Lentil Soup + Mini Loaves = Complete Goodness

Lentil soup and homemade bread

I’ve blogged about this soup once before, but when I did, it was summer, and I doubt I inspired any of you to run off and buy lentils. But this is a soup I really want you all to make, and I’m hoping with the holidays in the past, a winter chill finally in the air, and the spirit of detox ever present, you’ll feel more inspired.

It’s a good one. I promise. For me, it’s the bite of the sherry vinegar that makes this soup, but the virtues of it are truly countless: It is completely vegetarian, vegan in fact. It cooks in one hour and takes only as long to prepare as it does to chop up some carrots, celery and onions. No vegetables are sautéed; no stock is simmered. It costs next to nothing to make and couldn’t be more healthy — lentils are high in fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals, and one cup of cooked lentils contains just 230 calories. This soup is complete goodness.

Have I sold you? I hope so. Lentil soup, homemade bread, I can’t think of a better way to kick off the New Year.

lentil soup

lentil soup ingredients

lentil soup, uncooked

dough, rising

mini loaves baked in ramekins

Lentil Soup

Yield=3 quarts or 8 generous servings

1 1/4 cups French green lentils (If you can’t find French — I couldn’t — regular lentils work just as well)
1 8oz. can + 1/2 can of tomato sauce (12 oz total, about a scant 1 1/2 cups)*
2 large onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
½ cup red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar or sherry vinegar**
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and diced (about a heaping cup)
3 celery stalks, diced (about a cup)
crushed red pepper flakes to taste

*I like Pomi brand for tomato sauce, but if you can’t find Pomi, Hunt’s is also good. Don’t buy a tomato sauce that has any sort of flavorings — not even a basil leaf.

** Don’t use a fancy bottle of vinegar here — for one, it’s unnecessary, and two, it might create a vinegar taste that is overpowering. Also, you might want to start with 1/4 cup on vinegar or 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons of vinegar, and then add more to taste. Some people have found the 1/2 cup of vinegar to be too overpowering.

1. Throw all ingredients together in a pot. Add 1½ qts. plus one cup of water (seven cups total) and bring to a boil. Skim off any scum that rises to the surface. Simmer for one hour uncovered. Stir and serve with crusty bread.

Note: On day two, much of the liquid will have been absorbed buy the lentils and veggies. Just add a little more water to the pot as you reheat and adjust the seasoning as necessary — a pinch more salt usually does the trick.

Mini Loaves

I’m afraid I’m going to have to report back on this bread recipe. These mini loaves were delectable and sort of a happy accident, a combination of recipes that yielded a very wet dough, one that needed the support of ramekins during the baking process. I don’t have a precise recipe at the moment, but just know that any simple bread recipe — this one contained just water, yeast, flour, sugar and salt — will likely bake off nicely in ramekins.

mini loaves

Lentil soup and homemade bread

49 Comments

  1. I think you read my mind. I came LOOKING for lentil soup two days ago, and alas, there was none. But now, I know what we’re making this weekend. I feel like I’m doing my own “cook the book” with your blog lately. Think someone will make a movie of it? – Laws

    Reply
  2. I think what I love most is the one step, throw it all in a pot and done, perfect for my lazy self. I made some bean soup last week, but this looks much simpler and yummier! Man you’re a genius!

    Reply
    • Judy, the bread was soooo delicious. I am working on a precise recipe and will report back soon. The recipe I made was so simple, yet it really was a bit of an accident. I’m hoping to post a simple bread recipe for this ramekin-style loaf soon, but if you are comfortable making bread, just make any of your favorite recipes and bake right in the ramekins — it worked beautifully!

      Reply
  3. Saw from the great Christmas card that the four of you are in Virginia now. We would love to see you and Ben and meet the kids. We have plenty of extra room. I hope you guys had a great Christmas.

