I’ve been busy lately, working on several projects at once and preparing for the holidays, and I haven’t had much time to develop new recipes. So this weekend I decided to adapt an old favorite, Berberé Stew, and turn it into a lentil and vegetable soup. I’m a big fan of “meal in a bowl” type dishes that cover all the bases—vegetable, starch, and protein all-in-one—and this one fits the bill. It’s also quick, another plus in these hurried times.
This Ethiopian lentil soup is very complex and aromatic. It gets its distinctive flavor from an equal amount of 11 different spices so that no one flavor predominates. I keep a jar full of the spice mixture, but if you don’t want to mix up a big batch, just start with 1/8 teaspoon of whichever of the spices you have and add more to taste. Try to keep the measurements equal (except perhaps for the cayenne), so that the flavors balance out.
Ethiopian-Inspired Red Lentil Soup
- 1 large onion chopped
- 1 pound potatoes cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 1 1/4 cup red lentils picked over and rinsed
- 3 cups water
- 2 garlic cloves chopped
- 2-3 tablespoons berberé spice mixture below
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 pound green beans fresh or frozen, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1-2 cups water
- salt to taste
- 3-4 cups fresh spinach
Berberé Spice Mixture (mix all together and store in jar):
- 1 tablespoon ground cardamom
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon fenugreek
- 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon ground cloves reduce to 1 tsp. for less “clovey” taste
- 1 tablespoon ground allspice
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon cayenne use more to taste
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon ground sea salt optional
Mix the ingredients for the Berbere Spice Mixture. This recipe makes enough for several batches of soup. Do not add it all to the soup!
- Sauté the onion in a non-stick pan until it starts to brown. Add the potatoes, lentils, 3 cups water, garlic, and spice mixture. Simmer, covered, over low heat until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, green beans, and enough additional water to create a thick soup. Check the seasoning, adding salt and more of the spice mixture if needed, and cook for about 15 more minutes.
- Just before serving, stir in the spinach. Serve immediately. Makes 6-8 servings.
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