Lentils have been popular since immemorial times. They are eaten everywhere and have been even the source of some family arguments. They are healthy, extremely cheap and according to the Egyptians enlightening. A bowl of soup after a hard day of work is so rewarding that our biblical friend Essau gave up his birthright in exchange of some lentil soup.
They are thousands of varieties of lentils, although is believed that the original ones were red, and when Westerns discovered them they decided to change them to green (don´t ask me why or how but you know for our dear ancestors color was kind of a big thing). Now a days India is the country with more varieties of lentils although Canada is the number one producer. Lentils are a fundamental part of the diet of vegetarians and vegans, and of course of students. Full of protein they are the best alternative to a beef steak and waay cheaper.
Since I arrived to London four years ago, lentils have become a staple in my kitchen and I eat a lentil soup at least once a week. I know hundreds of recipes to prepare them and red, brown or green lentils work perfectly well in almost any recipe (Unless you are following a traditional recipe of certain country like Turkey, in that case go always for red lentils). Of course the result change according to the variety of lentils. In my experience that is not based in any scientific prove, red lentils cook quicker and are creamer than green ones that can keep their shape for a longer time.
So this is my basic recipe for lentil soup. You can add any spice you like and feel free to change green lentils for red, just reduce the cooking time by 15 minutes (check constantly, just in casem) and if you want a creamer texture blend half of the soup.
Ingredients ( for three portions as a main dish, but it might be four depending in your eating habits)
350 grams of brown or green lentils
1 liter of boiling water
1 cube of vegetable or beef stock (let’s be honest you are not actually going to make the it from scratch)
½ cup of chopped carrot
½ cup of chopped celery
1 cup of chopped onion
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 clove of garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons of tomato puree
Something spicy if you are in the mood ( I used 1 tablespoon of harissa, but you could chopped a chili, use paprika, good quality chipotle sauce, a chipotle, just avoid please avoid powder chili or cayenne pepper)
Maybe cumin? You decide
A large saucepan and a stove
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, celery and carrot and a pinch of salt. Stir constantly for around 10 minutes in a medium heat until the vegetables are soft and have not catch any color.
- Incorporate the garlic, and spices if you are using and immediately after mix in the tomato puree (the immediate part is important, otherwise the spices will become bitter).
- Let the tomato puree cook for a minute and then stir in the lentils, the stock cube and 750 ml of the water. Let it simmer for 40 minutes ( 25 minutes if they are red) or until the lentils are soft. Remember that the older your letils are the longer they will take to cook. Add the rest of the water if the lentils if are drying too much or if you want a thinner soup.
- You can serve the soup immediately but if you reheat it the next day it will be even better!