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Tomato & lentil soup

I love this warming, filling soup that’s rich in protein.  With a slice of 100% wholegrain gluten-free or rye bread and a little green salad (or some spinach leaves stirred in to wilt as you heat up the soup) it makes a complete meal.  I usually freeze the leftovers in individual serving sizes to take to work on a cold, frosty day.

For 4 (or 2 with generous leftovers)
Don’t forget to check my larder & shopping section for any new/unusual ingredients
1 onion, chopped
2 sticks celery, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
500ml carton of passata (sieved tomatoes) or a 400g can tomatoes chopped or whole
750ml water or leftover vegetable cooking water (eg from steaming veg)
175g red lentils
1 Kallo vegetable stock cube or ½ tsp Vecon vegetable bouillon
3 heaped tbsp freshly chopped or frozen chopped parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Put the onion, celery, garlic, tomatoes and water into a large pan.  Add the lentils, making sure they are submerged in liquid.  If you put the lentils on the bottom of the pan they tend to stick to the bottom.  .
2. Boil for 20 mins or until the lentils are soft.  Only stir the lentils gently at the very top if they are stuck together, otherwise leave them alone.
3. Mix the Kallo stock cube or the Vecon into a little boiling water until thoroughly dissolved and add to the soup.  Its important not to add the stock cube until the lentils are cooked – salt delays cooking of the lentils making them tough.
4. If you like a smoothish soup then add the parsley and olive oil and blitz with a stick blender or in a food processor.

Variation:
Add 2 sliced carrots along with the celery and onion to make the soup sweeter-tasting.

Health boosting tip:
Soak your lentils for at least 12 hours in cold water.  This starts them sprouting, which makes them even more digestible.  I don’t bother unless I have extra time to spare.

Why this soup is good for you:
Lentils are rich in magnesium which is Nature’s tranquiliser, helping reduce stress.  They and onions are also rich in soluble fibre, which feeds beneficial bacteria in your gut.  “Good” bacteria help produce digestive enzymes to help you digest your food.  They also generate butyrate, which aids daily repair of your bowel –  good news for your skin, your hair, your digestion, even your mood.  Lentils, like all beans and pulses, need to be either sprouted or boiled for at least 10 minutes to make them digestible.  However, lentils, split peas and all sprouted or fermented versions (eg bean sprouts, tofu) are the easiest of the beans/pulses to digest because they are lower in protease inhibitors.  Protease inhibitors are substances that inhibit digestion and are found to some extent in all plant foods – vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans. Remember that beans, seeds and nuts are designed to be eaten by an animal, pass through the gut undigested, and then be deposited by the animal in a nice blob of “fertiliser” to grow into a new plant! Protease inhibitors are found in the skins of beans and pulses and are neutralised by soaking in cold water for at least 12 hours and then sprouting or fermenting or boiling hard for 10 minutes.  Sieved tomatoes (passata) are rich in lycopene and beta carotene – fantastic for eye health and getting heathier looking skin.  The extra virgin olive oil helps your body absorb the beta carotene.