Monday, October 27, 2008

Vegan MoFo #27: Lentil, Split-Pea and Vegetable Soup

It wasn't until after I became a vegetarian that I got interested in learning to cook; once I did, however, I was very excited to experiment with all the various grains, beans, vegetables and other ingredients that were new to me. Among the earliest of these was lentils. When I was growing up, my mother always made soups and stews from scratch, but as a notoriously picky eater, I was deeply suspicious of any soup that didn't come out of a red and white can, usually with "cream of" featured prominently in its name. So it goes without saying that I considered both lentil and split pea soups disgusting (which may have also had something to do with the ginormous hunks of ham that were usually floating in them).

BUT. I vividly recall a day when I was about 17, hanging out at my friend Aldona Shumway's house and being completely blown away by the lentil soup she'd made, all by herself. Aldona was a vegetarian before me, and was already into reading cookbooks like The Vegetarian Epicure (there it is again!); she made this soup fairly often, but unfortunately I don't have a clear memory of what spices she used, or even the ingredients besides onions, celery, carrots and--of course--lentils. I do however recall that it had a fresh, simple and totally satisfying flavor that was a revelation to me, and I've been in love with legumes ever since. The following recipe is the way my lentil/split pea soup has evolved over many years of cooking it. Like many such recipes, it can be pretty flexible: sometimes I toss in some rice, barley or potatoes, sometimes I have different vegetables or only one variety of legume on hand, but in a perfect world, this is the way I like it best. Ideally with a big hunk of crusty bread and maybe a nice green salad. (Oh, and Aldona, if you're out there, thanks!)

Lentil, Split-Pea and Vegetable Soup

-2 tbsp. vegan bouillon mixed w/1 cup boiling water or broth
-1 tbsp. olive oil
-3 cups chopped onions
-2 tbsp. chopped garlic
-1 cup chopped celery
-1 cup diced carrots
-2 cup chopped mushrooms
-4 cups chopped spinach
-2 cups yellow split peas, rinsed
-1 cup red lentils, rinsed
-1 tsp each:
-sea salt
- ½ teaspoon each:
-1/4 cup chopped fresh dill (or an additional 2 tsp. if using dried)
-1 bay leaf, crumbled
-Fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 6 cups stock or water

-Sautee onions and garlic in about ¼ cup of the bouillon mixture for about 5 minutes, adding more liquid as needed.
-Add celery, carrots, mushrooms and seasonings. Saute for about 10 minutes, adding the rest of the bouillon mixture to keep things nice and moist.
-Add the split peas, lentils, spinach and fresh dill. Stir to combine, then remove from heat and allow to sit at least a half hour, so the legumes will begin to absorb the seasonings.
-Add 6 cups of water, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 1 ½ to 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the peas and lentils have broken down and the soup is very thick; Add more water if you want a thinner consistency, or to prevent it from sticking if it gets too dense.
~ Serve hot with crusty bread: delicious.


  1. Oh my god, I could so go for a steaming mug of this soup, along with some of your no-knead bread! mmmmm