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‘Please Sue, may I have some more…’
When I ran the vegetarian restaurant, at this time of year there was always a thick wholesome and very tasty, often healthy home made soup on the menu. There were numerous varieties and we sold as much as we could make. Possibly because of the big chunks of home made bread that accompanied it, but also because the soups were so quick and cheap to make – we simply did not have to charge very much and were more than happy to top up the bowls of those guests who wanted some more. Customers also often had a ‘take away’ and brought their own empty jars or thermos flasks to take some home or back to the office to heat up for the next day’s lunch. I also made copious amounts for the Farmer’s Market.
One of the most popular and my own favourite was Lentil and Tomato. It really is so easy I am almost embarrassed to tell all, but will be brave and share this.
Cook 500g of ‘no- need to-pre-soak’ dried red lentils with a couple of inches of cold water in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil. Once boiled, turn the heat down and simmer for about 20 minutes until really soft. Don’t undercook the lentils as you will get gritty soup but also watch they don’t catch the pan or dry up – burnt lentils truly stink, taste vile and destroy your pan. So, don’t worry if you feel you need to add more water. Skim off any white scum that usually appears. If you were cooking the lentils for say a cashew and lentil bake or curried lentil pie – delicious recipes for another day- then they need to be as dry as poss, but don’t worry if they are still pretty wet for soup.
Now add 2 litres of good quality tomato juice. Remember what Tom says ‘if you use economy ingredients you get an economy result’ so the better the tomatoes the richer and tastier the soup. You could also use tinned tomatoes or a litre of juice and a couple of tins of tomatoes.Ironically this is not a time to use fresh tomatoes – they just don’t have the same taste at this time of year. Gently heat through. As it is, this simple combination of lentils and tomatoes is frankly pretty bland but add a really generous couple of pinches of salt, white sugar and a good grind of pepper and just taste to see the difference it makes. You could serve the soup as it is which will be very tasty and pretty wholesome with the lentils still holding some of their shape or blitz with the trusty hand blender to smooth.
Now, for another idea…this quantity would serve a good 12 portions so why not split it into 3 lots of 4 or 6 lots of 2 and freeze. Then each time you want a soup, simply defrost the lentil and tomato one and keep it veggie (actually it is vegan as it is but don’t tell everyone!) and either enjoy as it is or alter it every time. Top with some home made garlic croutons.Or sprinkle some mozzarella on top to melt gloriously. Add some chopped cooked gammon or crispy fried bacon. Another time add a good splash of Worcester sauce. Or tear some fresh basil or coriander leaves into it. Or for a spicy kick – a tablespoon of my cupboard standby, sweet chilli sauce. This soup is also a super basis for a fish soup – just add some cooked shell fish and white fish; or how about a yummy bean soup– just add some tinned mixed pulses and beans, chickpeas or butter beans.