This red lentil soup recipe is as easy and simple as it gets. Unless you count salt and pepper, this dish has only five basic ingredients. Yet, despite its simplicity, it is a vegetarian soup that is wonderfully soothing and flavoursome. Yes, lentils love spices. They are particularly fabulous in Indian dishes. But I am going through a phase where I am enjoying cooking and eating them in more simple ways.
Granted, this trend is partly forced upon me. I have two small children who, like most kids, generally don't favour overly spiced food. (I say generally because, to be fair to them, they have their moments.) In case you hadn't guessed, I've always been a lentil fan. But I also regard lentils as exceptionally kid-friendly. A very high proportion of the most popular dinners in our house revolve around lentils in some shape or form. And it always amazes me how such a simple, and seemingly bland, ingredient can taste so good when cooked in so many different ways.
This one is simply called "yellow soup" by my 5 year old. She regularly requests it straight from school and I am happy to oblige. It's a perfect home and hungry type of soup because, not only can it be made very quickly from store-cupboard ingredients, it's warming, filling and nourishing. With a good chunk of crusty bread, it makes a good lunch or simple supper on its own.
For many soups, I use water rather than stock but I think a good vegetable stock is important here. I have to admit I rarely make my own but I do appreciate it can be difficult to find a good commercial product. Many are too salty or have an artificial taste that dominates, tending to make all of your soups taste the same. If you can get hold of it, I highly recommend Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon which is what I used today.
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 finely chopped white onion
1½ cups/280g split red lentils
5 cups/1.2 litres of vegetable stock or broth
2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pick through the lentils and rinse them well in several changes of water. Next heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes or so until very soft. Now add the lentils and stock. Cover, bring up to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer until the lentils are soft. This usually only takes 10 to 15 minutes. Add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Don't skip the lemon juice. It really just acts a seasoning, adding a special dimension to the lentils. The soup won't be 'lemony' as such. Add an extra squeeze if you do want more lemon flavour.
Serve the soup as it is or use a hand blender if you like super smooth soup. I like a little texture so I always steal a bowl before blending for the kids who not surprisingly like a smoother consistency. I also like to add a dollop of Greek yogurt and some chopped herbs if I have them to hand.