Soup – Comfort In A Bowl

Is there anything more comforting than a warm bowl of homemade soup on a chilly day? Up until I moved to Chicago in my teens, I had grown up eating hot lunch every day. Going to school in the tropics meant starting at 7 in the morning and going home at 1 before it got too hot. It spoiled me, and I could never really feel happy about eating a sandwich and an apple out of a paper bag after that.

Eating a hot lunch is one of my absolute favorite things about working from home and I wonder how many people have discovered this simple pleasure since Covid sent us all scurrying indoors. And while I enjoy making eggs and quesadillas, the easiest, fastest, and probably most nutritious hot lunch is a bowl of homemade soup.

Soup is brilliant because you can make a big pot of it and either eat it several days in a row, or freeze it in portions. And while there are certainly complicated and time-consuming soups, there are so many that you can whip up in under 30 minutes using the simplest and cheapest ingredients.

Have You Skipped Your Meat Today?

Did you know it was National Meatless Week? I didn’t. I don’t keep up with International Waffle Day, or National Cupcake Day, or World People Who Stand On Their Heads Eating Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Day. They strike me as a social media fabrication whose sole purpose is giving people an easy reason to post. And anyway, what’s the point of calling something a holiday if you don’t get the day off?

This week on my podcast, The Joys & Challenges of Midlife, I interviewed vegan cooking coach, Lie Hoogenbroek. Earlier that day, a friend told me it was National Meatless Week here in the Netherlands and it seemed like fate. Lie and I are both cooking fanatics, so after I hit the “pause recording” button on our ZOOM call, we got to talking about what we liked to make for lunch and dinner. As I told her about a Turkish lentil soup recipe I had recently discovered, I started to have such a craving for it that I went to my kitchen and made some the minute we hung up! And that’s the beauty of this soup – you probably have all of the ingredients in your cupboard.

“Maybe just once, I’d like to keep the lentils off the floor.”  ~Neil Pye

Lentils have gotten a bad rap. For years, the very word conjured up images of The Young Ones and Neil’s daily pot of gray goop. As a kid, I thought they tasted like dirt. And I had to laugh when Dom DeLuise introduced his mother’s lentil soup recipe with a warning not to serve it to anyone under 30 in his book, Eat This… It’ll Make You Feel Better!

I think this soup might turn out to be an exception to that rule. I tested it on a 19 year-old and a 21 year-old and they both loved it. Although, the second time I served it, my youngest was kind enough to point out that we’d all be farting up a storm for the rest of the day. Boys…

The beauty of this soup is that you can make it vegan by skipping the butter, you can make it vegetarian by using water or vegetable stock. You can even throw caution to the wind and toss in some meatballs at the end if you like – but not this week! Actually, unless you’re in The Netherlands, you could wait until World Meat Free Week – that’s after Donald Duck Day and before National Selfie Day…

On the other hand, this soup is so filling that you really don’t need anything else, even if you’re having it for dinner. Just have some lovely flatbread for dipping and maybe a small green salad.

So if you have an onion, some garlic, a potato, some tomato paste, and a bag of lentils, let’s get this soup started!

“Real soup is to the body what peace is to the soul.”  ~Isabel Allende

Turkish Red Lentil Soup With Paprika Oil

Ingredients

2 TBS olive oil
2 TBS butter (or olive oil)
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 TBS tomato paste
1 potato, peeled and diced
1 cup/200g dried red lentils
4 cups/1 liter chicken bouillon (or water, or vegetable stock)
salt & pepper to taste
1 tsp dried mint

For serving:

Lemon slice
Paprika oil (or paprika powder)
Bread

Paprika Oil

1/2 cup sunflower oil
1 TBS sweet paprika powder

Preparation

Warm the oil and butter in a heavy bottomed pot over high heat.

Add the onion and garlic and a sprinkle of salt and sauté until almost translucent.

Add the tomato paste and stir for another minute.

Add the potatoes and stir again until everything is nicely coated and a little bit caramelized.

Add the lentils and the stock and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot.

Simmer for 20 minutes, giving it a stir half way through to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom.

Add your crushed dried mint and blitz with a hand blender (or in a regular blender) until smooth.

Return to the pot and taste. Add pepper and, if needed, more salt.

Serve in a bowl, drizzle with paprika oil and squeeze a quarter lemon over it.

Alternatively, sprinkle with paprika powder or chilli powder.

Serve with some kind of crusty bread, pita, or flatbread that you’ve spread with olive oil and toasted in the oven.

*NOTE: This soup is really filling, but if you want some meat, you can add meatballs to it, or some sliced chicken sausage

To make the Paprika Oil:

Put the oil in a small pot, stir in the paprika, and heat over low until it just starts to bubble.

Take it off the heat right away and let it sit and come to room temperature.

Pour it through a strainer, or coffee filter, into a glass jar or squeezy bottle and refrigerate.

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