Red lentil soup with harissa & lemon

As we head into chillier days, soup is back on the menu. We love having a big pot of this in the fridge for weekday lunches when there isn’t always time to make something from scratch. This recipe uses very modest and cheap ingredients, but the whole thing is elevated by the spicy harissa and warm cumin. I recently forgot to add the lemon juice at the end. I couldn’t understand why the soup was so disappointing and then I realised my error. The lemon juice ties the whole thing together, a tangy prod that keeps you diving in for more. Serve with buttered crusty bread or toast.

Red lentil soup with harissa & lemon (vegan)

Serves at least 6

4 tbsp olive oil
350 g waxy potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1 cm cubes
220 g carrots, peeled and chopped into 1 cm cubes
1 large onion, finely chopped
2-3 fat garlic cloves, grated on a microplane or crushed
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp harissa
½ tsp ground cumin
200 g red lentils
2 litre water
2-3 handfuls of chopped kale
35 g lemon juice (or to taste)

Set a large pot on a medium heat (I use a 4.5 L pot) and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the chopped potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, and 1 tsp of salt and toss so everything is nicely coated. Cover the pot with a lid, reduce the heat to medium low, and allow everything to sweat for 15 minutes, stirring at least once to make sure the veg doesn’t stick. Add the cumin, tomato paste and harissa, and allow to cook for a couple of minutes more.

Add the lentils, stirring to combine. Pour in the water, add the kale and another 1 tsp of salt. Stir everything together then taste the water. If it doesn’t taste salty enough to you, add a pinch or two more. Bring to the boil, uncovered, then once boiling, replace the lid, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for another 15 minutes. With about 5 minutes to go, use a potato masher to mash some of the vegetables a bit. You want to keep the soup chunky, but mashing a little helps to thicken it. At the end of cooking, add the lemon juice and stir. Taste and adjust the seasoning as you please.

Serve immediately, with an extra drizzle of olive oil on top if you like. This soup will taste even better the next day, and keeps very well in the fridge for several days.

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