Crazy Thursday: another lentil soup

According to Mr. Fearnley-Whittingstall, “This soup is a brilliant standby if you need to produce a quick meal from store cupboard ingredients”. I took that as a challenge – mostly because the soup has caraway seeds in it and I almost never like food with caraway seeds. Lentil soup with caraway and minted yogurt. I also find it suspect when an ingredient is given “ed” status. Minted yogurt indeed. Hmph.

You must be wondering why, given the starring role for caraway and the silly “minted name”, I would have ever decided to try this soup. Especially given that it was Crazy Thursday and I usually try to stick with a sure thing that the kids will like because they’re so tired after all the activities they have that day.  Also there are so many recipes in River Cottage Everyday that I am really truly excited about.

What it came down to was that I had all the ingredients. Even the fresh mint for the yogurt I had from the lamb the night before. I also had half a loaf of great bread in the freezer and the Fleur d’Aunis from the tartiflette for a grilled cheese sandwich to accompany. The instructions for the soup seemed really easy and I could see it would be a cinch to put together.  So I went down the caraway path.

Guess what?! The soup was wonderful and not only because it was so easy.  Now I’m curious if the reason I don’t really like caraway is because in most recipes the seeds are included whole and that makes them more pungent.  Not to mention that their hard chewiness is distracting. In this recipe the caraway seeds are toasted and ground. Their earthy herbaceousness contrasts with the coriander – which is sprightly and citrus-y.  Since the soup is pureed, the lentils add smooth vegetal body combined with all the onion and some carrot. It’s actually quite marvelous, the way it comes together.  And I have to admit, the “minted” yogurt garnish is wonderful, adding spring-like freshness – perfect for the last days of winter.

If you use a food processor to chop the carrot and onion, this soup will come together in half an hour – and most of that time is sweating and simmering. While the soup bubbles away on the stove, you can put together some grilled cheese sandwiches.

Lentil soup with caraway and minted yogurt – River Cottage Every Day

Serves 6

The soup

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds, (toasted in frying pan and ground – I hope you’ll bother to toast them – it’s easy)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 12 oz red lentils
  • 1 quart low salt chicken broth – I like Pacific brand organic
  • 2 cups water
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper

The minted yogurt garnish

  • 5 tbsp plain yogurt
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy bottomed soup pot.  Add the onions and carrots, stir to coat with the oil. Cover and sweat for about 10 minutes.  Stir every 3 or 4 minutes.
  2. Combine the coriander and the toasted caraway in a small bowl and stir.  Add half the spices to the carrots and onions along with the garlic and stir over medium heat for a minute.
  3. Add the lentils, broth and water to the pot and bring to the boil, skimming off any scum that forms on the surface. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until the lentils are very soft.
  4. Now to puree. Mr. Fearnley-Whittingstall would have you transfer the whole pot of soup to a blender or a food processor and puree.  I really hope you have an immersion blender, it’s so much easier to dunk it into the pot to smooth out the soup. You don’t need the fancy huge one from Williams-Sonoma.  It’s overkill.  I got my Braun at Costco 15 years ago and it has several useful attachments.  A food mill would also work using the smallest disk, but if you have an immersion blender that would be the easiest by far.
  5. Return the soup to the pot and heat through. Adjust the seasonings, adding the rest of the caraway and coriander and salt and pepper. (I added 1-1/2 tsp salt)
  6. While the soup sits over low heat, stir up the yogurt and mint.  Put a little blob into each bowl over the hot soup just as you serve.

If you really need to rely on what is at hand and have no fresh mint, just use plain yogurt.

I am sure you are wondering if the kids liked this soup. I think it’s just a matter of conditioning. We don’t ever have pureed soups, so they’re not used to the texture. There was nothing off-putting about the taste. Which is to say, no, they did not like it. They all tried it though! And they happily made do with the toasted cheese sandwiches. Nobody cried. I will make this soup again.

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