Following a comparatively mild winter, a chill has descended upon London in the last week, and it’s pretty much all I hear anybody talking about. Despite my complaints about cold hands and chapped skin, and the constant dilemma of going out and socialising vs. staying at home with a box set, I have been looking forward to the opportunity to cook something really, really warming.
I know I say this a lot, but as the temperatures drop, my mind turns to comfort food. Don’t worry, I’m not going to start harping on about how chicken and dumplings is the ultimate winter warmer (it is) or how I make a mean grilled cheese; because I am temporarily vegan and not eating all of those things right now. Instead, I sought to find a way to make comfort food without its usual essential ingredients: meat and cheese.
Soup is a good place to start, and some might say the best kind of comfort food there is. You only have to walk down to a high street food outlet (Pret or similar) on a cold day and will see customers crowding around the soup stand and just cold air from the street whistling around the salads – even in January when everybody is on a diet of some sort. For me, soup always does the trick in warming me up, especially when in a container you can hug, but it only really constitutes a meal when it’s hearty; a ‘purée’ doesn’t really cut it, unfortunately.
This soup, like many other vegan soups, uses lentils as a main ingredient, which are both filling and don’t interfere too much with the other flavours. Here we have red lentils, which break down to give a thickness, and split peas which retain their shape and give a bit of texture. Coconut milk and curry powder cannot help but be comforting, even on the coldest of days.
Coconut, Curry and Red Lentil Soup
200g red lentils, rinsed
200g yellow split peas, rinsed
1 medium carrot, cut into 1cm dice
2 tbsp finely grated ginger
2 tbsp curry powder
4 spring onions, finely sliced, plus extra for garnish
75g tomato puree
400g tin coconut milk
2 tsp fine salt
Place the lentils and split peas in a large saucepan and cover with 1.5 litres cold water. Bring to the boil and add the carrot and a quarter of the grated ginger. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast the curry powder in a small pan until fragrant and set aside. Heat a little olive oil in a larger pan over a medium heat and sauté the spring onions, raisins and remaining ginger for two minutes. Stir in the tomato purée and cook for a couple of minutes more. Remove from the heat and stir in the curry powder.
Add this mixture to the lentils, along with the coconut milk and salt, and simmer, uncovered, for a further 20 minutes. Served garnished with the remaining spring onions and some sesame seeds.
Adapted from a recipe by 101 Cookbooks. Serves six.