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Creamy Butternut, Cauliflower, and Lentil Soup

This is an easy budget soup, making four main-meal-sized portions. Don’t let the inclusion of the notoriously difficult to peel squash put you off; there are two options below to make your job much, much easier. As always, use this recipe as a roadmap: try it with the addition of coconut milk and either Thai or Indian spices; add a can of tomato sauce and some Italian herbs. A good base soup can be varied in so many different ways.

Ingredients:

1 red onion, medium dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 butternut squash
200g split red lentils
1 small cauliflower, in florets (approx. 500g)
1.5 litres vegetable stock
Pinch chilli flakes
1 tbsp fresh sage leaves, minced (or 1 tsp, dried, rubbed between fingers)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 heaped tbsp yellow miso

Directions:
1. Carefully make several slits in skin of the squash with a small sharp knife, and microwave for about 3-5 minutes to loosen the peel from the flesh slightly. Alternatively, slit and then boil the squash whole in a large stock pot for about 5 minutes, until softened. Wait until it’s cool enough to handle, and then peel, deseed, and chop into bite-sized dice.
2. In a stock pot over a very low heat, sweat the onion and garlic, stirring frequently until softened, about 5 minutes. Don’t allow them to take on any colour; if they start to stick, the heat is too high. Lower it, and add a little broth to loosen.
3. Add the cauliflower, stock, butternut squash, chilli flakes, and sage leaves. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
4. While the soup is cooking, rinse and drain the lentils, picking them over to ensure there are no small stones or pieces of grit among them. Add them to a saucepan with about 400g water, bring to the boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until softened. Drain and rinse.
5. Add the lentils back to the pot with the butternut squash (cooking them separately ensures that the lentils don’t add any foam to your soup), and mix well to combine. Spoon between a third and half of the soup into a blender jug with the miso paste and blend until creamy. Alternatively, remove the same quantity of soup and use an immersion blender to blend it to smooth.
6. Stir the blended soup back to the pot, warm, and serve in warmed bowls with some parsley, additional chilli flakes, and nutritional yeast if desired.

Lentil Sloppy Joes

This budget recipe is easily frozen, and any leftovers can be transformed into a taco filling by the addition of Mexican spices and some salsa, or into a bolognese with some garlic powder and Italian herbs. Now, that’s a versatile dish! Serves 8.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups dried green lentils, rinsed (if you are short of time, you can use two cans of cooked lentils instead and skip Step 1)
1 onion, finely diced
1 red pepper, finely diced
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 cup water or vegetable broth
2 tbsp tomato ketchup or barbecue sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp suitable-for-vegan prepared mustard (Dijon or yellow)
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp hot paprika
Pinch cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Method

1. In a large pot, cover the lentils with 3 cups water, season with salt, bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer. Cover the pan with a lid, but leave it slightly ajar so that the water doesn’t boil over. Allow lentils to simmer for 25-30 minutes or until tender but not mushy. Check occasionally to make sure that the lentils haven’t dried out. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the lentils to rest and soak up any remaining water while you make the sauce.

2. Heat a nonstick pan over a medium heat and sauté the onions for 2 minutes until starting to colour, stirring all the time. If they stick, add a few drops of water to loosen. Add the red pepper and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup water to deglaze the pan, and continue cooking until evaporated.

3. Add onion and red pepper to the large pot with the lentils. Add the rest of the ingredients, and stir to combine. Simmer over a low heat until the sauce is reduced and thickened, about 5-10 minutes, being careful not to let the pan scorch.

4. Serve on toasted suitable-for-vegan bread rolls or buns (or bread of your choice) with some salad vegetables, if desired.

Note: if you like your food spicier, add a dash of Tabasco or other hot sauce, or more cayenne pepper if you’re feeling brave.

Miso soup with lentils and tofu garnished with slivered almonds and scallions

A simple, warm and nourishing soup with a little extra spice good for the cold of winter or the heat of summer.

Ingredients

4 cups water, divided
1/2 cup dry French lentils
1 sprig kombu (about 1″)
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2t coarse sea salt
200g tofu, cubed (1/2″)
1T fresh garlic, minced
4 scallions, minced (4″ green reserved for garnish)
1T tamari
1/2t toasted sesame oil
2T white miso
Sea salt to taste
2T slivered almonds
2T nutritional yeast
Black, white or cayenne pepper, red Thai chili paste, or similar to taste

Instructions

In a large sauce pan with a lid, bring 2 cups water to a boil.
Add the lentils and kombu, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.
Drain and rinse the lentils and kombu.
Bring the remaining 2 cups water and the stock to a boil.
Return the lentils and kombu to the pan.
Add the sea salt, tofu, garlic, scallions, tamari and sesame oil.
Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer another 15 minutes or until the lentils are soft.
Remove from heat, add the white miso and nutritional yeast.
Stir until the miso is dissolved, and let stand 5 minutes to cool.
Season with salt to taste.
Ladle out the soup and garnish with 1T almonds, scallion greens sliced on a 45 degree angle and the nutritional yeast.
Spice the soup up with black, white or cayenne pepper, Thai chili, or similar.

Brown lentil, toasted millet bowl with spinach, kale, and sun-dried tomatoes

Stir fried with tamari, garlic, scallions and embellished with spiral cut carrots, raisins, milled flax seed, and nutritional yeast, this is a simple to prepare and nutritious dish. Makes a large bowl for 2 or a filling side dish for 4.

