French lentil soup

I have a good friend who marvels me. She’s good at everything. She is highly accomplished in her career, has extremely strong social skills, can discuss nearly any topic intelligently, and is a damn good cook. I may be a little biased, since the last item endears her to me — especially when I’m on the receiving end of such good cooking. She made a lentil soup for me a few years ago, quite possibly my first ever, and opened my world do the flexibility of lentils.

Growing up, lentils were cooked a very specific way in my house. It was considered the everyday daal, a cheap and easy meal that is remarkably tasty once the stewed lentils are treated with a dash of bhagaar, or oil infused (in this case) with chilis, cumin and slivered garlic. It was delicious and remains a staple meal, served over white Basmati rice, in our house. But as it turns out, the Indians weren’t the only ones enamored by lentils. The French made them their own, flavoring them with a mirepoix and turning them into a hearty soup for wintry nights.

This version is slightly different than my friend made, and decidedly un-French, in that I add a dash each of red wine vinegar and soy sauce to give the soup some lift. But those two changes add a great amount of complexity to the otherwise sweet soup, so I highly recommend it. Recipe after the jump.

Start by heating up 2 tbsp. of olive oil in a thick-bottomed soup pot and adding 1 chopped onion, 4 chopped carrots and 2 chopped celery sticks. Sweat the vegetables on medium low until the onions are translucent and soft, about 7 minutes.

Toss in a couple bay leaves and 1 tsp. of sea salt.

To this mixture, add 1 cup each of brown, green and red lentils and 2 cups of chicken broth. Let the soup come to a boil, then simmer for at least half an hour until the lentils are soft. Keep adding hot water as you go to keep the mixture a soupy texture.

Once the lentils are soft, add 1 tbsp. each red wine vinegar and soy sauce. Taste and add more salt if needed.

This soup keeps incredibly well and makes for a great lunch with a chunk of sourdough bread. Enjoy!

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