Egyptian Lentil Soup

These days I am doing two things on repeat:  making soups and going to the cinema.  Good films in HK are like buses – sometimes we have to wait months for films to arrive here, long after the reviews have been written and the buzz has died down.  Obviously this isn’t the case for all films, but it seems like anything I really want to watch takes forever to get its local release.  So imagine my joy last weekend on managing to catch not one but two of the slightly lesser known Oscar contenders, Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild, featuring the oldest and youngest ever Best Actress nominees respectively.  Both were very moving films and individual performances, but it was young Quvenzahne Wallis that really caught my attention.  Actually I found her almost distractingly good – throughout the film I kept remembering the agony of my drama course last summer and wondering how she can be so good when my own young thespians had nowhere near that level of maturity, nevermind ability.  (In my students’ defence, it was a cracking performance of a self-penned play, but not quite worthy of Oscar nods.)

I am continuing my two films a week trend for the next couple of weeks as there are so many things I want to see, but my bank account will no doubt soon breathe a sigh of relief as there will probably be a film drought until summer.

And I’m pretty much matching my two films a week with two batches of soup too.  Here’s another healthy and flavoursome offering.  I’m still slightly hesitant when it comes to beetroot, as for my formative years I only ever saw it sliced up in jars and it looked grotestque, but it lends a really lovely taste and deep red colour to the soup.  It’s a winner!

Egyptian Lentil Soup

Serves 4, slightly adapted from The Spice Routes by Chris & Carolyn Caldicott

Ingredients:

175g red split lentils, rinsed

2 tsp ground cumin

4 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 medium potato, peeled and cubed

2 leeks, washed and sliced

2 beetroots, peeled and cubed

575ml stock

juice of 1 lemon

handful parsley leaves, to garnish

Method:

1.  In a large pan heat the oil.  Add the onion and garlic and fry until soft.

2.  Stir in the ground cumin.

3.  Add the potatoes, leeks and beetroots.  Stir well and cover the pan.  Sweat the vegetables on a low heat until they start to soften, about 7-10 minutes.

4.  Add the red lentils and stock.

5.  Bring to the boil, cover the pan and reduce the heat.  Simmer until lentils are soft, adding more water if necessary and scooping off any foam.

6.  Allow to cool slightly, then blend in a food processor until smooth (this may need to be done in batches).  It’s lovely how it changes from beige to red as the beetroot is whizzed around.  Return to the pan and gently warm through, adding seasoning and lemon juice, and thinning out with a little more water if it’s too thick.

7.  Divide the soup between bowls and garnish with a few parsley leaves.

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