"You, who dare insult lentil soup, sweetest of delicacies," Aristophanes said.
Apparently, Greeks take their lentils seriously. In fact, lentils are quintessentially Hellenic and their roots stretch back to the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods. Archeologists even found lentils while exploring Franchthi cave (Σπήλαιον Φράγχθη) near Koilada village in southeastern Argolis; those lentils were between 12,000 and 15,000 years old, obviously inedible but intact. Glorious lentils!
Today Tolmee honors lentils in our third recipe in the vegan series. Introducing Fakes Soup. Don’t be fooled by the simple ingredient list, this lentil soup will soon be on your dinner “frequent flyer list.” Attesting to their ancient roots, lentils come in various types. Many cuisines incorporate lentils, such as Dahl in India, so grocery store shelves can be a little overwhelming. Tolmee’s quick tip is to stick to brown or green lentils for this recipe. Lentils du puy will remain too firm due to their small size and red lentils will disintegrate. The green and brown lentils maintain their shape and result a creamy soup.
If you’re a weekend food prepper, then brown/green lentils are perfect. Simply soak them in salted boiling water for 1 hour, drain, and store in refrigerator for 1 or 2 days. This pre soak shortens cooking time, breaks down the skins to prevent blow outs and helps with digestion. All together the soak ensures uniformly creamy lentils.
Christos, who shared his family’s favorite Fakes soup recipe, says “This is a very flexible soup and can be made with any veggies you have on hand. Collard greens, spinach, zucchini are some easy swaps. Although for this recipe I have used paprika as a spice, it can also easily be replaced to change the flavor profile of the soup. Sometimes I use curry powder instead, or skip all the spices and add a tablespoon of dried oregano and generous splash of vinegar once the soup is done cooking.” Christos also advised against throwing in aging veggies from the crisper. If the veggies are looking old, they will muddy the lentil taste and picky eaters will never eat lentils again!
A word about chopped vegetables in your soups. Some people prefer chunky vegetables that are well defined and fairly large, around the size of your thumbnail. We’ve found that picky soup eaters tend to prefer smaller chopped vegetables, around the size of your pinky nail. Whatever you chose, always chop your vegetables the same size. It makes for a more consistent mouth feel. As for adding greens, before you chop, think about how the greens will feel in your mouth and chop accordingly. Kale and other very sturdy greens can be hard to enjoy when they’re too large. For this soup, we chopped our kale small, roughly the size of a thumbnail.
Our earlier post included a recipe for homemade vegetable stock. Tolmee cannot stress enough the yummy-ness of homemade veggie stock. But if you’re pressed for time and want store bought, then we suggest you let the tasters at America’s Test Kitchen guide you. They suggest two common brands, Better than Bouillon Vegetable Base and Swanson Certified Organic Vegetable Broth.
Now that you know the history, and you have a grip on the stock you want to use, let’s get started.
Fakes Soup (Lentil and vegetable Soup)
Total time including soak: 1hr 22min
Active cooking time: 22min
3-4 tablespoons high quality olive oil
1 Yellow onion chopped fine
1 fennel bulb chopped fine
2 carrots chopped fine
3 cloves of Garlic minced
1 tablespoon of sweet paprika
1 bunch of kale chopped small
1 15 ounce can of chopped tomatoes
1 cup of lentils of your choice (brown or green)
1 1/2 teaspoon of table salt, divided
6 cups vegetable stock homemade preferred
1 yellow potato diced small
Freshly squeezed lemon juice or 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar (optional)
- Place lentils in a heat proof bowl and cover with boiling water and ½ tsp of salt. Set aside for 1 hour and then drain. May be made in advance and refrigerated until needed.
- Meanwhile, heat high quality olive oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven or 4 quart saucepan. Add onion, fennel, carrots and ½ tsp table salt. Saute for 7 minutes or until translucent and soft. Add garlic and paprika and saute for 30 seconds or until fragrant.
- Add kale, chopped tomatoes, drained lentils, diced potatoes and ½ tsp of salt and stir well. Immediately add vegetable stock, bring to a simmer over high heat. Lower heat to medium low and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Lentils should remain covered by cooking liquid.
- Brined lentils cook in 15 minutes along with the potatoes, but be sure to start tasting both and increase simmering time as necessary.
- When soup is done, remove from heat and add a squeeze of fresh lemon or 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar. These optional additions provide a nice sharp counter flavor to the creamy lentils.
- Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 4 days. Lentil soup can be frozen and gently reheated on the stove top.
We hope you enjoy a taste of Neolithic Greece. Since lentils have been around since antiquity, it seems they must have something going for them! Be Bold, be tasty, Be Tolmee.
Serving size: 1.5 cups
Carbs: 49 grams
Fat: 1.5 grams
Protein: 16 grams