Let’s talk about my relationship with lentils for a minute. I grew up eating “dal” nearly twice a day – no Indian meal was complete without it. It was pretty much my favorite food and I had strong views on what it should and shouldn’t be. For example, being a Punjabi, I needed my dals to be thick, the yellow ones to be simply flavored with cumin, garlic and ghee, the heartier ones to be simmered with tomatoes and onions and a couple more spices. I did not approve of sweeter dals, or too-thin dals, and I never really got behind dals flavored with coconut.
But despite all of my picky-ness, I fell pretty hard in love with this French lentil soup, which is as differently flavored a bowl of lentils could be from the lentils I grew up eating. It’s just that good.
Of course I couldn’t not give the dish a nod to my Indian blood, and I think the little bits of garlic naan in place of croutons are the perfect finish.
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2 medium carrots, washed and finely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2 celery stalks, finely chopped (about ¾ cup)
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped (about 1½ tbsp)
- ½ tbsp table salt or 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped (about 1½ cup)
- 2 cups lentils (see note above)
- ½ cup marsala or dry white wine
- 5-6 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1-2 dried bay leaves
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 6 cups low sodium stock (chicken or vegetable)
- 3 cups water, more as necessary
- 4-5 pieces frozen garlic naan
- 1 tbsp butter, optional
- Small handful parsley, roughly chopped, optional
- Tie the thyme sprigs and bay leaves together to make a bouquet garni.
- Place a large pot on high heat and add the olive oil. Add the carrots, onion, celery, garlic and half the salt. Stir to coat with the oil and reduce the heat to medium. Saute the vegetables till soft and starting to caramelize, about 5-8 minutes. Add the marsala or wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomato and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile rinse the lentils under cold water. Once ready, add these to the pot along with the broth, water, the rest of the salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook till the lentils are tender, 20-40 minutes. Add more water if necessary and adjust the seasoning to taste.
- Meanwhile, make the croutons. Cook the naans on a lower heat and for a few minutes longer than recommended on their package (to make them slightly drier and crisper - they'll still be fluffy and chewy in the center). Brush with some butter while cooking if you like. Cut into small bite sized pieces and set aside.
- Serve the soup in bowls and top with the parsley and a few croutons. Serve the remaining croutons on the side.