Firstly, this is not going to become a regular thing. This is not a cookery blog (and I’m certainly not a cook!) but I made this soup today, and it’s delicious, so I thought I’d post my version of the recipe here.
I used to make this soup a lot when I worked at The Corn Dolly teashop in North Devon. I’m not quite sure how someone who dislikes cooking as much as I do came to end up cooking food in a tea shop, but that’s another story entirely. There was soup on the menu every day (except in summer, but I think that might have changed now), so I got to make lots of different ones, and tomato and lentil was my favourite.
If you’re ever in North Devon, UK, you should visit The Corn Dolly, by the way … for lunch, or a cream tea, or for loose leaf tea and cake. Or you could sample what’s been described as the best coffee anywhere in the world. It’s changed a bit since I worked there (more than 10 years ago), but it’s still owned by the same people, and it still has that traditional charm that everyone loves.
Anyway, tomato and lentil soup …
I’ve written this recipe to be really easy to follow, even for someone like me, who has absolutely zero natural cooking ability. If you do have some cooking ability, it might come across as rather patronising, but it isn’t meant to be. Just skim it. If you’re used to making soup, you probably don’t even need a recipe!
Ingredients – serves 6
The ingredients in soup are always pretty flexible, so there are no hard and fast rules here.
- 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
- Tomato puree (I buy it in 170g tins, so I use a whole one, but you can use less if you want)
- 400g of drained lentils either from a jar or can (or you can use an equivalent amount of dried lentils)
- 2 large, white onions (or a few small onions, or you can use red onions if you prefer)
- Garlic (I usually use about 3 cloves of garlic, but you can use more or less – or none – if it suits your taste)
- 1 pint of vegetable stock
- Salt and pepper (and herbs if you like) to season
- Milk to serve (not essential if you prefer not to use it – I use soya milk – but if you don’t use milk, you’ll probably want to use less tomato puree)
- Heat some vegetable oil in a large pan on a medium heat. You can use any kind of vegetable oil you like – I use olive oil (which doesn’t turn to trans fat when you heat it – that’s a myth – just don’t make it smoke) and use enough to nicely coat the bottom of the pan.
- Roughly chop the onions and soften in the oil for a few minutes until they’re translucent (starting to look a bit see-through).
- Finely chop or crush the garlic and add to the pan with the onions. Continue to heat for a minute or so.
- Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan. (You’ll need to turn the heat up at this point too.)
- Add the tomato puree.
- Prepare the lentils and add them to the pan. (If you’re using lentils from a can or jar, you’ll need to drain off the liquid and rinse them in cold water first. If you’re using dried lentils, just put them straight in.)
- Add the stock.
- Season to taste.
- Wait until it just starts bubbling (it doesn’t need to boil) then turn the heat down, cover and leave to simmer, stirring occasionally. I usually leave it 20 minutes to give all the flavours time to mix in, but if you’re using dried lentils, you might have to leave it longer.
- Take off the heat, and use a hand blender to blend until it’s fairly smooth. It won’t go really smooth and creamy because there will still be little bits of lentil in it, but try to make sure everything else is blended in.
I usually divide it into six plastic containers, leave it to cool, then put some in the fridge and freeze some. It’s fine for about a week in the fridge, but if it’s going to be left longer than that, it needs to be frozen.
If you’re going to add milk, just pour in a little at a time as you’re reheating it, until you’re happy with the taste. Or, if you’ve got 6 people to feed and you’re going to serve it right away, stir some milk in right at the end, after you’ve finished blending. Just don’t put milk in and then expect to leave it in the fridge for a week! (It will go off.)
How long it takes me tends to vary. Sometimes I just get it done, and it’s quick. Other times I’m doing other things at the same time, and it takes longer. (One of the great things about this recipe is that it’s very forgiving, and you don’t have to worry about timing things exactly right. If I get distracted by something the cats or dogs are doing, and walk off and leave it for 5 or 10 minutes, it doesn’t usually matter.) I think it took me about 40 minutes altogether today, including the 20 minutes that I did something else while it was simmering.