Photo by: Richard Learoyd

Red lentil and chard soup

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500g split red lentils
2.5 litres cold water
2 medium red onions
2 tbsp olive oil
200g Swiss chard
50g coriander leaves
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp coriander seeds
3 garlic cloves, crushed
50g unsalted butter
Grated zest of ½ lemon
Sourdough bread
4 lemons, cut into wedges
Salt and black pepper

Serves 6


Wash the lentils in plenty of cold water. Place in a large saucepan with 2.5 litres of water, bring to the boil and simmer for 35 minutes or until soft. Skim off any scum that rises to the surface during cooking.

Using a slotted spoon, remove about half the lentils from the cooking liquid and set aside in a bowl. Add a generous pinch of salt to the lentils and water in the pan and liquidise using a stick blender or in a food processor. Return the reserved lentils to the soup.

Now comes the arduous chopping part of the recipe. Peel the red onions, halve and thinly slice them. Place a frying pan over a medium heat, add the olive oil and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4–5 minutes, until the onions soften and become translucent. Meanwhile, remove and discard the large stems from the Swiss chard. Wash and rinse the leaves thoroughly, then chop them roughly. Do the same with the coriander, leaving a few whole leaves for garnish later, and that’s all the chopping done.

Mix the cooked onions, chard leaves and chopped coriander into the lentil soup and season with the cumin, cinnamon and some salt and pepper to taste. Reheat the soup and simmer gently for 5 minutes.

In a pestle and mortar, or using the heel of a large knife, crush the coriander seeds and garlic together. Melt the butter gently in a small saucepan over a medium heat, add the garlic and coriander seeds and fry for 2 minutes, until the garlic starts to colour slightly. Stir this into the soup, remove the pot from the stove and cover with a lid. Leave the soup to infuse for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve garnished with lemon zest and coriander leaves and pass round some sourdough bread and lemon wedges. Make sure everybody squeezes the lemon into their soup.


{based on 7 reviews}

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  • Recipes So delicious!
    (17/08/2015) Great chunky soup and so easy to make. Love it.
  • Recipes Delicious and a keeper!
    (18/02/2015) I have been making this soup over and over again and we never get tired of it. I am quite meticulous when making a recipe as I am not a natural cook but please, you just have to taste and perhaps adjust the amount of the spices if you don't like it exactly the way it is described. Anyway, I have been making it also with the addition of chorizzo (it's nothing for vegetarians, of course :D) and it didn't make the soup worse :P I love it and it is my favorite soup with lentils. As another reviewer, I also live in a colder climate (Sweden) and the soup is warming and nourishing even the coldest winter day.
  • Recipes Excellent!
    (11/11/2014) This soup was DIVINE! I live outside Houston, Tx, too bad it's not cold, or it would have been even better! I think it's beautiful too! And that's despite the fact that I got the measurements wrong and made half the amount of lentils. Ottolenghi has done it again! Thanks Yotam!
  • Recipes I liked it!
    (01/02/2014) Okay, so it isn't beautifu...but I diced the red stems of the swiss chard and added them to cook with the onions for some added red color and less waste. I found it tasty (better the 2nd day, as is the case with most hearty soups) and like that it's very healthy and close to a complete meal. Too, it makes a lot and so I've frozen some for later lunches.
  • Recipes A comforting soup and good way to use up chard
    (24/01/2014) I make this soup quite a lot as it uses up my allotment chard and lentils are good for you. I've adapted the recipe a bit - I add ground coriander and garlic to the soup after the onions, so leave the butter so its a bit healthier but you still get the flavour. Also mine never looks as vibrant as the one in the picture (possibly as I've added ground coriander?) but its fine once the coriander and lemon zest is on the top. The recipe states 'Make sure everybody squeezes the lemon into their soup.' - this should read LOTS lemon as it really adds to the overall flavour.
  • Recipes good ingredients
    (22/01/2014) It was ok, but tastewise I think some more spices would help to improve this soup. It can look good, though.
  • Recipes Give yourself some time
    (24/11/2013) There must be a mistake in the quantities in this recipe because it turned out just awful. It looked like sludge with chard mixed in and far too much coriander. I tried making this soup after a hard day's work and ended up throwing it out and angrily making a simple, but edible meal. This might be a good soup but not with this recipe.