Soup season is on the wane in Sydney but in between the heat spikes, there is still the opportunity to enjoy a nice bowl of soup. This lentil soup is from my archives, a photocopy – from the 1990s when people actually used to photocopy recipes from books. I remember the friend who passed on the recipe but I have no idea where it originally came from. It’s an unusual lentil soup and I remember when I first tasted it, I just couldn’t work out the combination of flavours and texture to even guess what went into it. For a long time, this was one of my favourite soups and I experimented a bit with it, leaving out the cress when I didn’t have it and adding different vegetables. The fennel is kind of essential but, other than that, anything goes. Roast pumpkin and fennel was a particularly good combination (that’s another blast from the the past – roast pumpkin soup).
Although it is no longer on my regular rotation of soups, (my son is not a big fan of pureed soups) it still is a spectacularly delicious soup. The cress and fennel lighten the lentils and it freezes excellently, which is a good thing in this up-and-down spring weather. I made this soup and we had it for dinner just before our intense heat spike when the weather went from the mid-20s to the high 30s overnight. Then I froze the leftovers for another mild, mid-week spring dinner further down the track.
This soup can be vegan, the butter is optional, but I’m a bit obsessed with organic butter at the moment and I really like the flavour spike of the pat of butter stirred through at the end.
Lentil, fennel and cress soup
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 cup of coarsely chopped fennel (bulb only no tops)
- ¾ cup of chopped onions
- ½ cup coarsely chopped celery
- ¼ cup finely chopped carrot
- ¼ cup finely chopped red pepper
- 1 bunch of water cress (about 220 grams or ½ pound) large stems removed
- 1 medium garlic minced
- 1½ cups of brown lentils, picked over, soaked for a couple of hours and drained.
- 5–6 cups of vegetable stock
- ¼ teaspoon of dried thyme
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 medium bay leaf
- 4 dashes of Tabasco sauce
- 30 grams (¼ stick) good organic butter (optional)
- Heat olive oil in large pan, gently saute onions, fennel, celery, red pepper and carrot, until vegetables begin to brown.
- Add watercress and cook until just wilted.
- Add garlic and lentils and about 4 cups of stock. Bring to a simmer and add thyme, salt and pepper, bay leaf and Tabasco sauce. Simmer over a low heat for about 20 minutes until lentils are tender and falling apart. Add more stock if necessary.
- Cool soup slightly, then process in food processor until smooth. Return to pot and heat through, add more stock or water until you get the desired consistency. Stir in butter if desired and garnish with watercress sprigs.
Vegetarian, gluten-free, optionally vegan