Soups to mend a broken heart: Hoskers' lentil soup


I'm not saying anyone's got a broken heart. What I'm saying is this soup is the culinary equivalent of Petula Clark's 1965 hit Downtown. This soup mends everything, fixes everything, warms everything and quells everything. This soup pretty much brought me up.

My best friend Rachael's Mum used to cook vats of this soup in a huge pressure cooker at their house over the weekend, when we'd wait in the kitchen to eat bowl after bowl. It would simmer away for hours before being blended into a smooth, rich liquid we'd dip pitta bread and bagels in to. When I moved away from home, the first thing I asked for to put in my new kitchen was a pressure cooker and a blender, so I could make this soup. It's not glamorous or show-stopping, it's delicious, cheap and sustaining.

We eat it before gigs, coming home from nights out, for Sunday lunch, for Monday lunch, for catch ups and for late-night suppers. It freezes well and will keep on the stove for around a day, deepening in flavour after a few hours. I've kept the Hoskers' recipe the same, just switching chicken stock for vegetable stock instead.

Makes enough for six bowls

Ingredients
1 mugful of red lentils, rinsed with a sieve
3 potatoes, peeled and diced
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
400 ml (or more) of vegetable stock
Few glugs of oil
Salt, pepper, and extra seasoning if you fancy it (chili, paprika, coriander all work well added at the end)

Take the largest pan you can find. Sweat an onion in oil for around five minutes. Add the chopped potato and carrot and stir in. Boil the kettle or prepare your stock so it is ready to pour in. Add the red lentils to the pan, mix in with all the vegetables, then add in the stock to ensure the lentils don't burn to the bottom of the pan. I would leave off seasoning for now until everything is cooked to gauage how the stock is absorbed by the lentils and vegetables.

Allow to simmer for around 30-40 minutes. Check back every 10 or 15 minutes or so to ensure the lentils haven't absorbed all the water. Top up with any leftover stock or water if this happens. Once the potatoes and lentils are cooked through, take off the heat and blend with a hand blender or mixer. Now season to taste, it may need quite a bit of salt to take the bitterness away from the lentils. I like to toast croutons to have along side this, or a huge loaf of bread to tear apart- so bowl up and enjoy.