Smoky Lentil Soup (garnished with sherry vinegar and fresh chives)
Straightforward and easy to make, this soup is packed with flavor, protein, fiber and nutrients from fresh vegetables and brown lentils. There are just 4 ingredients to chop, 4 spices to measure, and store-bought unsalted vegetable stock works fine, unless you happen to have homemade stock to hand.
Important tip: don’t add the finishing sea salt (grey, in our recipe, but use your favorite) until the last 5 minutes of cooking, and err on the side of less is more. If it’s added early, the lentils will absorb too much liquid during cooking and the soup will be too thck and just taste salty instead of letting the smoked seasoning flavors shine through.
Optionally, garnish each serving bowl with a couple of whole, fresh chives and a teaspoon or so of sherry vinegar for an added kick.
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and drained
1 onion, finely chopped
2 large carrots, peeled, trimmed and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and chopped (don’t use garlic press for this recipe)
2 cups diced fresh tomatoes (about 3 medium), with their juices
3 cups unsalted vegetable stock
1/3 cup water
2 Tbsp. wine (red or white)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. smoked sea salt (if don’t have – substitute 1/4 tsp sea salt and additional 1/4 tsp smoked paprika)
1/4 tsp. hot paprika or cayenne pepper (hot paprika preferred for its subtler flavor)
Coarse grey sea salt, to taste – about 2 level teaspoons
Freshly ground black pepper to taste – about 5 grinds
Optional for garnish: sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar, and fresh chives
Prepare all ingredients in list up to and including hot paprika. Mix diced tomatoes with wine in measuring vessel or bowl. Warm the vegetable stock, either in microwave-safe container or small sauce pan, until it is hot but not boiling.
Heat empty over medium heat a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan or dutch oven. When pan is hot, add the olive oil and allow it to shimmer, then add onion and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to brown. Add garlic and cook another minute or so until it loses its raw aroma. Stir tomato-wine mixture into pan and allow alcohol from wine to boil off. Next, add lentils, bay leaf, hot stock and water to pot. You’re not adding the carrots until later, so they won’t be overcooked. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook, covered, stirring once or twice, for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, add the carrots, smoked sea salt, smoked paprika and hot paprika to the soup, stir well, return to simmer and let cook another 25 minutes. After 55 minutes total cooking time, taste soup and season just to taste with grey sea salt and pepper, then allow the flavors to combine for another 5 minutes, simmering covered on very low heat.
Remove from heat and serve. Optionally, garnish each bowl with a teaspoon of sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar) and fresh chives.
Makes 6 servings; freezes well.