Lentil Soup is a wonderfully versatile soup. If you don’t have much time it can be made quickly and easily by pretty much throwing a handful of washed lentils, some stock, a finely chopped onion and some herbs into a pan and simmering until the lentils go fluffy.
If you’ve got more time you can ‘do it properly’ by creating a beautiful base of finely diced carrot, onion and celery if liked, all sweated down in a pan with a knob of butter (or vegan spread or a little sunflower oil) until the onions are glossy but not too golden and the vegetables slightly softened.
Once you’ve added the stock, lentils and herbs you can let it simply simmer away gently on the cooker top until it looks done.
It’s important to not wander too far from the kitchen when making lentil soup as lentils are rather temperamental and can easily burn onto the bottom of the pan, if you leave them unsupervised for long. You may need more stock/water so top up if needs be. I just top up until it looks about right, rather than measuring it.
If you’re not vegetarian or vegan you could use chicken stock and if you like add in a little diced cooked chicken or ham. Or cook a little bacon or pancetta (or chorizo if that’s your kind of thing!) and add that to the mix to give it a little meaty kick.
Lentil Soup Ingredients
A handful or two of no need to soak red lentils, washed well under running water
A stockpot or two, made into stock (Honestly I tend to throw the stockpot in first, then add water up to the right level, rather than messing around with a measuring jug.)
A small onion, peeled and finely diced
A knob of butter or vegan spread or a splash of sunflower oil
A shaking of dried mixed herbs or herbs du Provence or Italian seasoning to taste.
If you like you can also have a diced carrot, a diced stick or two of celery (wash well first) and any other diced vegetables that you might have that need using up. Things like parsnips, swede, sweet potato and leeks all go nicely into lentil soup.
If you want, some diced cooked ham or chicken or chorizo
If you’re short of time, throw the ingredients in the pan and set to simmer. Simmer until the lentils are fully cooked. They go a bit fluffy around the edges when they’re done. They should be soft and not crunchy.
If you have more time, put the butter or vegan spread in the pan over a gentle heat. Add the onion, carrots and celery and any other vegetables you’re using and slowly let them sweat down. This is where the sugars in the vegetables slowly start waking up, releasing the flavours, but they don’t change colour.
It’s important to keep stirring the vegetables so they don’t stick or change colour. Once the vegetables are slightly softened and the onion looks glossy, add the stockpot and water (or stock) and the lentils and whatever meat you’re using (optional)
Cook until the lentils are cooked through and the meat is piping hot and the vegetables are soft
Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. Adding a little freshly ground black pepper can help lift the flavour a lot.
Serve in big bowls with crusty bread or croutons