Lentil Soup with Barley and Spinach
With winter lingering a little longer than I’d like and views of fog over the lake and snow on the mountains are what we see from our expansive windows up here, I am still in the mood for good hearty soups to serve with crusty bread and a crisp green salad for dinner. This lentil soup has been in my repertoire for a while and earned its respected position in my kitchen for its simplicity, ease of preparation and its comforting flavours and textures. In fact, I have decided to submit this recipe to a lentil recipes competition to jazz things up a bit now that we have returned from our three months of exploring Paris and Spain. Things can get a little,umm, less exciting maybe, after having excitement every day for so long. A little pressure from a competition may be good. I have never entered a competition before but since I cook so much with lentils it seemed like a good fit with my cooking and in any event, it can’t hurt. Like any other competition it requires a little campaigning and we are asked to post a link to this recipe on the Canadian Lentil facebook page. I can do that. They do assign certain weight to the number of comments on this post and the “likes” each recipe gets on their facebook page so if mine gets a few comments and likes so much the better. I may enter a recipe in more than one category since, as you know, I tend to cook with lentils a lot. All recipes will be posted on the blog here first so stay tuned.
Why I like lentils? they are the perfect food, low in calories, high in nutrients adaptable to many flavour combinations and a staple in many international cuisines. What’s not to like? You don’t have to soak them overnight like you do with beans and they cook very quickly. There are different lentils, each lending itself to a particular method of cooking. The larger brown ones are more starchy and are perfect for soups. Smaller ones keep their shape and are very good for salads where you want to have some texture. Lentils also grow in Canada and do not have to be shipped here from faraway continents, making them an ecologically sound decision for your kitchen. They didn’t ask us to speak about lentils for the competition. This is my own lentil sermon, indulge me.
The image of the soup in the mason jars has a story. It’s a a perfect gift from your kitchen to prepare for a recovering friend. We all know someone who can use a little bit of help now and then. I have a dear friend who was in this situation, so I made a large batch of heart warming earthy lentil and barley soup to take over to her in the mason jars. This soup keeps in the fridge for a long time and can be extended with the addition of stock. Together with a salad it makes a comforting and wholesome meal for anyone.
What kind of gifts come from your kitchen? I am curious, let me know.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
A few sprigs of fresh thyme, chopped
1 cup lentils, picked over and rinsed
1/2 cup barley, rinsed
6 cups vegetable stock, more as needed
Optional: 1 cup diced tomatoes, fresh or canned (drain if you use canned)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 handfuls of fresh spinach leaves, chopped into large ribbons
Heat oil in a soup pot, add onion and cook a few minutes until translucent and fragrant.
Add garlic and cook for another couple of minutes, not allowing the garlic to brown.
Add the diced carrot and celery and cook until they begin to soften.
Add the thyme and stir.
Add the lentils and barley and stir to mix everything together.
Add the stock and if you use the tomatoes add them now. Partially cover the pot and let the soup simmer on the back of the stove, letting the fragrance float throughout the house. Check it every now and then and add more stock as necessary. Taste and add salt and freshly ground pepper.
When the soup is ready drop in the spinach leaves and let them cook and wilt for a few moments. Let the soup cool a bit, then pack into mason jars and take it over to your friend, with instructions of how to reheat.