Sam Mannering's lentil, cumin and silverbeet soup comforts

A kindly Moroccan waiter had just the cure for a raging hangover: lentil, cumin and silverbeet soup.
Sam Mannering

A kindly Moroccan waiter had just the cure for a raging hangover: lentil, cumin and silverbeet soup.

It's about time I shared a recipe for a good soup to see us through these cold, wintery days. Something that comforts. This one has a bit of a story behind it. 

It was my first morning in Morocco, as a naive student, and about as hideous a wake-up as I'd ever had. A harsh combination of hangover (a certain continental airline had no issue with offering gin by the bottle from the drinks trolley) and the 5am call to prayer made about 10 metres from my room had me in quite the corker mood.

I'd also forgotten to draw the curtains and the already 40-degree heat of the sun had turned my sleeping face a hilarious shade of puce.

Looking every inch the pathetic tourist, I staggered to the nearest eatery. A grandfatherly waiter looked me up and down with equal measures of concern and disdain and, before I could order anything, promptly plonked a bowl of this in front of me. Rarely have I been more gratified. There are those moments where you crave something with that precise balance between fresh and filling, between comfort and health food – and this soup nails it completely. It also started for me a love affair with cumin that I will never tire of. I can't get enough of the stuff. 

Some good, dense bread to go with the soup – focaccia or similar, is perfect. You won't need much else. 

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Serves 4
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes

200g red or brown lentils
olive oil
1 onion, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp cinnamon
1.5 litres chicken or vegetable stock
large handful of silverbeet, washed and sliced
salt and pepper
plain yoghurt, to serve
small handful of coriander, to serve

Wash the lentils and drain well.

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In a large saucepan over a moderate heat, add a generous glug of olive oil, let it heat up a little, add the onion and garlic and fry gently for about 6-10 minutes until soft and translucent. Follow with the cumin, paprika, cinnamon and lentils and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes, gently frying the spices until they are fragrant, before following with the stock. 

Leave to simmer away quietly for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are soft. Season well to taste. Stir in the silverbeet and cook for another 7-8 minutes, just to take the edge off it, but don't overcook. Serve with a dollop of plain yoghurt on top and a scattering of coriander leaves.

 - Stuff


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