There’s nothing quite so heart-warming as a hearty bowl of soup on a brisk winter or fall day. Now that the warm weather will be rolling in (soon, hopefully) I want to give soup season the send-off it truly deserves!
Whether it’s spicy or simple, textured or smooth, soup can be just the thing to get you out of your bad-day funk or your wintry mix mood.
My kitchen is relatively tiny (in fact I often find myself having to span a cutting board across the sink for lack of counter space – I would NOT recommend that), but I’ve managed to work out a system for super-effective soup making! I try and keep everything to a “one-pot wonder” as my mother always called it. I use a single, tall pot –one narrow enough to fit in my stingy-sized cupboard– but the best addition to my team of culinary tools? My hand-blender! These guys come cheap if you don’t want to splurge, and they pack up small (some can even fit in a good-sized kitchen drawer), and it is the key to making any kind of smooth or creamy soup.
[Hint: A hand blender is also excellent for making veggie purees to serve as a side dish; try parsnip or cauliflower: both are indulgently creamy, yet light.]
My tiny kitchen. If I can make it work, anyone can.
In this three-part post, I’ll show you three scrumptious soups I cooked up this winter – all from scratch.
First up is...
Lentil Veggie Stew
Some may quibble about the distinctions between a soup and a stew, but this rich and thick veggie mix is definitely a main dish. With a plentiful variety of ingredients in each bite, there is never a dull moment. A single spoonful transports you right back to childhood –maybe the one you actually had, or maybe a fantasy childhood where someone would have made you a homemade bowl of lentil stew– and for me, alone in a small apartment, it made me feel like I was at home on holiday with my family. At least, it did while the bowl lasted.
Lentils are a low-fat, candida-safe carbohydrate. They are also a great way to get protein into your diet if you’re like me, and don’t often cook meat for yourself.
For all you Candida-dieters out there, this soup has almost no sugars. The only minute amount comes from the carrots. I leave them in to treat myself, because I adore carrots in soup, and when you’re on this diet, you know well enough how hard it can be to always feel like you’re denying yourself everything. But if it’s not worth the sugar for you, go ahead and substitute them.
Start with boiling lentils in a pot of salted water. I used French lentils, because they hold their shape throughout the cooking process. If you would rather your lentils blend into your liquid more you might try the larger black ones.
Once the lentils are done (about 30 minutes) strain them and set them to the side. Rinse your pot (or get out a larger soup pot if you have the luxury of many pots, which I do not) and get ready to sauté your vegetables.
One beauty of this recipe is you can use almost any veggie you like or have available to you locally. I change it up a little each time I make it. This batch has carrots, celery, onion and spinach. Chop up your veggies making sure each piece is as even in size as possible, so they cook at the same rate. Heat your pot on the stovetop, then coat the bottom with olive oil. Throw in your veggies and season with salt, and pepper.
Once your vegetable mix has softened, add a box of organic chicken or vegetable stock (I use chicken for richness of flavor, but vegetarians or vegans can use Vegetable stock).
Next add your lentils. Spice your mix however you want; I chose a pinch of Herbs de Provence, and a delicate hand of nutmeg and ginger. Those aromatic spices really lent the finished product a warm-you-from-the-inside-out feeling. Put a lid on it with a little room for steam to vent, and cook it down until the whole stew is integrated and has more body than liquid.
Serve hot, and save any leftovers in Tupperware: this recipe is fine to freeze and reheats wonderfully. Bon-Appétit!