Put the cashews in a bowl and cover with a couple of inches of water. Soak for 1 to 2 hours or overnight. (For a quick-soak method, cover with boiling water and soak for 30 to 60 minutes.) Drain and rinse.
Transfer the cashews to a high-speed blender along with 1/2 cup (125 mL) of the water. Blend on high until super smooth and creamy in texture. Set the cashew cream aside.
In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil (or use broth for oil free) over medium heat. Stir in the onion, garlic, and a couple pinches of salt, and sauté until the onion is softened, 4 to 6 minutes.
Stir in the carrots and celery, and cook for another few minutes or so. Stir in the cumin, thyme, and turmeric until combined.
Add the diced tomatoes with their juices, lentils, broth, and remaining water. Increase the heat to high and bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for 30 to 35 minutes, until the lentils are tender.
Stir in the cashew cream and chard. Add salt, pepper, and vinegar to taste. (The vinegar’s role is to add a little bit of brightness to the soup; add a bit at a time and keep tasting, as it can quickly overwhelm.)
Cook for a couple of minutes over low-medium heat, until the chard is wilted, and then serve.
This stew will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days, or you can freeze it for 1 to 2 months (always let it cool completely before storing). The stew will thicken after sitting in the fridge; you can thin it out with a bit of broth when you reheat it, if desired, or simply serve it thick with some crusty bread.
This golden-hued stew is remarkably rich and creamy, thanks to the addition of a dairy-free cream base that can be either nut or seed based.
When I was developing this recipe, I tested the stew with both cashew and sunflower seed cream, and both versions work beautifully.
It’s a friendly recipe for those with tree nut allergies (provided you can still eat sunflower seeds).
Turmeric gives this stew its joyful, rich color, not to mention anti-inflammatory benefits; curcumin, one of the compounds in turmeric, has been shown to help reduce swelling and inflammation.
The stew is spiced with dried thyme and cumin, and it packs a hefty portion of greens (Swiss chard or kale—your choice!) and other hearty vegetables like carrot and celery.
The French green lentils hold their shape well and add a lovely, chewy element, but feel free to use green or brown lentils if that’s all you can find.
The stew will just be thicker since green and brown lentils break down a bit more.