Lentil soup or any kind of variation thereof brings back vivid childhood memories for me. My nana used to make a huge pot of lentil soup, with a ham bone, that she would have sitting cooking or keeping warm for us coming to visit, or when we stayed with her, and it was, frankly one of my favourite meals and I had a reputation for being able to eat several bowls and having to be remidned that other people also wanted some.
Whilst her recipe took time and effort, and I do occasionally make it, this version I make when we are feeling ill, or I just want something warm, filling, delicious and also good for us, is easier and quicker.
Lentils are a highly nutritious and versatile food that offer numerous health benefits. Here are some key reasons why lentils are good for you:
- Rich in Nutrients: Lentils are packed with essential nutrients. They are an excellent source of plant-based protein, providing around 18 grams of protein per cup (cooked). They also offer a significant amount of dietary fiber, which aids digestion and helps regulate blood sugar levels.
- Low in Fat: Lentils are naturally low in fat, making them a heart-healthy choice. They are virtually devoid of saturated fat and cholesterol, which can contribute to cardiovascular diseases.
- High in Fiber: The high fiber content in lentils promotes feelings of fullness, helping with weight management. It also supports a healthy gut microbiome and can lower the risk of colon cancer.
- Rich in Minerals: Lentils are a good source of several essential minerals, including iron, magnesium, and potassium. Iron is crucial for oxygen transport in the blood, while magnesium and potassium help regulate blood pressure and muscle function.
- Low Glycemic Index: Lentils have a low glycemic index (GI), meaning they release glucose slowly into the bloodstream. This can help control blood sugar levels and prevent spikes, making lentils an excellent choice for individuals with diabetes.
- Antioxidants: Lentils contain various antioxidants, including flavonoids and polyphenols, which protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. These compounds can reduce the risk of chronic diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease.
- Rich in Vitamins: Lentils are a good source of essential vitamins, such as folate (vitamin B9), which is crucial for DNA synthesis and cell growth. They also provide vitamins like B6 and thiamine, which play a role in energy metabolism and overall health.
- Promote Digestive Health: The dietary fiber in lentils supports a healthy digestive system by preventing constipation and promoting regular bowel movements.
- Versatile and Affordable: Lentils are easy to incorporate into a wide variety of dishes, from soups and stews to salads and side dishes. They are also relatively affordable, making them an accessible option for people of all income levels.
My lentil soup recipe takes about 15 minutes to prep, and for 10 portions costs about £5. It can be frozen, and is super filling. You can also use whatever you have in the fridge or cupboard too, so it can be made as cheaply or not, as you need. It’s also gluten and dairy free and you can make it vegan or vegetarian as you prefer.
You will need:
1 litre of vegetable stock and 2 litres of water
3 diced finely
Half a white cabbage or three sticks of celery, finely chopped (you can use both if you have and want to bulk out the soup
2 white onions
3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
Worcester sauce (we use this gluten free variety)
5 large tomatoes, finely chopped, don’t worry about the skin (if you want to use one tin of chopped tomatoes you can, or a two tablespoons of tomato paste you can, instead too)
500g of red lentils (these work best, for the texture of the soup, but if you want to use yellow or green you can)
If you want to add meat or protein, you can use 200g of diced cooked chicken, cured ham, or if you prefer to skip meat, you can add chickpeas, and tinned chickpeas are fine.
A large saucepan or soup pan
How to make:
- Heat the oil, approximately one table spoon full, in the bottom of the pan, medium heat.
- Add the onions, celery if using and garlic and stir and let them soften. Don’t let them brown. This takes about 3 minutes.
- Add the cabbage and Worcester sauce and stir. Let the cabbage soften down, this takes about 10 minutes, again it doesn’t need to brown just soften. (we use this Worcester sauce, it’s vegan and gluten free)
- Add the carrots and stir again.
- Then add your lentils and mix them in thoroughly and allow them to absorb some of the vegetable flavour.
- Add your vegetable stock. And bring to the boil. Add half the 2 litres of water at this point, bring to a simmer, and then turn it down to just bubbling away. Let this cook for about 40 minutes
- You can then add your cooked chicken, ham or chickpeas if you want and add the rest of the water. Check for seasoning taste and add salt and pepper to your taste requirements.
- Cook for a further 20-30 minutes until the lentils are tender.
- If you have some, you can add some fresh parsley before you serve it.
You can freeze this in portion sizes and reheat or it keeps in the fridge for about 3 days in a sealed container.
We serve our lentil soup with fresh bread, and it never fails to make my family happy and fill their tummies.