Lentil soup is one of those typical winter dishes. It’s more of a stew and once was invented (as many traditional easy dishes are) because it was cheap, nutritious and contained ingredients that were easy to get a hand on and variable. That’s why there’s probably a different recipe in every family. Back then, the thicker the soup/stew the better (the poorer families had to feed their kids well with what they had) – today it’s actually the opposite: I prefer it rather a thinner soup with more veggies in it.
So here’s how I make it today. I tried to transform the original thick, gooey stew into a lighter soup that can also easily be turned into a vegetarian dish. It’s also kind of a “quick and dirty” way of doing it – I use canned lentils and instant vegetable broth to make this easy and quick to prepare, so I can make this on a weeknight after work.
For 4-6 servings:
1 piece of streaky meat (I used some pork belly, but you can use whatever you prefer or even leave it out)
∼ 500-750 ml water
1/4 stock of celery
1 clove of garlic
3 potatoes (I forgot them on the picture, but they’re essential!)
400 g canned lentils
instant vegetable broth (best use organic if possible)
1. In a large pan, heat the olive oil and fry the meat (in whole) until browned. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside. Turn down heat to medium and wait until the oil has cooled slightly. You can skip this step for a vegetarian version!
2. Finely chop the onion and sauté in the oil until translucent. Do not add them too quickly, they will burn if the oil is still too hot.
3. Pour the water (start with 500 ml) in the pan. Dice the carrots, celery, leek and potatoes. Add the vegetables together with the finely chopped garlic and parsley and let simmer until cooked. For a heartier taste, you can now also put the meat back in. Add more water if necessary; the vegetables should be covered but not freely swimming around. We don’t want a “try to spot the veggies”-soup! Stir in the vegetable broth, as much as needed for the amount of water you used.
4. When done, add the can of lentils. Canned lentils are pre-cooked and easier to prepare than dry ones. You can also use dry lentils for this one, just bear in mind the longer cooking time! Personally, I usually prefer fresh food to canned goods; in this case however, I usually go for the canned ones because the alternative isn’t that much healthier.
5. If you haven’t done so, now’s the time to also add your fried meat if you like. You can also add wiener or some smoked sausage (either sliced or a whole sausage per person).
Add salt and pepper to taste and let simmer for a few more minutes.
Basically, you can vary this recipe in hundreds of ways. For example, depending on the kind of potatoes you use (with more or less starch), you’ll get a thicker or thinner soup. You can also cut down the calories by leaving out the meat and oil/onions.