We decided, quite recently, to try and have a vegetarian night every so often. Not so often as weekly, but fairly regularly all the same. When a vegetarian recipe strikes me as being right for our tastes - that sort of thing.
So, when I saw the recipe for this Curried Vegetable Soup as I was looking for a main course soup, I didn't immediately consider whether to put some chicken in it!
Any vegetarian recipe has to have some kind of "oomph!" for me to consider it for the family. We are all such confirmed meat eaters that some of the lighter bites that seem to be on offer as vegetarian fare just aren't man enough for us. There doesn't seem to be a lot of point in having dinner, then finding the menfolk scouring the kitchen cupboards for something to eat just half an hour later. Seems a poor use of resources, to me!
This is one of the reasons why some of the salad recipes just aren't any good for us. I'd have to put a whacking great jacket potato with it, just to stop the snacking that would go on later in the evening. Not that there's anything wrong with a jacket potato per se, it's just that it would probably kill the delicacy of a tender young salad with scallops, for instance.
Yes, we're definitely in the market for manly, hearty vegetarian food.
Food like this Curried Vegetable Soup, for instance. With its use of butternut squash, carrots and celeriac, you have all your vegetable goodness along with protein from the lentils, warm curry spices to keep the palate interested and lovely coconut milk to give the impression of dairy creaminess. I also used some of the lovely vegetable stock powder from Essential Cuisine, as their stocks are not only beautifully flavoured but low in salt, too.
I was surprised, when it came to making the soup, that the instructions didn't start with "put the onion pieces into the pan". For once, especially where a recipe involving curry spices is concerned, there is no onion involved! It makes a pleasant change.
Now hubby is a man who very definitely - in the ordinary course of events - does not like lentils. However, this is one of the very few ways in which he will accept red lentils - much like cauliflower. In this instance, the lentils just melt away as they cook and give the soup some great substance. With the final go round from the blender, even though I kept some of the vegetables back for added texture, he was perfectly happy to accept lentils.
There's just something about curry spices and red lentils that go so well. They really are a match made in heaven - and I was pretty sure I'd get away with using them.
I served the soup with some ready made flatbreads from our local Asda. These flatbreads are "Coronation" flavour, so think Coronation Chicken. They have some gentle curry flavours, along with coconut and sultanas - and are just perfect for dipping into this soup.
To be honest, I think just about anything (except maybe a marshmallow - euk!) would be great to eat alongside this soup. You could go down the Indian route and serve onion bhajees, or hunks of warm crusty farmhouse bread and butter for the more traditional route. Either way, I know the cockles of your heart will be thoroughly warmed. You can't ask for more than that!
CURRIED VEGETABLE SOUP (serves 4-5)
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and diced small
200g carrots, peeled and diced small
a quarter of a celeriac, peeled and diced small
1 tbsp curry powder
half a tsp turmeric
100g red lentils
700ml vegetable stock (I used Essential Cuisine Vegetable Stock powder)
400ml tin coconut milk
a handful of green peas, defrosted if frozen
2-3 sprigs of fresh coriander, chopped plus some for garnish.
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the squash, carrots and celeriac. Cook until the vegetables are beginning to brown and soften a little, then stir in the curry powder and cook for 1 minute more.
2. Add the turmeric, lentils, stock and coconut milk and bring up to a low boil.
3. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the lentils are cooked.
4. Remove a few ladlefuls of the vegetables to a jug. Add the chopped coriander to the remainder of the soup and using a hand blender, blitz the soup to your preferred consistency. Add the vegetables back in and include the peas.
5. Bring back up to heat and continue to simmer until the peas are cooked - around 2-3 minutes.