Yes yes, you think, yet another lentil soup recipe. And like most lentil soups, of course it's brown gack. And it's vegetarian. Ho hum, could it get any more boring?
No! I mean yes, it could! I mean, er...
What I'm trying to say here is that this is not your average lentil soup recipe. To start with, it's not exactly soup. Unlike your average lentil soup which involves lentils floating about in a nicely spiced broth, Peggy's has a much more stew-like consistency, where small amounts of broth act as a lubricant which allow lentils to pass potatoes to pass carrots. When I served this to my Austrian housemates a couple years ago2, they insisted that it was "Nicht Linsensuppe, sondern Linseneintopf1," not lentil soup but lentil stew. Yet, ever since we adapted the recipe from my friend Orion's mother Peggy's back when I was in fifth grade, we in my family have called it soup, and there is no other lentil soup that would be made, for there is no need.
Second, it doesn't taste like your average lentil soup. It lacks the sharper, more acidic flavors found in ingredients such as tomatoes, garlic, or even asafoetida that I have seen in more traditional Indian and Mediterranean recipes. The flavors are rich and mellow, a truly American heresy of pseudomulticultural new world-old world autumn comfort food fusion cuisine which could almost be served with Thanksgiving dinner. It is sedate enough to satisfy my grandmother, who grew up and raised her kids on farms in western Montana, yet interesting enough to please someone like me who eats pad thai noodles with a few tablespoons of sriracha hot sauce on them for lunch.
With that, on to the recipe!
- 16 oz. lentils (I have only ever used brown lentils and wouldn't recommend any other for these purposes)
- 6 cups vegetable broth (canned, boxed, from vegetable bouillon cubes3, or of your own mischevious devising)
- 4-6 red potatoes, washed but not peeled (Russets will do, but are suboptimal. And remember, red potatoes are smaller than Russets, so don't use as much.)
- 1 large onion, typically yellow but perhaps white
- 4 medium carrots (or more, if you love carrots)
- 4-5 stalks celery, plus as many leaves from the center as you can
- 1-1.5 tablespoon yellow curry (in my mother's recipe, she specifies medium, not hot, but I find either acceptable
- a bay leaf or three wouldn't hurt, but are far from necessary
- Chop the potatoes, onion, carrots, celery, and celery leaves to a reasonable size. Think small enough that you can still eat it with a spoon, yet not so small that it turns into a soupy puree.
- Heat 2 tbsp. butter and 2 tbsp. olive oil until the butter is fully melted in a pot large enough to hold all the ingredients. Partially sauté the chopped veggies over medium in the warmed fats. This allows the veggies to start to release their flavor. It should only take a couple minutes; do not allow the vegetables to soften significantly.
- Wash the lentils in a colander, and drain. Stir them around while rinsing, and pick out any sticks, stones, or rotten lentils that you see.
- Add the lentils to the vegetable mixture, and stir around, continuing to sauté, for just a couple of minutes to let flavors combine.
- Add the broth.
- Add the curry powder.
- Bring to boil. Reduce to simmer. Cover the pot, let cook until lentils are soft, about 30 or 40 minutes. Watch the pot, stir occasionally, and don't allow to boil again or foam up. If the mixture gets too thick, add a little more broth. This may or may not be necessary, depending on the quantities of vegetables.
- Serve and enjoy!
The soup is best served immediately, with freshly baked cornbread, heavy brown bread, or olive bread. Add salt, pepper, soy sauce, and/or bragg liquid aminos to taste, if desired. Yummmmmmmmmm.
1: Eintopf means "one pot". This sounds like a reasonable word for "stew", until you realize it's also a reasonable word for "soup".
2: I honestly entirely forget4 what note I was going to make here. But I do remember that everyone loved the meal.
3: Easiest thing to do is to boil water in a small pot and stir the cubes in in that. It'll help them break down faster.
4: Actually, I think I remember now. I spilled soup on the recipe and then accidentally set it on fire but then put it out before any of the text was burned and mailed the result to ideath.