Monday, 26 March 2012

GREEK LENTIL SOUP (Fakés Soupa, Φακές Σούπα)

I have been trying to get around to making Greek lentil soup for a month now. Today was the day. I added lots of soup vegetables to compliment the lentils. I used parsnip and leeks which are not found in traditional versions of Greek lentil soup, but why not amplify its flavour a bit? The amount of tomato used depends on the cook. If you like a really strong lentil flavour, cut down on some of the tomatoes and tomato paste. The important lesson is that anyway it's cooked, lentil soup is always fragrant and tastes oh so good. 

Lentils are very high in protein, dietary fibre, thiamine and iron: they are a very healthy food. Before cooking them, be sure to soak lentils for about an hour. Soaking not only makes them softer for cooking, but also increases their nutritional potency. 


2 cups green lentils
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, divided, chopped
2 leeks, washed very well, white and light green parts, chopped
4 or 5 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled, chopped…I love smashing garlic!
6 stalks celery, chopped
4 carrots chopped
2 medium size tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
optional - 1 parsnip, chopped very thinly, or better yet, grated 
4 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1 or 2 tablespoons tomato paste, depending on how "red" you want the soup to be
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (well, I may have used a little more) 
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried Greek oregano  
6 cups of vegetable stock or filtered water, plus additional liquid  as needed
optional - vinegar to be served on the side 
optional - some grated Pecorino Romano cheese to top the soup if you're like me and do not like vinegar 

Lots of vegetables in this soup...  More than can be seen in the photograph! 

  • Pick over the lentils to make sure there are no small rocks or other debris mixed in.  Rinse them and place them in a large bowl.  Cover them with water.  Let them sit in the water for about one hour.  Drain and reserve. You'll notice that as the lentils soak and absorb water they will start to turn greener than they were in their dry state.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large heavy Dutch oven and sauté one of the onions, the leeks, and the garlic for 10 minutes.  (You may think we are using a lot of leeks and onions, but you'll see that they will decrease in volume as they are being  sautéed). Turn off the heat. 
  • Add the other onion, the celery, parsnip, tomatoes, carrots, thyme, and 2 tablespoons of the parsley. Mix well
  • Add the drained lentils and mix well.  
  • Add the liquid, the tomato paste, and the bay leaf.  Season with salt and pepper, turn up the heat and bring to a boil. 
  • Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour. If the heat is on low and you are using a heavy Dutch oven, you don't even need to lift the lid and stir the soup. Just let it simmer.
  • After an hour check on the soup, give it a good stir and add the oregano. Taste it and season with more salt and pepper if needed. It will probably need to cook for another 15 to 20 minutes.
  • At the end of the cooking time add the rest of the parsley.  You may need to add more liquid to bring the soup to the consistency you prefer.
I served it with toasted olive fougasse bread.  It was bakery bought and  excellent!
  • Serve the lentil soup hot.  Offer some vinegar at the table because it's a tradition to top the soup with vinegar. 
  • This was a great Sunday dinner!