Garlic and lentils are the star of this mellow creamy soup full of big flavor. It makes a nutritious light lunch or elegant starter. (Skip to recipe.)
I've been feeling the ache of the empty nest - wandering around the house without a purpose, making meals that are way too much for the two of us to eat, constantly checking the phone and computer for just a wee message . . . feeling a tad out of sorts.
Yes, I know it's a practice run - only for three months as our baby (read that as - big hungry teenager) is off on his student exchange, living with Albert's family in Germany and having the wonderful, life-changing, first-real-independent adventure of his life. I'm proud of him and wouldn't take that away from him for the world . . . but it sure is far away. And a mother can't stop being a mother.
So, I guess it's good for me - this is my chance to figure out what I want to do with my life. Heck, it's like a second honeymoon, but without all the angst. Maybe we'll eat in front of the TV more often, or just have cake for supper one day. There's no need to drive a kid here, there and everywhere for sports, friends and whatever. On days I'm not working, I don't have to get up to nag a kid to hurry so he doesn't miss the bus. There's less laundry to do, and no one to leave messes everywhere. No one to make crazy noises and whoops and sing loudly off-key. No one waving smelly teenage sport socks in my face.
And there's also no one to happily and hungrily eat up all the experiments and not-quite-perfected batches of food as I develop new recipes. Yikes. There's suddenly a lot of food around this house.
I will not eat all the extra food. I will not eat all the extra food. I will not eat all the extra food. I will not eat all the extra food. I will not eat all the extra food.
Remind me if I forget.
I will not eat all the extra food.
Unfortunately, I don't have a teenager's quick metabolism anymore.
I will not eat all the extra food.
I'd better get used to making smaller batches.
This lentil soup is just right - enough for Raymond and I for supper and leftovers for work the next day.
Its soothing savoury deliciousness is just the comforting thing I need to take the edge off the Empty Nest Blues. (Sounds like a sad country song title.)
The French make a version of Garlic Soup that is thickened with eggs and a bit of flour. I used red lentils and love the unctuous creaminess and slight earthy taste they give the soup instead. You might be shocked at the idea of a whole head of garlic, but don't run away - once simmered and pureed, the garlic totally loses its bite and becomes mellow and complex and almost sweet. It blends with the lentils to give a rich hearty flavour to a light gentle soup. The red lentils become silky when pureed and turn a lovely golden wheat colour.
This soup's bold flavour contrasts beautifully with its smooth creaminess. It's very versatile. A small bowl of Lentil Garlic Soup with a crispy toasted round of French bread would be lovely as an elegant first course at a dinner party. Just as a comforting big bowlful, slurped while watching 'Big Bang' reruns, makes a wonderful light supper on a night you need a warm hug and a hearty laugh to take your mind off life. The garlic has all kinds of healing properties - its a little boost for your heart.
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Kitchen Frau Notes: Make sure you use a nice firm, unblemished, unsprouting, head of garlic (not the limp, dried out one that's been sitting in your garlic keeper for the last three months).
Salt the soup to taste, it depends on how salty your chicken stock is. When I use a pack of low sodium store-bought broth, I need about 1 teaspoon salt. Adjust yours accordingly.
Red lentils provide lots of healthy fiber, protein and minerals. I love how quickly they cook - nature's fast food.
This garlic soup shouldn't be too thick. It's best when it's smooth and silky and about the thickness of heavy cream. If it gets thicker than that, just thin it out with a bit of boiling water. And if you reheat any leftovers, you will need to add water to thin it out for sure.
Lentil Garlic Soup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, (about 1 cup/240ml diced)
- 1 whole firm head of garlic, with at least 10 cloves (about ⅓ cup/80ml chopped)
- 1 cup (200gms) red lentils
- 4 cups (950ml) chicken stock (gluten free if necessary)
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
- salt to taste
- 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar (or wine vinegar)
- a drizzle of good olive oil for serving
- chopped garlic chives for garnish (optional)
Chop the onion. Peel the garlic cloves, trim off the root end of each clove, and chop them roughly.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan or dutch oven. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Do not let them brown, or the garlic will get bitter.
Add the red lentils, chicken stock, bay leaf, and white pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer until the lentils are mushy, about 20 minutes.
Remove the bay leaf, and puree the soup, either in the blender in batches, or with a hand-held immersion blender right in the pot.
Add the vinegar, and salt to taste.
Drizzle each bowl with a swirl of good olive oil and a sprinkle of chopped garlic chives, if using.
Serves 4 as a main course, or 6 as a starter course.
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