    Reply
    • Pat — it would be so wonderful to see you all! We need to plan a trip north. Also, I’ve been meaning to call you since July 5th. Days, weeks, months just fly by! I don’t know how. I hope all is well! xo

      Reply
  4. i am a total nut for lentils! i like to make a curried red lentil soup with a bit of orange juice — same aromatics, no tomatoes — though that would be yummy too! i love your blog…

    Reply
  5. huh – this was good, but not nearly so good as my imagination implied!

    Too much vinegar – I used a good-quality sherry vinegar and the soup tasted … well, vinegary mostly. Could not really taste the Thyme – basically the flavor was one-dimensional.

    Will try this again, because it’s so easy and pretty, but go with 1/4 cup of vinegar, and increase the Thyme and red pepper flake as well.

    It’s very pretty though!

    Reply
    • Hi Peter,

      So sorry to hear that this tasted too vinegary for you! It’s one of my favorite recipes, so to hear that it didn’t turn out well is so disappointing. I do hope you try it again with the 1/4 cup vinegar and adjust the seasoning from there. Did you see Liz’s comment, too? I never have thought to look at the acidity on vinegar bottles, but I wonder if using a really good sherry vinegar is what caused the taste to be too strong? The sherry vinegar I use is pretty cheap — just from the regular grocery store. Anyway, hope the soup comes out better next time around!

      Reply
  6. PS @molly

    Share your red lentil soup with orange recipe! :-)

    I love love love lentil soup – there are two Mediterranean places near me that have different soups (one is Afghanistan – based food and the other more Greek/mixed) that I am dying to try replicating.

    Now, if only I had time to experiment in the kitchen, rather than just scramble for something to eat!

    Reply
  7. Gosh, I really loved the vinegary taste–not too much for me, I guess because lentils need a little tarting up, but certainly the amount can be adjusted to taste as Peter suggests. You might also check the acidity of the vinegar you use and choose a milder one, say 6% acidity versus 7-8%. Also, I taught my starving artist brother how to make the recipe, and he made it for his vegetarian girlfriend, so-o-o a little romance on a few dollars–pretty good, yes? One final note–the soup tastes even better the next day: all the flavors mellow and meld. Good job, Alexandra!

    Reply
  8. oh, sorry I was not clear – I LIKED the soup, just didn’t LOVE it! :-)

    And, you are so right, that it’s even better the next day. Also, I found, the next day with a small dollop of greek yogurt — um, delicious!

    So yes – I’ve added this to my google docs recipe collection, with tasting notes – and I may play with the vinegar (either amount, or per Liz the acidity.

    It’s pretty, easy, and quite tasty — thank you!

    Peter

    Reply
  9. I, too, found the vinegar way too overpowering and was sorry I used so much of my high quality goodness. Had to add WAY more liquid to make it edible. Perhaps the trick is to use the cheaper stuff?

    Reply
    • Natalie — I am so distraught! I am going to make a note in the recipe right now about the vinegar. I hate thinking about you wasting a good bottle of vinegar, too. The cheaper stuff is what I have always used. Just out of curiosity, what percent acidity does your bottle of vinegar contain? I had never thought to look until I read Liz’s comment, but I would be interested in comparing. My bottle of vinegar says 8%. So sorry you used the good stuff!

      Reply
  10. The mini loaves! Can you share the recipe for those anyway, just as they were? I actually really like the idea of a wetter dough that gets baked off in a ramekin. Would love to have it if you’re willing to share.

    If only I’d thought of this before whipping up some stewed lentils of my own last night…

    Reply
    • Lauren — I have been meaning to do this! Will do so when I finish commenting here. But, to answer you question, I have now tried this with both the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: http://www.alexandracooks.com/2008/06/22/artisan-bread-in-five-minutes-a-day-seriously/ and the John Lahey/Mark Bittman No Knead Bread: http://www.alexandracooks.com/2006/11/26/no-knead-bread/ and at the moment, it’s the closest thing I can provide as far as a recipe goes. So, say for example you have a batch of the master recipe of the Art Bread in Five in your fridge. About 30 minutes before you want to bake off the mini loaves, preheat your oven, butter some ramekins, and fill the ramekins with dough about halfway up (don’t be tempted to fill them higher… the loaves will taste really doughy). When the dough has risen just slightly so it’s just a little below the rim, place the ramekins in the oven. They should take about 30 minutes but start checking them after 25. I’ll work on a recipe for a smaller amount of dough and will report back to you. Hope that helps! Let me know if you have anymore questions about this.

