Saturday, February 14, 2009
Lentil Soup with Lamb and Spinach
It's been a snowy winter 2009, and we've had more snow days this year than I can remember. One day, we had an early dismissal, and I made a delicious lentil soup with lamb and spinach. I felt like evoking Spain, so I used smoked paprika, saffron, and thyme as aromatics, but you could easily switch out and use Italian seasoning and parmesan cheese or give it an Indian flair with cumin and coriander.
This can easily be vegetarian, or you can use meat like bacon, beef, chicken, or lamb. You can add a starch like elbow macaroni or brown rice. You can use vegetarian, chicken, beef broth, or a combination of broths. That's why I call it versatile.I had pre-cooked brown lentils in the fridge from Trader Joes (found in the refrigerated case near the vegetables) but you could cook the lentils in the broth until they're tender, around 30-35 minutes, depending on what lentils you use.
This recipe serves 4-6.
¾ lb. lamb blade chops
Salt and pepper
1 large onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, cut in small cubes
2 celery stalks, cut in small cubes
Tomato paste (I use Amore in a tube; if you don’t have it, it’s optional)
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
Chicken and beef broth (or you can use just one type of broth if you want; I use Pacific or Nature’s Promise organic broth in the paper cartons)
Saffron, a small pinch
Smoked paprika, about 1 tsp.
Fresh thyme, a few sprigs or (1 tsp. fresh thyme w/o stems or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme)
1 bay leaf
Fresh parsley, a few sprigs with stems
1 pack of Trader Joe’s steamed lentils (about 1 lb.) (or you can use dry lentils)
Lemon or balsamic vinegar
Fresh parsley, finely chopped
Spinach, rinsed and torn into smaller pieces
Heat 1-2 tbs. of olive oil in pressure cooker or dutch oven over medium high heat. Salt and pepper lamb chops and sear on each side, until brown. Set aside. If making vegetarian soup, heat the oil and then move to the next step.
Lower heat to medium-low and add onions, garlic, carrots, and celery. Cook until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Add several squirts of tomato paste and mix in with vegetables; cook for a few minutes so the tomato paste caramelizes. Add salt and pepper to the veggies. Add can of diced tomatoes, with juice, and lamb chops. Cover lamb with an equal amount of chicken and beef broth, about 2 cups worth. If you’re not using a pressure cooker, you can add all the broth you want to make a soup (about 3-6 cups total depending on how stewy or soupy you like it), but if you’re using a pressure cooker, I use less liquid at this point so that the liquid is more concentrated to cook the lamb in. Add parsley and thyme sprigs, a pinch of saffron, bay leaf, and smoked paprika (1/2 to 1 tsp.). Once pressure cooker is fully pressurized, cook for 10-15 minutes or until lamb is tender. If not using a pressure cooker, cook in the dutch oven until the lamb is tender, about 30-45 minutes.
Unseal pressure cooker according to its directions. At this point, remove spent parsley and thyme. Take out lamb and set aside. Add cooked lentils, breaking them up to distribute them in the liquid, and more broth to make a soup. Make it as stewy or soupy as you like. Take out your blender and put about 1/3 of the soup (about 2 cups, depending on how much soup you have) in the blender and blend until pureed. Add back to the soup to thicken it. Cut lamb in small pieces and discard bones; add back to the soup. Add more broth if you want it soupier. Add a spoonful of balsamic vinegar or lemon. Taste and adjust seasonings.Before serving, add rinsed spinach and cook until just wilted. Add fresh chopped parsley and serve.
USING UNCOOKED LENTILS: If you're going to use uncooked lentils, add about 1 cup uncooked lentils to the vegetables after they've become translucent; add tomatoes, salt and pepper, saffron, thyme bay leaf, and parsley (add lamb back here if you're using lamb). Cook for about 10 minutes or lentils are darkened. Add broth at this time and simmer, partially covered, 30-35 minutes until tender (lamb should be tender too). Proceed with recipe.