A Rather Good High-Protein Winter Soup…

(Vegetarian.)

Had a bad day when I made this, and also dropped a plastic jug. What did it land on? My bloody ulcer! A mere 137g of plastic has never caused so much pain! Plus, the plumbing, hidden deep inside a wall, decided it had had enough, and let go, so the plumber was here searching for the leak’s actual location (eventually found it – they’re coming back today to fix it).

Anyway, amid the chaos, I needed soup, but with all the buggeration it had to be something fast and simple.

And something occurred to me while I was putting it together – with no intent on my part, my diet, except for my occasional fruity meat casseroles, has become almost entirely vegetarian, and I’m fine with it. Odd, then, that in the past several deliberate attempts at returning to veggiedom have foundered.

It started, this time, with me adding beans to meat dishes for added protein but, slowly, possibly even subconsciously, the meat has been phased out, except for those fruity options, and I don’t miss it. In fact a meat meal last night ended almost in disaster, with Pulmonary Oedema staging a comeback around 04.00. The only way to deal with it is to get out of bed, sit in an upright chair and hammer my inhalers. Even then it took about 6 hours to get it under control – I thought for a while I was going to wind up back in hospital.

I do occasionally add fruit to veggie dishes, though the effect isn’t as dramatic as it is with meat, but a small handful of chopped dried apricots can lift a lentil soup – just a pity I forgot with this one.

For new readers, I use stainless steel casseroles, not pans, as they lack the long handles that can easily be snagged in a moment of Spoonie inattention. The stubby double handles also make them easier to handle when full and, kept polished internally (I use Cif Stainless Steel – very little elbow grease required), are as non-stick as Teflon.

Recipe:-

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Makes 4 litres. Feel free to scale up or down depending on the size of your pot, or pan.

5 biggish Echalion shallots, finely chopped

350g Split red lentils

350g Aunt Bessie’s Carrot and Swede Mash, defrosted

1 rounded teaspoon dried basil

625g cooked soya beans

1 litre Judion de la Granja bean stock (but any white bean stock will do, they taste much the same).

3 Kallo organic veg cubes

Knorr Touch of Taste Vegetable or Marigold Bouillon Powder, to taste

Maldon Sea salt flakes and Schwartz fine black pepper to taste

A handful of chopped parsley to finish (optional). I prefer curly.

35g butter plus a splash of olive oil.

***

Sweat the shallots in the melted butter and oil until soft, stir in the lentils, ensuring that they are all thoroughly coated with the oil/butter mix, and cook until they deepen in colour, stirring frequently – you don’t want to fry them, just heat them until they’re a deeper shade of orange.

Split red lentils can be a tad gritty in texture. Cooked this way, though, they give you a soup as smooth as silk, in which the beans float suspended. Soya beans, too, if well cooked, also have a smooth texture, unlike some other beans which can be mealy.

While you’re doing the shallots and lentils, heat the stock if you have it.** Add it to the pot with the basil, making up the quantity to 1.5 litres with boiling water (or use 1.5 litres of water if no stock), and the Carrot and Swede Mash, stir well, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the lentils are soft, about 20 minutes – half an hour. Keep an eye on them – you might need to top up the water.

** By the way, if you don’t cook your own beans, you’re missing out. Beans cooked in a slow cooker with a chopped carrot or two, and an onion, taste far better than any canned beans, and give you stock, too.

Back on topic, once the lentils have roughly doubled in volume and fluffed up, you can add the beans and top up the water to 4 litres (or about 2 centimetres from the top, if you’re using a different-sized pot). Dissolve the stock cubes in a little of the water and add those too. Don’t be tempted to add them with the lentils as they will impede their cooking substantially. Pulses don’t like salt while being cooked.

Simmer for a further 20 minutes or so to heat the beans and cook out the stock cubes.

For new readers, again, this might look like stock-cube overkill, but it’s not. One Kallo cube makes 250ml of stock, so using three in a dish this size is actually quite modest. The same applies to Knorr Touch of Taste and Marigold, in that you need a lot to make an impression. (Knorr cubes, by comparison, make 450ml.) And using a mix of stock-making products ensures the you avoid the “Oxo effect” of any one flavour dominating.

Once the beans are heated, check and adjust the flavouring, adding Touch of Taste or Marigold – or a little of each – until it suits you, then consider the seasoning and adjust as needed. and cook for another 10 minutes.

Then stir in the parsley, if you’re using it, and you’re done.

Leave to cool, and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavours to snuggle up and get to know each other.

Reheat next day, stirring frequently (any granularity in the lentils will have smoothed out by the time it’s reheated), and serve with good bread, as ever, or crackers.

NB: I’ve just had a couple of Warburton’s Sandwich Thins for lunch, with cheese. Not as tasty as the TV ads claim – remarkably dull, in fact – but I think if they were to be baked until crisp, they’d be good with soup. I’ll try that sometime.

If all else fails I can always take them to the lake and sink the ducks…

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