Yesterday I made large pot of Hearty Lentil soup. A Soup for our Times. Low cost, nourishing, filling, tasty, low glycaemic index. Perfect for a cold, rainy day. Ideal to take to school or to work in a Thermos.
I got this recipe from my neighbour, Ann Quinn who runs cookery classes from her home in Dublin 9 and has allowed me to share it. Her company is called The Boston Dinner Party. Over the past two decades she has taught men, women and children in our neighbourhood (and beyond) how to cook for any occasion, and we’ve all reaped the benefit!
Ann recommends this soup for all occasions. Ready in under an hour, it requires no skill beyond chopping an onion. It’s great for lunch or dinner, and keeps hunger at bay for weight watchers. When any of our neighbours experience an upset or a loss, Ann’s been known to turn up quietly bearing a large pot of Hearty Lentil Soup. People who get so distracted that they think they’ve no appetite, will still reach for a comforting mug of soup to keep body and soul together.
Hearty Lentil and Tomato soup
(serves a multitude)
- 500g/1 lb/21/4 cups red lentils
- 3 tins ( 400g each) chopped tomatoes
- approx. 1650 ml ( 3 pints) water
- 50-100g/2-4 ozs butter
- 3 large onions, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2-3 tablespoons dried dill weed ( or a bunch of fresh dill, finely-chopped)
- 2 bay leaves
- salt and freshly-ground black pepper
- 2-3 teaspoons ground cumin, ( or better still, cumin seed dry roasted on a pan and ground)
- Mix together all the ingredients in a very large saucepan, Cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about an hour. Add more water if it becomes too thick.
- When it’s cooked, you can either have it as it is, nice and chunky, or liquidize it. The easiest way to to do this is with a hand held electric blender (it also leaves the least mess)
- This is particularly tasty served with a dollop of creme fraiche and some chopped dill.
Cook’s Note: the flavour of cumin is enhanced by roasting it. Keep a jar on hand to add to some soups and casseroles. Simply pour some cumin seeds into a dry frying pan and cook over a medium heat for a few minutes. You’ll know when it’s roasted by the aroma that fills the room. Allow the seeds to cool, then grind them to a powder with a pestle and mortar.
Shopper’s Note: red lentils cost about €2.50/Kg. Canned tomatoes cost 40-99c/can. Onions cost about € 1.30-1.50/Kg and garlic 28-50c/bulb. Spices cost less in the Asia Market- about €1 per pack. This pot of Hearty Lentil Soup should cost no more than €4 for 10-12 generous portions
Notes on Nourishment:
Lentils; contain carbohydrate with a low glycaemic index. This means that they are a slow-burning fuel and less likely to cause weight gain. They contain a substantial amount of protein which makes you feel fuller for longer. They contribute small amounts of Vitamin B, especially B1, and of essential minerals. Some people find that eating pulses causes flatulence. Soaking them before use, and changing the water, can help. In general, if you get into the habit of eating pulses regularly, your digestive system (the friendly bacteria in the gut) will adapt within a short time. Eating slowly is also a help to digestion.
Tomatoes: canned tomatoes are harvested in the southern Mediterranean region at the peak of their freshness. They have a little less Vitamins A, C and E than fresh tomatoes, but have more lycopene, a naturally occurring antioxidant known to protect against several cancers.
Onions and Garlic: renowned for their health-giving properties, these are rich in Vitamins B,C and essential minerals. They contain several phytochemicals (naturally-occuring plant compounds) known to offer protection against infections and to help in tissue repair. Onions are a good source of low glycaemic index carbohydrate.
Butter: rich in vitamins A,D,E,K, and the trace element Selenium, butter offers omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids along with Conjugated Linoleic Acid all of which have strong anti-cancer properties.
Cumin: when roasted and ground, cumin seeds release an aromatic oil which makes digestive juices flow, and help ease digestion.
Ann Quinn is holding cookery classes at her home in Drumcondra/Glasnevin for children and teenagers during the Hallowe’en break next week. You can reach Ann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to make enquiries about these, and a range of adult classes. We live in a time when everyone needs to know how to cook substantial, nourishing food at home and to make sensible home economies. Learning how to cook is not only a basic skill for survival, it’s an absolute joy- especially in Ann’s kitchen.