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Lentil and vegetable soup with perserved lemon

This is a beautiful lentil soup. Most lentil soups tend to be very thick and goopy, not this one. It is light and fresh.

This soup brings together some of my favorite flavors. Earthy from the lentils, the soup has that perfect tanginess from the preserved lemons and the pop of spice from the Shattah hot sauce. The flavors come together beautifully. A piece of bread is all it takes for a light lunch in this warm weather, or as a starter.

Beluga lentils (I so love them) and du Puy are not available in India. So I substituted green mung beans, however, you can substitute any small whole lentil of your choice.

This is relatively new cookbook in my library. It is filled with contemporary Arab recipes, each one a delight, like this one. Each recipe has an introduction that precedes it explaining the origins of the dish and its history, something I really enjoy reading and a cuisine I have so much to learn about. It is a wonderful cookbook, one you will definitely see me cook from again.

For more recipes from this cookbook, click here.



Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, finely diced

3 carrots, halved and cut into half circles

2 celery sticks, finely diced

4-5 garlic cloves, minced

Salt, to taste

1 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 can chicken stock (optional)

4 cups water, or 5 if you do not add the stock

1 cup lentils, Beluga, Puy or green mung beans

2 cups spinach, stemmed

2 teaspoons lime or lemon juice

2 tablespoons finely minced preserved lemons (dhoop limboo)

Note:

It is preferable to soak the lentils overnight. If you do not, the cooking time will be a bit longer.


For the Shattah chili sauce:

10-15 red chilies, spicy variety

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt, to taste


Make the Shattah chili sauce by puréeing the chilies, oil and salt in a blender till very smooth. You may add a touch of water to allow the paste to form. You can store this sauce in the fridge for about a week.


Heat the oil in a large stock pot and add the onions, carrots and celery. Sauté on medium heat till the vegetables are soft and are turning a touch golden on the edges, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, pepper and cumin and sauté for 1-2 minutes till the garlic is fragrant.


Add the stock/water, and lentils and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes for soaked lentils, and 20-25 for lentils without soaking. You want the lentils to still retain a bite and not be completely mushy. They provide a beautiful texture to the soup.


Meanwhile, stem the spinach and cut into thin ribbons. When the lentils are cooked, taste and adjust salt and spices. Add the spinach and simmer for 2 minutes till the spinach has turned a bright green. Take off the heat. Do not let the spinach turn a drab grey.


Add the minced preserved lemon and lime/lemon juice and mix in well. Taste and adjust tartness.


Serve hot with the Shattah chili sauce on the side for those folks that want to add some zing to the soup.

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