The Cheap-Ass Gourmet: Lentil Soup a la Smiter

Ode to a Lentil, in B-flat major.

There is simply no excuse for eating crappy food. And you don’t have to break the bank to eat well — trust me, my ancestors are Scottish and we know how to stretch a buck. (They say copper wire was invented by two Scotsmen fighting over a penny!)

Whether you’re on a budget, a study grant, or a pension, be you Student, Single, Senior, or Simply Scottish, this recipe from Chef Smiter’s kitchen will tickle your taste buds and fill your tummy.

Lentil soup, as boring as it sounds, has loads of protein and fibre and all that stuff the nutritionists are always on about, but the main thing is it’s really easy, it’s super-cheap, and it’s really, really good.

It takes about 10 mins of prep time and an hour or so in total, from start to nom nom nom….

These are the lentils you seek.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 or 2 cups of dried green lentils (the flat greenish brown things you buy in a bag at the supermarket; the amount will depend on how many people you’re feeding, or if you want lots of leftovers)
  • Water (about 4 cups of water to one cup of dried lentils, to start)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • a big ol’ onion, or two smallish ones
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • salt, pepper, good olive oil (I use President’s Choice) and red wine vinegar for right at the end

Sort through the lentils a bit first to make sure there are no stones or other tooth-breaking crap in them. Then put them in a sieve and rinse them under running water, swishing them around with your hands.

Dump them into a pot (yes, “dump” is a very fancy-schmancy cooking term) and cover them with lots of cold water. Do NOT put salt in at this point, or the lentils won’t cook properly.

Chop up the onion(s) and the garlic and throw those in as well. Add the bay leaves, pushing them under the water. (If you’re having a bad day, you can say “Die, bay leaves! DIE!”) Cover the pot and crank the heat.

Double, double, toil and trouble... Lentils cook and lentils bubble...

When the lentils are fully boiling, loosen the lid a crack and turn the heat down to between low & medium, depending on your stove. You want them to bubble and cook, but not boil over. Check them every so often to make sure there’s still enough water; you’re making soup, not porridge. The final product should be thick enough to be a bit of a “stew”, not runny water with lentils floating in it. You’ll figure it out.

After about half an hour, test a spoonful of the little fellas and see if they’re soft yet. When they’re done, add a good drizzle of olive oil (OK, about 1/4 cup), some pepper and NOW the salt, “to taste,” as they say.

To serve:

Ladle some soup into a bowl (if you have a flat soup bowl, all the better). Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of red wine vinegar into each serving — this is the important part. Lentils are bland and taste like butt if they’re not embellished in some way.

My Greek friend K., who gave me this recipe, serves it with a side of nice bread, Greek olives, and chunks of feta cheese.

And as a bonus, this is one of those soups that’s even better on the second day. Lasts for about a week in the fridge.

Total expenditure:

About 2 bucks for a bag of lentils

Maybe 50 cents for the onions & garlic

A few pennies for the olive oil, vinegar, bay leaf etc.

(If you’re adding up the water, salt, and pepper, you should probably seek professional help. 🙂 )

…and whatever your feta cheese, olives and bread cost you. If you’re lucky enough to be near a Greek bakery, you’re laughing.

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