Tag: lentil soup

Earthy Porcini Lentil Soup with Honey and Ginger

Porcini Lentil Soup

A couple days ago I ate a very aromatic porcini soup at one of my favourite restaurants and I was very surprised when the chef and owner told me where the mushrooms for this wonderful meal came from, the desert. The dunes of the Kalahari in southern Africa produce sensational truffle and porcini in season from now till May. I savored this dinner together with my family and we were all surprised and impressed at the same time! I’ve never seen mushrooms from the Kalahari in a store or at the markets before but I will definitely look out for them!

The soup was so tasty that it aroused my appetite for mushrooms and I had to think of a lentil soup my aunt Ursula had told me about (she was at the dinner as well). It combines the earthy flavours of lentils and porcini. I went for dried porcini (from Italy not from Africa). My aunt recommended them for this meal as you have to shred them finely into a very concentrated porcini flour which you cook together with the lentils. I used my Swabian Alb Leisa Lentils from South Germany for this meal which conveniently don’t need to soak in water. Their taste is strong enough for the aromatic porcini, so strong that I could even add a piece of ginger, some thyme sprigs and a spoon of honey. The result is an absolutely delicious lentil soup full of wintery aromas.

Porcini Lentil Soup

Porcini Lentils with Honey, Ginger and Thyme

This is great to cook in large batches to keep in the freezer for quick dinners!

For 4 people you need

lentils 350g / 12.5 ounces
(I use a small dark type which doesn’t need to soak)
dried porcini mushrooms, shredded finely in a blender, 50g / 2 ounces
medium sized onion, chopped, 1
garlic, crushed, 1 clove
broth 1000ml plus more for cooking depending on the lentils
thyme 5 sprigs
ginger, thumbnail sized
bay leaf 1
honey 1 tablespoon
salt and black pepper
olive oil for frying

In a large pot, fry the onion and garlic in a little oil on medium heat until golden, add some more oil and the shredded porcini and fry for 1 minute. Add the lentils, ginger, thyme, bay leaf and the broth. Don’t season with salt yet or the lentils will stay hard. Close the lid and let it cook for about 30 minutes. The cooking time depends on the lentil type, mine needed 30 minutes. When the lentils are soft, add the honey, season with salt and pepper and take out the thyme sprigs, bay leaf and ginger.

Red Lentils and Smoked Halibut

Red Lentils + Haddock

I don’t know why but my kitchen shelves are always piled up with dried lentils in all sorts of different colours, red, yellow, green, black and a whole lot of shades in between. I stay stocked up as if there was a food shortage ahead of me – luckily they have a very long shelf life. It amazes me how different their tastes are. Each has its own characteristic aroma and there are endless delicious combinations with herbs, spices, meat and fish even. I guess that’s the reason why I can’t stop buying them. When I see a kind of lentil that is currently not in my kitchen shelf, I can’t help it, I have to think of what I would cook with them. Then I buy them and here it is: another package of these little legumes in the house.

I neglected the red ones for quite a while, without any reason. I noticed while putting some order back into my dried food compartment, my typical January “getting back into gear” motivation. A bit of order helps me to get back into a rhythm after the more relaxed and hedonistic Christmas season. Back to the shelf, the orange lentils glowing right in front of me remind me of a glorious combination of lentils, smoked fish, lemon and freshly grated horseradish. The radish is so spicy that it crawls up my nose which is great to balance out the smoked fish, Halibut in this case, and the unshakeable red lentils, steady and strong, untouched by all these strong companions!

Red Lentils + Haddock

Red Lentils with smoked Halibut, Lemon and Horseradish

For 3-4 people you need

smoked Halibut 350 g / 12.5 ounces
red lentils, rinsed,  300g / 1.5 cups
broth 700ml / 3 cups
onion, chopped, 2
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
heavy cream 3-4 tablespoons
chives, chopped, 3 tablespoons
fresh horseradish, grated
salt and pepper
olive oil for frying

Heat a little oil in a large pot and fry the onions for a couple minutes. Add the lentils, the broth, lemon juice and zest and some ground pepper (but no salt!). Cook according to the cooking instructions on your package, mine need 7 minutes. When the lentils are done add the cream and season with salt and pepper to taste. Separate the smoked fish into big chunks and arrange on plates together with the lentils. Sprinkle with horseradish and chives.

Red Lentils + Haddock

Winter Lentils with Chestnuts and Star-anis

Lentils with Star-anis

My mother loves lentils – and so do I – and she also loves to share her new lentil creations with me like her all time favorite lentils with chard (a variation which I will post another time). So for many, many years she has sent me her recipes by fax, written on a type writer, as she doesn’t like emails and computers. I have a folder full of faxes from her with wonderful recipes and always signed with a sweet motherly note.

Today’s lentil creation is something new, I need a soul warmer, with typical winter spices. I bought some French chestnuts and brought out the star-anis and cloves inspired by my last baking sessions. I will use very aromatic lentils from Swabia in the South of Germany sent to me – of course – by my mother. They are cultivated by an organic producer group called “Alb-Leisa” (www.alb-leisa.com) which recovered this treasure from oblivion. These re-cultivated lentil types had disappeared abruptly in the 1950s due to costs and extensive work. Luckily the Alb-Leisa work is well appreciated, their production has expanded and we can now buy aromatic lentils with old-fashioned names like “Späth’s Alblinse I and II”.

Lentils with Star-anis

 Lentils with Chestnuts and Star-anis

Here comes the soul-warming recipe, enough for 4 people. I use small lentils which don’t need pre-soaking.

lentils 300g / 10.5 ounces
small leek, cut in thin slices, 1
carrots, sliced in half and chopped, 3
small onion, chopped, 1
garlic clove, cut in half, 1
olive oil
broth or water 1l
thyme, a bunch
star-anis 1 (single, not a whole star)
bay leaves 2
cloves 2
allspice, whole not ground, 2
chestnuts, a hand full
salt and pepper

I prepared the chestnuts earlier as they don’t need to be warm. Preheat the oven to 200°C / 390°F and place an ovenproof   bowl filled with water on the bottom of the oven. Cut a cross on the curved side of the chestnuts and put them in the oven on a baking sheet 10 minutes or until they get dark and their crosses start curling up. Take them out of the oven and cover them with a wet tea towel immediately. This makes it much easier to peel them. Take them out of their outer hard and soft, inner skin while they are still warm. Mind your fingers as they can still be hot.

Warm olive oil in a pan and fry the leek, onion, carrots and garlic on medium heat. Add the lentils and pour the broth on top. Add the thyme and the spices (star-anis, bay leaves, cloves, allspice) but don’t season with salt yet or the lentils won’t cook and stay hard. Some people put the spices in a disposable tea filter which makes it easier to get them out later. I don’t mind them, I prefer to add them unwrapped. Close the lid and let it simmer. The cooking time depends on the lentil type. Mine need 20 minutes. After 10 minutes check if there is still enough liquid. When the lentils are soft, season with salt and pepper. Take out the thyme, bay leaves and the spices you can find.

Serve the lentils in deep bowls with broken chestnuts on top and enjoy this soul warming treat.