This recipe has been in my repertoire for almost 10 years. It took a few years of me making it to actually write the recipe down and has evolved a bit. I still pull out the ratty, stained piece of lined paper which holds my scribbled directions each time I make it. It's full of mark-ups and cross-outs...5 carrots instead of 4, make sure to rinse the lentils and only use the le puy type, kale instead of spinach, and a line through 1 bay leaf. Along with a well-loved book, this soup never fails to bring me comfort and nourishment year round. And so I am finally sharing one of my oldest and my most prized recipe with you.
You might be wondering why I call this a "Provencal" lentil soup. First I bring the flavors of fresh rosemary and thyme, which are classic herbs to use in Provence. Secondly, I only use le puy lentils which I think are superior to brown lentils. Lentilles du Puy are small french lentils, which are a beautiful greenish-blue in color. They take less time to cook, retain their shape better, and they seem to have a more earthy flavor than brown lentils to me. Authentic lentilles du puy are grown in Auvergne, France in volcanic soil. This gives them that earthy, mineral-y taste. These lentils are high in fiber, folate, iron and protein, making them a nutritional powerhouse for plant-based meals. You can absolutely use any type of these small french lentils (but I would still recommend passing on traditional brown lentils) and you don't need to splurge on the authentic variety for this dish. But if you find the real deal, buy them!
Start by prepping your vegetables. Chop up your onions, celery and carrots—and don't bother peeling the carrots. Rinse your lentils and set them aside to drain.
In a large dutch oven (enamel) pot, heat your olive oil and add the chopped onions, celery, carrots and salt and pepper. While this is sauteing for 5 minutes, mince your garlic cloves, fresh herbs and then add them to the pot as well for an additional 5 minutes. These smells alone will take you to southern France! Now add the cumin, rinsed lentils and the vegetable stock. Don't be tempted to use chicken stock even if you aren't vegan or vegetarian. The bone broth will not add any extra flavors that aren't already there and anyways, this is a vegetable soup, so leave it that way.
With the lid on (but cracked), bring the soup to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often. In the meantime, wash, de-vain, and chop the kale and slice your shiitake mushrooms.
Add both to the pot, as well as the 1/4 c. of red wine vinegar. Don't leave the vinegar out! It really adds to the flavors in this soup. Simmer another 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so until the lentils are tender and the soup is...fini!
This hearty and nutritious soup will satisfy even your harshest non-health food critics. The flavors are earthy, yet elegant and will have everyone in the family going back for seconds.
Time: 1 hour
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 small sweet onions, diced
5 medium sized carrots, diced
4 stalks of celery, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. coarse ground pepper
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, minced
1 tbsp. fresh thyme, minced
2 c. small french lentils (called le puy lentils), rinsed
8 c. vegetable stock
4 c. kale, chopped small
3.5 oz. shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
In a large enamel soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions, carrots, celery and salt and pepper. Saute for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the minced garlic and herbs and saute another 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the cumin, rinsed lentils and the vegetable stock. Cover, leaving a bit open, and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer for 20 minutes. Add the chopped kale, shiitake mushrooms and red wine vinegar, cover (still leaving it uncovered a crack) and simmer another 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so.