This is a soup for people with either big or small food budget. But no matter how deep are your pockets, it will make your heart big and your stomach full and satisfied. I got the recipe for this lentil soup from my dear and favorite aunt Eti. She cooks like they used to in the old-days, with common sense and common ingredients. Straightforward food of hard-working people. The secret ingredient – lots and lots of love. And why is it magical? Because when I made it, I felt like I’m making soup out of nothing. Well, almost.
I always have lentils in the pantry, but, as it sometimes happens, even with basic ingredients, I did not have all of them the night I made the soup. So I improvised a little here and there and now you get two versions for the recipe! Here they are side by side.
Magical Lentil Soup
Makes 4-6 servings
10 oz. red lentils, rinsed until the water is clean and clear
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, small chopped
1 celery stalk, small chopped/ ½ red bell pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste/ (tomato pesto that I made 2 weeks ago)
1 tablespoon paprika
Black pepper freshly ground
½ tablespoon hawaij*, or use 1 teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon cumin
1 large tomato, grated, or use canned crushed tomatoes
½ cup cilantro and /or parsley, on the stem or chopped
Optional: serve with sour cream, avocado, grated cheese, croutons… if you have it
Put lentils in a medium size pot with 10-12 cups of water. Bring to a boil and skim the foam that floats to the top. Lower heat to medium and continue to cook until lentils melt/break and soften. (I didn’t measure the time but I’d say about 20-30 minutes).
Meanwhile, in a separate pot or medium size skillet, sauté the onion, carrot, and celery over medium-low heat until they soften. Add the garlic and spices and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato and cook for 10 minutes.
When lentils are ready, add the spice-tomato mixture to the lentils, add the parsley/cilantro and cook for 15-20 minutes for the flavors to combine. (add water if needed, to the desired consistency).
Serve with cream, avocado, grated cheese, croutons… if you have it.
The original recipe (I got it from my aunt) uses 1 tablespoon hawaij. I cut it down to 1/2 Tbs. because it was a bit spicy for me.
I got some comments on this recipe in another forum. One person wrote: “ I found the spices overpowering… I made it again with 2 teaspoons of paprika, ½ teaspoon of hawaij, ½ teaspoon of curry. It turned out much more to my liking.”
Someone else suggested using Spanish smoked paprika.
* Hawaij is a spice blend, sort of like garam masala, from the cuisine of Yemen. There are many variations and recipes, of course. One recipe to make your own hawaij can be found here.
To see this soup from a different perspective, check out my post about Portion Control (how can we NOT eat more than we really need ) on my other blog “Good Food & Bad Food”. Click here to see it.