Carrot and Lentil Soup, with Coriander

November 14, 2008


Having been in Cyprus so recently, there was I thinking Mediterranean vegetables and barbecues and al fresco eating, and it wasn’t until yesterday’s walk in the park that I realised I was out of sync.

It wasn’t just autumn in the park, half the leaves were already on the grass. The tai chi guy was still doing his early morning stint but you wondered how long he would last. There are deer in that park and even they looked cold, their breath coming out in winter puffs of white.

And so my thoughts turned to soup, naturally. On a cold day it’s soup that makes you feel human again. It’s also cheap – really a handful of carrots, an onion and some lentils, cost next to nothing. And it’s one of the easiest foods to adjust: you just throw in a few more potatoes for extra padding, or beef up the flavour with lemon juice, salt or stock. A spoonful of tahini or miso may also be a good idea, often is.

So this is what I did. I fried the onion and garlic gently and just before they turned golden tossed in a couple of Thai chillies. These are those very small chillies and you need to go carefully with them. Two was an elegant sufficiency, just enough to give a comfortable glow.

Then I added the chopped carrots and fried those too for a few more minutes, being a firm believer that frying anything brings out the flavour. I poured in the stock, brought the soup to the boil and then left it to simmer for about 20 minutes while I did the washing-up. It was yesterday’s washing-up actually. I hate doing it late at night.

Then came my favourite bit, blending the soup. I have one of those hand-held whizzer-uppers. It used to belong to my grandmother, and it’s great for chasing after pieces of carrot. I also liked the way you could watch the whole thing turn bit by bit to a deep orange. Finally the coriander went in, the soup got another blast, and the orange became flecked with green.

I have to say, the soup was very good. I ate it once at lunch and then again in the evening with my flatmate D. We had a bit of baguette too (particularly crusty and fresh baguette from the Fresh and Wild store in Camden) and some basic green salad. Neither of us said very much at all, which seems to me the ultimate accolade for a meal.

Carrot and Coriander Soup, for 4
600g carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 green Thai chillies, chopped, with the seeds
2 tbs basic oil
150g red lentils
1.25 litres stock (I made this up from water and Marigold bouillon powder, the only type worth using, in my book)
a few stalks fresh coriander
yoghurt (optional)

In a large saucepan fry the onion and garlic in the oil for a few minutes, then add in the chilli. After a few more minutes put in the carrots and when they are just beginning to turn lighter at the edges pour on the water, add the lentils, and bring the soup to the boil.

Now cover the saucepan and simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir the soup every now and then to make sure it doesn’t stick.

Blend it thoroughly, add the coriander and blend some more. It’s now ready to serve, with a spoonful of yoghurt if you want it. If you find the soup too thick for your taste – and it is so very creamy and thick, which I like, but then it’s your meal! – stir in more stock. I wouldn’t add cream or milk though, it’s quite full-bodied enough.


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