Some nights, I just want soup. Something tasty and satisfying. So, I look in my pantry and fridge and I just get going. It only has to pass a few tests: it can’t be complicated, it has to be hearty, it has to fill my big soup pot so I have enough for me to eat throughout the week. I mean, nothing is better on cold, wet days and nights than a robust, homemade soup packed with nutrient-rich veggies like mushrooms, onions, cauliflower carrots, cabbage, celery, tomatoes and whatever else might be available in my freezer or fridge. Oh, of course, beans or lentils.
I only eat homemade soups! They are less expensive than store-bought soups, plus, when you make your own homemade soups, you can do so with no saturated fat or cholesterol, no added salts or oils or natural flavors (whatever they might be…). And, as I’ve been learning and sharing, nothing is better for our bodies than diets rich in natural whole-plant foods, that are high in micronutrients and phytochemicals because they support better health for you all around. And a diet low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure
I love beans and lentils; and for quick soups, I love to use red, orange, or yellow lentils because they cook fast, and they tend to get mushy when cooked which is perfect for making my soups nice and thick. If you’re making a lentil side dish, I would use the green or brown because they’ll hold their shape.
I went ahead and cooked a big batch of red lentils so that I could use half for the soup and half for another recipe (Lentil Bolognese with Cashew Parmesan – which I will share in an upcoming post). While the lentils were cooking, it gave me time to chop up all the veggies so it really didn’t take too much extra time.
After the lentils are rinsed and picked through, here’s a great trick to remember: when cooking lentils, lentils should be cooked like a pasta, not a rice. So bring your water to a boil, then add the lentils and then reduce the heat to low for the rest of the cooking time. Depending on the variety they will cook up in 10 to 20 minutes. Watch for sticking as they cook. You will want to see a few bubbles and the lentils moving gently. They will plump up nicely. Just keep an eye on them until they are just cooked. When done, (less than 20 minutes) drain off BUT SAVE the liquid and set aside. The liquid can be used as a broth for an upcoming soup — like this one! As I mentioned, red lentils will tend to get a bit mushy when done. But that’s perfect for soup. Green or brown lentils will plump up nicely with this cooking method without splitting their skins or becoming mushy.
Easy Vegetable and Lentil Soup
Lentil Cook time: 10 to 15 min Soup Cook time: 25 to 30 minutes
Serves: 6 – 8
(I use organic vegetables from my local CSA food share or I buy organic produce from the local market)
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 small sweet onion, chopped or 2 to 3 small leeks, chopped
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 4 cups lentil broth (the liquid reserved from cooking the lentils) or low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 6-oz can organic tomato paste
- 2 15-oz cans organic stewed tomatoes Italian recipe seasoned with oregano and basil, diced
- 2 cups water
- 2 ribs of celery, diced
- 3 fresh carrots, diced
- 1½ cups fresh cauliflower, broken into bite-sized flowerettes
- 2 cups Shanghai Bok Choy, chopped (any cabbage will do, I had this kind of cabbage from my weekly CSA food share
- 6 to 8 button mushrooms, sliced
- 1½ cups snow peas
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cups cooked red lentils
- ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (start with less and add as desired
- black pepper (optional)
First, cook your red lentils. While they’re cooking, prep your veggies for the soup.
In a 5 to 6-quart soup pot, heat some vegetable broth in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until tender, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic, and the rest of the spices and cook for another 30-seconds to one minute. Next, add the broth, tomato paste, tomatoes, water and all the vegetables and bay leaves and bring to a soft boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Next add the cooked lentils and pepper flakes and heat for another 5 to 10 minutes to heat the lentils and blend with the other vegetables. The lentils will thicken the soup a bit and give it body. Remove the bay leaves. Stir in the pepper flakes; and if you want, add some black pepper to taste.
I love the flavors of this hearty, soup. Make, eat, enjoy!