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Saturday, 29 January 2011

Spicy Lentil Soup - The way it SHOULD be done

Sometimes, even recipe book writers get it wrong. There was a famous study done a few years ago in which various journalists attempted to cook recipes from all the famous chefs to see who had the most accurate recipes.

I was reminded of this because tonight (as we speak), I am working on a recipe for Spicy Lentil Soup that I got from a vegetarian cook book I bought today. I now own something like about 60 or so vegetarian cookbooks - very few of which are written by actual vegetarians.

Out of my entire collection, I can only point to Rose Elliot, Rosamund Richardson, Tarla Dalal and the fantastic Dennis Cotter (Thank you so much for that birthday present Claire) as true vegetarians. The rest are I suspect dead creature munchers who have jumped on the bandwagon in exchange for a bag of used fivers from their publishers.

I am not going to embarrass the poor dear who wrote this book by naming her, but she did get a few things wrong. I won't go back to the charity shop for a refund, because I think there are plenty of good ideas in this book. They just need a bit of work.
So, this is the recipe.

330g of red lentils
1.2 litres vegetable stock
2 Garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/2 inch fresh chopped ginger
Teaspoon of Ground Cumin, Coriander and Tumeric.
1 Chopped celery stick
good bunch of chopped up coriander or parsley leaves.
Tea spoon of groundnut oil.
Salt and Pepper
There is an option to put in some mustard seeds, which I did not do.

So far, so good, but then on step one a disaster occurs!

She says just stick the lentils in a pot and boil them. Skim off the foam and add the rest of the ingredients - apart from the Coriander - and then boil the guts out of it for an hour before adding in the chopped coriander leaves.


So, how are you supposed to bring the flavour out of the spices then eh, luv?

This is what you do.

Firstly, start by DOUBLING the quantity of the powder spices and substituting the groundnut oil for two tablespoons of olive oil. Next, think about bulking it out with some white beans, butter beans or chick peas. Maybe even use all three or perhaps some peas. In my case, I used some TRS soya chunks to turn this from a soup into a main meal. Oh, and I also added half a pinch of chilli powder to give it a bit of a punch.

Pass the garlic through a press and finely chop the ginger while the olive oil is heating up in a cast iron pan.

When hot, drop the garlic and chopped celery in and stir it round for about a minute. Next, chuck in the ginger and give that another minute. Next, add in our spices, including the chilli and stir it in and cook for about 30 seconds or just enough that you can smell them. Now chuck in your lentils and beans or soya and give it all a good coating in the oil and spice mix. Add salt and pepper.

NOW, pour in the vegetable stock and bring it to the boil. Turn the heat right down, stick a lid on and simmer it all until everything is cooked through. In the case of the soya chunks, this will take about 45 minutes. YOU might need to add more water at times.

When all is nice and thick, check the seasoning, turn the heat off and then stir in a huge great handful of the chopped coriander leaves. Serve into a bowl with some extra virgin olive oil over the top and some white crusty bread. put a few coriander leaves on the top.

I just tasted it. Heaven!

There you go. Perhaps I should write a recipe book.