This soup is nostalgic for me and something I’ve been trying to recreate ever since my uni friend Chris introduced me to the Tesco version. Come to think of it, it was in a bag on a shelf so there couldn’t have been much in it that was good for you. Hey ho. Anyway, it was delicious. So here is my attempt at a hearty, warming lunch, with a little bit of a punch.
You will need:
2 red onions
2 cloves garlic
1cm piece ginger
2 large carrots
2 tsp tomato purée
600g red lentils
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock, plus extra water
Tomatoes – I used 5 large vine tomatoes and 2 punnets of cherry tomatoes, plus a bottle of passata. Use whatever you like. You could make it with just 2 tins of tomatoes, but there’s something about turning fresh tomatoes into something lovely that’s rather, well, lovely
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp mild chilli powder
1 tsp ground cumin
Cracked black pepper
Splash Worcestershire sauce
1. Put a large soup pot on the hob at the higher end of a medium heat, and add a splash of oil (I use olive). Chop the red onions and grate the garlic and ginger, then add to the pot. Chop the leek and carrot and add these to the pot once the onion has starred to cook down. Keep stirring to stop the garlic catching.
2. Add the tomato purée and cook out, stirring well.
3. Boil up the kettle to add to your stock cubes, or otherwise have your stock ready to add. Chuck in the lentils and stir well. I love the crackly noise they make when they hit the heat. I’m not sure if that’s part of it, but I know it helps a risotto so why not?!
4. Add the stock, stir, and put the lid on, turning the heat down to a simmer.
5. Now, this is where you can decide how time-consuming you want this process to be. I hate tomato seeds and skins getting into soup, but to me it’s a total nightmare faffing around with hot water to skin tomatoes before you put them in the soup. When I make tomato soup, I blend up the cooked ingredients and then push the whole thing through a sieve. It takes a lot of time. For this soup, though, I really wanted to be able to blend it a bit but leave some texture in there. It makes it feel heartier and more luxurious. So my solution is to treat the tomatoes separately, or you could of course use tinned or already sieved tomatoes.
If you do want to use fresh (which you will do if you’re anything like me), chop them up and chuck them into a large saucepan on a medium to high heat. Let them simmer away until they’ve broken down and look like a really fresh tomato sauce – it should only take 10 minutes or so, stirring every now and again. Now, press this mixture through a sieve, and you’ll immediately be left with only the seeds and skins.
6. Add this to the lentil mixture and then add in all of the spices, seasonings and flavourings apart from the salt. You should never add salt to lentils until they’re fully cooked, or they’ll immediately start to harden up instead of braking down. A little too learned the tough lentil way.
7. Stick the lid on and allow to simmer away for another hour or so.
8. Grab a stick blender and blend to your desired consistency. If you want to go for the suggested half and half, ladle however much you’d like to be puréed into a separate bowl and purée within an inch of its life with a stick blender, then add the rest and mix together, blending an extra bit here and there as required. Or you can just put the stick blender into the top layer of soup, being careful not to scratch the pot’s bottom or send the soup flying everywhere by holding the stick too shallow.
9. Add the salt to taste and serve, freezing anything you don’t need once it’s cool.