Wholemeal Tomato Soup

My "Wholemeal Tomato Soup"Tomato soup, rather like you remember, can be yours, homemade, vegan and protein-y. Healthy eaters do miss its grown-up convenience and childhood nostalgia flavor and texture. If you read the ingredients and nutrition levels of canned tomato soup, however, you will definitely want an alternative. Even the seemingly better choices of canned soup are pretty salty etc.

For being from scratch, it’s pretty quick, as it’s a pantry dish. To My Beloved and me, it’s real close to that ol’ heat-and-eat flavor but with full confidence in its quality.

“Wholemeal” is a repurposing of the British word for what Americans would call whole grain. Here it means I’ve tucked in healthy amounts of plant protein with little impact on flavor or texture, to make a whole meal, nutritionally.

Healthy red lentils are more orange but when cooked turn yellow.
Red lentils lose color when cooked. Source: Wikimedia Commons
  • 1-2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (olive oil or salad oil)
  • 1 medium-large onion, peeled and chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste (about 1/4 can)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced (2-3 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 4-6 cups water
  • 1 28 oz (large) can tomatoes (crushed, diced or whole), undrained
  • 1-2 teaspoons vegetable broth powder
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 teaspoons dried herbs (such as Italian blend or tarragon or basil)
  • 1/2 cup dry red lentils, check for bad ones or dirt or gravel then rinse OR 1 14-15 oz can cannellini beans, undrained
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, to start with

  1. Preheat large saucepan on medium 2-4 minutes. Add oil and onion, sauté 5 minutes, stirring infrequently so onions lose some opacity and even brown a little. All at once, add tomato paste, garlic and sugar, stir constantly 60-90 seconds until tomato paste darkens a bit.
  2. Add 4 cups water to pot — watch for burst of steam  — then tomatoes. Add broth powder, balsamic and herbs, stir. Raise heat to medium high.
  3. Add red lentils or can of cannelini beans. If lentils then add another cup of water. If the white precooked beans, then including the liquid from the can is sufficient. When at a rolling boil reduce heat and simmer no less than 15 minutes. The lentils will cook in 15-20 minutes. Pot can be covered or not; if uncovered then up to another cup of already hot water may be added to return to tomato soup consistency.
  4. Remove from heat. Recommended: Puree using stick or immersion blender. Otherwise puree in a jar blender or large food processor in batches, following machine instructions for hot liquids. If you don’t mind it a little chunky then go with the crushed tomatoes, simmer closer to 30 minutes and stir vigorously to mush up the lentils or beans a bit.
  5. Add basic amounts of salt and pepper, taste then correct seasonings, including a bit more herbs if desired.

Serves 6-8. Serve with crackers or toast, maybe also a salad. Soup reheats as leftovers very well. Can be frozen.

Notes: Cannelini or white kidney beans are a good alternative because they are mild and soft. Regular lentils will look weird and take more time to cook. Canned tomatoes, canned beans and broth powder (or veg bullion cube) can be low-salt or no-salt, adjust seasoning at end for that. OK, for a true pantry dish, drop the fresh onion and garlic for 1-2 Tablespoons minced dried onion and 1/2 – 1 teaspoon dried minced garlic, which would be added with the quart of water, but the tomato paste still needs a minute of browning in a little oil.

Adapted from “Homemade Tomato Soup” from Vegetarian Times.

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