Good Soup: Veganuary Special

by Annabel Alder

Whenever someone takes the plant–based plunge, they’ll undoubtedly be asked which food they find it hardest to avoid – eggs, yoghurt, halloumi? That shredded dehydrated mozzarella you eat out of the bag at midnight like a goblin? When I first tried going vegan, I quickly realised that ‘substitutes’ could be fantastic, but often, that’s what they would feel like: a substitute for something you know would be a little bit more flavourable, tender, juicier. Sure, you could add a poached egg, or even meatballs, but by itself, this recipe makes three hearty portions of a soup that will warm you all the way up.

Use a deep, round saucepan – the size you’d make a curry or spag bol in. Add enough vegetable oil to cover the base of the pan, and warm it on the hob until it’s shiny. Slide in the onion, chopped as finely as possible, but cut yourself some slack if your hands are still shaking from that caffeine comedown. While the onion is softening in the pan, peel and cube the sweet potato. These can vary hugely in size, so keep portion size in mind when you’re shopping and use as much as you’ll enjoy.

Let the onions get translucent in the pan, then add your sweet potato and the curry powder (I want these recipes to be the simplest, kitchen cupboard–y–est staples for tired, broke students, but if you have a spice mix you prefer, go ahead! Cumin, turmeric and garam masala are wonderful here). Toss around with a wooden spoon every few minutes, so nothing burns on the pan. Remember, everyone has the same 24 hours in a day as Molly Mae Hague, and you’re spending one of yours making vegan soup. Nice one.

After about five minutes, measure a small mug’s worth of red lentils and pour these into the pan. Add two tablespoons of soy sauce (if you don’t have soy sauce in your kitchen cupboard, how on earth have you made it to Lent term) and give it another stir. Pour in three mugs of water, either a cube or a teaspoon of vegetable stock, and a tablespoon of peanut butter. (I would have suggested whole nut butter here, but I can’t play into the north London white girl stereotypes too much.)

Bring the heat up until the soup is bubbling, then turn it back down to low and cover the pan, either with a lid or a really big plate (NOT a plastic chopping board – I learned this so you don’t have to). From here, leave the soup for 20 minutes. For reference, if I’m cooking with someone else, we can usually fit in a full existential crisis in this time, from the thesis statement all the way to the conclusion. After 20 minutes, add in the coconut milk and spinach, and keep it cooking for another five minutes, then take off the heat and it’s ready to eat. Remember, Gorgeous Gorgeous Girls Love Soup – that’s both a tiktok reference and a Lent Term affirmation.

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