Monday 22 April 2019

The Happy Pear's Guide to Soup: The simple way to eat wholesome food

Soup is a healthy food that's perfect on the go, and served with some wholemeal bread, it makes a great lunch.

The Happy Pear Boys
The Happy Pear Boys

David and Stephen Flynn

People are becoming more and more interested in healthy food and there are better lunch offerings all the time at cafes and for take-away.

However, in the same breath I have to say that it is also easier and cheaper than ever before to eat processed and junk food which we are hard-wired to crave and, if we lead busy lives and are not organised about our food, chances are that our lunch choices might not be as healthy as we may like. I really do believe that we need prioritise our health, as statistics now say that at least one out of every two Irish people will die of either cancer or heart disease, which are, by and large, lifestyle diseases (a product of what we eat, if we exercise and how we handle stress).

I think, to eat healthily, we need to be more organised. We need to plan ahead and make food in advance or have considered where we can get healthy food on the go. Otherwise, we are resorting to reactively getting food on the go, which is usually much lesser quality than food you can make for yourself.

Right now, with winter upon us, soup is such a simple and nourishing way to be eating wholesome food. It's such a good lunch option with a couple of slices of nice bread/toasted wholemeal pitta bread or a nice ripe avocado or hearty grain salad - it can be hard to beat. Simple yet elegant.

Read more: Chunky Moroccan Harira soup

Making a big pot of soup that will do for a couple of days of the week is a great habit to get into. It's easy enough to do so on a Sunday or any evening you have time. It will work perfect for lunch with some good bread served alongside.

I love to make chunky soups, usually with some beans (I'm a big fan of butter beans) or lentils, with some herbs such as thyme or rosemary, some root veg and some nice greens such as kale or spinach. There is no end to the possibilities. For the seasoned soup veteran, I love barley soups and find them very nourishing with plenty of kale and winter squash and some kombu or any type of seaweed.

The two soup recipes I have included are both chunky, substantial fellows. Both are clean and nourishing and could easily do for lunch for a few days or as a lazy dinner with some bread and hummus.

The kale salad is a great immune booster for this time of year and the spiced tahini cashew dressing is fab. Kale has become cool and is definitely trending! According to the ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index), kale has the highest amount of vitamins and minerals of all foods, and is in the top four most antioxidant-rich vegetables. Where Popeye ate spinach for his strength, the Incredible Hulk most likely ate kale!

Read more: The Happy Pair: Dishy cafe owners serve up saucy snaps

With young kids, I think there so many variables involved with whether they eat or not. My eldest daughter is four years old and sometimes she eats her lunch and sometimes she doesn't - it can often have nothing to do with the food I put in front of her.

There are a few things that she will eat most of the time. These include:

- Rice cakes with avocado or hummus (sometimes I have to put some honey on it to make it more attractive!)

- Coconut yoghurt with some raspberries

The Happy Pear Boys
The Happy Pear Boys

- Soup with some brown rice going through it and some bread

- Bread and hummus

- Bananas with some tahini to dip into

- Nakd bars are a nice treat to include and are whole food snack bars with no extra added sugars or fat. They are available in most supermarkets and health food stores now.

Read more: Kale sprouted seeds and red berry salad

For older kids, I think the wholesome soup in a flask with a few slices of bread (and maybe some hummus to accompany) is hard to beat.

The Happy Pear Cookbook is published by Penguin Ireland.

Chunky Spanish  lentil and veg soup

Serves 6


1 onion

3 cloves of garlic

2 carrots

3 sticks of celery

2 leeks

2 potatoes

1 parsnip

3 tablespoons oil

1 teaspoon salt

1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 fresh ripe tomatoes or 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

150g Puy lentils, or other green or brown lentils

4 tablespoons tamari

Juice of 1⁄2 a lemon

2 bay leaves

6 sprigs of fresh thyme

3 sprigs of fresh rosemary

2.5 litres vegetable stock or water

100g baby spinach


Peel and finely dice the onion and garlic. Slice the carrots, celery and leeks into 2cm rounds, and cut the potatoes and parsnip into bite-size pieces.

Pour the oil into a large family-size pan and put on a medium heat. Add the onion, celery, garlic, carrots, salt and black pepper and stir. Cover with a lid, turn the heat to low, and cook gently for 15 minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent, stirring occasionally.

Finely dice the tomatoes if using fresh ones. Add the fresh or tinned tomatoes to the pan with the leeks, parsnips, potatoes and lentils, then add the tamari, lemon juice, bay leaves and the leaves from the thyme and rosemary. Pour in the stock, turn the heat up to high, bring to the boil, stirring a few times, then reduce the heat to a simmer for 20 minutes.

Taste to see that the lentils are cooked, and season with more salt and pepper if it needs it.

Just before serving, stir in the spinach.


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