itself.
As always, I use creamed coconut instead of the tinned coconut milk. Creamed coconut is basically the dehydrated fresh meat of a mature coconut, ground to a semi-solid paste. You can add it straight in to dishes by grating it in, but here I’ve added it to hot water and broken it up so it creates a creamy consistency, much like a can of coconut milk. The advantage of this (in my opinion) is that you avoid all of the e-numbers and preservatives added to the canned product, and you can use as much of the block as you require, as opposed to having to use the remainder of the can soon after you open it.
- 1 bunch of raw beetroot: bulbs, stalks and leaves (about 500g in total)*
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 50g fresh ginger, grated
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 150g kale
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1.1 litre of vegetable stock
- 200g creamed coconut dissolved in 400ml water (or 1 can of full-fat coconut milk)
- Scrub and chop the beetroot in to chunks and place on a baking tray with 1 tbsp of the olive oil. There isn't any need to peel the beetroot; just remove the knobbly bits at the top and the bottom of the bulb. Reserve the stalks and leaves for later. Place the chunks in a 200°C oven for about 50 minutes, or until the beetroot is tender.
- Meanwhile, add the other tbsp of olive oil to a medium sized saucepan on medium heat. Fry the onion, ginger and garlic for about 5 minutes.
- Wash and finely chop the kale, and add to the pan, along with the salt, pepper and vegetable stock.
- When the beetroot is done, add to the pan and bring to a boil. Turn down and simmer for 10 minutes, until the kale is tender. Add the coconut milk and turn off the heat.
- Allow the ingredients to sit with one another for at least 10 minutes, for the flavours to merge together.
- Using a hand blender, blitz the soup until smooth and creamy. You will need to process the mixture quite thoroughly to achieve a smooth consistency.
- *Generally a head of beetroot weighs around 500g. In mine here, about 400g of this was the bulbs, and 100g was the stalks and leaves.