TOM’S COOKBOOK LIBRARY: Curried lentil soup good year-round

Yielding to a passion for fresh, seasonal food – and to inspire others to share their enthusiasm –
Chloe Coker and Jane Montgomery collaborated to produce “The Vegetarian Pantry” (Ryland Peters & Small).

This well-conceived volume has plenty that will appeal not only to vegans and vegetarians but also to meat-eaters seeking to introduce a more varied diet as part of their lifestyle. The co-authors studied together in London at Leiths School of Food & Wine. Admirable food photos by William Reavell dress up their book.

Recipes can easily be adjusted to suit one’s requirements in terms of dairy, gluten and wheat. Divided into six chapters, the book covers Breakfast and Brunch; Small Bites; Dips, Salsas and Sauces; Soups and Salads; Main Dishes; and Sweet Treats. Readers will find a number of tips on what to stock in their pantry and the best ways for storing vegetarian staples such as beans and grains.

Especially good is the Curried Lentil Soup with Fresh Herb Puree. This is a tasty, comforting dish that gets added interest from the swirl of fresh herb puree that’s added prior to serving. If the soup isn’t consumed at one sitting, one can easily add additional vegetable stock while warming the remaining soup, since the lentils likely will have absorbed the two cups originally specified.


CURRIED LENTIL SOUP WITH FRESH HERB PUREE
(Serves 4-6)

1 Tbl. vegetable oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
2 tsp. tumeric
1/2 tsp. garam masala
1 medium sweet potato, chopped
1 1/2 cups dried red split lentils, rinsed and drained
2 cups vegetable stock
1 Tbl. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chunks of crusty bread, to serve (optional)

For the fresh herb puree:
1 tomato
1 garlic clove
3/4 in. fresh ginger, peeled
1 fresh red chilli
Handful of fresh cilantro
1 Tbl. vegetable oil

To make the soup: Heat the vegetable oil in a saucepan set over a low heat and add the shallots. Cover and cook gently for about 5 to 10 minutes until the shallots have softened but have not taken on any color. Add the garlic, chilli and spices and cook for 2 minutes. Add the sweet potato and lentils and stir until well incorporated. Pour in enough stock to cover the ingredients. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer over a low heat for 45 to 60 minutes, until the lentils and potatoes are very soft.

For a smooth soup, give the mixture a good stir to break down the lentils. Season generously with salt and pepper and stir the extra virgin olive oil through the soup.

To make the puree: Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until they form a smooth paste. Ladle into serving bowls and swirl a spoonful of herb puree into each bowl. Serve hot with chunks of crusty bread.