Lentil and Vegetable Soup

It has been a month of excess here.  Jewish holidays, ridiculous amounts of entertaining and a brief Italian interlude for a friend's spectacular birthday celebration, puts me on an official indulgent meal break.

Filled with good intentions, I started last week with a clean slate, and a large pot of lentil soup. This is my perfect autumn lunch.  While this steaming bowl of comfort is the perfect transition into a new season, it is substantial enough for a meal with a slice of crusty bread or a salad, yet still high on the clean eating spectrum.

This soup is an amalgamation of just about every lentil soup recipe I have ever made.  It is endlessly flexible.  Please feel free to tinker with the herbs or vegetables depending on your preference on any given day.  I usually add spinach towards the end of cooking, but sometimes replace it with cavolo nero or chard, or leave it out completely depending on what (if any) is on hand.

However if and when you adapt this recipe, please do not leave out the squeeze of lemon just before serving.  It is an essential flavour borrowed from Persian red lentil soup recipes.  While the creamy Persian version is completely different both in texture and flavour to this one, the squirt of lemon once the soup is ladled into the bowl brings all the elements together and just makes the lentils sing.

So, with this soup I am waving goodbye to celebrations for the next few weeks, and embracing lower temperatures, beautiful leaves and jackets.  Roll on winter and all the glories of soups, stews and of course Thanksgiving.

Lentil and Vegetable Soup

2-3 tbsp olive oil

2 onions

2 carrots

2 celery sticks

1 leek

1 fennel bulb

4 sprigs thyme

1 sprig rosemary

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 fresh bay leaf

1/2 tsp chili flakes

300g puy lentils, rinsed

1litre (4 cups) vegetable stock

salt and pepper

150g baby spinach leaves

To serve:

Chopped fresh parsley

squeeze of lemon juice

Chop onions, carrots, celery, leek and fennel

Heat oil in a soup pan and add the chopped vegetables and the thyme, rosemary and bay leaf and sweat on a medium heat for 7-10 minutes.

Add the garlic and chili flakes and cook for another 2 minutes

Add the rinsed lentils and stir to combine with vegetables

Cover with the stock and bring to the boil.  Lower the heat to a simmer and partially cover pot.

Cook for 20-25 minutes until the lentils are cooked.

A few minutes before the end of cooking, add the spinach and allow it to wilt into the soup.

Some people like this soup as is, but I like to blitz it just a little to give a mixture of texture.  Either remove 1/4 of the soup, blend and pour back into the pot. Or with a soup wand you can blitz the soup 3 or 4 times just to blend a small amount (keeping the soup chunky) without the extra washing up.

Serve with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and a good squeeze of lemon juice.

Enjoy!