Healing Moroccan Lentil Soup
Living in California for the past two and half years has taught me to appreciate rain in a way that I never did before. It’s almost like I’ve formed a deeper connection to the earth, watching how quickly the land turns dry. I find myself yearning for it as though I myself am parched and am in need of quenching.
Needless to say, it was soothing to wake up to the sound of it gently falling on the roof as the soft glow of the grey sky peeked through the window this morning. It felt refreshing and inspired me to cook a big pot of comforting soup.
I feel like Moroccan spices are perfect for this time of year, considering how warming they feel to the body. In addition, many of them are thought to have a healing effect which also seems suiting for winter. Cayenne, for example, is thought to help relieve congestion, while cinnamon and turmeric are high in antioxidants and possess antibacterial properties.
This soup is also packed full of vitamins and minerals from lentils and vegetables, including fresh fennel which I’m usually hesitant to cook with because of my dislike of the flavor of the seeds. When I saw it on Kate’s February produce guide last week it reminded me that I need to broaden my horizons and give it a try.
I’m glad I did because it worked perfectly in this recipe. In case you might also be new to cooking with fennel, the flavor of the bulb is actually much milder than the seed and even though it can look somewhat intimidating, it’s really easy to prepare. It’s kind of like chopping an onion.
To start, you cut off the green ends and then slice off the bottom at the base.
Then peel off the outer layer if it has any stains and slice the bulb in half.
Next cut small triangles out of the center of the bottom where the core is and then cut the bulb in thin slices lengthwise.
Then turn the bulb and make similarly spaced thin slices horizontally until the entire thing is diced. Voila!
From there you just saute it with the onion for a few minutes and then add in the remaining vegetables and spices.
You’ll notice that the steps include boiling a portion of the broth with the spices and the vegetables before adding the lentils (similar to my amaranth recipe). The main purpose of this is to infuse the liquid with more flavor so although it might add 15 minutes to the overall cook time, trust me, it’s worth it!
And please don’t be deterred by the long ingredient list. If you have a well stocked spice rack then you really only need to pick up the produce and you’re good to go. Just make sure not to leave out the squeeze of fresh lemon juice. It pairs really well with the spices and gives it a nice pop of flavor at the end. I’m telling you, winter soup doesn’t get much better than this!
1 cup brown lentils*
1 fennel bulb, diced (approx. 3/4 cup)
1 yellow onion, diced (approx. 1 cup)
2 carrots, peeled and chopped (approx. 3/4 cup)
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped (approx. 2 cups)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
6 cups vegetable broth**
juice of 1 lemon
salt to taste (if needed)
fresh cilantro for topping
thinly sliced radishes for topping (optional)
- Warm the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat then toss in the onion and the fennel. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Next add the carrots, garlic, and sweet potato along with the spices. Stir together and cook for 1 minute then pour in 1/2 cup vegetable broth. Bring to a low boil and cook for 15 minutes so that the liquid reduces by approximately 1/3.
- Pour in the remaining broth along with the rinsed lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.
- Turn off the heat and then squeeze in the lemon juice and stir together. Ladle into individual bowls for serving and top with cilantro and radishes (optional). Serve warm and enjoy!
*this recipe assumes the lentils have been soaked for at least 6 hours (or overnight) and then rinsed. I prefer to do this to make them easier to digest. If you would like to skip that step then you'll need to add an additional 2 cups of vegetable broth to the recipe.
**I always use Better Than Boullion for my broth which tends to be more flavorful/saltier than traditional broth. Add salt to taste, if necessary.