Lentil Soup with Gremolata

An easy Italian style lentil soup that is packed with flavour due to ‘gremolata’: a mixture of parsley, lemon zest, garlic and olive oil.

When cleaning out the cupboards, we came across a pack of black beluga lentils. They tend to glisten when they are – briefly – cooked, which makes them look like beluga caviar. If you cannot find these, French green lentils (Puy lentils) would be a good substitute in this recipe (based on the one I found over at seriouseats.com).

The recipe

For the gremolata

  • 2 tablespoons grated zest
  • 20gr / 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 6 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 60ml / 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the lentil soup

  • 60ml / 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large leek, white and pale green parts only, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled finely diced
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 450gr / 1 pound dried black beluga lentils
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2lt / 2 quarts vegetable stock
  • 30ml / 2 tablespoons juice from 1 to 2 lemons
  • 1 teaspoon of crushed cumin seeds
  1. Combine the lemon zest, parsley, garlic and olive oil in a medium bowl and stir with a fork until fully combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper and presto!
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering and start your soffritto by adding the leek, onion, carrot, and celery to the pan and cook it for about 5 minutes until just softened.
  3. Add half of the gremolata and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant.
  4. Add lentils and stir until coated in oil. Then add the bay leaves and stock and bring it to a boil.
  5. Once boiling, bring down the heat to just keep it at a simmer, cover with the lid slightly ajar, for 1 hour until the lentils are completely tender (the lentils should be fully covered at all times so add some adding water if necessary)
  6. Use a food processor (or immersion blender) to get the consistency you prefer. I roughly processed about 2/3rd of the soup in 2 batches and mixed it back into the remaining soup.
  7. Whisk in lemon juice and the cumin seeds and season to taste.
  8. Serve, drizzling the remaining gemolata on top of each bowl.

What worked and what didn’t:
It is amazing what the gremolata does to this lentil soup. It already gives a boost of freshness of the soup when cooking and it finishes off the soup brilliantly as a “dressing”. Lentil soups often tend to turn out really dense, but this one is really light and moreish.

Recipe accuracy:
The recipe is accurate, easy to follow and serves 4.  

Suggested tweaks:
A topping of crispy fried cubes of bacon comes to mind; a classic combination with lentils.

Verdict: 9/10; Will definitely be made again

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