Lentil soup is not something that's ever excited me. I don't mind it -- I'll eat it -- but I associate it with a type of earnest, serious -- sort of dreary --1970s style of "health food." In my mind it keeps company with brown rice casseroles, and leaden cakes and pastries made with whole wheat flour and honey, eaten by serious and earnest Earth shoe-wearing people.
I realize there are those who love lentil soup, and that my views on the lentil are no doubt due to my inability to appreciate the lentil rather than any shortcoming on its part. But there it is. I still don't find lentil soup exciting.
Except for this lentil soup, which is the polar opposite of muddy brown lentil soup. It's a thick, rich yellow, brightened with cumin, lots of lemon, and red pepper. I'm not the sort of person who's given to using words like zingy but if I were, I'd call this soup zingy. It's the sort of soup that provides a good antidote to February which in Baltimore is cold, often grey, and given to ice storms.
Red Lentil Soup
Adapted from A Beautiful Bowl of Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon cumin
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 3/4 cups red lentils, picked over and rinsed
3 14-oz cans chicken broth (or an equal amount of vegetable broth)
1 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
Additional lemon wedges
1. Saute the garlic and onion over medium heat until the onion is tanslucent. Add the cumin and coriander, saute briefly, then add the lentils, chicken broth, and carrots.
2. Bring the soup to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the lentils are soft which will take about 30 to 45 minutes.
3. Stir in the cup of water, stirring to smooth the soup a little. Bring it back to a boil, remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice. Taste for seasoning. I found that I needed no additional salt -- the canned broth provided enough.
4. Serve garnished with aleppo pepper and cilantro leaves. Pass lemon wedges for those who want to add additional lemon.
A very geeky cookbook aside: this recipe for red lentil soup is based mainly on one for shorbet adds, an Egyptian soup, from A Beautiful Bowl of Soup. Last weekend as my soup simmered on the stove, a thought occurred to me and I pulled my copy of Aromas of Aleppo: The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews off the shelf. Sure enough, there was a recipe for shurbat addes, described as a thick and hearty red lentil soup with garlic and coriander, it was flavored with aleppo pepper, cumin, cilantro, and lemon. Intrigued, I checked Jewish Food: The World at Table and found a similar recipe for shorba addes or sour red lentil soup. In Sephardic Flavors: Jewish Cooking of the Mediterranean I found a recipe for sopa de lentejas colorada another red lentil soup flavored with cumin, cayenne, and lemon juice or vinegar. It's a red lentil soup that gets around.