A slow cooked lentil soup for an lion-like March day

  • Lentil soup makes use of lentil's super nutritional profile with a depth of flavor.

    Lentil soup makes use of lentil's super nutritional profile with a depth of flavor. Courtesy of Don Mauer

 
 
Posted3/9/2022 6:00 AM

Most scratch-made bean soups take a long, slow simmer to get the dried beans from hard-as-a-rock to smooth and almost silky. Preparation patience plays a big part.

Red lentils are the done-in-no-time winner for going from dry to dinner-table-ready.

 

For cooking complexity, French green lentils (also called Puy after the region in which they are grown) are hardly speedy. A few years ago, I tried to make soup with French green lentils. Tried? Yes, I simmered those lentils for 90 minutes, and they still weren't done. That issue may have to do with their extended storage (most likely), or that's just how they are.

There's some lentil middle ground, and that's where my story begins. I went to my local supermarket to get some organic split green peas and discovered that store didn't have any. Drat. They did have organic brown lentils, and so, rather than head to another store, I purchased a bag.

Lentils and green split peas are both legumes, but that's where the similarity ends due to seasoning and cooking times.

A ham hock would not be a typical addition to lentil soup. Since I had a ham hock leftover from a pair I'd purchased for a batch of split pea soup, I figured it wouldn't hurt my throw-it-together lentil soup.

A quick search for lentil soup recipes made one thing clear. There's a general similarity to ingredients: onions, celery and carrots seem like a lentil soup mainstay. Some recipes added fresh garlic. Cumin and coriander play typical seasoning roles.

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And Alton Brown uses a seasoning called Grains of Paradise. Having never heard of it, I looked it up. Grains of Paradise look similar to greenish-brown peppercorns. It's a West African spice with flavor notes, according to the website spiceography: " ... with a pepper-like spark along with complex notes of cardamom and ginger." I passed on it since I wouldn't spend upward of $10 to use a half teaspoon in my soup.

Diced, canned tomatoes made a solid addition. Adding an organic stevia packet (equal to two teaspoons sugar), rounded out the tomato flavor. Since tomato is a fruit, it seemed like an obvious choice.

The weather was challenging that day, and so I heated up the house by using my oven to simmer my soup at 225 degrees.

When the lentils were sufficiently tender, I removed the pot from my oven. Some folks like to puree all or some of a lentil soup. A good method for a split pea soup; not my choice for a lentil soup.

How did my lentil soup turn out? I topped a serving with some grated Parmesan cheese and had some wheat-free (almond flour) crackers on the side. Perfect.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

It turned out that this soup was just right for March weather.

Give it a try.

• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write to him at 1leanwizard@gmail.com.

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