Puritanical Soup

So, 2008 is all about detoxing mind, body and soul. I'm trying to avoid trashy TV shows and gossip magazines (well, apart from in the hairdressers) as well as trying to spend less time with those toxic people that don't do anything but make you feel rubbish about yourself. Foodwise, I'm trying to cut out anything processed and just enjoy my own cooking. Whenever I 'treat' myself to cakes and biscuits on the run, I'm always disappointed. Not only do they taste sub-standard but they're full of wonky ingredients. Well, anyway, that's the plan.

Yesterday I met up with my lovely friend Y (she of the heart-patterned oven gloves) at the wonderful Books for Cooks in Notting Hill. I first heard about this bookshop a couple of years ago but I was reminded of it on Oswego Tea's blog. The shop is a must if you are in London. It has the most marvelous range of cookbooks and there's even a sofa so you can look at them properly. I was very excited to see the Junior's Cheesecake recipe book that I resisted in New York, but I resisted once more for the sake of the New Year health kick. However, if I see it again it will clearly be fate and I'll have to get it, cheesecake calories and all.

Books for Cooks has a little cafe at the back of the shop where they make homemade dishes from their numerous recipe books. Yesterday when Y and I arrived for a late lunch they only had cakes left. Clearly the God of healthy-eating plans couldn't punish me when I ordered the prune and custard sponge, given that there was no alternative. Besides, the fact that the cake was homemade it fit right in with my no processed foods rule. A real treat.

After our cake and tea we went looking for the spice stall on Portobello Road market, alas it wasn't there. I had planned to toast and grind my own spice blend for tandoori chicken but in the end I had to buy a ready prepared mix from the local Indian store. It was good, but I felt cheated out of doing it myself. What I did make this weekend was a soup inspired by Y. She told me about a very simple lentil soup she'd made and it sounded like a perfect New Year dish.

I'm not going to lie to you; this is not a jazzy recipe. It's a frugal dish but it's also a wholesome one. I wanted to keep it very simple, but I've included additions which may be more to your tastes.

Puritanical Lentil Soup
This makes a large pan full of soup - perfect for taking into work if you're also on a post-Christmas money saving stint as well.

500g red split lentils
4 large carrots peeled and diced
2 onions peeled and diced (I used one red and one white)
2 cloves of garlic crushed
1 heaped teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 litres chicken stick
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and Pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary*

  1. Put the lentils in a bowl of water to allow any grit to float to the surface. Discard the water.

  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and gently fry the onions and garlic. Add the cumin and the rosemary and fry over a gentle heat until the onions are soft and the scent of the cumin is released.

  3. Add the carrots, lentils and stock to the pan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for around 40 minutes or until the lentils have broken down and the carrots are soft.

  4. Add salt and pepper to taste. Blend the soup.

  5. Add the lemon juice.

  6. I served mine with the equally no frills oat-cakes.

Add a heaped teaspoon of ground ginger or some fresh ginger root along with the cumin. You could also add other spices such as coriander seeds or even curry spices to produce a dahl type soup.

Fry some bacon or pancetta along with the onions and then keep it to the side and sprinkle on the soup at the end.

Serve the soup with caramelised onions or toasted seeds sprinkled on top of the soup.

* I couldn't resist the rosemary from Portobello Market - it smelled so good. I might put a bunch of it in my laundry cupboard to scent the sheets. The green smell will help me get over the loss of the Christmas tree which we took down today - booooo.


Dhanggit said...

looks like i have everything i needed to make this soup: the split lentils, the carrots, the fresh rosemary.....and of course the bad weather!!! this soup will surely warm up my cloudy day :-) thanks for the recipe

Joy said...

Destiny! It certainly is a good grey day soup. How can the colour of orange lentils not fail to brighten things up? I hope you enjoy it; let me know how you get on.