When I first started to run my course Eat Well Live Well, all about eating a whole-food plant-based diet, I used to cook lunch for the participants each week. It was hard work, but I learnt early on that eating was believing – and if people experienced how tasty the recipes given out each week were, they would want to have that in their lives every day.
As a general rule, this worked! Which was great. Sadly, when the pandemic hit, those in person courses had to stop. And without smello-vision, I couldn’t recreate the same experience on-line.
Each week, I would give out recipes for breakfast, soup, snacks, mains and desserts, so that by the end of the course, they had a folder of over 60 tasty meals to enjoy at home. And I know some people are still using those folders today!
This smoky lentil and tomato soup was often the highlight of week one’s lunch. It’s rich, smoky and very satisfying. The combination of veggies and lentils mean it contains a good amount of plant-based protein, fibre and phytonutrients. It’s really good to eat all year round, but particularly satisfying on a chilly, dull winter’s day.
If you can’t tolerate onions, then sub with a medium leek, or even miss it out. Add half a red pepper instead if that’s ok for you. You could also add a pinch of asophotida if you have it in the cupboard.
If you haven’t come across it before, asophotida is a flavour used in Indian cooking. I can’t describe it as a herb or spice though. Rather, it’s the dried sap taken from the roots of the Ferulla plant, ground into a powder. Although not sounding too enticing, asophotida (or hing in Hindi which is much easier to spell!) has a pungent, sulphurous aroma and flavour. It’s a useful ingredient to have in the cupboard, particularly if you have issues with onions, or have to avoid them due to IBS or similar gut issues. You only need a tiny pinch though, so take care with how much you add to the pan!
The smokiness comes from smoked paprika, one of my favourite flavours. If you like a bit of spice, you can buy a fiery version of this piquant pepper. I bought a tin of this hot smoked paprika on a trip to Spain a couple of years ago. It is amazing. And really hot! You don’t have to travel to Spain to buy it though! You can find it here on Amazon instead. Alternatively, add a pinch of chill flakes instead.
I like to blend this soup to a purée, but I know from comments on my Facebook page that not everyone appreciates a smooth soup! This smoky lentil and tomato soup is just as lovely blended or unblended.
This soup is also super cheap. Red lentils are a cheap source of plant protein and a great way of filling hungry tummies. I calculated the ingredients for this soup cost an average of £1.50 and makes 4 super big or 6 good portions (approx 30p per portion). Of course, you need to add on the gas or electricity costs to cook it, but even so, it’s good value, especially if you make a big batch in one go and freeze them for future use.
I hope you love this soup as much as we do. Let me know what you think – will it become a regular in your household?
Smoky lentil and tomato soup
- 1 red onion or medium leek or pinch asofoetida (see post above)
- 1 large carrot
- 2 sticks of celery or half red pepper
- 150 g red lentils
- 400 g tin chopped tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- pinch chilli flakes optional
- 1 litre vegetable stock
- salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp fresh coriander to serve
- Peel and chop the onion or trim, rinse and shred the leek into small pieces. Peel and chop the carrot into small dice. Rinse and finely chop the celery or red pepper (whichever you're using)
- Heat a couple of tablespoons of water in the base of a large pan and add the chopped vegetables. Sauté for 5-8 minutes until they start to soften, add more water if needed to stop them sticking to the base of the pan.
- Stir in the lentils, tinned tomatoes, smoked paprika, thyme and chilli flakes if using. Cook for a minute. Add the stock, stir well and bring to the boil.
- Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or so until the lentils are swollen and cooked.
- Leave to cool for a few minutes, then blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve hot with a garnish off fresh coriander if desired.