Wednesday, 19 April 2023

Authentically Scottish-style Lentil Soup


Lentil Soup is Food for Everyone, and I know you are thinking that there are just so many lentil soup recipes already on the planet. Why post another one? Whilst I am wondering, why haven't I put this superb Scottish soup recipe up before on HRK when I make it so often. It's my go to lentil soup. It's not even officially soup season here yet in North Queensland, but on a long awaited wet and rainy day when the temperatures are in the range of 23 deg. C - 28 deg. C instead of 30 deg C plus and climbing, it's time to hunt down that packet of red lentils in the back of the pantry and make lentil soup livened up with whatever else is in the pantry and the refrigerator. Do you get where I'm coming from? Soup making doesn't have to be complicated, and definitely shouldn't be. It can be quite a spontaneous activity. 

This story is like a love letter to lentils which have given me an easy approach into dinner and has reminded me of my Scottish Ancestry. We might even eat a roast beef sandwich with it. Perhaps I am feeling a bit frivolous, because it's only two more sleeps before I fly out to France to visit my son, his partner and our beautiful grandchildren, yikes, it's actually happening. I believe my son makes lentil soup often during their sometimes quite miserable Winters over in France too, so there's a synergy happening here. Our tropical Winters are far from miserable though, they are balmy and wonderful.

The Backstory:

There is an underlying backstory about this soup. This recipe is based on the easiest lentil soup recipe, originating authentically from the Scottish Highlands, and given to me many years ago by our Scottish friend Calum Ferguson, whom Mr. HRK had as a Highschool teaching colleague for many years. They had a great teaching relationship and a friendship which has endured, and still bounce ideas off each other when they are working on various projects around the house, although Calum is a lot more mechanically minded than Mr. HRK which has come in very handy at times when we've had car problems. Do you detect an obvious Scottish name in there as well, and he still has a very detectable Highlander accent. This is authentically a recipe from the town of Fort William in the Scottish Highlands where Calum comes from. He says that the Scottish still traditionally like to have soup and sandwiches for an evening meal, or sandwiches with their soup, sounds so cosy and wonderful to me.  For this recipe you need a Pressure cooker to really do it justice. However, I have generally simmered it slowly in a heavy based pot and it is still delicious. The weather is almost Scottish here in North Queensland today, it's raining after weeks of unseasonal heat, but then there is a new normal it seems with the weather. So, to my way of thinking, it is the perfect opportunity to use what I have on hand and make a healthy soup, which also stretches the budget. 

A week ago, during our heatwave I never thought I would be making soup only a week later.  Leftovers can be frozen for another rainy day. This has been my very easy go to Red Lentil soup recipe for over 10 years, and each time I change it to suit my mood and what I have on hand. It is just so supremely satisfying and enriching.

Notes about the ingredients:

I am giving you the basic list of ingredients as given to me by Calum, and then I am adding to the list what I added to my latest batch of soup, and to previous soups. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find bacon stock cubes as per the original recipe anymore, so I used vegetable ones, but chicken stock would be nice too also resulting in a lighter soup.  If you can find bacon stock cubes anywhere on the planet, please let me know. Or make your own bacon stock if you have time. The saltiness of bacon and lentils marry beautifully together. As I said I am using what I have on hand, that's how I often try to cook during the week, particularly when making soups.

In 2013, I wrote: "In addition to onions and carrots in went two very small bulbs of fennel from our garden, 1/2 green capsicum, and there's plenty of parsley which I'll use for a garnish.
Add a tin of cannellini beans or chickpeas to stretch it further and add to its rustic appeal, that also means lots more healthy fibre. Oh, I also added a freshly picked long red chilli from the garden to the pot for some added warmth and flavour. " I never finished that post, life got in the way, but I know that the soup was delicious. Grate some parmesan cheese over your bowl of soup if you wish.

Why does this recipe fit the category of cooking on a budget. Red Lentils are cheap to buy and they keep for a long time in the pantry and don't take very long to cook. Onions and carrots the basic vegetables of this soup aren't expensive either, and if you have a ready supply of dried herbs and spices which I suspect you do, then turmeric and  chilli flakes whilst optional, are probably in there, as is salt and pepper. However, mine didn't need any extra salt added.


Serves at least 6 people and can be thinned down with water to feed more if necessary.

(The first four ingredients are essential to the original recipe, the next 3 are optional but I think they enhance the soup flavour beautifully)

1 cup red lentils, rinsed through a fine colander (original recipe said 1/2 a large mug)
2 onions, finely chopped
3 bacon, vegetable or chicken stock cubes 
3-4 good sized carrots (3 if they are very large), sliced and chopped
2 stalks finely chopped celery (optional, not in original recipe)
1 long red chilli, or 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes (optional)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder (optional) but I love the flavour
Cover all of the above with water in the saucepan
Finely chopped coriander or parsley to garnish 


Bring ingredients to the boil and allow to simmer until the lentils and the vegetables are cooked. (I like to saute the onions in a little olive oil first with the carrots and celery to bring out their flavour, but that's not essential if you are in a hurry. In the original recipe they were all just added to the pot together and brought to the boil.)

Enjoy the aroma of the soup filling your home. There's nothing better on a wet and chilly day.

When cooked, add salt and pepper to taste if needed.

Puree to serve or leave as lumpy as you like.

Garnish with fresh coriander, parsley or whatever fresh herbs you have on hand. Swirl a little yoghurt through. I love a little bit of fun soup art.

There are lots of variations out there for Lentil soup, and I have added pumpkin and other vegetables at times, however this recipe is for a good basic soup which also stretches the budget and is very nourishing.

Is your Scottish blood stirring? Mine is.

Warm wishes



  1. Very creamy and flavourful! I prefer thicker soup and this is perfect.

  2. It sounds delicious and I prefer red lentils for soup because of the color. We are through with soup season here so I am going to bookmark this for the fall.

  3. Thanks Tandy, I'm sure it will be once I get there.

  4. amazing how many ways there are to make soup! This looks so comforting and delicious. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  5. Pauline, I am going to make this soon. My mother was born in Glasgow so anything Scottish appeals to me. I would so love to visit my rellies in Scotland but am a bit too long in the tooth now unfortunately. Thanks for the yummy recipe.

  6. I love a hearty soup, especially one with such a great backstory.

  7. Creamy and flavorful, just the kind of lentil soup I would like.

  8. this looks great. I had no idea that a lentil soup recipe could be Scottish! But with a friend named Calum, you have to believe it!

  9. sounds fabulous Pauline. I'm making a lentil and rice dish myself tonight for the blog and for dinner :) So good for you. Hope France is going well!

  10. We've been to Fort William! It's a wonderful little town, and I'd love to go back someday. This soup sounds fantastic, Pauline - thanks for sharing. I hope you are enjoying your trip in France!!

  11. I never knew lentil soup was a tradition in Scotland - but it looks wonderful and I have saved it for soup weather! A little too hot here now...


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