Classic Lentil Soup

Remember back in December when I made onion soup gratinee? I told you about a review copy of The New Book of Soups I had received. You didn't think I was just going to make one soup out of that whole book when we're having all this cold winter weather and there are so many fabulous soup recipes to choose from, did you?

I had been craving lentil soup -- it's a weird craving, I know -- and I wanted a really good one. So I decided to make the whole thing from scratch using two recipes from The New Book of Soups. The onion soup was so tasty that I knew I couldn't go wrong. Plus, the picture of the lentil soup beside the recipe was exactly the type of lentil soup I wanted to make. One with plenty of broth, plenty of lentils, and plenty of veggies.

I started out by making my own vegetable broth (kind of a baby step to making chicken broth), and then I used that homemade broth to make the soup... which means that this soup is completely vegetarian (I think). I don't usually cook vegetarian, and if I do, it's usually by accident, like it was here. I'm pretty sure the only reason I refrained from crumbling some bacon on top or adding some sausage is that this soup came out so incredibly delicious as is.

Vegetable Broth (reprinted with permission from The New Book of Soups)


2 tsp olive or corn oil
1 or 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 tsp minced shallots
3 qt water
1 1/4 cups thinly sliced onion
3 cups sliced leek (white, light green, and dark parts)
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
1/3 cup thinly sliced carrot
1/3 cup thinly sliced parsnip
1 cup thinly sliced broccoli stems
1 cup thinly sliced fennel (with some tops)
1/2 cup dry white wine or vermouth (optional)
1 tbsp salt, or as needed
4 to 5 whole black peppercorns
1/2 tsp juniper berries
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme pr 1/4 tsp dried leaves

  1. Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until they are translucent, 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and bring slowly to a simmer.Cook until the broth has a good flavor, about 1 hour.
  3. Strain the broth through a sieve and then allow it to cool completely before storing in the refrigerator.

Classic Lentil Soup (reprinted with permission from The New Book of Soups)


2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups minced onions
1 garlic clove, minced
2/3 cup minced carrots
1 1/4 cups minced leek (white and light green parts)
1/2 cup minced celery stalk
1 tbsp tomato paste
7 cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth (pages 15, 18)
1 3/4 cups French (green) lentils
1/4 cup Riesling (or other slightly sweet white wine)
2 tbsp sherry wine vinegar
1/2 lemon
Sachet: 2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried, 1 bay leaf, and 1/4 tsp caraway seeds enclosed in a large tea ball or tied in a cheesecloth pouch
1/2 tsp salt, or as needed
1/4 tsp white pepper, or as needed
1 cup Croutons (page 222)


  1. Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, 4 to 6 minutes.
  2. Add the carrots, leek, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Add the tomato paste, stir well, and cook for 2 more minutes.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cook until the lentils are tender, about 40 minutes. Remove and discard the sachet and lemon half. Puree the soup if desired (the lentils may have already turned into a puree by this time).
  5. Adjust the seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in heated bowls, garnished with the croutons.

This tasty soup was slightly sweet from the wine and sherry wine vinegar, richly flavored from the homemade broth, and nicely textured from the lentils and veggies. It's both warming and filling. It was exactly the sort of lentil soup I had been inventing in my head when my craving first started.

I followed the recipes above with the following exceptions: For some reason I couldn't find fennel at Whole  Foods, so I didn't have that for the broth. But the parsnip adds a similar flavor, so I don't think it was a huge loss flavor-wise. I also used pepper instead of peppercorns and left out the juniper berries when making the broth. I skipped the caraway seeds in the cheesecloth pouch because I didn't want that flavoring in the soup (it's okay in rye bread though), and instead of croutons, I topped each serving with grated Parmesan cheese. The results were phenomenal.

If you're a fan of lentils, I highly recommend this hearty soup.

Have you been making any soup this winter? What kinds?