I have a friend who tells a story. It was in the mid-70’s and she was living in Suburbia, USA. Her family was invited over to friends for dinner. When they asked the hostess what they could bring (“Flowers?” “A bottle of Blue Nun?”), they were told simply to bring a can of soup. So Campbell’s Black Bean soup in tow, they went over for dinner.

SOUP 3 copy

The kids were dispatched to the Rec Room to throw darts at the board and each other, while the adults got comfortable in the living room suite as the host uncorked a couple of bottles of Mateus. A few bites of celery piped with Cheez Whiz and dinner was served.

The hostess – in a particularly Stepford Wife-ish moment –proudly lifted the lid on a soup tureen and announced dinner was served – Friendship soup! Every can of soup that had been brought that night – chicken and stars, beef noodle and yes, black bean – had been dumped in a pot, heated up and served with pride.

My friend still wakes sometimes in the middle of the night screaming.

And this is how food nightmares start. I mean, poor soup. It’s not just 70’s travesties like Friendship Soup that give soup a bad name. Soup just sometimes sounds kind of boring, kind of last minute, kind of can’t-be-bothered.


But it shouldn’t be that way. Soup is warm (unless it’s cold) and comforting and kind of like a great dog – it loves you no matter what.

Now this soup is simple. It’s easy and you’ve probably got most/all of the ingredients in your cupboard right now and that’s a good thing. It serves 2-3 but double the recipe and pop the leftovers it in the freezer. But please, whatever you do, don’t mix it with it with chicken and stars.

Spicy Lentil Soup with Smoky Frizzled Onions

Serves 2-3

The secret to this soup is the smoky frizzled onions. You cook them super slowly until they’re nice and soft, then add some chipotle, crank up the heat to caramelize them and give them some color. Plop some on each serving along with a drizzle of sour cream and you’re in heaven.

½ red onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ancho chile powder
¼ tsp cayenne powder
¼ tsp chipotle chile powder
1 ½ tsp cumin seeds, roughly ground
8 oz. red lentils, washed and any stones or dirt removed
3-4 cups water or stock
4 Tbsp tomato puree
1 15 oz. can black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
Salt to season

Smoky frizzled onions:
1 ½ red onions
2 Tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp chipotle chile powder
Pinch salt

To serve:
Sour Cream
Chopped parsley or cilantro

To make the soup, sauté the onions in the olive oil in a covered saucepan over low heat until they’re soft. Add the spices and cook for a minute or two more until the mixture is aromatic. Add the red lentils and water. Once the lentils are tender, add the tomato puree and black eyed peas and check for seasoning. You can puree the soup or serve as is.


While the soup is cooking, make the frizzled onions. Slice the onions in half and then thinly into half moons. Sauté the onions in the olive oil in a covered saucepan over low heat until they’re soft. Remove the lid, stir in the chipotle chile and salt and increase the heat, stirring often to keep the onions from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. Continue to cook until they’re nicely caramelized and jammy.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls, drizzle with sour cream or Greek yoghurt and a dollop of the frizzled onions and parsley or cilantro.