Curried Lentil Soup

soupjam-027Penguin Books have put out a lot of books in their Cooking and Dining range, and this post’s recipe comes from The Pauper’s Cookbook, first published in 1971 (this edition is from 1973). By Jocasta Innes, it’s aimed at those who cannot afford to be extravagant in their cooking and spending, and features various tips on thrifty cuisine, including guidance on kitchen utensils, larder staples and using ovens. Although with the best intentions it sometimes makes frugal living seem like a terrible indignity and embarrassment – this is from the blurb:

“Here’s how to live up in your own squalid tenement without recourse to poaching, rustling, gudding, scrumping or shop-lifting”


I’ve found it interesting to note the changing attitudes to fridge and gas/ electric oven ownership across various cookbooks I have as these items become more common – earlier books treat them as novelties which a few might have, and then by the time of this book ovens appear to be standard but fridges are not yet quite a given for all members of society – “If you have no fridge look out for one of the old-fashioned butter coolers, still to be found in junk shops”, it says in one chapter.

The book is divided into ‘cooking situations’ rather than types of food, so we have ‘Standards’, ‘Padding’ (“stretching small quantities of food a bit further”), ‘Fast Work’ (“when you want a rapid but not skimpy meal after a late show”), ‘Programmed Eating’ (“planning, buying and cooking the next week’s meals at one fell swoop”), ‘Fancy Work’, ‘Dieting on the Cheap’ and ‘Private Enterprise’. I needed a soup recipe for work lunches last week, so chose this recipe from the Standards chapter:

Curried Lentil Soup

Good, strong, warming soup with a slight snap to it. Practically a meal on its own.

1/2lb lentils

2 pints water or stock

2 large onions

1 turnip

2tbs butter

2 tsp curry powder

A little chutney juice

salt, pepper

A little flour

Fry the sliced onions and turnip in butter till soft. Sprinkle on curry powder and stir a few moments longer. Add the pre-soaked lentils and water or stock – if you are using water a bouillon cube will help, but go easy on the salt in that case. Simmer over a low heat for 1.5 hoursor until the lentils can be squashed against the side of the pan with a spoon. Put the whole lot through a sieve or the Mouli. Return to the saucepan. Add salt and black pepper to taste, and the chutney juice. If the soup seems too thin, you can thicken it by mixing a little with 1tbs flour, adding this to the soup and simmering, stirring from time to time, for another 10 minutes or so. Eat this with slices of dry toast and butter.




  • I couldn’t find a turnip so used swede
  • I used green lentils
  • I used my homemade vegetable stock and topped it up with water
  • I didn’t put it through ‘the Mouli’ but through the ‘Kenwood Multi-Pro’
  • I doubled the amount of curry powder as I was using mild powder
  • The flour was not needed as it as thick anyway.


  • It was very very nice – I hadn’t high hopes for it as seasoning something just with curry powder seems too simplistic to work, but I was wrong. It was lovely and thick, and hearty and warming, and I had it three days in a row for lunch, with some pitta bread (not‘dry toast’ as suggested). Definitely a good ‘standard’ to have in one’s repetoire, and one I’ll use again. However, it did stain everything it touched yellow, and also looks uncannily like baby poo.

Cooked by Alix

3 responses to “Curried Lentil Soup

  1. do you have her recipe for Ham and Potato casserole, I’ve lost my copy of the book.

  2. Pingback: Penguin Cooks: Cooking from the archives | The Penguin Blog

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