Don’t Turn Your Nose Up at a Humble Lentil Soup!

Lentil soup is more than a soup, it’s sustenance for a day in the field, it’s survival, it’s comfort and it’s history. When the battle of Jericho was fought, people had already been eating lentils for 10,000 years. Aristophanes waxed lyrical about it in 400BC and although he was a bit of a joker, he knew his lentils. It’s eaten from Denmark to Morocco, from Portugal to Afghanistan and it’s as versatile as a prostitute on a slow night. Whether it’s boiled with ghee and onions in water and spices or served doused with the cooking juices of a whole Zampone di Modena, it will is equally delicious. Apart from all of that, lentils have probably saved half the world from starvation at one time or another.

To ignore the lentil is to ignore our common history, but then as that has a habit of repeating itself, so will the lentil. (I’m not quite sure what this sentence means, but it sounds good)

Enough nonsense, it’s time to cook

Lentil Soup with Sausages

  • 100g brown lentils
  • 60g diced carrot
  • 60g diced celery (celeriac will be even better)
  • 60g diced onion
  • 60g leeks, cut into 1cm rounds
  • 2 peeled and crushed garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbsp duck fat or lard or olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • about 300ml chicken stock (plus 200ml lentil water)
  • salt
  • 2 sausages, preferably smoked and salty
  • 15g butter
  • 15g flour

Soak your lentils in plenty of cold water for 3 hours, or overnight in the chiller. In fact, you don’t really need to do this, but it will reduce the cooking time. Some people think it gets rid of some wind. That’s probably not true, simply because lentils are not beans and thus do not contain oligosaccharides, which is the thing that propels you forward.

Drain and wash your lentils and throw them into a saucepan. Cover them with about three times their volume of water. Do not salt them, as salt can toughen them and you end up with a very crunchy lentil. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Leave your lentils in the water while you fry the vegetables.

There is a slideshow at the end of this chapter, showing the recipe step by step from here on.

I assume you have diced all you vegetables small, even and nice and crushed your peeled garlic, so now heat your tablespoon of lard of duck fat, or as a last resort (or if you’re a vegetarian), olive oil. Don’t brown the veg, just stir them about for 3 minutes, then add the stock.

Before I say drain the lentils, I’ll say KEEP the water, you’ll need it! Drain your lentils and add 200ml of the water from the lentils to your pot (so you now have a total of 500ml liquid). Bring to a simmer and keep simmering with the lid slightly ajar until your lentils are to your liking. It took me 20 more minutes, but it really depends on the type of lentil you are using. If your soup is reducing too much, top it up with some boiling water.

Adjust your seasoning, but remember that you will be adding salty sausages, so give yourself some leeway.

The Sausages

I’m not going to tell you exactly what to buy, but a wiener won’t do. It probably will, but it’s the mamby pamby choice of city dwellers and this is a Landsuppe, which is to say a Country Soup. So something a little more robust with some fat in it, something that has been smoked and is high in sodium and that will sustain you all on its own. I’d say Mettwurst, but that’s hard to come by, at least here in Malaysia. If you must know, I used a Johnsonville Smoked Sausage, frozen fully cooked in a ziplock package and I blush to admit it, but; It was the right thing, despite, or maybe because of the MSG in it.

If you’re using cooked sausages, just cut them into thick slices and drop them in, they just need to heat through. If you are using raw, fresh sausages, prick your sausage with a fork (yes, I know…) and drop it into the hot, but not boiling stock and let them cook through. Hopefully without letting them burst. Once they are firm, remove and slice into thick slices, then proceed as above. Meaning you’re pretty much done.

You don’t have to thicken your soup and if you want to, you can do it by blending 1/3 of it, or by adding cornstarch dissolved in a bit of water. It all works, but the most appropriate way to thicken a country soup is by making a dark roux:

The Dark Roux

Dark roux adds an amazing nutty flavour!

Heat the 15g butter in a small saucepan and as soon as it has melted, add the 15g flour and keep stirring like a madman, otherwise your mixture will burn in some parts. A medium to low heat with occasional bursts of high heat works best. Have a bowl ready to pour your finished roux into, because if you leave it in the hot pot, it will burn after all. Let the roux cool for five minutes, then add it slowly, bit by bit to your soup to get the thickness you want. These 15g+15g will only thicken your soup lightly, which is how it should be, but if you want it thicker, just make a double quantity.

Your soup is good to go, but it will honestly be better the next day. Which is why I made mine yesterday and am going to serve it for lunch today. That’s why there’s no picture of the finished dish until after lunch, see!

Garnishes

We like to make things look pretty, so a drop of crème fraîche or yoghurt, a few chopped herbs, of even fried breadcrumbs with herbs will work very well. Croutons, if you like, but that’s a bit Dowager Countess comes to visit the tenant farmer, so I’d go with either a slice of sourdough fried in lard, or roughly torn up bread (think big, irregular crumbs) fried in olive oil, with an addition of persillade right at the end. I’ll make it later and show you.

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