These are the instructions, I mean recipe, for what I ate 90% of the time when I was in grad school. It is a healthier alternative to ramen and it takes no time to do (the 30 minutes includes the time needed to clean up). We are going to cook two different meals at the same time. A hearty lentil soup that goes well with a little cheese or or served on rice and a simple tuna salad that is served on bread with some lettuce. I would eat this for weeks on end alternating between the two.

Required ingredients are

  • onion
  • garlic
  • cans of chopped tomatoes
  • red lentils
  • ketchup (the most important group of the food pyramid!)
  • cans of tuna
  • mustard
  • pepper and misc. spices

I do not give specific amounts as tastes differ. If you’re like me, you like to eat your soup with a fork. Other people prefer their soups to behave like super-cooled helium slowly creeping over the top of the bowl. And some people don’t like onions. Those are the strangest people of all.

Experiment with the amounts and the timing. Apparently I eat for three people when following standard recipe guidelines, so giving amounts would be useless anyway. The most important variable is the lentil to liquid ratio.

The tools needed are (you might want to read about my minimalist kitchen)

  • one bowl
  • one pressure cooker
  • one knife
  • one spoon

Here are the steps.

  1. Start your stop watch.
  2. Turn the stove on. If you use gas or induction, this step can wait.
  3. Put the lentils in the pressure cooker and cover them with slightly less water than the instructions of the package.
  4. Put this back on the stove.
  5. Mince some garlic using the bowl as a cutting surface.
  6. Open half the tomato cans and put half the chopped canned tomatoes and the garlic in. Rinse the left over tomato in the can down the sides and pour that in as well. Stir and lock the lid on.
  7. While the pressure cooker is building pressure, open the cans of tuna and drain the water.
  8. Using the bowl as a cutting surface, cut the onion in half and dice it. One very finely, the other roughly.
  9. Check the pressure cooker – it should have built up some pressure. Release pressure and dump the rough half of the onions in. Also dump in the other half of the tomatoes (don’t forget to rinse and get all the contents out) and squirt some ketchup in. Lock the lid on again.
  10. Put the tuna in the bowl and mix it with the finely chopped onions and mustard according to taste. Add pepper according to taste. Cover with a lid.
  11. Once the cooker is under pressure, turn off the heat.
  12. The tuna salad part is done. Put it in the fridge.
  13. Rinse out the cans completely and recycle them. Clean the knife.
  14. Check the cooker. If the lentils are done, you’re done.
  15. Add spices according to taste and stir.
  16. Pour the lentils into storage jars using the stirring spoon.
  17. Put the pressure cooker in the sink and fill it with water, add dish soap.
  18. Put the storage jars in the fridge while the water is running.
  19. Stop the water and clean the cooker and the spoon.
  20. Hit your stop watch. 20 minutes is a really good time, but 30 minutes is okay too.

If you did well, the lentil soup didn’t burn. Of course the more solid you prefer it to be, the harder it becomes to get the pressure cooking timing right.

PS: When heated in the microwave, the soup can be much improved by dumping a few cubes of cheese into it. It can also be served with rice or baked into bricks.