So the season of soup has swerved surreptitiously into softer summer styles. I would love to continue this entire post with such extravagant alliteration, however I don’t think my mind, or thesaurus for that matter, is quite up to it today.
Alliteration n. the occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words.But, if such a thing as culinary alliteration exists, in the form of repeated use of similar sounding ingredients, then this soup would be a perfect example. You’ve got red peppers, red onions, red lentils and one of the best spices out there (in my opinion), which also happens to be red, smoked paprika. All of these red ingredients combine to make a really wholesome soup that’s got a delicately balanced set of flavours, topped with parsley oil which gives a flavour twist and a real visual makeover.
Your starting point with this soup is the use of wonderful, slightly charred, roasted red peppers. It’s very hard work putting them in the soup, because they taste so good on their own that I wanted to just eat them straight off the BBQ. I had to make do with just a few offcuts to sate my compulsion to ‘test’
So, if you can allow them to make it as far as the soup, their flavour can be quite delicate when blended with lots of others, so you have to be careful not to overpower it with the other ingredients. That’s where the red onions come in, to give that slightly warmer, fuller flavour at the start, and the red lentils just seemed to be the perfect companion to tie it all together and give it a bit more substance, whilst maintaining a lovely warmth to the colour.
This recipe is a great excuse to get the BBQ fired up as you can cook the peppers well in advance of making the soup. If you have a weekend BBQ then char a load of peppers at the same time, and you can make the soup the next day.
And finally, as with most soups, this recipe multiplies up and freezes well, I made a triple sized batch which kept us in lunches for a week, as well as feeding the freezer.
BBQ charred pepper, onion and lentil soup
By Gavin Wren
Serves 4 to 5
Uses 1 bbq and 1 pot
3 red peppers
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 large carrot, chopped into chunks
1/2 teaspoon harissa paste
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 litre vegetable stock (homemade or instant)
For the parsley oil:
3 tablespoons olive oil
Whilst it’s heating, you can prepare the rest of the ingredients, so chop the vegetables, crush your garlic and put together in a bowl. Measure your spices into a small dish or ramekin and prepare the vegetable stock. In a small food processor, combine the olive oil and parsley, then blend into a rough paste. You may need to regularly scrape the sides down to get it to mix. Set this aside in a small serving dish or ramekin.
When the BBQ is up to heat, place the peppers onto it and cook, turning occasionally until charred on all sides. When cooked, place them in a bowl covered with cling film and set aside.
In a large pan, heat the vegetable oil over a medium heat. When the pan has heated up, add the spices and mix around in the oil, cooking for about 30 seconds. Then add the onion, carrot and garlic and fry for about 5 minutes, until well softened, turning down the heat if it browns. Add the lentils and vegetable stock, bring to a simmer and cook, covered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, de-seed the red peppers, so you have just the outer flesh left. Once the lentils are cooked, add these to the pan and keep on the heat for a few more minutes.
Finally, use a stick blender to whizz the whole lot up into a fine soup.
Serve in bowls, topped with spoonfuls of the parsley oil