Sunday, December 2, 2007

Winter Lentils

This is an update to a traditional European lentil soup made with brown lentils, vegetables and plenty of sausage. The original was often too thick, heavy and starchy after the long simmering of the lentils, and leftovers were a trial.
By simmering the lentils first in seasoned water, less starch leaches into the soup once they're added. The vegetables, when sauteed, taste richer and end up taking the flavor lead, as they should.

The Broth:
2 cups of stock (beef, chicken or vegetable)
3 cups water
Thaw and heat all liquids. Adjust quantities of flavored broths to your taste. Broth should be light, without a strong beef or chicken imprint, and undersalted. More seasonings are later!.

1 onion, diced
1 onion, whole
1 leek
2 carrots
2-3 celery stalks
2-3 medium red potatoes
1 cup lentils
Peel and small dice all vegetables except potatoes, which should be peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes.
Prep lentils by rinsing under cold water.

Seasonings and Other Ingredients:
3 Tbsp. Light olive oil and butter
Pinch of Thyme
2 Cloves
Cider Vinegar
Salt and Fresh pepper

Garnish Meats:
Kielbasa, veal sausage, German style frankfurters, good quality beef franks or other smoked sausage

Making the soup:

Add lentils, whole peeled onion studded with 2 cloves, bayleaf. Cover all ingredients amply with water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer 20 minutes.

While lentils simmer, heat oil and butter (roughly half and half) in heavy bottom dutch oven or soup pot. Over medium to low heat, saute onions 5 minutes. Add leeks, continuing to saute at least 5 to 8 minutes. Then add carrots and celery, again for 5 minutes. Lastly, toss in the potatoes to coat with the oil. Sprinkle vegetables with thyme, salt and pepper, stirring with a wooden spoon to warm the seasonings and release the flavors. Taste to correct seasoning.

Remove studded onion from the lentils and drain in medium strainer. Do not rinse lentils.

Add stock and water to the soup pot, bring to a lively simmer and add drained lentils and bayleaf. Continue cooking 20 to 30 minutes - not more, or the vegetables will loose their fresh taste. Before bringing the soup to the table, stir in a teaspoon to a tablespoon of cider vinegar, then a pinch of sugar if needed. Be careful not to overdo the vinegar, particularly if the sweet-sour is a newer taste for your family.

If serving the soup with meat, heat the franks separately in a saucepan barely covered with water. Smoked sausage, and alternatively the franks, should be pan sauteed to remove excess fat, turning them often until they start to brown. Before serving, cut the franks in half and thick slice larger sausages. Serve meat mixed in a shallow serving dish with plenty of mustard and crusty bread to go around.


Souportive Son said...

Are you soaking the lentils the night before cooking them? Love the idea of adding the veggies later, to conserve flavor.

Looking forward to trying this on a crisp winter day!

Who can be This Souperlatif said...

Lentils today require no pre-soaking. However, they are pre-cooked in this recipe, and that is quite enough. They're not supposed to be the consistency of baked beans!!