Lentil and Tomato Soup

Recipe from Moira Forsyth
Submitted by Sandstone Press


1 small onion
1 medium carrot
Two tins chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon oil
4oz (100g) lentils
One and a half pints vegetable stock or water
A bay leaf
Half teaspoon Marmite
Salt and pepper to taste


Soften onion in oil till transparent; add carrot and cook for a few more minutes on low heat. Add tomatoes, water (less or more depending on thickness of soup you like – you need to experiment!) and lentils. Add bay leaf and Marmite, season to taste (Marmite is salty so less salt than usual). Bring to boil, cover and simmer on low heat for 30-40 minutes. Whizz a bit with a hand blender when it’s ready if you like a smoother soup.

We were close when our children were young. After I moved away we kept in touch, as women do. Then her marriage ended with appalling suddenness. She didn’t talk about that – too painful. Surprisingly soon, there was another man. Our lives had diverged, but we still talked about the children, and we still shared recipes.

She was a scones-and-pancakes sort of woman, demure. But when I asked her for a story to go with her recipe, this is what she sent:

‘I wasn’t eating much. Even less since we’d been together on that residential course, when something changed, so that even seeing him caused my heart to thump too fast.

‘During the years to come, years unimaginable in those giddy weeks, he would say to me, as we fell joyfully into bed, ‘a hungry lover is a good lover’.

‘I wasn’t hungry that first time. I’d been thrumming like a plucked wire, breathless with fear and anticipation.

‘Afterwards, he said we must eat. I must eat. He had made soup. So I sat down at his rented kitchen table, in his temporary home, while he stirred the pot of soup he’d made that morning, before I arrived. It was a temporary place because he was between marriages (he said) while I was tumbling too fast and frightened out of mine. He filled blue bowls with tomato and lentil soup. I was to guess the secret ingredient. I ate it, like someone who has just discovered it’s all right to eat. That might be true – I’d had years of starving myself.

‘Soup is generally seen as a comforting food, warm and warming, a food for winter days and happy families and coming in from the cold and being looked after. Not a food, you’d think, for new lovers, for the day your life falls from grace, from security into terror and the guilty future.

‘I make the soup now, not him, and each time it’s thicker or more peppery, different. No two soups alike, if you’re a slapdash cook like me. And yet it’s always the same in one way, it’s always the soup that against impossible odds, comforts and reassures. There was a future, after all, if not the one I thought I would have.’

Moira Forsyth is the author of The Treacle Well, a tale of family secrets and severed relationships. Daniel and Caroline are closest to each other, twins for whom the rest of the world is always distant. But underneath the stable family life run currents of insecurity and restlessness, and a secret only one person is able to uncover.

Moira Forsyth is published by Sandstone Press.