I love lentil soup. I love it with a passion. When I worked at a Turkish restaurant a while back, I fell HARD for a lentil soup with basil and red pepper. It was so flavorful and, amazingly, it was super healthy. I would eat it for breakfast when I showed up in the morning. I would eat it whenever I got hungry. I took leftover soup home in a big takeaway container. The big soup warmer smelled amazing and was like a magnet drawing me over. The soup was slightly watery in the morning and thick and hearty at night. I begged and begged for the recipe but never got it. I did however, pick up a couple important ingredients. That was enough for a base idea and from there, I added carrots, eliminated a few other things, and just tried to wing it. And good Lord. It is so good. The lentils break down to form a creamy base with chunks of sweet carrots and intense red pepper and basil flavors.
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp olive or vegetable oil
2 Tbsp red pepper paste
1 minced shallot or onion
2 finely diced carrots
1 3/4 C red split lentils
at least 6 C water
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried basil
2 large fresh basil leaves
bouillon to taste
1 Tbsp salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
sprinkle of fresh lemon juice (opt)
Preheat your oven to 300 and soak the lentils in a couple cups of water while you chop the veggies and assemble the other ingredients. Grab a big ole honkin’ Dutch oven. If you don’t have one, go to TJ Maxx and get one. Or I guess use a stock pot. But it’s best to use something oven-proof so friend a neighbor or call your mom. Oh and not registering for one when you get married is a bad decision (ahem, Meredith and Danny). OR you can go all cook-while-you’re-at-work-or-the-movies-or-shopping and do the WHOLE thing in a slow-cooker. Slow-cooker friendly!
But they’re adorable so I won’t give ’em a hard time.
Throw that teensy amount of olive oil in a pan over medium heat, followed by the garlic and the red pepper paste. About that red pepper paste…
This is an ingredient common to a lot of Middle Eastern cuisines. Like sour cherries, hazelnut spread, and halva (be still my heart), it’s an inherently Turkish ingredient that is found in the cuisines of the neighboring countries. And it has the power to transform a dish from ho-hum to incredibly flavorful. Look for red pepper paste at Turkish or other international markets. If you absolutely can’t find it or you just don’t feel like finding it, your soup will suffer, but you can replace with tomato paste and add a diced red pepper. But really. The red pepper paste rocks.
Back to the soup! When the garlic is sauteed and stirred in with the red pepper paste, add the chopped carrots and shallots (or onions). Then quickly add the lentils and all the water. Throw in the dried herbs and fresh basil. If you want, add some chicken bouillon paste or break up a cube into the soup. Bring this to a boil and then stir well. Cover with the lid and place the whole thing in the oven for 30 minutes. At this point you might find that the soup is too chunky. Feel free to add water as you see fit. I like chunky, hearty soups-almost purees-for the most part but you can add lots of water if you want it thinner.
Turn off the heat and stick the soup back in the oven for 30 minutes so the lentil get completely soft. When you open the lid after that last 30 minutes, the smell and the awesome will hit you in the fact like Mike Tyson. Eat a (cooled) spoonful and you will be hooked. And then you’ll remember that it’s fat free. And then you’ll want to hug me.
I’m in Bloomington. Come find me. =)