Lentil Soup

When I was eleven, I decided I wanted to be a vegetarian. This was highly impractical for my poor Mother, who cooked healthy meals from scratch, every day for our family of six. One of the conditions of her permitting me to be a vegetarian was that I would have to eat lentils in order to get some protein into my diet. I really disliked lentils at this stage in my life, and, now that I love them, I wish I could turn back the clock to make life easier for my Mum when it came to cooking for me. 
Now that I am an adult, many of my tastes have changed, and although I am no longer a vegetarian, I will quite happily eat lentils on a regular basis. We eat very little meat in our diet at the moment, and this is as much about the cost of meat as anything else. When it comes to eating lunch, I would quite happily forego this meal, and just snack my way through the afternoon, or eat a bowl of granola instead. However, now that I have a baby to feed, I am growing ever more conscious of needing to eat well, as I am nourishing not just my own body, but my daughter's. So I am endeavouring to be more organized by making healthy soups to eat for my lunch, so that when the midday hunger hits, it will only take me a few minutes to heat up something that is a little more full of protein and vegetables than a bowl of granola is. I love throwing a handful of lentils into a pan of simmering soup, knowing that I am adding protein to my meal, for the cost of just a few pennies. So, this is the soup I will be eating for my lunches this week:

Lentil Soup
250g / 1 cup lentils
2 sticks of celery
1 onion (red or white)
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
half a sweet potato
3 garlic cloves, crushed or chopped finely
pinch of cumin seeds
a splash of red or white wine vinegar
1 tsp hot paprika
850ml chicken or vegetable stock
2 cm of chorizo, chopped (optional)

1. In a large saucepan or frying pan, heat a glug of olive oil.
2. Chop the sweet potato and chorizo (if using), and fry over a gentle heat for 10 minutes.
3. Once the potato and chorizo have softened, remove from the pan.
4. Chop the onion and celery.
5. Add the cumin seeds to the pan that you used for the chorizo and sweet potato, along with the onion and celery. If the pan is a little dry, add a slosh of water, as this will add moisture but not fat. Cook for about 10 mins.
6. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
7. Add the chopped tomatoes, stock, paprika, vinegar and lentils to the pan and cook for about 30 minutes or until the lentils are cooked.
8. Put the chorizo and sweet potato back into the pan and stir through. If you like chunky soup, serve as it is. Or blitz the soup in a food processor if you prefer a smoother texture.
9. Serve with a sprig of coriander if you like it!