There is very little that I like about winter. In fact, I am sure I can count the things that I do like about winter on one hand. Right now, curled up in blankets and on pillows by the fireplace, I think that this moment is one of my rare loves of winter. Certainly I would not be loving this moment if it were summer. Another bonus, thick, savory, heavy soups that take an hour to simmer, both warming the air in my home and filling it with the comforting aroma of steaming onions, squashes, leeks and spices.
My wimpiness and general dismay over winter may be exemplified by the fact that it is still October and the temperature in Vancouver has barely dipped below 10 degrees Celsius. I do not want to think too much about that right now and just be happy that the changing of the seasons has not yet soured my persona.
I am very happy to have made my first lentil soup of the year. Before summer I was making them at least once, if not twice a week. One thing that many people know about me is that I eat a lot of soup. Before becoming accustomed to cooking, I ate the majority of that soup from cans. Every single day at lunch, at school, one could spot me sneaking into the lunchroom, around 2 pm, opening my can of soup with my labeled can opener, pouring my soup into my dollar store, rainbow coloured bowl and setting it in the microwave for 2.5 minutes before sneaking precariously back to my office to consume the steaming bowl of sodium and broth.
I feel I took a step forward when I started to invest in Amy's brand Organic soups. My favorite, the vegetable lentil soup. These cans of soup are expensive! Four dollars a can! I decided to start making my own and now use that soup as an inspiration for all of my lentil soups. The simple ingredient list on the can is quite easy to replicate and it is obviously more satisfying to make your own. The one I made here was inspired by the seasonings in my taco recipe the other day. Although I felt I slightly over seasoned so I am writing the recipe with slightly less salt, balsamic and sugar then I used. As usual, please season to your own taste.
Lentil, leek and red kuri squash soup
I have trouble determining what soup is going to taste like while it cooks but I try to resist the urge to over season. Sometimes I'll take a scoop of soup and let it cool in a bowl for a few minutes before tasting.
Also, I only added one cup of chopped squash (kuri) but I was wishing I had added twice as much, it was my favorite part of the soup. The squash I used (pictured above) held up very well to simmering, it did not fall apart or get mushy but was still very soft at the end.
1/2 walla walla or yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 leek, trimmed, washed and roughly chopped
1 jalapeno or serrano, seeds removed, finely chopped
1.5 cups dry green or brown lentils, presoaked
6 or more cups water3 medium tomatoes, peeled and pureed
4 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp cumin
4 tsp brown sugar or honey
1/4 tsp cinnamon or cinnamon stick
3 tsp sea salt
1 cup or more red kuri or other winter squash, peeled and chopped
splash fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 - Saute onion, leek and jalapeno in canola oil until softened, 5 - 10 minutes.
2 - Add ingredients, lentils up to sea salt, to pan and bring soup to a low boil.
3 - Simmer approximately 1 hour, covered, on low heat until liquid is absorbed.
4 - Stir in squash after about 20 minutes
5 - Stir and taste soup often. Increase water, salt, sugar and balsamic amounts if desired.
Note: I was continually adding water throughout my cooking, lentils soak up a lot of liquid!
4 - Near the end of cooking time, stir in cilantro and a splash of lemon juice.