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hearty soup

Our regular cookery writer, Linda Eldon-Ramshaw, invites us to share a warming, Autumnal “hug in bowl” that’s good for body and soul…

I love this time of year, when there are so many wonderful fruits and vegetables readily available, bursting with flavour and at the very peak of their ripeness. Their rich colours remind me of the Paisley-print apron my great grandmother ‘Little Nana’ wore while teaching me the secrets of her Northumberland kitchen. The familiar hiss of her battered old pressure cooker announced that, once again, she was turning even the humblest of ingredients into succulent, concentrated and deliciously flavoured dishes, guaranteed to melt in my mouth and make me feel warm and loved. Her daughter Belle, (my paternal grandmother) passed that trusty old pressure cooker on to me after Little Nana died, and I still use it to this day. Indeed, I have used it to create this recipe just for you!

I’ve combined my great grandmother’s approach to soup making with some aspects of the Ayurvedic diet, to create a hug-in bowl; guaranteed to satisfy hunger, deliver on flavour and pack in fibre and nutrients, all in one, very simple and satisfying meal. Lentils (known as ‘dal’) are an Ayurvedic staple and are claimed to boost weight loss, maintain a healthy gut, combat heart disease and support mindfulness, but many people avoid eating them because they find them difficult to digest. However, if lentils are rinsed very well, then soaked overnight, rinsed well a second time with lots of cold water, and then cooked in a pressure cooker, they are so well broken down that their goodness is very easily absorbed by the body.  (They can also be used as a healthier substitute for wheat-based thickeners, for soups, sauces and stews!)

This recipe provides eight very generous portions, which can be kept in the refrigerator (in a covered container) for two or three days, or frozen into individual portions to be used to lift one’s spirits on those cold, wet and windy autumn days.

Makes Eight servings. 180 kcals per serving.


250g dried lentils (rinsed well, pre-soaked and then rinsed well again)  

2 litres of cold water

2 vegetable stock cubes

1 large onion chopped 

500g carton of passata

4 large carrots, diced               

3 large cloves of garlic (minced)    

 250g of fresh or frozen leeks (trimmed and cut crossways into slices)  

1 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 2 tsp turmeric, a generous dash (c. 10mls) of Worcestershire sauce, to season at step 5.

Half a butternut squash (peeled, de-seeded, and cut into large chunks)   

1 tbs of extra virgin olive oil         

A pinch of salt to season soup just before serving, freshly ground black pepper and a few drops of Tabasco to taste.

Fresh parsley to garnish, and crusty bread to accompany.


  1. Put the rinsed, pre-soaked lentils into the pressure cooker and add 2 litres of cold water. Do not add salt!
  2. Put on the pressure cooker lid firmly, add the weight, and put the cooker on the hob on a high setting until pressure is achieved. (This takes about 5 minutes).
  3. Turn the hob down to a low setting and leave the lentils to cook under pressure for 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, put the butternut squash cubes onto baking parchment on baking sheets, drizzle with the olive oil and bake at 180 degrees for 20 minutes.
  5. After 15 minutes cooking time, take the pressure cooker to the kitchen sink, allow cold water to run gently over the lid until it depressurizes, remove the lid by twisting it, and then add the vegetables, crumble in the stock cubes, and seasonings (but not the salt).
  6. Replace the pressure cooker lid, secure it and add the weights.
  7. Put it back on the hob, turn the heat to medium-high and cook until pressure is achieved (around 2 minutes)
  8. Turn the hob setting to low and cook for another 5 minutes and depressurize as in step 5.
  9. Add the roasted squash to the soup, blitz with a hand blender to the texture you prefer, and then add salt, freshly milled black pepper and Tabasco to taste, and throw in a handful of chopped parsley.
  10. Serve in warmed bowls, with some fresh, crusty bread, and enjoy your hug!

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