“Soup puts the heart at ease, calms down the violence of hunger, eliminates the tension of the day, and awakens and refines the appetite.” ~Auguste Escoffier
“An old-fashioned vegetable soup, without any enhancement, is a more powerful anticarcinogen than any known medicine.”~James Duke M.D. (U.S.D.A.)
I love soup. I was raised by a dad who, every day at noon, rain or shine, would have a can of Campbell’s soup, any flavor, for lunch. (There were always saltine crackers accompanying the soup, preferably the Zesta brand.) I seem to remember that vegetable beef was his favorite soup flavor, but he ate them all: bean with bacon, chicken noodle, vegetarian vegetable, New England Clam Chowder, and so on. Even in the heat of summer in northwest Florida, he’d sit in the kitchen and eat his Campbell’s soup. Funny.
“There is nothing like soup. It is by nature eccentric: no two are ever alike, unless of course you get your soup in a can.”~Laurie Colwin, ‘Home Cooking’ (1988)
I readily acknowledge the delicious dependability of soup. I’m not sure if it’s genetic, from my dad, or if it’s universally felt, but either way, I love soup. I need soup. Soup comforts me. For example, during my first pregnancy, I was a scared twenty-five year old “girl” and was in a new town on the outskirts of Mobile, Alabama, away from my mom and sister, and my husband was working long hours on the road in sales, so I was rattling around in a big brick house all day long by myself, with baby in belly. Everything was new. I did a lot of reading, praying, and napping. And what food did I reach for when I and the little angel in my womb were hungry? Not chocolate, not ice cream or pickles, but soup. Any soup. I stocked up on cans of Campbell’s, just like my dad. My favorite was tomato (with a grilled cheese sandwich on the side) but I ate many of their offerings; everything but split pea. Yuck.
Well, fast forward 18 years. Here I am with three teenage sons and enjoying cooking every day that I can for them. There are many things I like to cook and bake, but I almost always feel most fulfilled when I make a big pot full of soup; not Campbell’s anymore, but big vats of fresh vegetables, meats, and broths to make them something hearty and healthy to fuel them or to comfort them when they’re sick.
The soup that I made this weekend is one that is unique; Campbell’s doesn’t even have it! 😉 It involves healthful lentils, turmeric, which is a spice that has anti-anflammatory/anti-Alzheimer’s properties and is recommended by Dr. Oz as a great addition to the American diet, as well as curry, that Indian spice that has the same properties, as the common element in these spices is curcumin. It also includes ground cumin, which some experts believe has detoxifying/antiseptic properties in the body.
Whether all of those health benefits are realized in my body after eating this soup or not, it is a delicious, fiber-full, protein and iron-rich food that is also very lowfat. I hope that you’ll make a pot of it for yourself on some cold night; who knows, as you’re enjoying the warmth and flavor, you might even be helping detoxify your body and contributing to your health in your old age!
Curried Lentil Soup
1 TBS olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 jalapeno pepper, minced (remove seeds if you don’t like the heat)
6 cups water
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock
1 cup lentils (brown or red are most commonly found in grocery stores)
1/2 cup pearl barley (do NOT add more, or it will soak up all your liquid)
1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
salt and pepper, to taste
Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add chopped onion, and cook until translucent. Add the garlic, jalapeno pepper, and all spices, except salt and pepper. Stir this in well and cook for a minute or two.
Stir in the water, stock, lentils, barley, tomatoes, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes or a bit longer, if necessary, until the lentils are tender. Serve in a soup mug or bowl and add a tsp of sour cream if you like. I think it adds a nice, cool creamy contrast to the spicy soup.
Note: you’ll probably need to add more broth to this soup if you store it in the fridge, as the lentils and the barley soak up the spicy broth during storage. A can of broth or even some warm water can be used to loosen it up again when reheating.
Nutrition information per eight ounces: 180 calories, 25 grams of carbs, 5 grams fiber, 5 grams fat, and 12 grams of protein.