I don’t know about you, but I find that this time of the year tends to drag a little. Days are still short and, most often than not, quite miserable. I find that one thing that lifts my spirits like nothing else is a daily injection of movement – be it a long, brisk walk, a run or a stint at my gym if it’s pouring down. Once I am done, I like to come back home to something that only requires a quick reheat before I can tuck in – this is where this simple lentil soup comes in.
This lentil soup is straightforward to make yet packed not only with flavour but also nutrition. This lentil soup doesn’t require much of you other than chopping a couple of things and giving the pot a bit of a stir now and again. I cook my own lentils from scratch as I like to include a piece of kombu for better digestion but precooked lentils – canned or the ones that come in convenient pouches will totally do the job. I make it in bulk often. When I do that, I only just cook the tomatoes down, add lentils and season but do not add water in at the end to achieve the consistency I like – this allows me to save space in my fridge or freezer and freeze more portions.
MORE ABOUT THE INGREDIENTS
LENTILS: I used green lentils, which I cooked myself from scratch but canned lentils or those pre-cooked ones that come in handy pouches are perfect too. I recommend using firm lentils like green or Puy lentils over softer and mushier red ones for example. Red ones are perfect in a curry or in these delicious savoury pancakes.
AROMATICS: I used a whole onion and quite a few garlic cloves as the base for this soup. I wanted it to be easy and quick to put together so did not include finely chopped carrot or celery or fennel but you are welcome to if you have them and if you don’t mind some extra effort.
HERBS: If I have no fresh herbs in the house, I simply use a some Italian herb mix, but if you do have fresh thyme and rosemary to use up, using half a tablespoon (thyme – leaves picked, rosemary – leaves picked and chopped) of each is perfect in this soup. I also like to sprinkle some fresh parsley on at the end, it freshens this soup up and offers a boost of flavour and nutrition.
SMOKED PAPRIKA: I am a massive fan of smoked paprika and I believe that it really belongs in this soup, go for the sweet variety so that you can amp up the smokiness without adding too much heat. For heat, I like to use a generous sprinkle of mild chilli flakes, but you can totally omit it too.
CANNED TOMATOES: You will need two (400 g / 14 oz) cans of tomatoes for the body of the soup. I like to use peeled plum tomatoes and squash them down with a potato masher so that they cook quicker, but you can also use chopped ones if you prefer.
BALSAMIC VINEGAR: A small amount of quality vinegar is what brings this soup up a notch. I go for the thick, syrupy stuff – it’s a bit on the pricier side but a little goes a long way so it lasts me much longer than the cheap stuff.
DATE SYRUP: A small dollop of date syrup – I buy a jar of it in my local corner store but you can also make it, it lasts for ages in the fridge – adds a bit of sweetness that plays against the tanginess of tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. If you don’t have it, a small amount of molasy sugar – like dark muscovado – will work just as well.
KALE: I like to add a lot of greens to my soups and this one is fab with plenty of barely cooked, tender kale. I go for cavolo nero but any kale you like will be just as good. If you don’t have kale, how about finely shredded Savoy cabbage or beet leaves?
Heat up the oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot. If you want to keep this soup oil-free, use veggie stock or water instead of oil. Once the oil gets hot, throw in diced onion. Sauté on a very medium-low heat until soft (approx. 5 minutes). Followed by garlic, minced sundried tomatoes, smoked paprika, herbs, chilli (if using) and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté for a few minutes, stirring often.
Add canned tomatoes to the pot, squash them with a potato masher until well minced.
Season again and add two cans worth of water to the pot and allow the soup to simmer for 45-60 minutes until tomatoes are cooked and thickened to the consistency of a pasta sauce. Stir every 15 minutes or so.
At this point you can add cooked lentils in, portion the soup, cool and refrigerate or freeze it for later. Alternatively add enough water to get the soup to a consistency you like, adjust the seasoning, add chopped to kale.
Bring the soup to a simmer and simmer for a few minutes to soften the kale, check the seasoning again and serve with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and some good bread.
- 2 x 400 g cans lentils OR 180 g / 1 cup dry green lentils
- 1 tbsp / 15 ml olive oil (or stock for oil-free version)
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 4 garlic cloves, finely diced
- 1½ tsp dried Italian herbs*
- 1½ tsp sweet smoked paprika
- a generous pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
- 60 g / 4-5 sundried tomatoes, finely minced
- 1 tsp salt, adjust to taste
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 2 x 400 g / 14 oz cans peeled plum tomatoes*
- 10 ml / 2 tsp thick balsamic vinegar
- 5 ml / 1 tsp date syrup or sugar
- 300 g / 10.5 oz kale, I used cavolo nero (optional)
- chopped parsley, to serve (optional)
- If cooking lentils from dry, rinse them and cook in plenty of water until soft – about 30 minutes.
- Heat up the oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot. If you want to keep this soup oil-free, use veggie stock or water instead of oil.
- Once the oil gets hot, throw in diced onion. Sauté on a very medium-low heat until soft (approx. 5 minutes).
- Next, throw in garlic, minced sundried tomatoes, smoked paprika, herbs, chilli (if using) and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté for a few minutes, stirring often.
- Add canned tomatoes to the pot, squash them with a potato masher until well minced. Season again.
- Add two cans worth of water to the pot and allow the soup to simmer for 45-60 minutes until tomatoes are cooked and thickened to the consistency of a pasta sauce. Stir every 15 minutes or so.
- Add drained lentils and enough water to give the soup the consistency you like. Season with balsamic vinegar, date syrup (or sugar) and more salt and pepper if needed.
- If using kale, destem it and chop up small. Add to the simmering soup for 3 minutes before you are ready to serve.
- Divide between bowls or cool and refrigerate/freeze for later. Serve with a smattering of parsley, a drizzle of olive oil (if liked) and your favourite bread.