To be fair, I did warn you. I said that I could live on soup through fall and I wasn’t lying. As I also seem to have come down with the latest strain of the plague making its rounds of my office (why are students so germy? even college students, eesh), I was craving a soup flavorful enough that I could have some chance of actually tasting it.
For about a year lentil soup was my shoot-I-forgot-my-lunch lunch from a little Mediterranean kinda-fast-food-but-not-really joint: a cup of lentil soup, a fresh pita, and three falafels for under $5. I was so sad when the place closed, and still haven’t found a good cheap-and-reasonably-healthy lunch replacement. This lentil soup is nothing like theirs, except for the hit of lemon at the end, but it’s delicious in a totally different way. (I don’t think there were enough hyphenates in that paragraph so here’s an I-need-another-hyphen hyphen: – )
This soup is creamy (without any cream), rich (with a minimum of butter and oil), so packed with flavor I can still taste it with a compromised olfactory system (thanks onion, garlic, and curry powder), and just so simple (all the ingredients were in my cupboard). Perfect.
Can I stop for a second and point out how beautiful French lentils are? Indulge your inner child, scoop up a handful, and really look closely–tiny saucers of deep olive green with blue-black speckles, stripes, swirls remind me of pictures of Jupiter and its whirlpool of clouds or the jar of spotted, striated river stones my mom keeps in a glass jar on a shelf.
Just gorgeous. How can you not love food and cooking when it involves tiny bits of beauty like this?
I also love that this soup gives me an excuse to use a lot of really good curry powder, breaking one of the cardinal rules of cooking in an apartment: no seafood or curry if it’s too cold to open a window.
Oh well, I can’t smell anything right now anyways, and my neighbors can just indulge me for a day.
Creamy Lentil Soup
While regular brown lentils tend to be easier to find at the grocery store (and I’m all for using what I can easily find), the dark green French lentils keep their shape and texture much better. As for the curry powder, there a million and one different kinds, spicy to mild, just choose the one you like best–and if you can get it from a spice shop or market that grinds it fresh, so much the better. And yes, you essentially make hummus to create the creaminess for this variation on lentil soup–I will channel Ina Garten as I ask how genius is that? Adapted from Bon Appetit’s Curried Lentil Soup.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups diced onions, about two small onions
1 1/2 cups finely diced carrots
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons curry powder, or more to taste
1 cup French lentils
5 cups water
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup water
1/2 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add diced onions and carrots, season lightly with salt and pepper, and saute until the onions are beginning to soften and turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon garlic and continue to cook for about 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally to keep the vegetables from browning. Add curry powder and stir until very fragrant, 15-30 seconds. Immediately add 5 cups of water and the lentils. Stir, bring to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce the heat so the soup just simmers. Cook until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the remaining oil, water, garlic, chickpeas, and lemon juice in a food processor or blender (or my preferred method, a stick blender in a measuring cup). Puree until very smooth (you wouldn’t be wrong to sneak a bit on the corner of a pita).
When the lentils are ready, stir in chickpea puree and butter, season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with lemon wedges and warm pitas.