Learning to love lentil again
You ever have those foods in your life that your parents served you over and over, week after week? Served to the point that you won’t touch them as an adult? I have a few of those. Apple pie is surprisingly one of them, as is boiled spinach. Nothing wrong with either of them, but being served them too much over my childhood pushed my palette away.
One more that you could have added to that list was lentil soup. You might first think it’s easy to dislike something all brown and gooey, relating it to substances you normally don’t imagine as “food”. In all actuality, it’s not a horrible soup.
The simple story is when I was a child, my father had tried Progresso’s lentil soup and loved it. He learned a recipe and began making pots of the soup at home for our own consumption. Unfortunately, week after week of this soup slowly converted my brother and I from “not bad” to “eh”, and then finally “sick of it”.
It’s no shock that when I reached adulthood and began cooking, lentil soup was near the bottom of my list of foods I’d ever want to make. When I felt the need for legumes, Navy Bean soup or a good chili would more than satisfy.
However, Zuzana had better experiences. She would often tell me how good lentil soup can be, and wished I’d make one. Eventually I capitulated, and tried to make a lentil soup. Surprisingly it’s now moved in my mind from my “ew” to “yum!” Maybe it’s because it’s made the way I would like it.
Now if I had pinpoint an ethnicity that would “own” lentil soup, that would be impossible. There have been signs of lentil bean consumption going all the way back to the Stone Age, spanning into civilizations that became the cultures surrounding the Mediterranean and filling the Middle East. It seems like many cultures have some form of soup or pottage made with lentil beans.
For the soup I’m about to show you, I drew much of my inspiration from the French, with a splash of the Greek and Italian flavors I always favor. This is pure peasant tradition if you want to find a place for this soup. Not the kind of dish for fine dining, but more for that simple family dinner. An added bonus is in how healthy this soup is, and how it can be completely vegan if you desire.
I won’t make this soup week after week, but I certainly won’t turn away anymore when a bowl is offered. Try it for yourself:
- 4 tsp of olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 5 stalks of celery, chopped
- 2 tsp of cumin
- 2 tsp of paprika
- 1 tsp of thyme
- 4 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 cups of water
- 1 cup of lentils, rinsed
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a large stock pot, heat up the olive oil on medium-high heat.
- Place the onion and carrots into the oil and sauté until they soften.
- Add in the red pepper, garlic, cumin, and thyme.
- Stir it up and cook the mixture for another minute.
- Pour in the broth and water, then add the lentils to the mix.
- Stir in paprika and season the soup with salt and pepper.
- Raise your heat to high and bring the soup to a boil.
- Once the soup is boiling, lower the heat and simmer the soup for twenty minutes, stirring occasionally.
- After the twenty-minute simmer, add in the celery.
- Stir up the soup and simmer it for ten more minutes.
Make sure to rinse the lentils fully before using. You do not need to pre-soak them, as they are small enough to soften down in the simmer. Plus they'll stay more solid for a longer period of time.
You're free to variate this one as you wish. Seen some add pork to the soup, and you can go completely vegan by using vegetable broth.
If you wish for a thicker, creamy texture, spoon out some of the lentils and puree them in a blender or food processor, then add the puree into the soup. I personally like the soup without the added mush.
Top each bowl with some fresh curly parsley. It'll add color and dress up the flavor even more.