I expect you all know, by now, how much I like to find good soup recipes that can be used in place of the main course. There are so many "meat and vegetable" combination meals out there, that it is nice to find a good hearty soup recipe to ring the changes every now and then.
I was attracted to this vegetarian soup (or it would have been, if I hadn't have used chicken stock) from Bill Granger (via the Good Food Channel website), because it involves oven roasted veggies of your choice. Now this is a real change from most recipes, that direct you to use this vegetable or that vegetable, do this to this one, do that to that one - and you get your meal. With this recipe, you could choose to use whatever you liked from within the winter vegetable category and so long as it could be oven roasted, you could make the soup.
Of course, oven roasting vegetables always intensifies their flavour - which is perfect for soup making. After all, nobody likes a weak flavoured soup that is more water than flavour!
Aside from the vegetable aspect, I also liked the sound of the "spiced" in the name. Using chilli, cumin, coriander and paprika just heaps flavour upon flavour and the addition of red lentils puts heart into the dish, so all the elements were there promising a cracking bowl of soup.
I opted to use carrots, parsnips, celeriac and turnip along with the butternut squash, tomatoes and garlic. The end result was warming and delicious, with the added interest of the yoghurt, sumac and coriander sprinkles that were absolutely essential to the flavours. It's not often that I say the additional garnish is essential to a dish, but in this case the yoghurt gives the creaminess which together with the citrus sharpness of the sumac and freshness of the coriander brings alive the sweet earthiness of the basic soup.
Hubby wasn't as in love with this soup as I was, which I think was entirely down to the lack of a meat ingredient. He liked the flavours, but was left thinking "well that was good for starters, now where's my dinner?" - which is never a good thing. Son and heir enjoyed his soup and was satisfied by it - as was I. The leftovers (because it really does make a lot!) I ate for lunch throughout the week and as is often the way, the flavours just got better as the soup aged.
Upon reflection, I think maybe this soup would be better served just as a lunchtime soup, or as a starter - in rather less quantity. However, you can't argue with its lovely flavours, each of which were distinct and detectable. I would definitely make it again.
SPICED VEGETABLE AND LENTIL SOUP from Bill Granger (Serves 3-5)
1kg mixed winter vegetables (such as carrots, parsnips, celeriac) peeled and cut into 3cm cubes
500g butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and cut int o 3cm cubes
750g tomatoes, quartered
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 small carrot (if you've not included carrot in the winter vegetable mix), chopped
4 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
chilli flakes to taste
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp paprika
1.25 litres vegetable or chicken stock (I used Essential Cuisine chicken stock)
180g red lentils.
To serve :
plain yoghurt - 1 heaped teaspoonful per bowl
sumac for sprinkling
chopped coriander leaves, for sprinkling
warm crusty bread.
1. Preheat the oven to 180degC/350degF/Gas 4. Put the vegetables into a large bowl and drizzle with the oil. Add the spices and season with a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss to coat the vegetables liberally with the flavourings.
2. Turn out onto a large roasting tray lined with silver foil (or two, if necessary, to give the vegetables room to breathe as they cook). Cover and roast for up to an hour, or until the vegetables are soft. You can reduce the amount of time required for roasting by cutting the veggies into smaller chunks.
3. While the vegetables are roasting, add the stock and lentils to a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Spoon out 2-3 spoonfuls of the lentils and reserve.
4. Once the veggies are done, keep two or three of each vegetable cube back and place the rest into the saucepan. Using a hand blender, whizz until smooth. You can add a little more stock or just some water, if the soup becomes too thick.
4. Take the reserved cubes and cut them into bite sized pieces and add them to the soup along with the reserved lentils.
5. Heat through - without boiling - to bring back up to temperature.
6. Serve in warmed bowls with a blob of yoghurt, a sprinkling of sumac and coriander - and some warm crusty bread.