I think my first introduction to lentils – would have been in my teens, watching Nigella Lawson on E! Entertainment television. She was always putting lentils in this and lentils in that. I don’t think I really tasted lentils until my twenties, and because I was much older and more adventurous food wise. I really embraced them in a way that I feel a younger me, wouldn’t have.
When I think of the lentil soups I’ve had, my favorite ones are vegetable based. I once had a sausage and lentil soup, and really did not care for it. Lentil vegetable soup, though can really be as varied as you want. What kind of vegetables do you have? It can be as simple as carrots, celery and onion. Or, maybe you have some extra corn, peas, cauliflower and green beans to go along with the mirepoix. Did I mention that frozen vegetables are fine? Whatever you have – the lentils really lend themselves to creating a hearty soup no matter how many, or how few vegetables you have to put in it.
Now, I have really been wanting to use my vegetable stock, and this was the first thing that popped into my mind when I thought of how I wanted to use it. When it comes to lentils, you really have quite a number of options. Most grocery stores have “lentils” and these are perfectly fine for this soup. With a little more digging, you might find, red, green, or even black lentils. All with their own characteristics and qualities. For me, I like just regular old grocery store brown lentils or red ones for soups. I do find that in terms of maintaining their integrity in soups, green and red ones tend to break down and become creamy . Green ones kind of remind me of split pea soup and might confuse someone. I’ve never made a soup with a black lentil, so I can’t really say what kind of texture that would have. Maybe another article for another time.
So now to soup making! Sauté your mirepoix of carrots celery and onions – 3 carrots, 2 – 3 stalks of celery and one white onion all diced 1/4” – in some sunflower oil.
Add in 2 quarts of vegetable stock, let this heat up a bit and then add in 1 pound of lentils. Lentils need to be sorted before you can use them, this mean that you put them all on a tray and make sure you don’t have any hard bits or anything but lentils there. Some people cavalierly throw in the whole bag, no sorting whatsoever. The choice is yours. But sorting is really a good idea.
There are really only a few herbs and spices I add to the mix: parsley (always – to just about everything), Cumin (just a sprinkle maybe a scant half teaspoon “warms everything up”) salt and pepper. Salt and pepper you add to your liking. Lentils like salt, but usually the stock has a nice flavor to it and if you’re lucky you won’t need to add too much.
Once everything has come to a nice simmer, it’s time to add in the rest of your vegetables. If you are choosing to add any more, that is. I’m going with: cauliflower, green beans, corn, and peas. I went back and forth with the idea of adding potatoes to this soup as well, and we shall see what I actually choose to do. (Spoiler alert: I decided against potatoes, and went with parsnips instead) At this point you are really just simmering the soup until both the lentils and the added vegetables are tender.
I hope you give this soup a try! It is one of my favorites!