Lentil and Rice Soup with Butternut Squash and Spinach

March 21, 2018

A warm, tomato based soup for a little bit more cozy eating before we truly reach spring. This is a bit of a clean-out-the-fridge transition soup, with butternut squash (currently available locally for some reason), zucchini, fresh spinach, and hearty spices. I made a version of this a couple of weeks ago during one of those oh no moments when it's getting close to dinner and nothing has been planned - this is what was hanging around, and the resulting soup was awesome. So I made it again, tested a couple of times to share here, and now it's even better. Like most soups, it's better on the second day plus the rice and lentils thicken it up a bit and it ends up more like a stew. So good.

Rice tends to soak up a lot of flavour so keep in mind that you'll likely need to add a bit of extra salt here or it'll end up bland. Other than the lentils and rice, it's pretty flexible, an everything but the kitchen sink meal. I've tried with sweet potato or carrots instead of squash, adding eggplant, and threw a little cauliflower in once. I know most of you are probably looking ahead to spring now, but we're still at least a month off from local asparagus and strawberries around here, so I'm sticking to this for now. I will have a nice Easter sweet bread recipe for you tomorrow.

I'm a bit frustrated with these pictures and Graham said "soup is chaotic, that's just how it is - you can't have lentils lined up in perfect rows" and you know what? A little chaos is okay, and I'm okay with embracing that in my soup and my life, hah. I was a bit run off my feet and ended up doing the photos as the sun was setting, so a bit more organization probably wouldn't have hurt this time. 

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Lentil and Rice Soup with Butternut Squash and Spinach
Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon oil (coconut, sunflower, avocado)
1 medium yellow onion (~100 grams)
1 small / 500 grams butternut squash, cut into 3cm pieces
1 medium / 300 grams zucchini, cut into 2cm pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt 
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (to taste)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar 
400 gram can diced tomatoes
1 litre / 4 cups vegetable stock
150 grams / 1 cup brown lentils*
100 grams / 1/2 cup brown rice*
70 grams / 3 cups baby spinach or other greens

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium. Add the onion and sauté for a couple of minutes, or until softened and fragrant. Add the butternut squash and cook for another five minutes, stirring occasionally, to soften slightly. Stir in the zucchini and garlic, and cook for another another minute. Add the spices and cook for about 30 seconds, then pour in the apple cider vinegar and stir. Add the tomatoes and vegetable stock.

Increase the heat to high and bring the soup to a rolling boil. Add the lentils and rice, reduce the heat to medium-low, then cover and simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. Remove from the heat and stir in the baby spinach. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Serve hot and keep leftovers in the refrigerator for up to three days. 

• Using soaked lentils and rice will help to reduce the cooking time significantly. To soak them, just cover them in plenty of water in a large bowl and let them sit overnight and rinse well before cooking.

1. I always use short grain brown rice, but it doesn't really matter. Other types of lentils will work well here too, but avoid very quick cooking varieties like split red lentils as they'll alter the texture too much.

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