Sunday, September 29, 2013

Spiced Lentil Soup with Beef

SLS Cookbook contributor Yasmin Assef notes that this recipe has been passed down from her mother to her.  It's a favorite fall and winter meal and goes nicely with a warm, crusty loaf of Italian bread.

I particularly appreciated the warm and earthy undertones of cumin, cinnamon, and saffron in this soup, freshened up with coriander and lemon juice. Since I only had coriander seed, I crushed them in my mortar, and the light citrusy smell bloomed in my kitchen ... divine. To the soup, I added fresh chopped coriander (also known as cilantro) and parsley as a garnish.  Perfect for lunch or dinner.


1) I cut my veggies a little finer than the recipe indicated, because I started with baby carrots and then cut the celery to match.  You can cut your veggies bigger.

2) If you happen to have some leftover pot roast, you can use it to give you a head start on the soup. If you don't have 2 lbs. worth of leftover beef, scale back the recipe accordingly.  Skip the part of the recipe where you brown the beef, browning the onions and other aromatics. Add the cubed leftover beef with the tomatoes and spices, along with any pot liquor, and proceed with the recipe.  The leftover beef may shred from being simmered a second time, but that's okay.  If you want it to stay in more intact pieces, add the beef in the last 15 minutes of cooking; if you do that, you may want to substitute beef broth for some of the water, so the lentils and veggies absorb some beef flavor.

3) If you want to use pre-cooked lentils instead of starting from scratch, Trader Joe's in Darien, CT, by I-95 Exit 13, has excellent cooked lentils in the produce section. 

4) If you are looking for a great local source for fresh and well-priced spices, please check out Penzeys Spices in Norwalk, CT, near Stew Leonards.  You can also order online from Penzeys. For Indian and Middle Eastern Spices, Patel Brothers in Norwalk, near Best Buy, is a great place too.

Spiced Lentil Soup with Beef
Serves 6-8

1/4 cup olive oil
3 large onions, chopped
2 lbs. beef stew, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 medium carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 large celery stalks, sliced
5 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 35 oz. can Italian plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped with juice
2 quarts water
1 lb. lentils
2 bay leaves
1 cup finely chopped parsley
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. saffron
1 tsp. coarse sea salt or kosher salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

In a large (8 quart) pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and beef.  Cook about 8-10 minute, until the beef is browned.  Add carrots, celery, and garlic; saute another 3 minutes, stirring constantly. 

Stir in the tomatoes and their juice, water, lentils, garlic, bay leaves, parsley, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, saffron and salt.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the beef and lentils are tender.  Add pepper, lemon juice, and more water if needed.

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