Each year, two of my very good friends and I host what has come to be known as “The Julia Dinner”. As you might have guessed, the menu is chosen from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The first couple of years, we vowed to follow her instructions religiously and for the most part we did. Now in year four, we have found ourselves adapting slightly as we go; sometimes to suit our more modern palates but mostly to reduce the staggering amounts of butter that a 5 course meal accumulates.
This year, we went with a bistro themed menu. Mushroom Soup, Steak Tartare, Steamed Mussels and Crepes Suzette were among the offerings. Needless to say, it was a lot of food. Underscore a lot.
I tell you this because after nights like this, I need to make a peace offering to my digestive system. Something simple and healthy. Something that doesn’t take 16 steps to make. Something with no butter.
This recipe comes courtesy of Melissa Clark. I modified it only slightly – adding a bit of zest during the cooking to bring out the lemon flavour and saving the salt to the end, as I have found that seasoning lentils with salt prior to cooking can affect their texture.
Lentil Soup with Lemon
- 3-4 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for finishing
- 2 medium onion, diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 2 large carrots, diced
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tsp cumin powder
- pinch of ground cayenne/paprika/chipotle (whatever your favourite flavour profile)
- 6 cups of chicken stock (veggie if you prefer)
- 2 cups red lentils
- juice of one lemon, plus 1/2 tsp zest
- chopped cilantro/mint/parsley to garnish
1) In your favourite large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the onions. Sauté for a minute or so and then add the garlic (adding the garlic after the onions helps me avoid burnt garlic).
2) Add the tomato paste and the cumin, as well as the spice you have decided on. I am on a sweet paprika kick right now. Give it all a good stir and cook for a couple more minute
3) Pour in the stock and two cups of water. Toss in the carrots as well. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook until lentils are soft; about twenty to thirty minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
4) If you have an immersion blender, use it to blend the soup about half way. You still want some nice chunks of carrots and whole lentils. If you don’t have an immersion blender, pop about half of the soup in your regular blender and give it a blitz until smooth. Word of caution here – BE SURE TO LEAVE A VENT IN THE LID OF YOUR BLENDER. Unless of course you enjoy cleaning up soup eruptions. Sadly, I am speaking from experience
4) To finish, stir in the lemon juice and whatever fresh herb you have chose. A drizzle of good olive oil is a perfect finish.