by little red pen
There’s a soup I make when something needs nourishing — the body, the bank balance, the soul. It’s a soup that restores, that brings quiet to the frazzled, goodness to the weary, sustenance to the hungry.
I’ve made it on Thursday nights when the end of the week feels still too far away; I’ve made it for new mothers, for friends facing health problems, for my father, who welcomes all meals with joy and thanks, and for my sons, who freely express both gratitude and distaste as the mood takes them. I’ve made it in the face of death and as the murky heart of a dinosaur-themed birthday party, where it did a convincing job as mud soup.
It’s good with scones or bread, or just on its own. I like it with a squeeze of lemon and a dollop of yoghurt, and I like it best with a cold white wine and a book, bien sûr. It’s from Cuisine, with editorial tweaks.
It’s a soup that tastes of earth and green, green leaves, of warmth and freshness and life. It’s a soup for earthenware bowls and old kitchens and good people. It’s a soup for you.
Spinach and lentil soup
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 or 2 carrots, finely chopped
175g Puy lentils (or other green lentils if not available)
1 litre vegetable stock
350g spinach, well washed and coarsely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons of cumin, fennel and coriander seeds, toasted and crushed
juice of 1 lemon
Place enough olive oil in a large saucepan to cover the base. Add
the onion, garlic, celery and carrots, then gently fry for 10 minutes until everything starts to colour. Obviously, I just use whatever combination of soup-base vegetables I have in the house.
Wash the lentils and check for little stones and grit then drain and add to the saucepan. Add the vegetable stock and simmer for 20 minutes, skimming off any foam that accumulates on the surface. Puy lentils are the bomb, but they can be pricey, so feel free to try any other lentils, split peas, etc.
After 20 minutes, stir the spinach into the soup; it will wilt quickly. Season with salt and pepper, and add the crushed seeds and lemon juice. Use whatever seeds you like — fennel is really good with this, but some of those warmer flavours are helpful too.
Purée the soup, but not too much. Taste and adjust the seasoning (it takes a generous amount). Squeeze extra lemon juice into your bowl if you like that sort of thing and bung in some yoghurt.