You’ll Want to Add This Lentil Soup to Your Lunch Rotation

A recipe excerpt for lentil soup from the new cookbook Don’t Worry, Just Cook, by Canadian culinary icon Bonnie Stern and daughter Anna Rupert

Even our family members, who have never been especially keen about lentils, go crazy for this soup. Adding more carrots than I usually do ramps up the sweetness and the colour, and the tomato paste increases the umami factor. I like using red lentils because they dissolve when cooked and thicken a soup or stew without having to puree it. If you want lentils to keep their shape—for instance, in salads, side dishes, and certain soups and stews—use green lentils or the tiny black or French lentils.

Lentil Soup with Carrots and Harissa

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 1 leek, white and light green part only, cleaned and chopped (see note below)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 4 large carrots, diced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 to 2 tsp harissa, depending on your heat tolerance
  • 1 cup red lentils, picked through for small stones and rinsed
  • 5 cups water or chicken or vegetable broth + more as needed
  • 1 tsp kosher salt + more to taste
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, optional

Suggested Toppings

  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt or thick coconut milk
  • Tahini sauce
  • 1 tsp harissa or paprika mixed with 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped spinach or kale 2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley
  • Lemon rounds, thinly sliced

Directions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven set over medium heat, then add the leeks and garlic. Cook gently for 8 to 10 minutes, or until fragrant and translucent but not browned. Add the carrots and cook gently for about 5 minutes. Add the cumin, tomato paste, and harissa, and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Add the lentils and stir well. Add the water or broth, 1 tsp salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook gently for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the vegetables and lentils are tender.
  2. Transfer half of the soup to a blender or food processor and puree (or use an immersion blender to partially puree right in the pot). Return the pureed mixture to the pot and stir in the lemon juice. Thin with more water or broth if necessary and re-season to taste. You’ll especially need to do this if you’ve made the soup ahead, as it will thicken more.
  3. Serve the soup with any of the suggested toppings: dollops of yogurt, tahini sauce or swirls of coconut milk, drizzles of harissa oil, greens, herbs, and/or lemon rounds.

A note on cleaning leeks: Leeks often have a lot of sand between their layers. One of the many techniques Jacques Pépin shared with us when he taught at my cooking school, one that I still use today, is how to clean a leek. I think of him every time I do it. To start, cut off the darkest green leaves at the top (rinse them and save for broth). Slice the remaining leek as required by the recipe. Place in a large bowl of cold water. Swish the leeks around in the water to release the dirt. Let rest for a few minutes so that the dirt settles at the bottom of the bowl. The cleaned leeks will float to the top. Lift out the leeks, leaving the dirty water behind.

Don't Worry, Just Cook by Bonnie Stern

Excerpted from Don’t Worry, Just Cook by Bonnie Stern. Copyright © 2022 Bonnie Stern Cooking Schools Ltd. and Anna Rupert. Photography © 2022 Tyler Anderson with additional photos by Mark Rupert and Anna Rupert. Food styling by Olga Truchan. Published by Appetite by Random House, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

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Originally Published in Best Health Canada