Spinach, Lentil & Lemon Soup, 34p [VG/V/DF/GF]

This easy, comforting spinach and lentil soup was inspired by a recipe in Saha, by Greg and Lucy Malouf. I made it a few times as a quick late-night supper, before I lost the notebook with the details in one of my many house moves. For a long while, as a single mum on benefits, I all but lived out of a pile of boxes as I ran from rent arrears to damp and mould to a single mattress on a floor in a shared house, and a lot of pieces of paper – and nerve endings – got lost along the way. Here’s what I remember of it, in happier times these days, with a few blanks filled in. Homely, comforting and filling, it can also be made with tinned lentils and frozen spinach for the ultimate easy, inexpensive lunch or dinner. 

Serves 2 generously at 34p each

1 onion, 9p (90p/1.5kg, Sainsburys Basics)

1 fat clove of garlic or 2 smaller ones, 3p (35p/2 bulbs, Sainsburys Basics)

1 tablespoon oil, sunflower or vegetable, 2p (£3/3l, Sainsburys)

100g dried lentils or 200g tinned ones, any colour, 23p (£1.15/500g, Sainsburys split red lentils)

1 litre stock, 3p (30p/10 stock cubes, Sainsburys Basics)

zest and juice of 2 lemons or 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice, 7p (60p/250ml, Sainsburys bottled lemon juice)

a mugful of fresh or half a mug (80g-ish) of frozen spinach, 10p (£1.25/1kg, frozen spinach)

a fistful of coriander, stalks and all, 10p (80p/28g, Sainsburys)

a pinch of chilli, 1p (80p/100g, KTC or Natco brand at all major supermarkets)

Peel and chop the onion and garlic. Heat the oil in a saucepan and cook them on a gentle heat until they are softening, for 8–10 minutes. 

Rinse the lentils and tip them into the pan, followed by the stock, then stir gently. Bring it to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. If using dried lentils, carefully spoon off any greyish scum that rises to the surface; it’s just, what we call in our house and I hope you forgive the expression, ‘bean poo’ – perfectly harmless in itself, just not very pretty. I empathise.

Grate the zest from the lemons, if using, and squeeze out the juice into a mug or glass. Fish out the pips. I only ever really use bottled lemon juice because it’s so much less bother and you really can’t tell the difference.

Roughly chop the spinach and coriander as much as you can be bothered, which yes, sometimes does mean leaving it whole!

Stir the lemon zest and juice, the spinach and coriander into the soup.

Whiz everything together with a blender or in a food processor, if you have one, or leave it chunky if you prefer (I like either, they both meet a slightly different need in themselves).

Scatter over some breadcrumbs and a little chilli or paprika if you feel fancy, and enjoy hot.

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