September 22, 2020

Red Lentil, Sweet Potato & Coconut Soup: a Bowl of Kindness during the Pandemic.

The other day, a nurse colleague at a COVID-19 testing site slipped me a folded note.

And as I received it in my hands, her smile told me that it was the vegan soup recipe we had talked about earlier.

She slipped it to me while we were waiting for our morning health team huddle to begin. And without delay, I opened the note right there, unfolding it twice. And there, handwritten in cursive ink, and on holiday stationary was Jamie Oliver’s Red lentil, Sweet Potato & Coconut Soup recipe.

It had been a long time since I’d been passed a handwritten note from a dear soul. I imagined her, the night before, leaning over a desk or table, and writing it all out, thoughtfully. It touched my heart more than a text message would have, or a link shared over email.

And the pure joy I exhibited from receiving it—the little dance and elbow tap offered back to her—caught the eyes of the 20 or so other health care workers, all standing in the same circle with us.

In fact, eyebrows seemingly danced above face masks, encouraging me to read out loud what was written.

But before sharing the recipe, I ran to the copier machine and provided everyone with their own note, happy that folded creases appeared on the copied versions. And before our health team huddle started, and before we opened the doors to the long line of people waiting to be swabbed, we lovingly read the recipe together.

We shared an intimate moment during a stressful time for our team—a time working long days frontline and defenceless against a virus that lacks any intellectual reason, except to spread.

And so, a note about vegan soup represented so much more than vegan soup—it represented hope against the pandemic.

Hope that we could be with our families again, or share dinners with friends, taking our sweet ol’ time in the kitchen because we had more sweet ol’ time than usual.

We knew this note was special:

It was a note that held so much goodness and warmth.

A note that shared cursive kindness and ended with Enjoy!

And enjoy is the perfect topping for any bowl of goodness.

Enjoy is this moment.

It is sweet, savoury, and lightly spiced with cumin and ground coriander.


Red Lentil, Sweet Potato & Coconut Soup


  • 750 g sweet potatoes
  • 2 red onions
  • ½ tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 fresh red chili
  • ½ a bunch of fresh coriander
  • 125 g red lentils
  • 1 litre organic vegetable stock
  • 1 x 400 g tin of light coconut milk
  • 1 lemon


  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4.
  2. Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into 2 cm chunks, then peel and cut the onions into 2 cm-thick wedges.
  3. Place in a roasting tray in an even layer and sprinkle over the cumin seeds, ground coriander, and a pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Drizzle with oil, then toss to coat. Pop in the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until cooked and golden.
  4. Peel and finely slice the garlic, then finely slice the chili. Pick the coriander leaves and set aside, then finely slice the stalks.
  5. Place a large saucepan over medium-low heat and pour in a lug of oil. Sauté the garlic, chili, and coriander stalks for a minute, until lightly golden.
  6. Add the red lentils to the pan. Stir to coat, then pour in the hot stock and coconut milk.
  7. Turn up the heat, gently bring it to the boil, then let it come to a simmer. Cook the lentils for 20 minutes, or until they are completely broken down.
  8. When the veggies are ready, remove from the oven and carefully spoon into the pan. Add most of the coriander leaves, then blitz the soup with a stick blender until it’s creamy but still has a little texture.
  9. Squeeze in some lemon juice to taste and adjust the seasoning if need be. Serve the hot soup topped with the remaining coriander leaves and toasted coconut shavings, if you like.

Recipe creation via Jamie Oliver.


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