Stirring up some vegan Valentine’s Day soup

Artisan vegan candy, hand-made by The Red Balloon in Australia. Photo: The Red Balloon/Facebook.

Love it, loathe it or just overlook it – what’s your V-Day recipe? By vegan editor Elizabeth Usher.

Like seemingly everyone I speak with these days, I’m completely reeling from how quickly time has been blurring by over the last year or two. It’s hard to believe the ‘fresh start’ Vegan Easy Challenge is already over (although the challenge itself can be undertaken at any time during the year). Now, another Valentine’s Day is almost upon us.

Red Balloon Small Heart Lollipops from the Vegan Grocery Store’s Valentine’s Day range listing. Photo: The Vegan Grocery Store.

Obviously it’s a very personal thing where on the scale you sit in relation to this particular date. On one side, it could be dismissed as an overly materialistic and consumeristic approach to mass-marketed love with a side effect of diminishing people who are not part of a monogamous relationship with a ‘significant other’. At the other extreme, it might be the focus of a major sweeping gesture of commitment. Somewhere in between perhaps lies the basis of a sweet annual individualised tradition. Or, of course, it could also just be ignored entirely – or at least, to the fullest extent possible!

Personally, it’s not a major date on the calendar for my partner and me – in fact, I’m most likely going to be joining a virtual ukulele Zoom meeting rather than planning a romantic candlelight dinner for three (yes, three, because our beloved dog does score tidbits at almost every mealtime!) – however, I do like that the zoom strum-along gathering will be centred around love songs, one of my favourite themes of songs to both play and write! 

I co-wrote “Your Aloha” with Penny Pettigrew – who was also featured in the Sentinel late last year. Video: UKEnTHUSED (Elizabeth Usher)/YouTube.

Over recent weeks I’ve discovered that I’d basically already given my beau the prefect Valentine’s Day gift at Christmas – when I found the gorgeous Edgar’s Mission “I love ewe” wooden spoon at Glebe’s Vegan Grocery Store (formerly the Cruelty Free Shop).  It achieved the dual purpose of being both cute and practical.  And in the recent weeks, it’s proved to be an immediate favourite out of any other options in the kitchen utensil drawer, due in part to it having a good ‘solid’ feel but mainly owing to the design being squared-off rather than rounded at the tip, meaning it does a particularly excellent job of stirring all the way to the bottom of the pan.

The spoon is not available online from the Vegan Grocery Store – although they do of course have a whole selection of products tagged as Valentine’s Day options – however you can find it and four other designs directly from the Edgar’s Mission shop.  

Have fun choosing from slogans that include “Pigs are for lovin’ not the oven” and “Cooking with Kindness”! The items are available from the Edgar’s Mission shop listing. Photo: Edgar’s Mission shop.

If you want to try a recipe that’s very suited to being stirred with one of these implements, try this red lentil soup, which features on high rotation in our kitchen! We adapted it from the ‘silky lentil soup’ recipe in Deborah Gray’s 500 Vegan Dishes cookbook, and we almost always make a double batch to cover multiple meals. It’s a nice easy recipe that even lets you chop most of the ingredients while the onions are frying off!! 

Can’t get a more gorgeous promotional model than this! Photo: Elizabeth Usher.


  • Olive oil for frying (somewhere between 1 and 3 tbsp –it’s not something we measure!)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red capsicum, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 200g red lentils, picked over and washed
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 1 400g can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 head of broccoli, chopped into florets, or about 250g brussels sprouts
  • Up to 1 tsp salt (to taste) and optional cracked black pepper for serving (my partner and I differ markedly on levels of spice tolerance. I can’t handle pepper, let alone chilli spice!)

Heat the oil, then fry the onions, stirring from time to time, while chopping the other ingredients. I like to cook the onions on their own for at least double the original recipe’s suggested “low heat for 5 to 7 minutes”.  

Add in the capsicum, carrot, zucchini, and cook for another 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. 

Add the garlic, cumin and coriander and stir for a minute. 

Add the lentils, stock, tomatoes and puree (i.e. everything else except for the broccoli/sprouts and salt/pepper). Stir well, bring to the boil, and then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. 

Add the broccoli or brussels sprouts, and salt to taste, stir again and simmer covered for another 15 minutes.

It sure makes for a ‘hearty’ meal! 

Elizabeth Usher is the vegan editor of the Sydney Sentinel.