The Borough Belles, Borough Market’s neighbourhood branch of the Women’s Institute, is packed with keen cooks, happy to share their ideas and insights. This month: Lara Clements
I joined Borough Belles about seven years ago. I’d just moved to London and I really wanted to find a group of female friends who were interested in crafts etc, so that’s why I joined—it was a new year’s resolution, and I would say it’s the best new year’s resolution that I’ve ever made.
I started off as a regular member, then I was on the committee for a year, before being made president, which is a role I had for two years. I used to organise the cakes for the homeless charity we bake for, the Choir With No Name, but I am now just a regular member.
I enjoy baking—all cooking, really. I wouldn’t say I am brilliant at it, but I am very enthusiastic! I really believe in the importance of the provenance of food and I’m vegetarian, so I cook a lot of food from scratch. I am always giving up different things—a few years ago it was plastic, so I stopped buying anything wrapped in plastic, then I tried to go vegan for a month. I’m always experimenting. I have veg boxes that get delivered and I like to support local farmers, I think that’s important.
The recipe I want to share is a family recipe, taken from a 1970s Cranks Recipe Book, that my mum has always made at home. It’s a tomato and lentil soup, which is really great for this time of year: it’s what I make on a grey winter evening to cheer myself up. It’s something we always had a big vat of at home, me and my mum would make it together—it’s wholesome comfort food. Really straight forward, but really tasty, and you can make it with stuff you just have in the cupboard.
Lara’s tomato and lentil soup
Chop up an onion and saute it in some oil until softened, then add 1 tin of tomatoes, any old tomatoes you have lying around the kitchen, and 100g of lentils.
Give it a stir, then add ½ pint of tomato juice, ½ tsp marmite (or balsamic vinegar, if you don’t have any), and some mixed herbs—thyme works well. Season with salt and pepper, then leave to simmer for 40 mins. I always have it with some good, crusty bread and grate some cheese on top—it’s the best.