This soup works both rough and smooth ...

This soup works both rough and smooth ...
© Photo provided

Spicy squash and lentil soup


River Cottage chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall shares this recipe from his latest book with Falstaff.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

This soup is a splicing of two comforting recipes: a hearty squash soup and a spicy lentil dhal and it can be served as either. Satisfying, thick and spicy with a touch of sweetness, it works both ‘rough’ and ‘smooth’; just try whichever appeals most to you. The raita’s not essential, but it’s a lovely complement.

Ingredients (6 servings)
2 tablespoons vegetable or coconut oil
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 bay leaf
1 large onion, chopped
1 kg squash, such as Crown Prince, kabocha or butternut
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped or coarsely grated
1 knob of fresh ginger, finely grated
1 teaspoons ground turmeric or
1 tablespoons finely grated fresh turmeric
1/2 - 1 red chilli, chopped (deseeded for less heat if you prefer), or
1 teaspoons tsp dried chilli flakes
150 g red lentils, well rinsed
800 ml vegetable stock
sea salt and black pepper

Raita (optional)

Ingredients (6 servings)
1/2 medium cucumber
100 ml natural yoghurt (dairy or plant-based)
2 tablespoons chopped mint or coriander (optional)

To serve

Ingredients (6 servings)
Dukka (optional)
Olive or chilli oil (optional)


  • Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat and add the cumin and coriander seeds and the bay leaf. Fry for a few minutes until they start to sizzle, then add the onion. As soon as it is sizzling, reduce the heat and sweat for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice. Meanwhile, peel and deseed the squash, then cut into large cubes (you need about 600g prepared weight).
  • Add the garlic, ginger, turmeric and chilli to the onion and continue to fry gently for 3–4 minutes, then add the chopped squash and toss with the onion over the heat for a minute or two.
  • Add the rinsed lentils to the pan, pour in the stock and bring to a simmer. Then cover the pan and let the soup cook gently for 15–20 minutes, lifting the lid to stir regularly, until the squash is tender and the lentils have broken down into a rough purée.
  • Meanwhile, make the raita: coarsely grate the cucumber, wrap it in a clean tea towel and squeeze to remove excess liquid, then tip into a bowl. Add the yoghurt, and herbs if using, mix well and season with a little salt and pepper. Set aside or keep in the fridge if you are making the raita more than an hour ahead of serving.
  • Remove the bay leaf from the soup. Either bash and crush the squash with a wooden spoon or potato masher to get a nice rough texture, or blitz the soup until smooth, using a stick blender in the pan, or a jug blender. Add some hot water if needed to loosen the texture a little – I like it thick but not so that you can actually stand a spoon up in it. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Reheat the soup gently if necessary and ladle into warmed bowls.
  • Dollop some raita on top. Finish, if you like, with a sprinkle of dukka and/or a trickle of olive oil, or chilli oil if you have some and fancy an extra kick of heat.

This recipe is from River Cottage Good Comfort by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, published by Bloomsbury – a collection of heart-warming recipes that also happen to be packed with things that are good for us.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

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