I’d found the original recipe in “New Vegetarian” by Celia Brooks Brown. A good friend gave me the cookbook years ago and its cover has since become quite tattered – think of the Velveteen Rabbit. Celia’s recipe calls for vegetable stock (which I don’t always take the time to make and don’t buy anymore). It also calls for cumin, which I’ve used, but I’ve also tried using curry or a combination of chili spices. Both work well. It just depends on my mood and whatever jumps off the spice rack. Last, it calls for soy sauce, which I’ve also used – especially when I’m feeling lazy. Since I’ve been trying to make more recipes gluten-free though I’ve recently tried the recipe without soy sauce, which is made primarily from wheat (though there are gluten-free alternatives out there). I added some grey sea salt from Brittany and then focused on the spices – I ended up with my favorite soup to date. The rich taste of the Puy lentils, fragrant spices, and garlic stood out. My advice: play with this recipe until it suits you and never make it exactly the same twice.
I mentioned garlic. This is the time for me to introduce the fresh garlic I found (or that found me) at the farmers’ market the other day. I’d never even thought about buying such fresh garlic before. Yes, I’ve always bought garlic and I’ve always thought it was fresh, but that was until one of my favorite vegetable vendors held up two different heads of garlic for me. This one or that one? One had clearly been picked much more recently and the outside layers were still soft and moist, like an onion or shallot. How could I resist? When I got home, I opened it (more difficult than garlic that has already been drying – I needed a sharp knife) and and the strongest garlic aroma I’ve ever smelled filled the room. For anyone who loves garlic, super fresh is the way to go.
1 cup Puy lentils
2-3 cloves fresh garlic
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons soy sauce (or some grey sea salt and your creativity)
1 cup coconut milk
Ground spices (curry, chili, cumin…. again creativity)
Baby spinach (optional)
1. Chop up the onion and garlic.
2. Sauté in olive oil in a large soup pot.
3. Rinse the lentils and add them to the pot along with the bay leaves.
4. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat about half way and simmer until the lentils are cooked.
5. Add the coconut milk (not too early or it may curdle) and begin playing with spices. Get a spoon out and taste, taste, taste…
6. If desired, serve topped with fresh baby spinach.