When the spiral gets out of control, I find that the best way to get us all fighting fit again is as many soups as we can consume. Plenty of hydration and the vitamins and minerals remain in the cooking water. Soups are very easy for the body to digest: when we’re feeling under par they give our bodies one less thing to think about, so more energy can be devoted to recovery. They’re easy to make, the limit in terms of ingredients is your imagination, and once you’ve got a big pot on the stove it can see you through a few meals and snacks (and afternoon slumps).
I rustled up this soup a few days ago and since then we’ve all been breathing easier and feeling a lot more energetic. It’s packed with garlic and onion for their decongestant and antibacterial properties. Sweet potatoes and carrots also feature as they contain beta carotene which is converted to vitamin A in the body, vital for a healthy immune system. Everybody knows ginger is an antidote to fluey feelings, naturally reducing pain and fever by making us sweat. Ginger also contains chemicals called sesquiterpenes which target the common cold. Spices add flavour and further immune boosting activity, especially turmeric and chilli. Lentils provide depth and flavour and finally the whole thing comes alive with the kick of lime juice, which helpfully offers a dose of vitamin C.
I’m not very good with recipes generally and tend to just make things up as I go along, so take these measurements with a pinch of salt and create your own version of an orange wonder soup – here’s to vibrant health!
Coconut oil or ghee for cooking
1 bulb of garlic (yes, the whole bulb!), crushed or chopped small
2 large onions, diced
1 large knob of ginger, finely chopped or grated
4/5 medium sized carrots, chopped small
1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, diced small
Juice of 1 lime
1 tin of chopped tomatoes (optional)
150g (or thereabouts) dried red lentils
1 litre vegetable stock
1 ½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 (or ½ depending on family preference) tsp dried chilli flakes
How to make the soup:
1. Prepare all the vegetables and boil a kettle for the stock. Rinse the lentils thoroughly in cold running water.
2. Heat the coconut oil or ghee in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan and when hot, add the cumin and mustard seeds. Leave them for 2-3 minutes until they begin to pop.
3. Then add the garlic, onion and ginger and gently heat until softened, stirring regularly.
4. Add the spices and stir through, then cook for a further few minutes.
5. Next add the carrot and sweet potato and a splash of boiling water to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pan. Put the lid on the pan and leave the vegetables to soften for 5-10 minutes. If they show signs of burning, add a splash more water.
6. Once lightly cooked, add the chopped tomatoes if using, the lentils and the stock, cover and leave to simmer for 25-30 minutes. If you’re not using tomatoes, add a bit of extra stock to ensure there’s enough liquid to cover the vegetables and lentils.
7. Serve with a dash of lime juice in each bowl for a flavoursome hit. Also nice with chopped fresh coriander or tangy yoghurt.