Curried Lentil Soup

Lentils are amazing! If you haven’t been eating lentils… you’ve been missing out.

Seriously.

I don’t know what it is, but lentils have a gravitational pull on me, so, when I came across this curried lentil soup recipe, it was pretty much on. Not only was this soup delicious, but it whipped up in no time! The carrots, onions and garlic give a nice fragrant base to the soup while the lentils and chicken stock add a hardy broth. When I started this recipe I was not sure how the chickpeas would fit into the picture. By making a hummus like mixture that gets added to the soup, the garbanzos thicken with a meaty and flavorful consistency that cream can’t emulate. The tab of butter also gives the soup a silken glean and robust creaminess.

I don’t know about you, but curry is a staple in my cooking. We go through more curry than seems humanly possible. Mmmm. The garnish of lemon and scallions brightens the flavors with a lovely splash of citrus. Damn, my mouth is watering… I really wish I had a bowl of this to eat right now. Sigh.

So, as we approach the thick of winter… heave out the soup pot and curry yourself some lentils… lots of lentils.

Makes 4 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, chopped, divided
2 tablespoons (or more) curry powder
1 cup green or brown lentils
4 1/4 cups (or more) chicken stock or water, divided
1 15- to 16-ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained, rinsed
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon (1/8 stick) butter
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion and carrot; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until onion is translucent, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Add half of chopped garlic; stir until vegetables are soft but not brown, about 4 minutes longer. Add 2 tablespoons curry powder; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add lentils and 4 cups broth or water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Increase heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until lentils are tender, about 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, puree chickpeas, lemon juice, 1/4 cup water, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and remaining garlic in processor.

Add chickpea puree and butter to lentil soup. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and additional curry powder, if desired. Add water by 1/4 cupfuls to thin to desired consistency. DO AHEAD: soup can be made up to 1 day ahead. Cool, cover, and refrigerate. Rewarm before continuing.

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Beef and Barley Stew with Mushrooms and Aromatic Vegetables

Fall has certainly arrived. It’s my favorite time of year… the air is crisp, cozy knit sweaters have been pulled from dresser drawers and Sundays just beg for something to be bubbling away on the stove. Now, I am not much of a stew maven, but this recipe seemed too irresistible to pass up and WOW was I ever right. Having recently discovered the joy of barley with all its nutty flavor, this stew had all the makings of a delicious dinner. I added some carrots (because really, is it soup without carrots?) for color and bite. The crusty bread is a must if you want to sop up all the beefy goodness at the bottom of your bowl. Nom.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised when you take a peek after an hour or so. The stew is so fragrant, my entire apartment smelled wonderfully of slow cooked hearty meat and vegetables.

Makes 6-8 servings

2 pounds chuck or round beef roast, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 medium onions, diced
8-10 ounces mushrooms (1 package)
3 celery stalks, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried or fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup red wine
2 cups beef stock
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup barley
salt and pepper

Film the bottom of a large dutch oven with olive oil and set over medium-high heat until the oil is hot. Working in batches, add a single layer of meat to the bottom of the pan. Let it sit for 2-3 minutes until the cubes loosen and are seared golden brown. Flip the cubes and sear the other sides. When all sides are seared, remove the meat to a clean bowl or plate. Sear the remaining meat in batches. If there is any liquid in the pot after the last batch is finished, pour it over the meat.

Heat one teaspoon of olive oil in the pan and cook the onions with a pinch of salt until they are translucent and brown around the edges. Add the mushrooms and another pinch of salt, and cook until they have released all the moisture and have turned golden-brown. Add the celery and carrots and cook until just softened.

Clear a space in the middle of the vegetables and sauté the garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the thyme and bay leaf, and stir all the seasonings into the vegetables.

Pour the wine into the pan to deglaze, scraping up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan as the wine bubbles. Let the wine reduce down until most of it has evaporated or been absorbed by the veggies.

Add the meat and any drippings back to the pot. Pour in the stocks and top with enough water to cover the meat and veggies (about a half an inch). Add a pinch of fresh ground black pepper. Bring the stew to a boil, then reduce the heat to very low.

Cover the pot and let it simmer for 1 hour. Add the barley and cook for another hour or so until the barley is cooked and the meat is almost falling apart . Check by piercing with a fork. The meat should flake about with pressure.  Taste the soup and add salt and pepper as desired.

Serve in individual bowls with a piece of crusty bread to sop up the broth. Leftovers will keep refrigerated for one week.

Slurp!