My mother was everything but a fancy cook. In fact, I don’t think she really enjoyed cooking at all, but what she made like no other was her aromatic lentil soup, seasoned with a mix of pre-blended Spanish spices.
Intent on recreating this special soup I so fondly remembered, I developed a similar recipe years ago. It quickly became a Thursday night tradition at my house, one which for some reason, I had forgotten about. Until yesterday when I discovered a pack of lentils hidden away in the back of my pantry.
My version starts off with a fragrant mix of whole spices ground in a mortar and pestle and sauteed with an onion in a little olive oil. Unlike my mother’s soup, this one does not have diced potatoes, though I don’t see why you couldn’t add them in yourself if you wish. Instead, I prefer to serve my version topped with a few fat, garlicky olives and sometimes a drizzle of chili or fennel oil.
Along with this soup — which started off with a simple oeufs durs mayonnaise — I served a board of meats and cheese, some fresh baguette with farmhouse butter and a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile.
Eating this soup will always put my taste buds on a trip down memory lane. One spoon and suddenly, I am back in New Jersey, coming home from school in my conservative uniform… and my not so conservative matte ‘Vamp’ lipstick and Doc Martens.
Aromatic Lentil Soup
- 2 tsps whole cumin seeds
- 2 tsps whole coriander seeds
- 1 tsp whole fennel seeds
- fat pinch of chili flakes
- 2 tbsps mild olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 300g brown lentils, rinsed
- 1,80L vegetable stock
- garlic olives, parsley and chili oil, to serve
Grind your seeds and chili in a mortar and pestle. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and add the ground spices, stirring for a minute or so until they release their fragrance. Add the onion and gently continue to cook for a about 5 minutes. Stir in the lentils. Add the stock, place a lid on the pan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and allow to gently cook for 35-40 minutes. Serve with the olives, parsley and chili oil.