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lentil soup

I am dreading the cold weather, but there’s something to be said for the therapeutic qualities of winter food. There’s the time-efficiency of the chop it up and chuck it in a pot methodology, and of course, the comforting smell of impending deliciousness wafting through the house.

This soup is a great all-rounder – serve it as an entree, take it as a packed lunch or make it a gourmet dinner with some good bread and a splash of good-quality infused olive oil. There’s only one thing to to know, and that is sweating vegetables to make a good base for a soup takes longer than you think.

There’s a big difference between sweating and frying an onion. For a good soup base, what you are looking for is a gently cooked onion – cooked for a while over low heat and enough oil to prevent sticking. It should be soft enough to disintegrate when pressed and sweet and mellow in flavour. In the recipe below, you cook the vegetables for 10 minutes, but I should point out that 15 minutes is better.

Simmering a soup for hours doesn’t necessarily make it better, so don’t cook this for longer than necessary. Enjoy!

Lentil, red pepper and cumin soup
from Skye Gyngell’s ‘A year in my kitchen’
serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely diced
1 leek, washed and cut into a quarters, then thinly sliced
2 celery sticks, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 red peppers (capsicum), halved, deseeded and diced
3 garlic cloves, finely diced
1 tsp ground cumin
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs thyme
200 Puy lentils
1.5 litres vegetable stock

salt and pepper, to serve
coriander or parsley, for garnish

  1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion, leek, celery and carrots and sweat gently for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. Add the diced capsicum, garlic, cumin, bay leaves and thyme and continue to sweat for another 10 minutes. The onions, leek and celery should now be translucent.
  3. Add the lentils, pour in the stock and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered for 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender.
  4. Discard the herbs and taste for seasoning.
  5. Serve with chopped parsley or coriander and a drizzle or olive oil.