Lentil soup is staple food where I live. It is on offer at least twice a week in the school cafeteria and you can get it in most canteens. Or you can buy a Styrofoam cups full of steaming lentil soup at your local mobile van, where you buy your roll and sausage. It goes well with the roll and sausage. The sausage is always Lorne sausage, uniquely Scottish (I think), greasy but ever so delicious, skinless and square. On the few occasions that we have a fry-up, I cook the Lorne sausage first. Copious amounts of sausage fat will be released, perfect for frying the bacon, tattie scones and last, the eggs. It is divine and perfect for cold mornings when camping in the Highlands. But I digress.
To be honest, I am not a big fan of lentil soup, except if it is my own. Lentil soup is often watery and bland. I prefer my lentil soup thick with chunks of carrot breaking through the surface, flavourful and but not spicy.
We used to call this lentil soup "Gigelisuppe". "Gigelisuppe" is a Swiss German word if you are wondering. Gigelisoup makes you laugh, uncontrollably so. Sam was a fussy eater and needed a bit of convincing to eat it at first. What is more tempting than a soup that makes you shake with laughter?
This particular lentil soup is made with red lentils. Here is how:
Heat up a reasonable amount of olive oil. On a low heat gently soften one chopped onion and two carrots cuts into bite sized chunks, together with a good teaspoon dried thyme or a little more if you are using fresh thyme. I sometimes add pepper and/or celery.
Once the onions are soft, press a clove of garlic into the mix. At the same time, add a heaped teaspoon of yellow mustard seeds. Sometimes I add a whole chili to give it the tiniest hint of spiciness. Continue to cook on a low heat, taking care not the burn the garlic.
After a couple of minutes, add approximately two cups of red lentils and stir them in. Then add a tin of chopped tomatoes. You can use fresh tomatoes if you like but I would suggest that you peel them if you do. I always use tinned tomatoes. Then add water or stock, enough to roughly double the volume in the pan. I like to use the chicken stock that Richard always makes with the carcass of a Sunday roast chicken but stock cubes are fine, too. Bring the soup to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for at least 30 minutes, more if you have time. The soup will get really thick and you might have to add more liquid. At this stage I usually break the soup down a little with the stick blender, just a few seconds. Before serving, I add the zest of a lemon and the juice of at least half the lemon. I also season the soup with salt and pepper. Lastly, stir in a big dollop of natural yogurt.
That's it. We like the soup served with buttered toast or fresh rolls. Sometimes I get a packet of good quality frankfurters (not the sloppy hot dog variety in a tin!) and warm them up in the soup.