I am not a huge fan of lentils. I have to say that up front. I have memories of dark and mushy-yet-grainy lentil soup that just looked like murky mud. No thank you.
But as they are such a great source of protein, fiber, iron, and folate, I'm trying to learn to like them.
This summer my mother brought home some lentil soup from a gourmet deli that she had thought was chicken vegetable, mistaking the hunks of cauliflower for potatoes.
She was no longer interested once she discovered her error, so I gave it a try.
It was GOOD!
It had light flavors, broth I could see thru, and was tasty while being massively healthy. So I looked online and actually found the recipe, which I have to say I made with great success... if a few tweaks.
Step one if you know you want to make this soup: you have to let your lentils soak for about 24 hrs.
So annoying for this Instant Gratification Girl, but many good things take time, so, try to plan in advance!
After 1 cup of lentils have soaked, drain and rinse them and they're ready to go.
Fine dice on 2 carrots and 2 celery stalks, as well as one onion.
With 2-3 TBSP of olive oil in the bottom of a large pot or dutch oven, start by browning 3 slices of prosciutto. (Clearly, this is not a vegetarian dish, but you could skip this step if you need to. But this is where I began to see why I liked this soup...)
Next add the onions and allow to soften for about 4 minutes.
After that add your celery and carrots, a pinch of salt, and give a good stir.
Next throw in one whole head of cauliflower, broken down into bite-size pieces, the drained lentils, and 2 bay leaves.
The recipe called for a 14 oz can of plum tomatoes. I only had 32oz of crushed, and that was not the right consistency, so instead I diced 1 late summer heirloom tomato and added that in, as well as enough chicken stock to cover everything.
(Recipe called for vegetable stock, but I rarely have that on hand, so I just used a combination of homemade chicken stock and stock in a box. My substitution had the Hubs eating cauliflower without complaint, so do whatever works for you!)
Bring everything up to a boil and then lower the heat to allow the soup to simmer for 45 minutes with the lid on. I also threw in 4-6 sprigs of fresh thyme about halfway thru cooking when I went to stir everything. (I was wary of bay leaves being the only extra flavor agent.)
After 45 minutes check to see that the lentils are tender, remove the bay leaves and thyme stems, and season the soup with salt and pepper.
Remember, much like beans, lentils absorb seasonings so you might end up adding more than you would first think. Add a little/taste a little until you find the right balance.
Whether converted to a vegetarian/vegan soup or adjusted the way I made it, this soup was warm, comforting, filling, and so healthy I actually felt smug while eating it!
It can also feed an army of 10 on a really small budget.
Add a baguette, ciabatta, or crusty bread of preference and you're all set!