This is the only word that adequately describes this cosy, comforting butternut and lentil soup that has a spicy kick so it doesn’t get too monotonous. It’s the edible equivalent of being wrapped up in a warm mohair blanky by a roaring fire in midwinter, with a bit of Bollywood music going in the background (Ravi Shankar on the sitar is what I’m thinking).
And it gets better: it freezes very well, plus it’s vegetarian (and easily converted to vegan if you replace the cream with a non-dairy substitute). So when snooty vegetarian guests arrive for dinner sighing tragically over the barbaric carnivorous feast you’ve prepared (is it just me or do they just love to surprise you with their new vegetarianism at the last minute), you can whip a bowl of delicious nutritious soup out the freezer and put on your smug-super-prepared-hostess face.
It’s packed with protein and fibre from the lentils so it’s extra-filling – a little goes a very long way; serve with savoury cheese and black pepper rusks for the best way to show a chilly winter evening who’s boss.
For a vast cauldron (8 – 10 servings) of Spicy Butternut & Lentil Soup:
2 onions, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 (or more) fat cloves of garlic, crushed
2 green (Serrano) chillies, finely chopped (use the seeds too)
lots of curry powder
lots of ground cumin
a bit of ground coriander seed
a bit of ground ginger
1kg butternut, peeled and cut into rough chunks
500g dried lentils (the regular brown ones)
About a litre of chicken stock
250ml fresh cream or non-dairy subsitute such as Orley Whip (don’t substitute the cream with yoghurt – I tried this once and turned a large pot of soup into gloop that tasted like a weird dip from a Greek restaurant).
Heat oil in a large pot and fry the onion until translucent.
Add the garlic and chilli and stir-fry for a minute.
Add the spices, butternut, lentils and stock, then simmer for about 45 minutes or until the butternut is cooked through.
Now think of all the things that have upset you recently while you get the stick blender ready. Did someone cut in front of you in traffic when you were already late? Did someone else get the last pair of The Shoes of Salvation in your size at a sale? Think of all these horrible things as you blitz the bejeezus out of your soup until it’s smooth-ish but still has some texture to it. Do you feel better now? I thought so.
Stir the cream through the swampy mush in the pot (it doesn’t taste like it looks, promise) and allow to simmer gently for a further 15 minutes. Add a little water if its too thick and stodgy.
If you don’t need the entire quantity, allow it to cool then ladle it into either the big A4-sized zippy freezer bags, or the little sandwich-sized ones (if you’re a bachelorette this size is ideal). It is easier if you invert the bottom part of the bag slightly, forming a more-or-less round “base” (this also holds the top open). Then park it in a large jug, and spoon the deliciousness in. Make absolutely sure it’s sealed (very sealed. this much sealed) then carefully lay it flat in the freezer so that it freezes in a thin layer. It will look really weird (like frozen dinosaur poop) but when it’s frozen like this instead of in a large chunk, it defrosts much faster.
So ladle yourself a bowl of delicious, thick, warms-you-from-the-inside-out soup. Get Ravi Shankar playing, wrap yourself up in a mohair blanky by a roaring fire, and sip your soup with a good book – I haven’t read them myself (yet), but give P. L. Travers’ Mary Poppins series a go and let me know if its as good as the soup…
When trying to express oneself, it’s frankly quite absurd,
To leaf through lengthy lexicons to find the perfect word.
A little spontaniety keeps conversation keen,
You need to find a way to say, precisely what you mean…