Fresh tomato and red lentil soup with basil, ricotta and black olives

by Christine Knight

Fresh tomato and red lentil soup with basil, ricotta and black olives

It seems to be the season for ricotta and black olives in my kitchen…! This soup is hearty but fresh-tasting – a useful compromise for the British “summer” of 2012. It’s inspired by three longstanding favourite recipes: the fast red lentil soup in The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook; the tomato, red lentil and olive sauce in Jan Purser and Kathy Snowball’s Detox Cookbook; and the creamy aubergine, cannellini bean and ricotta soup in The Naked Chef. (Before Jamie, I’d never considered the possibility of cheese in soup.)

This is vegetarian and gluten-free, and will keep in the fridge for several days – reheat on the stove-top for 5 minutes over low heat. It does need good tomatoes – if you’re in the northern hemisphere, make it now; in the southern hemisphere, wait a few months!

1 tbs olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
450g ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped (large chunks)
125g (2/3 cup) red lentils
2 cups (500ml) vegetable stock (I use Marigold vegetarian stock powder)
½ cup black (kalamata) olives, pitted and sliced
ricotta, to serve
fresh basil, to serve
olive oil, to serve
salt and black pepper

Serves 4

Heat the olive oil over a medium heat and fry the chopped onion until softened. Add the chopped tomatoes and stir briefly. Next add the lentils, vegetable stock and ground black pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to very low and simmer for 10 minutes. At this point add the pitted and sliced olives. Continue to simmer for another 5-10 minutes, until the lentils are cooked.

I like a thick soup; if you want, you can add a little more boiling stock at this point to thin it down. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and top each serving with some broken-up ricotta, torn fresh basil leaves, a drizzle of olive oil, and more ground black pepper. Serve with Bakers Delight pane di casa (in Australia!) or a chewy, crusty Italian-style white bread such as ciabatta.