My love for cooking had its genesis in the 70's, which was actually a great time to be finding my way in the kitchen. The natural food movement was just getting its feet on the ground, and we were all exploring new ways to cook better food than we grew up on in the 50's and 60's. My pantry was stocked with whole grains, beans, and all things organic.
We lived in a little craftsman cottage in Pasadena, Ca., with our 2 little girls (Thomas wouldn’t arrive for a few more years) and believe me, I was in my element. Looking back now, I think the seeds of the life we live now were being planted back then. I was baking our bread, making yogurt, homemade soups and stews and filling jars and jars with baby food. It was all from scratch, it was all organic, and it was awesome. OK, perhapsI did get a little carried away…there was no white flour and no white sugar to be found in our house, but I eventually made peace with both of those fine ingredients.
All that to say, this lentil soup was born in that kitchen in the ‘70’s and has been a staple ever since. I love this soup and make it often, and like many of the recipes I developed back in those days, it’s wonderfully nostalgic and comforting. It’s a hearty soup; thick and chock full of nutritious goodness (bulghur wheat, barley, carrots, celery), perfect for lunch on a cold, wintry day, and satisfying enough for dinner with a slice or two of fresh-baked bread.
So break out the BIG soup pot! You’ll need one that holds at least 6 quarts. Don’t be afraid...yes, it makes a lot, but it freezes wonderfully, and believe, me, it really doesn’t last that long.
This makes a lovely, warming, healthy bowl of soup deliciousness. Use whatever kind of broth you have on hand, but it's a great vehicle for leftover holiday turkey broth. As for the celery, I like to use the heart of the celery and chop the celery leaves too. They add great flavor to the soup. The bulghur wheat is optional, but again, it adds a depth of flavor and some thickening to the broth. If you would like, you can reduce the amount of lentils and increase the barley and/or add chopped zucchini to the soup for even more flavor and nutrition.
1 1/4 cups lentils
½ cup medium bulgur wheat
1/2 c barley
6 cups water
2 T butter
4-6 cups chicken or turkey or vegetable broth
1 onion, chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
2 t chopped fresh mint (optional)
3 carrots, shredded
3 stalks celery, chopped (I like to use the heart of the celery with the leaves)
3 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper (or to taste)
Grated Parmesan for serving
Place the lentils, barley and bulgur wheat in a large saucepan. Cover with water by about 2 inches or so (about 6 cups, depending on the size of your pan). Add 2 teaspoons of salt, bring to a boil and cook for about a half hour.
Meanwhile, in a large soup pot, saute the onion, carrots, and celery in the butter and a little olive oil until soft. Add the cooked lentil mixture and cooking broth, along with the chopped parsley, another teaspoon of salt, a little more pepper if you like, and enough of the chicken broth to cover by about an inch. Stir well and simmer 1-2 hours, adding more chicken stock if it gets too thick. Taste for salt and pepper.
To serve, drizzle each bowl of soup with a little olive oil and then sprinkle with grated parmesan.