Soups are some of the easiest types of meals you can make. They can, of course, be light and serve to open your appetite and cleanse your palate – so if you are up for a five course meal don’t skip your soup! Having said that, that type of a soup is not what this post is about.
One-pot dinner wonders
Hearty soups are those wonder recipes that take only a handful ingredients and a single pot to make a huge amount of food to feed an army. Hearty soups, and, to be honest, soups in general, freeze well as well as taste even better the next day! This all means that if you have an hour of time, a chopping board, and a large pot you can make yourself a big batch that can see you through for a while.
How to make a hearty, yet meatless soup
Many may think that meat is the only way to boost the heartiness. This is a myth and simple to dispel. All you need is a nice selection of some soup basics, like onions, celery, garlic, carrots, parsnips, peppers – these types of ingredients will make a flavor base for your soup.
Another type of flavoring agents you may want to employ are vegetable stock, bouillon cubes or bouillon base. I use the stock fairly often – you do need to experiment a bit to find one you like. However, I find both the bouillon cubes and base to be too salty and full of stuff I don’t need/want. It’s up to you to decide whether these are the best way to enhance flavors of your soups and other dishes.
Additional key ingredients for a hearty plant-based soup are the legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas), and starches (potatoes, noodles, and rice). You can use both legumes and starches together, of course, but in the recipe below I use lentils only.
Finally, you can really refresh your hearty soup by throwing in some nice green leafy vegetables. Things like kale, spinach, chard, and escarole are all an excellent addition. This kale soup is a good example from a while back!
Re-thinking escarole and bean soup
In this one pot hearty soup recipe, I decided to play around with a very traditional escarole and bean soup recipe. Instead of the beans, the recipe uses brown lentils. Moreover, it starts with a mix of scallions and diced red pepper, this completely abandoning the traditional onion and celery. The result is a thick soup, where richness of lentils is balanced out by the escarole. Overall, one head of escarole and one pound of lentils go a long way, making this a budget-friendly recipe. Lastly, since the recipe is wholesome and uses only main stream ingredients, this is something you can serve with vegans and non-vegans alike.
Escarole and Lentil Soup
What you’ll need:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 scallions, trimmed and finely sliced
1 sweet red pepper, finely diced
1 escarole, washed and chopped into bite sized pieces
1 lbs (454 g) brown lentils, rinsed and sorted
4 cups vegetable broth
2-4 cups water
What you’ll do:
- Place a large and heavy pot over the medium high heat – I recommend using a Dutch oven, but any heavy and large pot will do. Add oil and chopped scallions and brown for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the diced peppers, lower the heat to medium low, and sauté for 5-8 minutes.
- While the scallions and peppers are sautéing, wash and chop the escarole, and rinse and sort lentils. Add the escarole first, and let it wilt down. This will take 4-5 minutes. Then add the lentils, pour the stock in, and add 2 cups of water to begin with.
- Turn up the heat, bring the pot to boil, then lower the heat down to a gentle simmer. Let the soup simmer for 45 minutes or so, with occasional stirring. If you think the soup is getting too dense, add some more water in – but do go slow and only add 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of water at a time. After about 45 minutes of simmering the soup will be ready to enjoy. Taste test first to make sure it is salty enough for you (I don’t add extra salt since the vegetable stock I use is usually enough, but this is something you can easily adjust depending on your preferences), and that lentils are fully cooked – they should be soft by this point.
- Enjoy the soup with some bread, or with a salad. You can top it with a dollop of vegan sour cream, yogurt (my favorite brand is kite hill plain almond milk yogurt), or parmesan cheese, and sprinkle of fresh chives or fresh flat leaf parsley!
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