I am a lentil lover. I could eat it daily and never tire of it because it is versatile and varied. In winter, soups and stews keep me warm, and in summer, salads and pilaf keep me cool.
Hated and adulated, lentils have been around for at least ten thousand years. From Baghdad to Palermo, Venice to Istanbul, Beirut to Bombay, the tiny legumes played and still play a constant role in food culture. Who wouldn’t give up family fortune for a dish of lentils? Though it promises frugality, the ‘poor man’s meat’ can lend itself to culinary creations that are both refined and wholesome.
Today’s dish is based on the memory of a lentil soup that I once tasted in Beirut (though I do not think it was traditional). Golden and creamy with a smoky fragrance and a hint of lemon, it chases away the winter blues.
- 250 g /1 1/3 cups red lentils
- 200 g or 3 medium parsnips
- 55 g red pepper
- 1 medium red onion
- 5 garlic cloves
- 1 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 30 ml / 2 oz. lemon juice
- 4 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 1/2 liters or 6 cups water
- 2 tablespoons chopped chives
- 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (optional)
- Wash, trim and peel the parsnips and cut them up into rounds.
- Remove and discard the white pith and seeds from the red pepper, and then cut it up in chunks.
- Roughly chop the onion and garlic.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy based pot, and sauté the vegetables. Cover, and leave to cook over medium to low heat for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice.
- Incorporate the spices and let their aroma bloom in the vegetable mixture for about 1 minute.
- Add water, increase the heat, and bring to a boil.
- Once the soup starts to boil, reduce the heat to medium/low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
- At this point the lentils are soft, the vegetables tender and mixture thick.
- Add the lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, stir, and turn off the heat. Let the soup rest for 15 minutes, before whizzing it in a blender until creamy and smooth.
- Serve, sprinkled with chopped chives and if you like a touch of heat, add a pinch of Aleppo pepper.