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New Favorite Vegetable Lentil Soup

Did you know that a recent survey in the UK revealed that a third of children don't know where milk comes from, and that two fifths think cows drink milk, rather than produce it? I admit to feeling equally ignorant when it suddenly dawned on me that I had no idea where lentils come from. Do you? Are they seeds of some kind of they grow on a tree....can you find them on vines...beneath the soil..or on trailing plants along the ground? Embarrassed at my lack of knowledge, I consulted the expert horticulturist in the family, who told me with authority that lentils grow in pods on 40 cm high, bushy shrubs. "There are just two lentils in every lens-shaped pod," she explained, "and they are harvested using a weight-sensitive machine that easily separates the light leaves from the heavier lentils." Containing 25% protein - second only to soya beans - lentils are also a great source of dietary fiber, low in calories, and rich in nutritional components like iron, phosphorous, vitamin B1, copper and potassium. Inspired, I set about experimenting with even more promising lentil recipes, and was thrilled with the delicious and highly nutritious results. Add more lentils into your life with this chill-fighting, hearty soup and discover why this humble pulse has been a food staple since 11 000 BC.

1 - 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 large onion, chopped 2 teaspoons crushed garlic 2 carrots, chopped small 2 large celery sticks, chopped 2 cups brown/green lentils 400 gram can chopped tomatoes 2 potatoes, peeled and diced (optional) 1/4 cup chopped parsley plus extra to garnish 2 teaspoons paprika (sweet or smoky which I love) 1 - 2 teaspoons ground cumin 8 cups parve chicken stock 2 tablespoons lemon juice Salt and pepper to taste 1: Heat the oil and cook onions till soft then add garlic and allow to sizzle before adding carrots and celery. 2: Fry mixture till softened and slightly golden then add remaining ingredients apart from salt, pepper and lemon juice. 3: Bring to the boil then turn down to simmer and cook approximately 40 minutes - stirring occasionally so it doesn't stick - till lentils and potatoes are soft. Add extra stock if necessary. 4: Add lemon juice and seasoning then, to make the soup thicker, blend for a couple of seconds with a stick blender. You don't want it to be smooth as it must have a lot of texture and you should be able to see all the ingredients. You can also press down into the pot with a potato masher to get a similar effect. 5: Serve garnished with chopped parsley alongside crusty bread and a hearty appetite.

COOK'S NOTES: This soup features in this week's trial dish selection and I added a cooked barley to the pot for even more wholesome, great taste. Feel free to do the same. Try smoked paprika as an alternative to sweet and you'll never look back. Feel free to add both a teaspoon of ground coriander and coriander leaves if desired or add a pinch of chili flakes to the spice mix. Sweet potato may replace plain but only add halfway through cooking as it cooks faster.

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