When I was growing up, dinner always began with soup. My mother had several in her repertoire, most which I never cared for. Not because they weren’t good, but because to me, soup was an unnecessary preamble, taking up precious real estate in my stomach when I just wanted to quite literally, get to the meat. And it certainly could never be considered a meal in itself, no matter how much smoked ham or shredded chicken you put in it.
But lately, during this cold and rainy season, I’ve found my fondness for soup growing. It has become a quick, portable lunch when I’m short on time, or a simple but satisfying dinner when eaten with a slice of bread and cheese. Preferably, I like the bread and cheese in the soup, like in a proper French Onion, or with this Spanish Tomato Lentil Soup I recently concocted. I have never thought I’d be the kind of person who could be satisfied with a mere bowl of soup for a meal, yet I have become one. I am a soup convert.
The trick to a great soup, I have discovered, is not only in the seasonings but in the balance of sugar, salt, and acidity. Actually, this is the crucial consideration for any dish, but I have found it particularly important when it comes to soup making I always wondered why my mother added a touch of vinegar to her chicken and rice soup and now I know why. Adding an acid really deepens the flavour in a way that is indescribable but you can taste in a big way.
I call this soup “Spanish” because of the smoky, sweet Spanish paprika and the popular sheep’s cheese, Manchego–not because it’s a soup that is traditional to the country of Spain. I also don’t use any thickeners, preferring to blend about a third of the soup and mixing it back into the pot to add creaminess. Lastly, don’t add the apple cider vinegar until you’re done cooking, or the lentils will be tough no matter how long you cook them. I learned this the hard way!
- I tablespoon ghee (or butter)
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 large yellow onion
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon finely minced ginger
- 2 teaspoons coriander
- 1 teaspoon Spanish paprika
- 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 cups/1 litre vegetable broth
- 1 can/398 mil/13.5 ounces tomato sauce
- 1 cup lentils, soaked overnight and drained
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- chopped fresh rosemary
- chopped basil
- 50g/1/2 cup Manchego cheese per serving
- 6-8 slices bread of choice, I per serving
- Melt the ghee and coconut oil in a large pot; saute the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to saute but do not allow it to brown, stirring continuously.
- Add the ginger, followed by the spices, salt and pepper; stir and continue to saute for a minute or two to meld the flavours together.
- Add the broth, lentils and maple syrup and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook until the lentils are soft, about one hour. Take off the heat and thoroughly stir in the apple cider vinegar.
- To serve; ladle soup into oven proof bowls and top with toasted bread and cheese. Place in 450F oven and brown until cheese is melted and toasts are golden, about 15 minutes.
- If you have a toaster oven, you can simply toast the bread and cheese together and drop a slice of toast onto each bowl of hot soup
- Never add the apple cider vinegar until the soup is done--it will cause the lentils to remain tough