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Tomato Lentil Soup Recipe [BVI Food Recipe]

There’s a slight coolness in the nighttime air in February, as the prevailing southerly breeze has given way to a northerly wind direction, and the gusty Christmas winds linger far beyond their namesake holiday.

Virgin Islands residents like to exaggerate the coolness of the weather in the winter, much to the amusement of visitors who come to these tropical islands to escape truly cold and icy weather. At the start of my first winter in the VI, I tried to sympathize with a friend who lamented that her pool was too cold for swimming during the holidays (yes, life in paradise can be tough), and I laughed at scenes of women in Road Town shopping while wearing thick scarves, likely as much for warmth as fashion.

Seasonal temperature changes are slight in the islands—winter low temperatures average 70, versus 76 in the summer—but spend four consecutive seasons in the islands and one will appreciate the subtle signs of winter: sleeping under a duvet at night, reaching for a shorty wetsuit during long winter snorkeling sessions and craving comfort food such as soup. Winter is a relative concept, and it’s easy to start thinking 70 degrees is “cool.” By the end of my first VI winter, I was advising my visitors, much to their amusement, of course, to bring “warm clothes for the chilly evenings up in the hills.”

Before moving to the British Virgin Islands, I had spent every winter of my life in cold and snowy weather. The first snowfall of the year was a trigger not only to change my wardrobe (boots every day!) but also my cooking. Cozy casseroles and hearty soups and stews became my daily staples. Although BVI winters are decidedly milder than what I was accustomed to, I found that even a BVI winter made me long for comfort food such as soup.

In addition to satisfying a desire for comfort food, soups are excellent for the winter high season when houses and boats are filled with visitors. Soups are great for a crowd, since they are easy, yield a large quantity and can be prepared in advance. Consider cooking a double batch and freezing half so you always have delicious homemade soup on hand. One of my favourite winter soups is tomato-lentil soup, substantial enough to be a main dish yet light enough to be healthy. Accompany the soup with crusty bread or biscuits, a salad and a glass of red wine. If you are dining al fresco, don’t forget a sweater. It’s winter, after all.

 

Tomato Lentil Soup

The style of this soup is more Italian than Caribbean. However, the ingredients are readily available in the islands and the vegetables and herbs are grown locally.

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2 Tbl butter

1 c chopped yellow onion

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

1 14 oz can diced tomatoes

3 c chicken or vegetable stock

1/4 c dried lentils

1/2 c chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, divided

1/4 c dry red wine

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp salt

1/8 tsp ground cloves

  1. Melt butter in a soup pot. Add the onions and cook over low heat until soft, about 10 minutes.
  2. To the onions, add the tomatoes (with juice), chicken stock, and lentils. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Add 1/4 cup parsley, wine, garlic, pepper, salt and cloves. Simmer for 25 minutes.
  4. Add remaining 1/4 cup parsley and simmer for additional 5 minutes.

Serves 4. Adapted from The New Basics Cookbook.

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