Hot and Sour Red Lentil Soup


A hazy idea for this recipe came to me several weeks before I actually managed to make a palatable version of it. I knew I wanted a fiery red lentil soup: the opposite of the kinds of gentle soups I’ve traditionally made; one hot enough to blast a creeping cold from my system and so hearty that it’s a meal in itself. I tried versions with charred red peppers, others stained ochre with smoked paprika and a particularly nasty version speckled with flecks of red kidney bean skin. It took a good ten attempts before I managed to settle on this incarnation of the recipe, inspired by Thai tom yum soups, freshened with garlic, lemongrass and kaffir lime to soften the punch of the chilli. It was so worth the wait.

Serves 4

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 tomatoes, diced
5cm fresh ginger, sliced
3 kaffir lime leaves
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 stick lemongrass, bruised
2 tablespoons tomato purée
200g red lentils
1.25 litres boiling water
2 bird’s eye chillies, thinly sliced
Juice of 2 limes
Salt, to taste

Heat the oil in a large pan and gently cook the tomatoes over a low heat for 3–4 minutes, until they begin to melt into a very soft mass.

Add the ginger, lime leaves, garlic, lemongrass and tomato purée and stir to blend everything together. Add the lentils along with the boiling water and simmer for 15 minutes, adding the chillies 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time. Stir in the lime juice at the last minute and season generously with salt.

  ©Charlotte Bland, 2015

©Charlotte Bland, 2015