Today's been grim. The kind of incessant drizzle where all that's to be done is stay indoors and hibernate. While trying to find a healthy dinner option among the piles of Christmas cheese and chocolate inhabiting our kitchen, I remembered an old recipe for a soup that was one of my favourites growing up but that I haven't had for years. I gave it a whirl today, and having just eaten what I think is the tastiest, not to say most virtuous soup in the world, I want to share the love far and wide.
Made with lentils, celery and coriander, the recipe is one of my Mum's but it didn't make the final cut of the charity book because I wasn't sure whether it was a Middle Eastern classic or just a favourite with our family. I've delved into our ancient Claudia Roden 'Book of Middle Eastern food', and lentil soups and stews of different kinds feature heavily. I don't think I need to bang on about the health benefits of lentils but suffice to say the soup is filling, warming and super healthy. What's not to love?
It couldn't be any easier to make, and you can throw in pretty much anything you need to use up. This evening I replaced the coriander with a load of mixed herbs that were left over in the fridge - thyme, parsley and rosemary. I chopped up a fresh chilli for an extra kick. I replaced the pasta with spelt. Whatever changes you make though, I implore you to keep the sautéed garlic and coriander garnish that goes on top. It really does take this soup to another level.
200g dry brown lentils
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small bunch coriander, chopped
2 stalks chopped celery
Salt & pepper to taste OR 2 vegetable stock cubes
1l of water or more
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch coriander, chopped
A little oil for frying
Fry onion in oil. Add garlic and fry for a few seconds, making sure it doesn't burn. Add celery and toss for a few seconds. Add lentils and cold water and bring to the boil, boiling quickly for 10 minutes. Add stock cubes OR salt, pepper, some chilli (optional) and coriander. Cover pan, lower the heat and add more water if necessary. Simmer for a further half hour until the lentils are cooked. Add pasta and, if needed, more water. Cook for a further 10 minutes until the pasta is cooked. Check seasoning.
To serve, heat a little oil and fry garlic and coriander for a few seconds. Serve soup in bowls with a teaspoon of garlic and coriander garnish in the middle, and enjoy.