Thursday, February 9, 2012

Curried Lentil & Farro Soup

When I was a twenty-something gal and would occasionally venture into the world of cooking, this soup was my 'specialty'.  I can't remember exactly who gave me the recipe - I think it was my father, who got it from someone else and passed it along to me.  All I do remember is that it was a small photocopy of a recipe from the NY Times food section in 1996.  That little wrinkled, stained and well used piece of paper has traveled with me for 16 years.  I keep it tucked between the pages of a cookbook and over the years, whenever I decided to make a pot I would have to dig through my entire cookbook collection to find it - never remembering which book it was in.  After awhile I gave up on all that and memorized the ingredients.
I've passed the recipe to many people over the years too.  I remember being on a low-carb diet and upon discovering that lentils were a permissible food item I decided to make a gigantic pot of this soup - which I proceeded to live on for days.  I told my mother about it, who was also dieting at the time and she loved the soup so much she passed it on to everyone in the family.  So, I have a feeling when this recipe gets posted they'll all know exactly what soup this is.
As much as I enjoy this soup, I am typically not a 'traditional' lentil soup person.  When I think of lentil soup I think of something grainy in texture and very bland in flavor.  To avoid those kind of results, I love trying recipes that use bold flavors, like curry powder or garam marsala.  I also opt for using small lentils, which I think make a big difference - they tend to hold their shape while cooking instead of breaking down into grainy mush.  For this batch I used Spanish Pardina lentils, which worked very the past I've used French green lentils, which would also be a great choice.
For the grain component, I've used everything from pearled barley {which is what the original recipe calls for}, to brown rice, to the farro I've used here.  Farro is very similar in texture to barley, so I'd say their nearly interchangeable.  But I like the farro a bit more as the grains have a slightly chewy texture that I really love. 
Best thing about this recipe is that it calls for ingredients you most likely already have on hand in your pantry - or most of anyway.  It's quick, simple and inexpensive to make and tastes great days can even be frozen, so you might consider doubling the recipe!
If you like lentils you might also enjoy these recipes too! - Stewed Lentils with Leeks, Lentil & Bulgur Salad | Spiced Red Lentil Soup with Cashews | Curried Squash & Red Lentil Soup

Curried Lentil & Farro Soup

Adapted from a recipe by Florence Fabricant via the New York Times, January 1996
Serves 4-6
It's hard to believe that a soup this simple, with such basic ingredients could be so satisfying.  This recipe is a standby for me in the winter months and has been for many years.  I love curry, especially 'sweet curry', which is what I use in my version of the recipe {you can use any ground curry you desire}.  Fresh lemon juice is used as a finishing touch, which sets this soup apart from other lentil soups I've tried {I suggest this not be omitted as it's fantastic}.  I always use small lentils for this recipe - either Spanish Pardina or French Green Lentils, as I find they hold their shape well and don't have that grainy taste some lentils can have.  The original recipe calls for pearled barley, which is great to use here too.  If that's what you have available, by all means use it - I've also made this soup with equal success using short grain brown rice. 

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1/4 cup small diced carrots
1/4 cup small diced celery
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon sweet curry powder
6 cups chicken stock
1 cup dry lentils
1/3 cup farro {or barley}
1 lemon
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

1.  Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan, or dutch oven, over medium heat.  Add the onions, carrots and celery and saute until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook for an additional minute.  Add the curry powder and stir to combine well. 
2.  Add the chicken stock; bring the liquid to a boil and stir in the lentils and farro.  Return to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the lentils and farro are tender.  They should still hold their shape and have a slightly chewy texture.  If the liquid boils down too quickly, add in some more stock or water as needed. 
3.  Season the soup with salt and pepper, to taste.  Ladle servings into bowls and squeeze a wedge of lemon into each, or serve with a lemon wedge on the side. 
Note: This soup just gets better as it sits and therefore can be prepared several days ahead of time.  It will thicken considerably once refrigerated and will need to be thinned with water before re-heating.  Reheat in a saucepan over medium heat or in the microwave.  Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice right before serving.  

Click here for the printable recipe.


Laurie {Simply Scratch} said...

Love all that texture! I'm still trying to like curry... but this soup is making me wanna try it again. Beautiful shots Katie :)

tami said...

this is pretty much soup nirvana for me. thank you for sharing!

Heidi @ Food Doodles said...

Mmm, I love lentil soups, especially curry flavored ones :) This looks delicious!

Chelsie said...

I love your blog. You photography and unique use of graphics inspires me. Where do you photograph? In your home? Id love to know more about the behind the scenes prep work to post such beautiful pics.

katie said...

@laurie - definitely give this one a try of you're typically not a curry fan. sweet curry is much less intense than other types and although i'm not the best judge because i do love curry in general, i think it's the best tasting choice.

@tami @ heidi - thanks!

@cheslie - thanks so much. there's some info on my photography in the 'faq's' section if you're interested in learning a bit about how i take pictures. i always use natural daylight and i shoot all my photos in my kitchen. i don't use any fancy equipment or props - just my camera and the food! i like keeping things basic :)

Joanne said...

I am ALL about the soup lately...and all about the grains! So this seems quite ideal. In so many ways.

Lauren Brown said...

You have made this for me more than once...many years ago! Can't wait to try to make it again for myself!

Wife said...

This looks so delicious! I've been looking for a good way to use farro--this looks like it could be it! Thanks for sharing!

Alex said...

Love the site,
One question - could I get away with using curry powder rather than sweet curry powder? Or is it worth my while to go track down the sweet stuff?

katie said...

@Alex - absolutely do not make a special trip to find sweet curry. Any curry powder will work well here. But do pick some up next time you happen to find it - it's good to have around!

Alex said...

I made it two nights ago. It was and continues to be delicious. Thanks!

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