Tag Archives: Lentils

Mexican lentil soup

Mexican Lentil Soup

I think this year is going to be my year of soup. I’ve finally learned to appreciate it after being a life-long soup avoider. It’s all because of smooth soups, which while often delicious, generally make me feel queasy and too full, but actually leave me very hungry 30 minutes later. Oh and there was that traumatic experience when I was a child and I was forced to eat a whole large tin of tomato soup concentrate. That is a memory that continues to haunt me until this day. In fact, even thinking about eating smooth soups makes me feel ill. Perhaps I’m odd, but I can’t be the only one.

However, I do enjoy non-blended soups from time to time (especially my Moroccan chickpea and lentil soup). My general aversion to soup has meant I don’t make them very often, and are usually the last thing I think about making, but their convenience has made me see the light: One pot, minimal prep time, jam-packed full of nutrients, and easy to eat with only one hand while wrapped in a blanket on the couch (possibly the most important thing for winter in an old house without heating). Now I’m craving hearty creations such as this one like there’s no tomorrow. But hey, why am I preaching to you about soup? You probably already like it or you wouldn’t have clicked on a soup recipe.

This is a pretty simple recipe, but very delicious. It’s also quicker cooking than most soups , making this a great weeknight option. The secret to this soup is adding the liquid smoke to the oil before frying the onions, so don’t skip it. It mimics the role of the traditional fried bacon of Mexican lentil soup very well.


2tbsp refined coconut oil (and I mean refined – no coconutty taste)

1/2 tsp liquid smoke, plus more to taste

1 large brown onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup each of finely diced red and green capsicum

1 medium carrot, finely diced (you do NOT want big chunks, I’m talking 1 or 2mm dice)

4 large cloves garlic, smashed with your knife and roughly chopped

1-2 jarred jalapeños (in vinegar), minced, depending on your heat tolerance. I use two.

1 cup whole red (aka brown) lentils, soaked at least 8 hours

1 400g tin diced tomatoes

2 cups vegetable stock

3 cups water

1 heaped tsp sugar

1 two-fingered pinch ground cumin

1 two-fingered pinch dried oregano

2 -3 tsp nutritional yeast (yes I mean teaspoons. You don’t want it to taste it, it’s purpose is a flavour enhancer)

3 large handfuls baby spinach

Sea salt to taste

Garnish options

Chopped coriander, chopped spring onions, sweet cherry tomatoes, grilled corn, guacamole (highly recommended), corn chips, none. Whatever your heart desires.


Place the oil and liquid smoke in a large saucepan and heat over low heat. Add the onions and cook until clear and well browned. Add the capsicum, carrot and garlic and cook another two minutes. Add the tomatoes and lentils and stir well.

Add the stock, water, cumin, oregano, sugar and 1tsp salt to the pot. Bring to the boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Stir in the nutritional yeast and allow to simmer away until the lentils are tender, stirring occasionally. Taste and add a little more liquid smoke if you want. The flavour does cook off. Adjust salt to taste, add the spinach and stir until wilted.

Eat all the soup

shepherd's pie-2

Hearty Gardener’s Pie


Serves: a crowd
shepherd's pie

I am a summer person, through and through. I am cold blooded and I love the heat. I love the beach, tropical fruit, cold beer and flowers. It is my intention to move to the tropics as soon as I am able. I just love that humid heat.

So, it may not surprise you to hear that winter for me is a long, depressing time full of misery, being constantly cold and nose-drippy, with aching bones and what seems like an eternity of darkness. I have spent winters in the northern hemisphere and while I realise the Melbourne winter is relatively mild, it’s still too much for me. However, I do love winter food.

As soon as the mercury drops below 20C it’s time to pull out the snuggly jumper and crank up the oven, start slow cooking those stews and pies and roasting potatoes. And so it is that I made a gardener’s pie (aka meatless shepherd’s pie) in the middle of an Australian summer.  There is nothing more comforting than gathering around the table with a steaming dish of hearty lentils and crispy, creamy potato, scooping it into a delicious mess on your plate. Plus, there’s always leftovers for the next couple of days, which makes a great work lunch.

I know that there are thousands of vegan shepherd’s pie recipes out there, but one more can’t hurt. This one is so flavoursome and doesn’t require beef or chicken style stock, which not everyone has access to, usually contain palm oil and are loaded with MSG. However, you can use whatever stock you wish if you have a beef style one that you love.

The gardener’s pie might be a humble dish, but I haven’t met anyone who didn’t like this. Make it in a large dish for an everyday weeknight meal (less washing up) or individual ramekins if you want to make it a bit more special. I’ll leave you with a restaurant insider’s tip: the meals are often not that special, but appear special because of the presentation. Place this in individual ramekins or those adorable mini casserole dishes  and pop them on a plate with a little salad garnish and a decorative swirl of dressing, and your dinner guests will be suitably impressed.


