I keep my pantry well-stocked with dried beans of all kinds. To me, they are the epitome of a resourceful food (next to vinegar of course!). Garbanzo and black beans are my mainstay, but having a variety of beans on hand keeps things interesting. Red lentils don’t need soaking and cook up fast. They get creamy the longer you cook them (think split peas) and can be used for Dal. In this recipe, however, I don’t cook them down so they stay a little chewy, like the vegetables. On a cold winter’s day, this is comfort in a bowl and tastes better every day.
This is a light lentil stew with vegetables and curry spices. Use any orange vegetable and any green vegetable. This time, I used part carrots/ part sweet potatoes and kale, but butternut squash and spinach would be super yummy too. Celeriac is a great addition to any soup as well. When it comes your way (usually a CSA offering) peel it, dice it and freeze it – that’s gold, baby!
As usual, you’re going to sauté the vegetables that take the longest to cook first, so you’ll add them to the pot in this order: onions, celeriac (optional), orange vegetables, dried spices, green vegetables, tomatoes, lentils, broth or water. Then season more to taste. My mother always cautioned me that adding salt to lentils too early makes them tough, so I add salt at the end (thanks for the tip, Mom!). After tasting, I also like to add a touch of “acid” at the end of most bean dishes to give them a lift (dash of vinegar or splash of lemon). If using spinach, add at the end to avoid cooking it down too much.
A general note about broth and cooking with fresh vegetables: If you make homemade broth with veggie scraps routinely, you can keep big jars of it in the freezer and pull them out for soups like this (see post link “How to Make Homemade Veggie Broth”). If you don’t have any homemade broth in the freezer (I didn’t for this recipe), water and a little bouillon paste can work, but I recommend going much lighter on the bouillon paste then the instructions recommend. Fresh vegetables are so flavorful on their own, I think it’s a shame to overpower them with stock bouillon. For example, this soup calls for 6 cups of broth, so I followed the directions to mix up 1 cup of broth and then added 5 cups of plain water.
2-2½ cups orange vegetables, peeled and diced
2-2½ cups kale or other green vegetable, thick stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped
1 cup onions, diced (1 large onion)
½ cup celeriac, diced (optional)
1 can organic diced tomatoes
Beans & broth
1 lb (16 oz bag) dried red lentils
6 cups broth (or 5 cups water and 1 cup bouillon broth)
Heavy dollop of olive oil
1½ tsp cumin
½ tsp paprika
1 tsp dried basil
1 or 2 small pinch cayenne pepper
Salt and ground pepper to taste
½ tsp apple cider vinegar (or a bit of fresh lemon)
In a big soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, celeriac (if using), orange vegetables and anything that will take time to cook and soften. Cook about 6-8 minutes or until lightly browned and tender. Stir in all the dried seasonings and then cook for half a minute to release the flavors and then add the kale. Cook for a minute or so, then add the tomatoes, broth and lentils.
Cover and heat to boiling on high. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered 8-10 minutes or until lentils are tender (older lentils may take longer). If using spinach, stir in now. Let the soup sit for a few minutes, then taste. Add salt and ground pepper as needed and a touch of acid to give it a lift. The flavors of this soup will meld together as the soup sits.