There are nights when the thought of the evening meal is enough to send you into the nearest bedroom, door slammed behind you, covers pulled over your head in an effort to hide from your task. You may also find yourself calling out “I’m invisible! Pretend I’m not here!” when the little knocks on the bedroom door start!
This is my go-to meal on days like these. Actually, more than that, so much more, this is the meal I make at times of stress, sickness and outright grief. I made this soup the night of my father’s funeral when I could barely stand and it was only adrenalin from the day and the need to look after my mother that kept me going. I made it after a particularly traumatic visit to the hospital to farewell my best friend and her husband after their fatal motorbike accident. There is something so nourishing about a bowl of hot soup, and this one, with it’s sweet kick, has the same effect as a nice hot cup of tea on jangled nerves. It soothes. Before we file this recipe away under ‘D’ for depressing, I think it’s worth noting that in times of grief, occupying yourself in the kitchen can soothe too. Nigella Lawson says in “Feast”:
“I don’t think anyone wants to cook in the immediate shock of bereavement and in my experience you are anyway likely to need something like an over-ordered Chinese take-away, but a few days of cooking can be a calming act, and since the mind knows no rest and has no focus, the body may as well be busy. Or, you may be making this for others in need.”
It’s also incredibly easy. The whole lot can be made from tinned supplies when all you can manage is to pull a little metal ring and pour a tin into a saucepan. Then again, you can use dry lentils, fresh tomatoes (it certainly tastes better with fresh!) and homemade stock. Even then, it’s still an incredibly easy meal.
I love this soup so much, I keep an emergency stash of lentils, tomatoes, stock and Worchestershire sauce in the back of my pantry so I can make it whenever the urge, or necessity strikes.
In happy times, this soup is a stand out because it’s super cheap to knock up, so a very budget friendly addition to your meal planning.
6 tins of lentils (or around 4.5 cups dry brown/green lentils)
3 L stock (veg or chicken)
12 x fresh ripe tomatoes diced (or 3 x 400g tin of diced tomatoes)
Worchestershire sauce to taste (I use a GF one and the very technical amount of 45 glugs! for our family sized serve, so work on say, 1/4 cup as a base and add from there.)
1 sliced red onion
If using tinned lentils, drain them and plonk them in a big pot.
If using dry lentils, sort through them roughly, removing anything that shouldn’t be there and plonk them in the big pot.
Add the stock.
Dice the tomatoes and add to the pot. (or pour in the tinned tomatoes).
Add your Worchestershire sauce to taste.
Slice the onions into half moon shapes.
Heat a small frypan and cook the onions well – until they’re softened and have some colour.
Add onions to the pot.
Bring to the boil and simmer. There really isn’t a set time here. If you’ve used tinned lentils, you really just need to cook until the tomatoes soften and start to dissolve into the soup. If using dry lentils, give it long enough for them to soften. The longer you cook it, obviously the less ‘soupy’ it will be. Add more stock if it’s looking too stew like.
Serve as is or, as I have here, with some delicious chorizo sausage. It’s equally lovely with run of the mill sausages or a sprinkle of feta cheese and parsley.
* I have made this using Balsamic Vinegar as well, but I prefer the flavour of the Worchestershire.