Lentil soup for the soul

2 min readFeb 7, 2022
Image by Anna Nekrashevich on Pexels.com

To a certain type of Scot, the variety of soup referenced in the famous title was all wrong. Everyone knows that the cure for all ills, body or mind, is a big bowl of lentil soup.

Like an Italian mama with their proprietary ragu, every Scottish household has its version of this delicious meal. Whether your mummy’s or your granny’s recipe, it was exactly what you needed when sick with the flu, soaked from walking home in the rain or when your boyfriend had chucked you.

The recipes may vary, indeed my mum used to tweak hers depending on what was in the fridge or how much time was available, but they all share the same basic principles. Packed with wholesome ingredients, easy to make and a great source of protein for vegans (if you leave out the meat!) this soup is still Scotland’s favourite and has even been recommended by doctors as a means to combat the growing incidence of diabetes.

One thing I know is - no matter how good anyone else soup is, it will never be as good as my mum’s.

I’ve tried to discover exactly how this soup became such a Scottish staple. Was it a relic of the Auld Alliance with France? Did it come from colonial India, or was it a result of rationing in the war? If you know please comment below!

Here’s a basic outline – adjust it to your own tastes and dietary preferences!

  • 1 ham hock OR half a pack streaky bacon with excess fat slightly trimmed.
  • 2 Medium Carrots
  • 2 Medium Onions
  • 1 Small Swede aka Rutabaga (what we Scots call turnip…)
  • 250g red lentils
  • 2 litres water
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Peel and dice all the vegetables. Boil up the meat if using then simmer for half an hour with the lid on. Skim the surface if necessary. Add the vegetables and simmer for another 30 mins. Add all the lentils and simmer for a final 30 minutes. Remove the ham bone and season to taste. Purée using a food processor or immersion blender.

You may prefer to use a stock cube and if your making a vegan version consider using black smoked salt to give it an authentic flavour. Common alternative ingredients include adding a potato or using leek instead of onion. If you fink the ham stock too strong it’s also delicious with a chicken stock.

You can keep this in the fridge for three days and it freezes and reheats very easily. Enjoy!

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