I make lentil soup about once a week. Everybody likes it (well, my kids are a gamble - some days they do, some days they don't) and it's good to make a large pot at the beginning of the weekend, to fuel lunches and suppers for the next two days. The following lentil soup, using green or brown lentils, can be varied in lots of ways to suit the contents of your vegetable bin.
One onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 or 2 carrots, chopped
Chopped garlic - 1, 2 or 3 cloves - your choice
Two small or one large potato, diced
1 1/2 cups brown or green lentils, picked over and rinsed*
One 14 oz. can tomatoes (chopped or not, basil or not)
6 cups water
Herbs - your choice
(Lemon juice or vinegar) (optional)
(spinach or other greens) (optional)
(Parmesan or other cheese for sprinkling) (optional)
(sausage or ham) (optional)
Sautee onion in at least one tablespoon olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot (or pressure cooker) until onion softens and turns translucent. Add celery, garlic, carrots; sautee another two minutes or so. Add potato, lentils, tomatoes, bay leaf, water, and a fatpinch of dried thyme; you may also add basil and/or oregano. Cover the pot (if doing this in a pressure cooker, this is when you lock it down)
Cook for 35 to 40 minutes, or until lentils are tender. (Pressure cooker - cook for 10 minutes, cool down naturally without forcing it open) Then add salt to taste (you'll need plenty) and pepper. Stir and serve sprinkled with cheese. You may also add another drizzle of extra virgin cold pressed olive oil at the table. Lemon is another optional addition.
Optional ingredients - shorten cooking time by 2-3 minutes. Add spinach, let cook with lid off until greens wilt.
Fully cooked sausage or bits of cooked, chopped ham deepen the flavors, and may be added during the last ten minutes of cooking.
The lemon juice - at least half a lemon - adds tang and brings out the flavors, especially with the spinach variation. Red wine or balsamic vinegar is another tangy addition. These are not so good with ham.
This recipe is endlessly elastic; whatever veggies you have around usually work; of course short cooking veg should go towards the end (i.e. zucchini). Today we had dinosaur kale lying around that really needed to be used up. I put it in at the beginning of the cooking time.
If you have a leftover ham bone or lamb bone with bits of meat on it, add with the uncooked lentils. Without the meat (or cheese) this recipe is suitable for vegans.
If you want a Greek version of this, with rice, see here. My kids love this recipe.