Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lentil and Leaf Amaranth Soup


Once upon a time there was a family with three little girls who spent their days running and jumping and climbing and skipping and swinging and riding and arguing and telling jokes; and so they were always hungry.

Their chickens laid four eggs a day, but it wasn't enough. Their father brought home bread from the market, but still it wasn't enough. Their mother went for long walks and came home with armfuls of greens, but even still it wasn't enough.

So their mother scratched her head and had a think; then she built a garden. She heaped it up with compost and mulched it heavily; and in that garden she planted every leafy green she could think of: rocket and kale, Swiss chard and rainbow chard, lettuces freckled and plain, land cress and watercress, fat hen, leaf amaranth, warrigal greens and lovage. In a sunny patch she planted herbs: parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme; summer savory and winter savory; coriander and chervil and chives; perilla and purslane; basil and borage and salad burnet. And the sun shone down and the rain fell and those leaves grew and grew.

Every evening just before the sun went down, out went the mother with a sharp knife and a basket, and brought in greens for dinner.

One afternoon, as she stood at the kitchen sink, the leaf amaranth caught her eye. Green leaves edged in pink, it was a delirious sight. Bright arches of seeds swayed in the gentle breeze, beckoning to her. Ah, thought the mother, it's time.

So she gathered up her knife and basket and out she went. On her way through the garden she pulled up an onion and popped it in her basket. She pulled a couple of carrots and threw them in, too. Finally, she came to the amaranth. She cut the stems and trimmed off the seeds, which she threw to the chooks. She laid the stems gently in her basket, and carried everything inside.

There she warmed the onion in a swirl of olive oil, then added the carrots, some celery, a handful of lentils and stock; and she left it bubbling on the stove. Just before dinner, she threw in the amaranth leaves and let them wilt.

She brought the soup to the table where the three girls were waiting, spoons in hands, hungry eyes burning. The smallest girl ate two bowls full; the middle sized girl ate one bowlful; but the biggest girl ate six bowls full, then asked for some more!

Lentil and Leaf Amaranth Soup

- a bunch of leaf amaranth (or spinach or fat hen or turnip tops or silverbeet or rainbow chard or any other tasty edible green), washed and stems removed
- 1 onion, chopped small
- 2 carrots, chopped small
- 2 sticks of celery, chopped small
- 2 tbs or so olive oil
- 150g brown lentils (I used Spanish brown lentils, grown in the Wimmera.)
- 1 litre chicken stock or vegetable stock
- a pinch of salt
- extra peppery green olive oil, to serve

Warm the olive oil in a small soup pot. Add the onions, the carrot and the celery and cook gently until they have softened, ten minutes or so. Add the lentils and stir, then add the stock.

Bring to a simmer, and cook for fifteen minutes. Add salt to taste, then cook until the lentils are quite soft. Add the greens, and let wilt. Serve as is, or pulse-chop in the food processor until it is a rough consistency.

Serve with a drizzle of peppery extra virgin olive oil and a bit of black pepper.

Photograph shows soup with unleavened bread, made with buckwheat and two tablespoons of olive oil.

(Victoria: leaf amaranth, carrots, onions, olive oil, lentils. Mixed sources: homemade stock. Mystery location: celery.)


  1. Hi Alison.
    Have just been wandering through your blogs and enjoying it very much. Thank you. Very excited to see recipes with Fat Hen and Amaranth. I've been learning about edible 'weeds'! I write because I'm keen to know where you source your brown lentils from the Wimmera?
    Cheers, Kim Cornford.

  2. Hi Kim, I have been buying lentils and chickpeas from pbseeds (, available at Leo's supermarkets) and from Mt Zero (, available at many organic shops and, much cheaper especially in bulk, direct from their website). I must flag here that buying locally is much more expensive than imports, very galling, but there you are! alison.