Leek and Lentil Soup served with leek topping
A delicious and economical soup which is easy to cook and freezes well. Vegetarian as well.
This recipe suggests using split red lentils because they cook quickly, do not need soaking and are readily available. Other lentils can be used but study the instructions on the pack - they may need to be soaked before cooking.
Ingredients for Leek and Lentil Soup
One medium leek trimmed (two if you want the decorative topping)
Two medium tomatoes or 1 heaped tablespoon of tomato concentrate
300g / 10½oz split red lentils
Two garlic cloves
1.6l / 2.8 pints vegetable stock
1 Tablespoon of lemon juice
1½ teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon of medium curry paste (amount dependant on your taste)
4 tablespoons of olive oil - use 6 tablespoons if you are using an additional leek for the decorative topping
Salt and pepper to taste
Top and tail the leeks, remove the outer layer and slice finely. Then chop the slices in half. Now skip to step one of the recipe to fry the leeks and come back here while the leeks are cooking.
Peel the hard skin from the ginger then finely grate.
Peel the tomatoes (see hints and tips above) then remove the majority of seeds and finely chop.
Peel, top and tail and finely chop the garlic cloves.
When you slice a leek, each slice tends to remain whole even though it consists of lots of individual rings. To break up the rings simply cut them in half and they will fall apart much more easily. Turning them in the pan will be sufficient to separate the layers.
The base ingredients of this soup are leek and slit red lentils. The lentils thicken the soup, absorb flavours and provide some texture.
The recipe below fries the leeks on a low heat for around 30 minutes. This caramelises them which in turn makes them sweeter. Have a taste of some of the leeks just before you add them to the soup and you will be surprised how sweet they really are.
To peel the tomatoes, nick the skin in a couple of places with a knife, plunge into boiling water for 30 seconds and then into cold water. The skin can then easily be peeled off. If you are in a hurry, forget the tomatoes and add one heaped tablespoon of tomato concentrate to the soup instead.
Read the packet instructions for the lentils and, if not using split red lentils, choose ones which can be cooked without soaking. Most varieties nowadays are of this type but still check to make sure.
In step 1 of the recipe instructions below we say to "caramelise" the chopped leeks. Leeks (and onions) are naturally sweet but this sweetness is locked in. To release it you need to fry the leeks on a low medium heat for 30 minutes or more. This proceess will release the natural sugars in the leeks.
It is important not to burn the leeks which can occur if the heat is too high. Take the time to fry them on a low to medium heat and turn the leeks frequently during this process, In the end, the leeks shoudl be a medium brown colour, not blackened.
Pour the olive oil into a frying pan on a low medium heat and then add the sliced leeks. Turn them well so that they are all fully coated with the olive oil. Fry them gently for about 30 minutes until they have turned brown and caramelised.
If the leeks haven't caramelised after 30 minutes then turn the heat up a bit and continue to fry until they do caramelise.
If you have fried the additional leek for decoration then remove half the leeks and place to one side on kitchen paper. Take the leeks from the frying pan and place them in the large pan (the frying pan will probably not be large enough).
Add the curry paste (1 teaspoon) to the leeks in the pan and stir in well. Now add the split red lentils (300g) and stir gently for a minute.STEP 3
Add the two peeled tomatoes (or a heaped tablespoon of tomato concentrate), two chopped garlic cloves, 1.6l of vegetable stock, one tablespoon of lemon juice, 1½ teaspoons grated ginger and salt / pepper to taste, stir them well and simmer for 25 minutes. Taste the soup and add more salt and pepper as required.
Serve your lentil and leek soup in warmed bowls with some crusty bread. If you have caramelised the additional leek, then simply sprinkle a little over the top of each bowl of soup.