Tag Archives: comfort food

Healing lentil and vegetable soup

30 Oct

At the start of every university term all sorts of bugs and diseases spread round campus. All the students come in from all over the world with their different germs, which they give to each other and the academic staff, who then pass them on to the admin staff. It’s now three weeks in to term and all of the support staff in my department are either just recovering or just coming down with something. In honour of everyone who works in a university, college, or school, and is feeling grotty right now, here is my get-well-soon soup. The lentils will give you enough protein to make all of those extra white blood cells you’ll need to fight the infection, and the vitamins from the veggies will boost your immune system so you can beat anything. It’s simple enough to make when you’re feeling at your absolute worst. On top of that, it’s both warm and comforting AND fresh and zingy all at the same time. I’ve used a mix of lentils for a varied texture, you could use just split peas to make it chunkier or just red lentil to be smoother. Here it is:

Chunky lentil and vegetable soup, the best cold remedy I know #vegan

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Recipe (serves four):

  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped as chunky or as fine as you like
  • 1 stick of celery, also chopped as chunky or as fine as you like
  • 1 tablespoon mixed dried herbs
  • 100g yellow split peas or chana dal
  • 200g split red lentils
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • A handful of chopped parsley
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a low heat. Sweat the onion and celery in the oil, covered, for about 10-15 minutes without colouring.

Add the herbs, split peas, lentils, stock, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil then simmer for 45 minutes, until the split peas are cooked through but still retain a little bit of bite.

Add the parsley and season to taste.

Curl up in your duvet and eat the soup out of the biggest mug you can find. Get well soon!


Celeriac and cider soup

3 Nov

Celeriac is one of my favourite vegetables, so much so that when I got one in my veg box recently I felt like I’d won the lottery. If you’ve never tried it before I’d urge you to do so. You might have heard it being described as tasting like celery, and it sort of does, in an abstract sort of way. If you don’t like celery don’t let it put you off. It has the sweet, spicy flavour of celery, but it is warm and starchy rather crunchy and green. Or, as one of my former housemates once drunkenly told me, it’s like sex in root vegetable form.

Celeriac is rather knobbly and dirty, and might look a bit daunting to peel, but as long as you have a decent quality vegetable peeler and a sharp paring knife it won’t take too long.

This recipe is loosely based on one from James Martin, a TV chef who likes to add a ton of butter and cream to everything he makes (the recipe is here if you’re interested). My soup is less greasy but just as creamy and delicious. I’ve swapped the wine for cider (a) because I’m a cider fiend, and (b) because the fruitiness really compliments the spiciness and makes the soup warmer and more comforting. If you can, use a good quality local cider, rather than a slosh out of a can of stuff that contains more high-fructose corn syrup than actual apples.

Recipe (serves four)

  • a tablespoon or so of oil
  • a large onion, peeled and chopped
  • a couple of cloves of garlic, smashed and finely chopped
  • a medium celeriac (about 500-700g peeled weight), peeled, and chopped into approx. 1.5cm cubes
  • 100ml cider
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 100ml milk (or non-dairy milk of your choice)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a low-medium heat. Fry the onions with the lid on, for about five minutes. Add the garlic and celeriac and fry for about five more minutes, still covered.

Add the cider and hot stock, then simmer without boiling (again, with the lid on) for about 15 minutes, until the celeriac is tender. Add the milk, and blend until smooth. Reheat, and check for seasoning.

Serve hot with a nice bit of toast. Perfect on a cold autumn day.

Two-soup Sunday, part two – vegetarian lentil and not-bacon

18 Aug

Soup can be many things: from chunky to smooth, from elegant to “throw it all in and see what happens”, from creamy to spicy, from a delicate starter to a full-on main course. One of soups most important roles is that of a comfort food. As a child, whenever I was ill my Mum would feed me tinned lentil and bacon soup, and no matter what was wrong it would always make me feel better. I’ve now been a vegetarian for a very long time, and while you can get plain lentil soup in a can that is just as comforting (if not more so), I’ve been on a bit of a mission to create a vegetarian version of the meaty kind from my childhood.

The key to this is liquid smoke. It’s quite expensive in the UK, and you have to buy it online, but a little bit goes a long way. It’s probably not going to fool a meat eater, but a hint of smoke in a soup or stew is just enough to trick a vegetarian brain into tasting bacon. Even without the liquid smoke it’s still a tasty soup though, and just as comforting.

Recipe (serves 4-6)

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3-4 medium carrots, grated
  • a couple of cloves of garlic, crushed
  • a good sprig each of rosemary and thyme
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • a pinch of chilli flakes (optional, we put chilli in pretty much everything in the Veg household, whether it’s appropriate or not)
  • 2 cups of split red lentils
  • 7 cups vegetable stock (1.75 litres)
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke (or more if you want it, but be careful!)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan with the lid on, sweat the onion in the oil over a medium-low heat for up to 10 minutes, without colouring.

Add the carrots, garlic, herbs, cumin, and chilli, and sweat with the lid on for another 5-10 minutes, again without colouring.

Add the lentils and stock, bring to the boil then simmer for a further 20-30 minutes, until the lentils are cooked through and starting to go mushy.

Add the liquid smoke, then check for seasoning. Serve and enjoy!

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