2 cups dried whole red aka brown lentils (I used green this time because I was out, but it’s better with brown and looks prettier too), soaked 2-4 hours, rinsed and drained

3tbsp olive oil

2 medium carrots, grated

6 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 brown onions, finely diced

2 cups frozen peas

1 bouquet garni

2 bay leaves (yes, two more in addition to the boquet garni)

3/4 tsp celery seeds

1L vegetable stock

20g dried porcini mushrooms

5 cups thickly sliced Swiss brown mushrooms

1 cup porcini soaking liquid

4tbsp tamari

1tbsp dark brown miso

2tbsp cornflour, dissolved in 3 tbsp cold water

Salt and pepper to taste

2 cups water, if needed

For the potato topping

10 Dutch cream or desire potatoes, peeled

1/2 cup non dairy milk (I use unsweetened rice milk or cashew milk)

1/2 cup non dairy butter/margarine

Salt and white pepper, to taste


1. Place the porcini mushrooms in a bowl and cover with 2 cups water for around 40 minutes. Strain through a paper towel lined sieve, reserving the soaking liquid, then rinse the mushrooms and squeeze out. Chop finely

2. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the onions and cook until almost caramelised. Add the garlic and cook another couple of minutes. Add the mushrooms and turn the heat up to medium-high. Cook until the mushrooms are browned. Add the carrots, porcini mushrooms, bay leaves and celery seeds and cook a few minutes more. Add the lentils, peas and vegetable stock and stir well, scraping the bottom to de-glaze. Add the porcini soaking liquid and the bouquet garni and bring to the boil. Add the tamari and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the lentils are soft and the mixture has thickened, stirring every few minutes, around 30 minutes. You may need to add more water so it doesn’t dry out. Add the miso and a generous amount of freshly cracked black pepper and season to taste. Once you are happy with the flavour, add the cornflour slurry.

3. Meanwhile, place the potatoes into a pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil and cook until soft. Drain and return the potatoes to the pot. Mash well and then add the non-dairy milk and butter. Mash well until super creamy. Add more milk and butter if you think it needs it, it will depend on the size of your potatoes. Season generously with salt and a little white pepper, to taste.

4. Remove the bay leaves and bouquet garni from the lentil mixture and pour it into your pie dish of choice. Blob the mashed potato all over the mixture and squash together. Run a fork across the top to make grooves for extra crispiness. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt (again, for more crispiness). Place into a hot oven until the top is crispy (around 20 minutes) and allow to cool a few minutes before serving so you don’t burn everyone.

smoked eggplant shakshuka

Lentil & Smoked Eggplant Shakshuka

Serves 4

Shakshuka might be one of the greatest breakfast dishes of all time, but it makes a pretty mean dinner too, especially with the addition of lentils. Typically a poached egg dish, this wildly delicious version doesn’t need eggs at all. Smoky, creamy and spicy, this will have you licking your lips and soaking up every last drop. I really don’t have much else to say. It’s easy and relatively quick, but will impress anyone you put it in front of. If you’re looking for brunch ideas to serve to your guests, or an easy dinner that tastes like it was way more effort, look no further.

Make this and eat it. That is all.


1/2 cup dried whole red lentils

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 red capsicums, julienned or finely chopped (0.5cm or so)

2 tbsp harissa paste

1 1/2 to 2tsp ground cumin, to taste

800g tinned diced tomatoes

2tbsp tomato paste

2 eggplants, approx 800g

3 tbsp tahini (45ml)

2-3tbsp lemon juice, to taste

Salt and black pepper

Olive oil

A few tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


1. Place the lentils in a saucepan and cover with a few inches of water. Bring to the boil and cook until the lentils are just tender, but still firm to the bite. Drain, rinse, set aside.

2. Meanwhile, place the eggplants directly onto the gas burner, turning every couple of minutes, until the skin is fully burnt and blackened and and the eggplants collapse in on themselves. Set aside on a plate until cool enough to handle.

3. Heat approx 2tbsp olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the capsicum and cook, stirring often, until softened. Add the garlic and harissa, and cook a few minutes until the garlic has softened. Add the cumin and stir a minute more. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and one teaspoon of sea salt, stir well and bring to a simmer.

4. Stir in the lentils and let it all simmer away for approximately 20 minutes, stirring often. You may need to add a little water along the way if it gets too dry, you want a thick, juicy sauce consistency. Check the seasoning and reduce heat to very low to keep warm.

5. Meanwhile, cut the eggplants in half and scrape the flesh out into a bowl. Try not to get more than a few flecks of skin in the bowl. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and stir it up with a fork. Spoon it into the middle of the tomato mixture, and give a quick, gentle stir to spread it out a little. Don’t mix it too much, you don’t want to completely blend it all together. Let it heat through a couple of minutes without stirring.

6. Meanwhile, put the tahini in a bowl and mix in the lemon juice. Add water 1 tbsp at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition, until you have a smooth, creamy sauce the consistency of pouring cream. You won’t need more than 3tbsp. Season with salt to taste. Remove the pan from the heat, and drizzle with half the tahini sauce. Sprinkle with the parsley. Serve immediately in the pan with bread and the remaining tahini sauce on the side.