I like lentils. Actually, as far as legumes go, I think lentils may be my favorite. The Latin Lover is, shall we say, less fond of them. A bad childhood memory. But I’m trying to convert him. It’s always good to eradicate a bad childhood food memory and create a new, all-gown-up food memory! I think this soup may have done it! I think the reason The Latin Lover likes this soup is because the lentils aren’t mushy and gruel-like. This is not a mushy lentil soup, but more of a tomato soup, that just happens includes lentils. I cook the lentils separately. This way, you can more easily control how mushy they will become. The lentils are fully cooked, but they retain their shape. The bonus of cooking them separately is, that you can add part to the soup, make a lentil salad and still have enough to serve as a bed for some lovely fish, roasted pork or chicken.
It’s still chilly in some parts of the universe and this is a nice warm-your-bones-type of soup. If you’ve stocked your pantry properly, and you have done that, haven’t you? Then, this soup goes together quickly, so it works as a mid-week meal, too. It’s really almost a stew, as I make it quite thick, but feel free to add additional broth for a more “soupy” soup. If you’re the type that plans ahead, know that this soup will thicken as it cools and stands. Just add some extra water or broth when you reheat it. And it reheats extremely well.
To begin: Add the oil, the leeks and fennel bulb to a pot over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to medium and cook for 3-4 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic (see the next picture; I used dried, toasted minced garlic); cook stirring for about 1 minute. Pour in the tomatoes, water (or broth), wine, orange juice, bay leaves and spices. Give the mixture a good stir; bring to the boil and lower the heat, just so the mixture simmers gently, for about 15 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and the remaining herbs and continue to simmer for another 5-10 minutes (you can stop here and finish the soup later, if you wish). About 5 minutes before you’re ready to serve, add the cooked lentils; simmer for 3-4 minutes. Taste and add salt, if needed. Stir in the honey, if you like a less-sharp tasting soup. Otherwise, you can feel free to omit it.Ladle into bowls. I like to sprinkle a few shreds of basil on each serving and drizzle with a bit of really finely flavored olive oil. Serve with good bread or toast. A few grinds of black pepper and a sprinkle of hot pepper flakes, is also a nice addition.
Tomato-Leek & Fennel Soup with Lentils
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3/4 cup diced leeks
- 3/4 cup diced fennel bulb
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
- 1 can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
- 1 1/2 cans water or broth
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup orange juice
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 3 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Herbes de Provence or French Country Herb Blend
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 1/2 cup cooked lentils, cooked in broth
- Kosher salt to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon piri-piri pepper flakes
- Shredded fresh basil for garnish
- Excellent flavored olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
Heat a pot over medium-high heat. Add the oil, the leeks and fennel. Lower the heat to medium; cook for 3-4 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic; cook stirring for about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, water (or broth), wine, orange juice, bay leaves and spices (except the herbs). Give the mixture a good stir; bring to the boil and lower the heat, just so the mixture simmers gently. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add the tomato paste and the herbs; give it a good stir and continue to simmer for another 5-10 minutes (you can stop here and finish the soup, if you wish). About 5 minutes before you’re ready to serve, add the cooked lentils; simmer for 3-4 minutes. Taste and add salt, if needed. Stir in the honey and ladle into bowls. Sprinkle a few shreds of basil on each serving and drizzle about 2 teaspoons of a really finely flavored olive oil. Serve with good bread or toast. A few grinds of black pepper and a sprinkle of hot pepper flakes, is also a nice addition.
NOTE: This is lovely served with a poached egg on top. You may use a can of lentils, rinsed and drained. Add at the very end and just heat through. You may also use other legumes—garbanzos beans, cannellini beans or light kidney beans all work well.
Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2018. All rights reserved.