Ingredients

For the lentils and millet
2 cups water
1/3 cup dry brown lentils
1/3 cup hulled millet
1 ‘sprig’ kombu (about 1″)

For the sauce
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (dehydrated, not jarred)
1/2 cup boiling water
2 scallions, finely chopped
1T fresh garlic, minced
1T tamari

For spinach and kale
2 cups packed baby spinach
1 cup packed kale, stemmed coarsely chopped
1/4 cup raisins (I use sultana)
About 1 cup, spiral cut carrots

For the garnish
2T cold milled brown flax seed
2T nutritional yeast
Coarse sea salt and black pepper to taste

Optional: A little lemon or lime juice will add some sour flavour. Some chopped olives will add some additional flavour and fat. A mix of orange and purple carrots, a little spiral cut golden or red beet will add a lot of colour and some additional nutrition.

Directions

Start the millet and lentils, and then assemble the rest of the bowl. In a small pan with a lid, toast the lentils and millet for about 3 minutes (stirring frequently). Add the water and kombu. Bring the pan to a light boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Remove from heat, remove the kombu, and let fluff about 5 minutes.

At about the 15 minute mark, bring half a cup of water to a boil and add it to the the sun-dried tomatoes to rehydrate. Set aside.

While the lentils and millet are fluffing, add the spinach, kale and raisins to a large bowl. Using a spiralizer or a mandoline, cut the carrots in fine, noodle like shapes, Or if you prefer, use a box grater to grate, or use a knife to cut matchsticks. Mix the milled flax seed and nutritional yeast.

When the millet has fluffed, bring the pan back to heat on medium heat. Add the tamari, the water from the sun-dried tomatoes, the scallion, and the garlic. Stir fry for about 2 minutes until the water has been absorbed.

Add the millet and lentils to the greens and stir
thoroughly to combine. Sprinkle in the the nutritional yeast and flax seed. Stir to combine. Let stand about 5 minutes to wilt the greens lightly. Season to taste, bowl out, and serve!

Black lentil mezzaluna in a sesame white sauce with oyster mushrooms and kale

Similar to pierogi, mezzaluna are a lovely and decorative pasta, filled here with a lightly spicy combination of black beluga lentils, poblano peppers and Brussels sprouts, served in and a rich sauce of white miso, sesame seed butter and oyster mushrooms. This makes an appetizer portion for 4 or large plate for 2.

Ingredients

For the filling
1/4 cups black lentils
2/3 cups water
1 ‘sprig’ dried kombu (about 1/2″)
1T cooking oil
1/4t coarse sea salt
1 scallion, minced (3″ – 4″ green reserved for garnish)
1/4 cup poblano pepper, chopped finely
2 Brussels sprouts (about 1/4 cup scant), minced (or green cabbage)
Coarse sea salt and black pepper to taste
For the dough
1 cup semolina flour
A pinch sea salt
1/3 cup water
1t olive oil
2 liters water and 2t coarse sea salt for boiling
For the sauce
1T cooking oil
1/4t coarse sea salt
1/2t dried basil, rubbed
1/4t dried oregano, rubbed
1T fresh garlic, minced
1/4 cup oyster mushroom, wiped and finely chopped
1/2T lemon juice
1 cup unsweetened plant milk
1T sesame seed butter (I use a fairly traded brand)
1 cup green curly kale, finely chopped
1T arrowroot flour dissolved in 1T cold water
1/2T white miso
2T nutritional yeast
Coarse sea salt and black pepper to taste

Optional: Replace the Brussel sprouts with sun-dried tomatoes for something slightly more flavourful.

Method

Start the filling first, then the pasta, then the sauce. In a small pan with a lid, bring the water to a boil. Add the lentils. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 30-40 minutes or until the water is absorbed and the lentils are tender. When the lentils are done, remove the kombu, rinse the lentils and set aside.

While the lentils simmer, make the pasta dough. Mix the flour and salt. Mix the water and oil. Mix the wet and the dry. The dough may seem too dry initially. Keep mixing, and then knead until as a smooth elastic dough forms, and then another 2-3 minutes. Cover with a warm wet tea towel and set aside to rest for at least 30 minutes.

When the lentils are ready, in a medium frying pan, bring the oil to eat on medium high. Add the cooking oil and sea salt. Add the scallion. Saute for 2 minutes. Add the pepper and Brussels sprouts and saute for 5 minutes. Add the lentils and stir to combine. Remove from heat. Set aside covered to cool.

Roll out the dough on a floured board in a large rectangle about 1/10″ thin. Cut small circles about 2 1/2″ round. Bunch up leftover dough, roll out and cut. Repeat until all of the dough has been used. Aim for 16 circles.

When the dough has been cut, add a heaping tablespoon of filling to each in an oblong shape in the middle. Carefully pinch closed, starting with the top, one side, and then the other. Squeeze out any excess air. Crimp both sides of the seam with a fork. Let sit to dry lightly while you make the sauce.

In a large pan with a lid, bring the cooking oil and sea salt to heat with the sea salt on medium high. Add the green herbs and saute for 1 minute. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the oyster mushrooms and saute for 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice and deglaze the pan. Add the soy milk. Bring the pan to a light simmer. Add the sesame seed butter and stir to dissolve. Simmer lightly, stirring occasionally while you finish the pasta.

In a large pot, bring the 2 liters water to a boil with the sea salt. Add the mezzaluna carefully to the water and boil lightly until they float (should be 3-5 minutes). They’ll float when done. Don’t overcook. Drain them carefully in a colander, reserving 2T of the pasta water. Rinse the pasta gently with cool water.

Add the pasta water and the kale to the sauce and stir to combine. Simmer another 2 minutes. Stirring continuously, add the arrowroot mixture until it thickens. Remove from heat. Add the white miso and stir until dissolved. Rinse the mezzaluna with hot water, drain and add them to the sauce. Stir gently to coat. Let stand 2-3 minutes to cool. Season to taste.

When lightly cooled, plate the mezzaluna and pour sauce over them. Add the scallion greens sliced on an angle. Dust with nutritional yeast, and serve.