I love soup. Especially in winter, when the icy cold winds seem to penetrate my body & soul. Enter the lentil, specifically the Lentil du Puy or the French green lentil. I adore the earthy flavor of these legumes and how they hold their shape even after cooking for an extended period. Combined with a few aromatic ingredients, this tiny bean makes a pot full of soup that provides lots of fiber and protein, together with fantastic flavor and texture. I promise it will warm your heart too.
The process is simple, wash the lentils in a strainer and pay attention to be sure there is no foreign matter mixed in (I’ve found tiny, tiny stones on occasion). Sauté aromatic vegetables and herbs of your choice in either oil or butter, I like to add lots of ground pepper but wait to add salt later as it can impede the cooking of the legume. If you have it handy, splash a few tablespoons of sherry, red or white wine or white vermouth onto the sautéed vegetables. Add the lentils, add stock or water to cover the contents of the solids in the pot by a couple of inches, a tablespoon of tomato paste and simmer uncovered for a couple of hours, stirring every so often. Add more water if the soup seems way too thick.
This time, I used 2 ribs of celery, 3 carrots, 1/2 red onion, 1 plum tomato chopped, 1 shallot, 2 cloves of garlic and lots of fresh thyme. After sautéing the vegetables and herbs, I splashed a few tablespoons of dry sherry into the pot (You can skip this step, but I like to build the flavor and I had it. Red or white wine or vermouth would work too). I used water as I was gifting soup to a friend who is vegetarian but I have also used chicken or beef broth in the past. When the soup had cooked for a couple of hours, I added a box of chopped fresh white button mushrooms and a handful of chopped, soft, sun dried tomatoes that I had sautéed together first for about 10 minutes.
After simmering, taste for seasoning and serve. If you like a more pureed texture, you can use a handheld blender to puree some or all of the soup. Sometimes I will puree a bit of the soup but always like to leave a portion of the lentils whole, as I like the texture. If you like, you can add some water if the soup is too thick for your liking.
The soup is so much better when made the day before, if you can wait. Try toasting a piece of good bread, rubbing it with a clove of garlic which has been peeled, and then drizzling extra virgin olive oil over it, then place the toast in the bottom of the bowl and ladle the hot soup on top.
Warm my heart, lentil soup.