Lentils are incredibly healthy: high in fiber, iron and protein. And what better way to eat them than in a delicious, filling soup?
The first key to making any good soup is to start with what the Italians call the “soffritto” and the French call “mirepoix.” Though there are different variations, essentially, most soups start with a sauté of this flavor base: onions, carrots and celery. Sometimes garlic is added. Sometime fresh herbs are added. But basically, if you start your soups this way, you are well on your way to creating a masterpiece.
Make Homemade Chicken Broth Base
The second key is to use the best broth possible—and that means homemade. If making homemade broth is not within your realm of reality, then try my Cheater’s Chicken Broth, which gives store-bought broth a homemade flavor in a jiffy and is easy enough for any non-cooks out there: In a pot, combine 1 boxed (not canned) organic chicken broth with at least three of the following: 1 carrot or a few baby carrots; the skin and outer layer of an onion; a piece of celery or some celery leaves; a sprig of parsley; a bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then lower flame to low. Let simmer until needed, at least 20 minutes.
The trick to this lentil soup is the addition of fennel seeds. Add yumminess to the soup with fresh herbs like basil, mint, parsley or chives on top when served. Tossing in crumbled sheep’s milk feta is also a good idea. Adding a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil right before you take your first spoonful doesn’t hurt either—it’s the key to Mediterranean food, so don’t be shy.
Easy Lentil Soup Recipe
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery ribs with leaves, chopped
½ teaspoon herbs de provence
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leafed parsley
1 tablespoon chopped basil
1 ½ cups lentils (brown or green variety)
½ cup barley pearls
1 ½ teaspoons salt
8 cups homemade chicken stock
Make soffritto. Put heavy soup pan or dutch oven over medium flame while you chop ingredients for soffritto. Add olive oil, onion, carrot, celery and all the herbs (herbs de provence, fennel seeds, parsely and basil) and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add lentils and barley and sauté another minute or so, stirring to make sure they don’t burn or stick. Add chicken stock and salt. Bring to a boil. Turn down to low flame and cover for a good hour. Let soup rest to cool, as it will only make it more flavorful.