It’s that time of year: Man-flu season is upon us. Now, living with five male housemates this presented more than the usual problem of a couple of snotty Kleenex lying around. At the sound of the first sniffle came the realization that an epidemic was, quite literally, within sneezing distance. I tend to use soup in a similar fashion as I do tea. In the face of any impending disaster or illness- Just Add Soup. In my humble opinion it has to power to cure anything: scientifically so because when it is home-made it’s packed with veg and vitamins and less scientifically so because it quite simply warms those cockles of the heart.
In looking for a hearty cold-busting soup this was no time for a refined minty- pea. Instead, it was a moment to reach for the big-boys of the vegetable world: the Root Veg. Rather like a Bouncer with an ‘I love my mum’ tattoo, the rather uncouth and knobbly-looking root vegetables like squash and parsnip are surprisingly sweet. They do well then with bolder flavours like garlic and spice to give them an edge. Moreover, these veg are in season at this time of year, which makes them good value and, more importantly, can be bought British-grown.
If you don’t like your food to be too spicy, leave out the fresh chilli, the paste and spices alone will give it a slight kick. And fear not if you don’t have any lentils to hand, they are not essential, but I do recommend trying them; like the spice they prevent the soup from being too sweet by giving an earthy depth to the flavour.
x1 onion, chopped
clove garlic, crushed
½ red chilli, sliced and deseeded
(Try a different variety from Butternut, British-grown seasonal squash are delicious at this time of year)
1tbsp curry paste (I strongly recommend Patak’s)
a handful of green lentils
about 1 ½ pints of good-quality chicken stock
1tbsp crème fraiche
Remove the woody centre of the parsnips- this is easily done by quartering the parsnip, then slicing this central woody part out. Peel and chop all the vegetables into small chunks.
In a large pan heat 2tbsp olive oil, add the onions and garlic, and cook slowly to soften.
Add the spices, curry paste and red chilli, stir, and cook for a couple of minutes.
Add all the chopped vegetables and lentils, pour over enough chicken stock to come an inch or so above the veg.
Cover the pan with a lid, and simmer until the vegetables and lentils are soft. Season.
Remove the pan from the heat, allow to cool for five minutes.
Blend your soup to however smooth you like it. Personally, I prefer it so there are still some lumps in there for texture. Stir in the crème fraiche.