Monday, 25 April 2016

Lentil soup | Vegan in the house

For a spring menu, hearty soups aren't the first thing that comes to mind but here on the west coast of central Scotland the arrival of spring hit the breaks; suddenly the days turned colder with rain. Last week we finally got excellent spells of sunshine so we seem to be back on track, and the buds are rejoicing. I wanted to post this lentil soup recipe before it's too late. In the sense, out of touch with the season, especially for those who live farther south and are already enjoying fine weather and trees in bloom. In our garden a huge cherry tree is about to bloom. Its branches stretch over the patio and some even reach the main roof of the house. If I would keep our son's bedroom window open they would find their way in. I wouldn't mind but he would. I cannot wait to see the cherry tree in its full glory.

Back to the soup. In January our younger daughter, a teen of 14, decided to go vegan. My husband and I discussed between us that this was just a phase, something she needed to explore. Honestly, we thought it would last for 1-2 weeks. Apart from the smoked lamb at Christmas (Icelandic tradition), she never was much of a meat-eater. That part would be easy. Quitting eggs, however, would probably break her. Or so we thought. Our girl loved her omelettes and made her own if I served e.g. fajitas or something she didn't like. Now the month of May is almost upon us and our girl is still going strong. Still a vegan.

Consequentially, I have made some adjustments in our diet - surely baking less with eggs - and I have veganised some of my own vegetarian recipes and created new ones. What I like about her going vegan is that she is learning about nutrition and cooking, and she now enjoys certain vegetables she didn't like before. I love seeing her gaining confidence in the kitchen; she now makes uncomplicated, nutritious meals without any help. Sometimes the two of us are together in the kitchen preparing a meal that needs to be adjusted for her. For a mother, who is a foodie, those are quality moments. When the days were colder I often prepared veggie chilli or other bean stews or hearty soups for lunch that would then wait on the hob when our steadfast vegan came home from school. This green lentil soup was one of those.

[The textiles seen in the images, excluding the napkin, are by Lisa Fine: Baroda 1 in indigo (bird pattern), Lahore in apricot (floral), and Chiara in sky blue/oyster (to the right). More on Lisa Fine Textiles later.]

Whether you are a vegan or not, lentils are good for you (read about the health benefits of lentils); I think everyone should have a basic lentil recipe in their repertoire. Lentils are high in protein, dietary fibre, and iron, and a source of e.g. B1 and B6. Lentils and spices are a wonderful mix because the lentils absorb their flavour. In my opinion, herbs like bay leaf and thyme also go well with lentils. Just make sure you don't overcook them; they should keep their consistency. Soft lentils, yes. Mushy, not so much. For the vegetable broth I use the vegan organic bouillon powder from Marigold (it has less salt), but you can of course use vegetable stock cubes.


1 tablespoon coconut oil or light olive oil
1 small onion
2 carrots
1-2 celery sticks
3 cloves garlic
1 red chilli (or ¼ teaspoon chilli powder)
1 cup green lentils
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1250 ml organic vegetable broth (5 cups)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1-2 whole thyme sprigs
optional: 1-2 seeded tomatoes
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Rinse and drain the lentils (sometimes it's recommended that you boil them for 2 minutes before rinsing). Set them aside and prepare the vegetable broth. Boil water and pour into a heatproof measuring jug with vegetable bouillon or stock cubes. For 1250 ml water (5 cups) you will normally need 5 teaspoons of the bouillon powder or 2¼ stock cubes (brands may vary; read the label).

Peel and chop the onion. Slice the carrots and celery sticks. Remove the seeds from the chilli (if using) and chop finely. Heat the oil in a medium-large saucepan on medium heat. Add the onion and vegetables and cook for a few minutes until they have softened. Peel and press the garlic and add it to the saucepan. Cook for 1-2 more minutes, gently stirring.

Add the lentils and spices and stir gently. Pour in the broth and add the bay leaf and thyme. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and let the soup simmer for about 25-30 minutes, or until the lentils are soft but not mushy. Use a lid but tilt it to allow the steam to escape. If using tomatoes: remove the seeds and dice the tomatoes before adding them to the saucepan.

Before serving, remove the bay leaf and the leftovers of the fresh thyme (if using). Season the soup with black pepper and salt, if you think it needs more salt. Serve with (home-made) wholegrain bread, and perhaps a glass of fine red wine . . . just saying.

Uppskrift á íslensku

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