It’s getting colder. Today, it’s especially cold. Talking in the kitchen at work this morning about what we’re all eating to keep warm – soups, stews and casseroles are all on the menu. My favourites; Beef stroganoff, Lamb shanks and Cauliflower blue cheese soup… and maybe some Macaroni cheese if I’m being naughty. I don’t have a slow cooker, but I really need to invest in one this winter I think.
Soups are the easiest way we can eat to keep warm, big hearty soups. My mum makes a great Lentil and bacon soup that’s kind of my go-to winter soup – it’s so easy to make, filling and full of flavour. There’s usually a container of it stashed deep in my freezer but I’m due to make another batch soon, so I’ll decipher a recipe (I only have the ingredients written on a post-it note in my recipe folder, so if it sounds a bit slap-dash, that’s because it is).
Still in the kitchen, we got to talking about lentils and how we love lentils! (Gosh, is that really what I sound like? I’m getting excited about lentils in the kitchen at work… Oh dear). Lentils are one of my favourite additions to any meal – soups, salads, curries, stews – they have a lovely earthy nutty flavour and are a great source of protein. Did you know they actually have a higher protein content the beef? I didn’t! A great recipe from Sprouted Kitchen just landed in my inbox while I was writing this post for Braised leeks with muscovado lentils. Definitely giving that one a go.
Still on lentils and winter warmers – I’m loving this Green lentil soup with curried brown butter & paneer from 101 Cookbooks right now. Paneer is a South Asian cottage cheese that I first tried back in 1997 at a restaurant in Delhi. I remember because it’s when I fell in love with my now-favourite Indian dish, Palak paneer – beautiful velvety spiced spinach with fresh cubes of paneer. I’m pleased to have now found another place for paneer in my recipe repertoire with this soup – including it is optional – it’s the curried brown butter that really makes this soup special.
Green lentil soup with curried brown butter
Serves: 4-6; Prep time: 5 minutes; Cook time: 45 minutes
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, ghee, or extra-virgin coconut oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
½ tsp red pepper flakes
5 ½ cups (1.3 litres) good-tasting vegetable stock or water
1 ½ cups (300g) green lentils or split peas, picked over and rinsed
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp Indian curry powder
½ cup (125ml) coconut milk
Fine-grain sea salt
1 bunch fresh chives, minced
Small cubes of pan fried paneer (optional)
– Combine the 2 Tbsps unsalted butter/ghee/extra-virgin/coconut oil, onion, garlic and red pepper flakes in a large soup pot over medium heat, stirring regularly, until the onions soften, a couple minutes. Add the vegetable broth and lentils and simmer, covered, until the lentils are tender. This usually takes 20 to 30 minutes, but can take as long as 50 minutes
– In the meantime, warm the 3 Tbsps butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and let it brown. When it starts to smell nutty and fragrant, stir in the curry powder and sauté until the spices are fragrant, less than a minute. When the lentils are finished cooking, remove from the heat, stir in the coconut milk and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and puree with an immersion blender. You can leave the soup a bit chunky if you like, or puree until it is perfectly smooth
– Stir in half of the spiced butter, taste, and add more salt, if needed, typically a couple of teaspoons if you used water instead of a salted broth. Serve drizzled with the remaining spice butter and sprinkled with chives, (and paneer cubes if you’re using them)