The Best Lentil Soup

Lentil soup has become a punchline, a shorthand meat eaters use to make fun of how boring the vegetarian diet supposedly is.  But this is WRONG! Lentils are amazing, and lentil soup can be one of the most simple and transcendent things you ever cook if you do it right.

The ancients of the Near East sure knew how to use lentils, and other pulses similar to it.  For most of antiquity, lentils were considered a poor man’s food.  Common folk could not usually afford meat, but lentils and chickpeas would have been a great protein substitute.
This supposed peasant food is nutritious, satisfying, and quite packs a lot of flavor with a few simple ingredients. Using modern versions of the ingredients available since the Neolithic on is enough to make a creamy, hearty, and healthy soup.

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1 cup red lentils (But you can substitute other colors too)
4-5 cups water
1 large onion, diced
1 fat carrot, diced
3-5 cloves fresh garlic, mashed
1/2 cup Tahini water (see recipe)
Crushed coriander, cumin, and mustard seeds (or just use Garam Masala spice)
1 cup Yogurt (leave out for vegan version)
1/2 bunch Coriander (cilantro) or Parsley leaves chopped

(Makes 3-4 bowls)

  1. Coat the bottom of a stockpot with sesame oil (or butter) over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and carrot. Season with salt and the ground spices. Saute until the onion is starting to soften, but not fully cooked.
  2. To make tahini water, take an empty Jar of tahini and fill with quarter cup of water, closing and shaking vigorously to clean the jar and make a liquid. (Or simply whisk the water into 2 tablespoons of tahini in a bowl.)
  3. Add the lentils and lightly toast for about 2 minutes. Then add water plus tahini water. Turn up the head to high and bring to a boil.  When boiling, immediately turn down to a simmer.
  4. Simmer for 1-2 hours,  stirring the bottom occasionally. Use the back of your spoon to mash some of the fully cooked lentils against the side of the pot for a creamy consistency.  Add water if desired to adjust consistency.
  5. Mix the chopped herbs and Yogurt together. Add half to the soup and stir in, and reserve the other half for garnish at the end.  Ladle the soup into bowls and then add a dollop of the herb yogurt to serve.

Get everything going in a pot first. Don’t saute the veggies too long before adding lentils and water. You want a lot of their flavor to go into the liquid to make a sort of  veggie “stock” on the go as the soup cooks.

We want a lot of flavor depth, and the tahini water helps a great deal with that.  Often times, I will cheat and also use diced chilies for even more flavor, but the farmers of Mesopotamia would not have had such an option.

Simmer the soup as long as you want, depending on if you want a thinner soup or more of a thick stew.  I imagine ancient farmers would like a thicker porridge version, something to really stick on the way down and fill your stomach.

Herb yogurt for texture and garnish.  Use homemade for bonus points.

When the lentils are soft, it’s technically done, but we can do a couple things to really build our flavor. First, use your spoon to mash some lentils and stir in for a creamy texture. Then Stir in the herb yogurt to really send it over the Moon Goddess.

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Now just reduce to the desired thickness.

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And there you have it.  Serve with a nice green salad and some To make it vegan, just leave out the yogurt. It’s almost as good. Serve with a nice green salad and some Ash Bread to make it a meal.

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