Red Lentil Soup redolent with North African spices – made ahead or on the table in under an hour. This easy and delicious soup has complex flavors but comes together quickly from pantry staples. Serve a cup as a starter or a big bowl with salad and your bread of choice for a complete but light and satisfying meal.
As anyone who reads my blog knows, I love lentils in all of their wonderful forms. Not only are these little nutrition powerhouses good for you but they are versatile and taste great. Red lentils come both whole and split. Either can be used in this soup but I mixed the two for exactly the texture I wanted – and because I always have both on hand. Generally split lentils (also called Masoor dal) are used in Indian cuisine. Now despite the name, when cooked, the lentils turn yellowish unless dyes have been added.
Because countries have different laws and food safety regulations, it’s best to buy certified organic lentils. There have been concerns about the presence of toxic chemicals found in high concentrations in lentils not certified 100% organic by the USDA. This has particularly been a problem in India. Since these superfoods can make up a large percentage of certain diets, it’s best to be safe. Thankfully, with very little effort, it is easy to obtain organic legumes of every variety.
I came across this recipe for Red Lentil Soup with North African Spices in my local newspaper. However, it originates with America’s Test Kitchen. While the original version is not vegan-friendly, it is easy enough to swap out the chicken stock for vegetable stock and the butter for either EVOO or buttery vegan spread without sacrificing any flavor or texture.
Most recipes I find seem to have too much salt and too small quantities of seasonings. Whenever possible, I use unsalted stock and up the ante on my spices. And when it comes to lemon – well, you can’t have too much. And not to get on my hobby horse, but I strongly encourage you to grind your own spices whenever you can. It takes seconds with an inexpensive coffee or spice grinder and the difference in flavor is enormous.
Below is my version of this delectable soup, but play around with it to get exactly the taste and texture you want. If made ahead, the soup will thicken some as it sits. If it is a bit thicker than you want, simply add some additional stock after you puree it and before reheating.
Because lentils break down so easily and quickly, you don’t have to puree the soup if you don’t wish. I have an immersion blender (a gift from Matthew and Frances) and so it is just a matter of seconds for me to get a smooth – ish consistency. You can control the texture and I always like a bit in my finished product.
So get your lentils on today! For some other delicious lentil dishes:
Yield: 6 servings
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter or EVOO
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
rounded 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne or Aleppo pepper (my preference)
1 generous Tablespoon tomato paste (I LOVE the stuff in a tube – no waste!)
1 large or two smaller cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
4 cups stock (chicken or vegetable, preferably unsalted)
2 cups water
1.75 cups red lentils, picked over and rinsed
Zest of one largish or juicy lemon
Juice of one lemon
2 teaspoons dried mint, crumbled
1 rounded teaspoon paprika
Chopped cilantro or parsley (optional)
Melt the butter or EVOO over medium heat in a 4 quart or larger stockpot. Add the onion and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stirring occasionally, cook until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes.
Add the spices and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Stir in the tomato paste and garlic and cook for 2 minute. Add the lentils, stock and water and stir through. Bring to a simmer, partially cover the pot and cook for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you cook it longer, the soup will just get thicker and creamier.
Add the lemon juice and zest. Turn off the heat and puree with an immersion blender.
In a small skillet, melt the remaining butter or EVOO. Remove from the heat and stir through the mint and paprika.
To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and top with some spiced butter (EVOO) and sprinkle with cilantro or parsley, if desired.
The soup can be made in advance. It will thicken some as it sits, but you can just add a little additional stock to get the desired consistency. Reheat gently.