Lentils have been around for thousands of years and are one of the healthiest legumes you can eat. Loaded with protein and fiber, it’s no wonder they are a staple in diets from Greece, to the Middle East, to India. I make a great salad with nothing but lentils, black rice, chopped golden beets, a squeeze of orange, and some fresh parsley. But in the winter, I love lentil soup! This is one of the easiest recipes I make and one that is entirely vegetarian!

As always, when cooking with beans, you must carefully inspect them for anything foreign that may have slipped in during processing. My granny used to “look the beans,” as she called it, by pouring them into the palm of her hand, then dropping them into a bowl once she had confirmed their safety. This method has worked for me over the years – and I do find the occasional stone or twig! Lentils do not require soaking, but should be thoroughly rinsed before cooking.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups lentils
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large leek, washed well and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp Urfa biber* (or 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper)
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp crushed thyme
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp curry powder
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, or two cups diced fresh tomatoes, peeled and seeded
2 cartons (32 oz each) vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup golden raisins
3 cups water
salt, to taste
fresh parsley, for garnish

PREPARATION:
In a soup pot, sauté the onion, leek, garlic, carrot and celery in grapeseed oil for five minutes. Then stir in all of the spices, along with the tomatoes, and sauté five minutes more. Pour in the vegetable broth, add the bay leaf and bring to a boil. Ladle a 1/2 cup of hot broth into the raisins and set aside for ten minutes. When the raisins have absorbed the hot broth, purée in a blender until smooth, then stir back into the soup. Once the pot is boiling, add the lentils, reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 1 1/2 hours. Add one cup of water and stir every twenty minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste, garnish with chopped fresh parsley, and serve with garlic naan, toasted flatbread, or pita chips!

* Urfa biber is an especially tasty chile from Turkey which has a more subtle heat than most other chiles. If you don’t have a bulk spice shop near you, you can find it online at https://www.savoryspiceshop.com or http://spicestationsilverlake.com.

Total prep and cooking time: 2 hours   Serves: 6 twelve-ounce bowls

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