On many a cold, dreary day, I have found myself looking for a can of prepared lentil soup in my kitchen cabinets. Fortunately, since I seldom think to buy it when I’m at the grocery store, it’s usually not stocked in my home and I am forced to make a much healthier version from scratch. Although I often begin the process reluctantly, this soup can be made quickly and with no hassle and can be super versatile, depending on the ingredients you have on hand. This makes it the perfect lazy chef’s dish, since it requires no forethought or preparation. Just a craving for lentil soup and a willingness to spend 30 minutes in the kitchen.
Since I’ve struggled with cravings for lentil soup throughout my adulthood, this is a recipe I have tweaked and varied for years. For this version, I cook dried lentils, although you could easily use canned. They cook quickly and I don’t even measure out the lentils or the water, since any excess water can be drained off once the lentils are cooked. Most of the measurements listed below are estimates since, again, I can’t be bothered to do anything not absolutely necessary when preparing this soup. This time I used a box of chicken stock as the base, although any vegetable stock is fine and you can even add canned diced tomatoes if you are short on broth.
Lazy Chef’s Lentil Soup
1 ½ cups dried lentils (whatever type you have in your cupboards is fine)
1 cup coarsely chopped baby carrots
½ cup chopped onions
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
salt and pepper to taste
2-4 sprigs fresh thyme (dried is fine)
two rosemary leaves
32 ounces of broth, more or less depending on how stew-like you want your soup
1 cup cubed firm tofu (optional)
I cook the lentils until they are fairly soft, since I don’t like soup with chewy lentils. While the lentils are boiling in a saucepan, start sweating the carrots, tofu, onions and garlic in a larger pot with some olive oil. I add the salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary to the vegetables before adding the lentils. Once the lentils are soft enough, add them to the vegetables, give the mixture a stir and then add the broth. The soup tastes better if it simmers for about fifteen minutes. And then that’s it, it’s done and you have your lentil soup.
The tofu is totally unnecessary to this recipe, but I had some leftover the other day and wanted to use it up. I mentioned the option of canned tomatoes, but just about any cooked fresh vegetable is fine, along with frozen vegetables such as chopped spinach. You can also add pasta or rice. Since lentils have a rather earthy flavor, vinegar or lemon juice can be a nice addition and sometimes a dollop of yogurt on a serving is refreshing. Chicken, sausage, fresh or frozen corn…the list is pretty much endless and you should probably just look in your refrigerator for inspiration rather than listening to me. If you keep the soup in the pan after your first meal with it, you can just keep adding various ingredients to it each time you heat it up.