A hearty lentil soup is good anytime. It’s probably one of my favourite dishes. Neapolitans are big fans of lentils and this soup is something my Mum makes at least once a week.
There is an easy and kind way to achieve umami – that smokey, meaty flavour: use a few shiitake mushrooms and some liquid smoke!
You can make lentil soup with your choice of extra vegetables. I chose kale because I like the contrast of textures and flavours that it provides.
Serves two as a main and four as a starter. Recipe after the photo.
- 350g green lentils
- 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 1 onion, chopped finely
- 1 teaspoon asafoetida
- 2 teaspoons coconut or other vegetable oil
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
- 4 slices of dried shiitake mushrooms (or 4 fresh), soaked in warm water (porcini are also good if you can’t get shiitake)
- 1 red pepper (I like to use the long, sweet kind, but a bell pepper will do just fine)
- 800ml to 1L vegetable stock (if using cube and you have access to the mushroom stock, then use that)
- 300g kale (or other dark, leafy green), roughly chopped (remove hard stem)
- 1-2 teaspoons liquid smoke
- salt & pepper
- olive oil
- nutritional yeast
- 1 Tablespoon flax meal
Before you start chopping, soak the dried mushrooms in approximately half a cup of warm water and set aside. The warm water will reconstitute the mushrooms and, together with the water, will provide umami. You do not need to soak fresh mushrooms.
Heat the oil in a deep saucepan over medium heat and add the onions, carrots, celery, asafoetida and chili. Cover and let them sweat until tender (approximately 20 minutes). Check the mixture from time to time to make sure it does not burn. Add a bit of water if the vegetables are sticking to the bottom of the saucepan.
Rinse the lentils under cold water and drain.
Once the base vegetables are tender, add the garlic and the lentils. Mix well.
Add the mushrooms along with the water in which they’ve been soaking. Mix well.
Start adding the vegetable stock to the mix. Begin with 500ml and work your way up. Reserve some for later, once you add the pepper and the kale. If you run out of vegetable stock, just use water.
Bring to a boil. Add the chopped pepper. Let this simmer and add more vegetable stock or water if you feel the mixture needs to be soupier. Continue to simmer for approximately 20-30 minutes.
Once the lentils are tender, add the kale or other dark, leafy green and the flax meal and let this simmer for an additional 5-7 minutes. Add more stock if necessary.
Finally, season with salt, pepper and the liquid smoke. Start with a teaspoon, mix well and taste. You’ll have to be the judge of how much smokiness you want. Serve with a sprinkle of olive oil and nutritional yeast.
This soup keeps well and may be reheated.