      Reply
  11. what a nice comforting soup!! I’ll test it this winter!
    let me give you a little trick that we use here in France: when cooking lentils, one does not put the salt after cooking otherwise it hardens the skin of the lenses.
    Thank you again for this lovely recipe and what a pleasure to read your wonderful blog
    See you soon
    Nathalia

    Reply
  12. Hi Alexandra, I’m going to make your Mom’s Peasant Bread with this soup. I’m going to do it in the ramekins…can’t wait to try this. I’ve made this lentil many times, we love it. It’s simmering as we speak but this time I added Italian chicken sausages!

    Reply
    • Jennifer, hi! So wonderful to hear from you. Funny you say this because I just made this exact meal for my inlaws, peasant bread in ramekins and all! It was a huge hit. There is something about mini loaves that people just go crazy about. Have you made the bread yet in the larger bowls? Or is this your first run? I hope it turns out well for you. Love the idea of adding sausage to the lentils. I’m dying to make a cassoulet, too. I hope all is well!

      Reply
  13. Hey,
    I was wondering if anyone tried making the soup with lentils from a can? (I believe they’re precooked). I just haven’t had/used lentils before and am unsure if I want to purchase a whole bag on the off chance I dislike the soup.
    Thanks!

    Reply
  14. Boom! Making this tonight. Might throw up in small cubes of butternut squash to use up… nothing like a hearty soup in Winter!

    That said, I’m making the plea that you add more soup recipes to your blog. :)

    Reply
    • Note to self! I’ll see what I can do about that this winter. Hope you liked the soup. It’s one of my favorites but some people find it too vinegary. I find it gets better by the day, too.

      Reply
  15. Okay, I went looking for a recipe for lentil soup and imagine…I find it here….lol! I’m on a New Year’s health kick but it needs to be motivated by wonderful food and lentil soup will hit the spot….this looks and sounds amazing! XO!

    Reply
    • It doesn’t get much more healthy than this, Laurie! This is one of my favorites, but I have to warn you that a few people have found it to be too vinegary. I love it the way it is, but you might want to start with a little bit less than 1/2 cup of vinegar if you are sensitive to vinegar. Just a thought. Hope you like it!

      Reply
  16. This was the most lovely and intoxicating soup I’ve ever had….the sherry vinegar was perfect, the lentils were perfect….a loaf of crusty bread and some good Irish butter….omg….you should open a restaurant….the waiting list would go to the moon and back….sigh…

    Reply
    • Oh Laurie, you make me so happy. I am so happy you love this as much as I do. I feel the same: I could be happy on this soup, bread and butter for a very long time…and then I’d want a cheeseburger :) xo

      Reply
  17. Made this a couple of months back and forgot to comment: it was straightforward, delicious and wholesome — lovely fare for a cold evening; I would make it again in a heartbeat. For anyone interested in trying out the recipe: I seem to remember dialling back the vinegar slightly — something I would particularly recommend if your vinegar’s okay, but not top-quality (as mine was).

    Reply
  18. Alexandra, you’re quickly becoming my go-to for great soup recipes. I made my usual lentil soup a couple days ago using whatever ingredients I had on hand because I hadn’t had time to do a proper shop — thus, cheap tomatoes and lentils, old garlic — and it suffered from an extreme case of the blahs. So tonight, I decided to give it a makeover using THIS recipe as a guide, and like many of your commenters, I cut down slightly on the vinegar. Goodness gracious, the new and improved soup is SO flavourful. It’s practically a Christmas miracle. Thank you, thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Charlene! I’m so happy to hear this! This is one of my favorites, and i’m glad you were able to add vinegar to your liking. Also, how are you? It has been too long. I thought of you when I was at the american made event last weekend — have you thought more about pursuing a career in food?

      Reply

Leave a Comment.