Soup is a wonderful thing. Not only is it cheap and nutritious but you can make soup out of almost anything and it can be a marvellous way of using up left-overs. It is also an excellent and sneaky method of concealing vegetables that your children claim not to like. My younger son resolutely refuses to eat peppers but hide red peppers in a red coloured soup and he will invariably have a second bowlful. Served with nice bread and perhaps a bit of cheese, a pot of soup will feed a family comfortably, fill you up more than you might think and cost next to nothing. Also, the great thing about soup is that you can get away with vegetables that are a little older. If you shop at the end of the day or first thing on Monday morning, there are often fantastic bargains to be had in the reduced sections. At the weekend I bought a 3lb bag of carrots for 20p, a bag of onions for 30p and some mixed peppers for 30p. Together with some lentils, a pot of Lentil, Carrot and Red Pepper Soup cost about 50p and provided me and boys with a hearty supper two nights running. Any remainder can be put in tubs and stored in the freezer (taking care to label the tubs so you know what you’re eating later). Plastic Chinese takeaway tubs make perfect portion containers. It also means that when you’re feeling too tired to cook, you always have a nourishing meal in the freezer which can be ready in a few minutes without resorting to something you might regret.
The basic ingredients for soup are stock, a little oil or butter, an onion and whatever else you want to put in. It really is as simple as that. I would recommend making your own stock when possible but Chicken or vegetable Oxo cubes do the job just as well and can always be kept in the cupboard (see future blogs for basic essential storecupboard ingredients). A stick blender is also your friend here and a basic one can be bought from Argos and elsewhere for as little as £4.89. The great thing about soup is that you can make it how YOU like it – thick or thin, plain or spicy according to taste.
Lentil, Carrot & Red Pepper Soup
This soup is packed full of Vitamin C and protein, so good for everyone!
1 onion – finely chopped *
1 tablespoon of oil *
1 knob of butter *
(4oz) 120g red lentils – cooked as per instructions on the packet *
2 large carrots – finely sliced
1 red pepper – finely sliced
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes *
1 pint stock (approx) – vegetable or chicken *
1 heaped teaspoon of dried parsley *
1 flat teaspoon of coriander powder *
Salt and pepper to taste *
Put the oil and butter into a large pan on a moderate heat (oil stops the butter from burning). When melted, add the onion and cook for five minutes or until translucent. Add the carrots, pepper and tomatoes, then add the cooked lentils. Add the stock a bit at a time, stirring as you do it. Add the parsley and coriander. Cook on a low simmer for about 20 minutes or until the carrots are completely soft. Blend to a puree with your stick blender. If you need a little extra stock to make it thinner, then pour it in a bit at a time until it reaches the desired consistency. Season to taste.
Serve with tasty bread and perhaps a nice bit of cheddar
* Denotes compulsory store cupboard ingredients. I will expand on this in a future blog.