Red lentil soup with gem squash
This is an adaptation of Turkish red lentil soup that's flavoured with paprika and dried mint. It's so tasty, comforting and filling and the mint gives it such a dynamic flavour. In true Crop Drop style I've added some extra veggies - carrot and squash. But I omitted fresh tomato which is usually in this soup, as at the time of writing they weren't in season. Tomato puree works fine instead.
The joy of making this soup is it doesn’t require a food processor – the ingredients fall apart and blend together beautifully in the pot. If you find it a bit lumpy you can gently mash the pieces against the side of the pot to break them up a bit.
Gem squash have light orange flesh that, once baked, takes on a stringy consistency which you can scoop out of the skin and plop into the soup. It soon breaks apart and integrates into the rest of the soup. No peeling or chopping required! If you don't have gem squash, try spaghetti or harlequin squash, they have a very similar consistency. Any other kind of squash will work too, but depending on how solid the flesh is once baked, you may need to chop or mash it up a bit before you add it to the soup.
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 carrot, finely diced
500g gem squash
1 cup red lentils
5 cups/1.25 litres vegetable stock
2 Tbsp tomato pureé
1 tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp chilli flakes (pul biber ideally but chilli powder will do)
1 Tbsp dried mint, heaped
salt & pepper to taste
Pre-heat oven to 180º, gas mark 5.
Cut the squash in half, rub the flesh with a bit of olive oil and place cut side up on a baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes, until the flesh is soft.
While the squash is cooking, get the soup going. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over a medium-high heat. Cook and stir the onion in the hot oil until it begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Stir the garlic into the onion and cook another 2 minutes. Add the carrots and continue to cook and stir for another 5 minutes.
Pour in the stock, lentils, paprika, chilli flakes, tomato puree and mint. Add salt and pepper and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and leave to simmer.
When ever your squash is cooked, remove from the oven and scoop the flesh into the soup, and stir thoroughly to combine. Keep simmering until the lentils are cooked through, about 30 minutes. Add more water if it's too thick for your liking.
Serve with crusty bread.