I think this may be my favourite soup ever. And for a girl who loves a big bowl of steaming soup, that is a big call.
Creamy aubergine, hearty lentils, meaty mushrooms and fresh tomato, all topped with a generous spoonful of delicious basil pesto – perfect. It may not look that pretty but it tastes soooo good. Looks can be deceiving!
When I made this soup for Mr B and I last weekend, we spent much of the meal discussing whether it was actually a soup – yes our meal time chatter is highly entertaining 😉
Is it a soup or is it in fact a stew?
It is chunky and hearty enough to be a stew I think but it is cooked on the stove top in a broth so technically it is probably a soup.
To settle the debate, we turned to almighty Google and looked up definitions of soup v stew – really entertaining dinner chat!
Here are our findings:
Soup: a liquid dish, typically savoury and made by boiling meat, fish, or vegetables etc. in stock or water.
Stew: a dish of meat and/or vegetables cooked slowly in liquid in a closed dish or pan.
So our Italian ‘Soup’ is made by boiling vegetables and pulses in vegetable stock meaning it is a soup?
But our Italian ‘Soup’ is made of vegetables which are slowly cooked in liquid in a closed pan…so maybe it is a stew?
Clear as mud.
Wikipedia had the last word:
“Generally, stews have less liquid than soups, are much thicker and require longer cooking over low heat. While soups are almost always served in a bowl, stews may be thick enough to be served on a plate with the gravy as a sauce over the solid ingredients”
Given my recipe is not thickened in any way, definitely needs to be served in a bowl and does not require hours of long cooking, I’ll stick with it being a soup I think.
But to be frank, who cares. Stew or soup. Semantic shenanigans aside, it is a hearty, filling, healthy and downright delicious meal. I was just pleased to get a plant based meat free meal passed Mr B’s lips and to receive compliments as a result! High praise indeed, you gotta try this one!
Let’s turn to the crowning glory of this meal, the pesto. Homemade fresh basil pesto is always best but use your favourite store bought if you prefer. I admit I did not make my own this time. Instead we added giant dollops of a jar of green pesto that I had picked up in Wholefoods – Seggiano Raw Basil Pesto Genovese. I had to sneak it into the basket past Mr B’s astonished gaze because, shall we say, it wasn’t the cheapest option on the pesto shelf. Ahem. But it was worth every penny. Vegan, gluten free and raw. Nothing but extra virgin olive oil, cashew nuts, fresh basil, sea salt and pine nuts. As clean eating as homemade. Delicious.
I served the soup with paleo flatbreads, recipe from the excellent new book, River Cottage Gluten Free by Naomi Devlin.
Now for the ‘soup’ recipe to which you add that giant dollop of basil pesto joy.
Italian Lentil Soup
Gluten, dairy and soya free, Vegan (using dairy free pesto as I did)
- 15g dried mushrooms (+ boiling water)
- Splash of rapeseed oil
- 1 potato (I used Maris Piper)
- 1 carrot
- 1 leek
- 1 aubergine
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 x 400g can of green lentils, (265g drained weight)
- 850 ml hot vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp tamari
- 2 tsp dried basil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Basil pesto to serve
- Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with boiling water, set aside for 10 minutes.
- Dice the potato (no need to peel) carrot, aubergine and tomatoes and thinly slice the leek.
- Heat the oil in a large pot over a medium heat on the stove.
- Add the potato, carrot and leek and saute for a few minutes
- Add the lentils, mix well and then add the aubergine and tomato.
- Add the stock to the pan to cover the vegetables (reserve the rest to add later if more liquid is needed), cover the pan and bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to a gentle simmer.
- After 20 minutes, add the dried mushrooms, their soaking liquid, the tamari and the dried basil. Add more stock if you think necessary.
- Cover the pan again and allow to continue to cook until the vegetables are tender, approximately 30 – 40 minutes total cooking time.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve in bowls, topping each with a generous spoonful of basil pesto.
If you use traditional pesto, i.e. one containing parmesan cheese, then this recipe is no longer vegan and dairy free. Adapt to your own dietary requirements.
So do you think it’s a soup or a stew?!