For lunch a few weeks ago, we found a little trendy cafe on a busy pedestrian street in Luxembourg City, close to the centre. It was a quiet convivial space, just us, another guest, with a few staff milling about.
We had the mushroom ravioli with creamy tomato basil sauce, which was superb, but the other guest; a French-Italian man from Metz was having the most alluring soup.
I guess he was alluring too, the kind of man women noticed; well dressed, confident and charming, speaks a myriad of languages.
The soup, a steaming fragrant broth teaming with huge colourful chunks of vegetables and meat wasn’t like any soup I’d seen before. It looked rustic and bold
He graciously brought his soup over for us to admire, the proud chef came over “ah… my beautiful manly soup!” he said with a laugh. The chef explained in French and broken English, while the ‘alluring man’ translated, the vibrant chunks of orange and green are carrots and leeks. Except at that time no one could remember the English name for leeks, not even us – we weren’t used to seeing big cuts of leeks in soup, especially not the green part.
The chef brought a bunch of scallions from the kitchen, “it’s like this, but bigger” he said. It was at the tip of our tongues; we just couldn’t remember the name. I tried google translate, but I must have spelt it wrong because I got tons of results for Inspector Poirot (the correct spelling, I found out later is poireaux).
“Try it!” the man carefully thrusts a spoonful of soup towards me, it’s very tempting… but I tell him that regrettably I don’t eat meat and he looks me in the eye, quiets for a second and goes “Well, that’s too bad”.
I’ve been sick, and over the weekend I was picking up some vegetables to make soup, that’s when I saw them; carefully displayed, bright and gleaming. “Oh my God! LEEKS!” I remembered and exclaimed, startling the poor woman next to me.
This lentils and vegetables soup doesn’t have leeks in it, I thought about it… maybe next time. It does have carrots and the vibrancy of that unique soup from Luxembourg.
It’s the soup I usually fall on when I’m sick. It too is rustic and fragrant, comforting and deeply satisfying. It has warming ginger and cumin that is soothing when you have a cold, and packs enough heat to clear up the sinuses, there’s also fortifying protein and fibre from the lentils, and tang from the tomato paste.
The recipe for this soup is just a general guideline; add your favourite vegetables, herbs and spices, and anything else that makes this your perfect feel-good soup.
There’s no way to make a small batch, I always end up with a large pot, and leftovers are plenty, which is fine with me because it comes in handy on weeknights like this.
A hot bowlful of this soup and a side of crusty bread for dinner on a night of a never ending downpour warms the soul.
Lentils and Vegetables Soup
- 1 lb (450 g or roughly 2 cups) Puy lentils (French green lentils)
- Olive oil
- 2 red onions, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 carrots, chopped
- 2 celery stalks/ribs, chopped
- 1 – 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme or dried thyme
- 3 liters (about 12 cups) vegetable stock or water
- 1 vegetable bouillon cube (I use Harvest Sun Vegetable Bouillon)
- 2 tablespoons red wine
- Salt to taste
- Soak lentils in a large bowl, covered in enough water for about 1/2 an hour, rinse, drain and set aside when done
- Heat some olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat, and sautÃ© onions, garlic, carrots, celery and jalapeno peppers for about 3 – 5 minutes
- Next, add the tomato paste, cumin, ginger and pepper flakes and sautÃ© for another 5 minutes
- Add the lentils, thyme and vegetable stock and bouillon
- Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered up to an hour, stirring occasionally until lentils are cooked through (30 – 45 mins for firmer lentils)
- Add salt, check seasoning and add red wine
- Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, and or herbs (or toppings of your choice)