Saturday, October 31, 2009
Algerian Lentil Soup / Soupe de Lentilles a l'Algérienne
If you would ask me about my favorite season, spring would be my first spur-of-the-moment answer. And it's not because my birthday is in spring and I love presents and birthday cakes and parties; though it has a lot to do. But it's spring when I and everything around feel alive again. When the tulips and daffodils shade our driveway. When the days are longer, and warmer and brighter. When small tomato plants start sprouting by the kitchen window and birds start building their nests underneath the deck.
It is spring that I love the most. That's what, five years ago, the girl from Algeria would have told you.
But then I came to Michigan, exactly five years ago, and I saw fall. Really saw it
And fall, oh fall, I've fallen for you!
I fall for you every morning from my window when I see the saffron colored trees and wiggly maple leaves sliding down the street. I smell your perfume and it smells like roasted chestnuts, burning fireplaces and wet soil. I touch you and you're warm and cold. I listen to you and you're quiet, untamed, stripping what's around you serenely.
At the farmer's market last week, I fell for your pumpkins and huggable squashes, and snow white leeks and swiss chards, and apple ciders and cute bees and supermen dressed babies . The babies weren't for sale, unfortunately!
Every year I find myself going back to my seasonal routines. Like making S'fendj (Algerian doughnuts) and hot chocolate for dinner, in the fall. Not that I wouldn't make them in the spring; I do. But it's different. It's fall when I really start to crave S'fendj and hot chocolate in the evening. I think it's because they are both comforting (always loved hot chocolate with my doughnut). It's fall when I listen to Damien Rice and Amos Lee. Fall when I can't wait to slip into my warm slippers in the morning and snuggle with my blue blanket in the evening watching brothers and sisters. It's fall when the 4PM snack time becomes mandatory, when I make upside down apple and fig yogurt cake, sweet rolls for breakfast, meat or meatless stews for lunch and drool over the beans selection at my local grocery store. It's fall when a spicy lentil soup, and a very good one for that matter, and some crusty bread, should never be missed.
Though there are as many lentil soup recipes as there are good cooks, this one has always been the one I rely on when I want a complex flavored yet rustic and authentic Algerian lentil soup. And did I mention how easy it is to make? In a snap! The soup combines my mother's beloved lentil stew recipe with the addition of Dersa, a mixture of spices, herbs and acid that is commonly used in Algerian households to finish up soups and add another dimension of fragrance and flavor to the dish. The recipe yields a lot of soup(I'm afraid I will never learn how to make soups and stews for just two or even four people) but can easily be halved. You can use any type of lentils you like, but for this specific recipe, and that's just me, I prefer the old fashioned brown lentil. As I love how it melts in your mouth and release a certain earthy, dare I say comforting note. Green lentils (also known as French lentils) wouldn't work here. I used lamb bones in my recipe, mainly for the aroma, and because we love our lamb in Algeria, but you can skip them and use homemade or very good quality chicken stock or vegetable stock instead. What makes this soup so irresistible and lip-smacking delicious is the combination of warm spices like turmeric, cumin and ground coriander with fresh herbs like mint, parsley and cilantro. And I mean a lot of cilantro. It is key here. Of course six cloves of garlic, four at the beginning and two with the Dersa, have also a lot to do, flavor wise. I believe this soup is going to be around for more falls to come. And winters, too.
Happy weekend, everybody!
Algerian Lentil Soup (Chorbet Addas)
Recipe: serves 6
- 1 cup lentils, picked over for stones and other debris, rinsed and drained
- 2 pounds lamb soup bones
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2 big carrots, diced (about 1 cup)
- 2 celery stalks, diced (about 1/2 cup)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 ripe, medium tomatoes, peeled and diced (about 1 1/2 cup)
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- A bouquet garni, made of: 4 sprigs of parsley, 4 sprigs of cilantro, 4 sprigs of fresh mint and two bay leaves, tied together with a string
- 8 cups water (chicken or vegetable broth if you're not using the lamb bones)
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- For the Dersa:
- A very generous bunch of cilantro chopped (about 3/4 cup)
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/2 tsp zest of a lemon
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp good olive oil
Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, celery, carrots, cumin, ground coriander, turmeric and garlic; sauté until vegetables begin to brown slightly, about 10 minutes. Add 8 cups water, lamb bones, lentils, and tomatoes and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium–low, cover, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 30-35 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare Dersa. On a chopping board, mince the garlic cloves finely. Add the chopped cilantro, lemon zest and cumin and give it another chop with your knife. Gather with your knife and chop. Gather and chop until everything looks blended. Put the mixture into a bowl and add the lemon juice and olive oil. Stir quickly and set aside.
When the lentils are done, discard the bones and the herbs bundle. Season with more salt and pepper if needed and half the Dersa. Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with remaining Dersa.
B'ssahatkoum! (To your health!)
Soupe de Lentilles a l'Algérienne (Chorbet Addas)
In Français Please: Pour 6 personnes
- 200g de lentilles, nettoyées et lavées
- 1 kg d'os d'agneau pour la soupe
- 2 c.s d'huile végétale
- 1 oignon moyen, finement haché (environ 250ml)
- 2 grosses carottes, coupées en des (environ 250ml)
- 2 céleri, coupés en des (environ 125ml)
- 4 gousses d'ail, émincées
- 2 tomates, bien mures, épluchées et coupées en des (environ 375ml)
- 1/2 c.c de curcuma
- 1 c.c de cumin en poudre
- 1 c.c de coriandre en poudre
- Un bouquet garni: 4 branches de persil, 4 branches de coriandre, 4 branches de menthe fraiche et deux feuilles de laurier, toutes attachées a l'aide d'une ficelle.
- 2L d'eau (bouillon de volaille ou de légumes si vous n'utilisez pas d'os)
- 2 c.c de sel
1/2 c.c de poivre noir fraichement moulu
Pour la Dersa:
- Un bouquet généreux de coriandre fraiche
- 1/2 c.c de cumin en poudre
- 2 gousses d'ail
- 1/2 c.c de zeste de citron
- 1c.c de jus de citron
- 1c.s d'huile d'olive
Faites chauffer l'huile dans une cocotte et ajouter, l'oignon haché, l'ail, carottes, céleri et épices; faites sauter jusqu'à une belle colorisation des légumes, environ 10 minutes. Ajouter 2L d'eau. les os d'agneau, lentilles, et les tomates et porter a ébullition. Réduire le feu, couvrir, et laisser mijoter jusqu'à ce que les lentilles deviennent tendres, environ 30-35 minutes.
Entre temps, préparer la Dersa. Sur une planche de travail, émincer l'ail finement. Ajouter la coriandre hachée, le zest de citron et le cumin et amalgamer le tout grossièrement a l'aide d'un couteau. Mettre le mélange d'herbe dans une assiette et ajouter le jus de citron et l'huile d'olive. Remuer rapidement et mettre de cote.
Quand les lentilles sont cuites, retirer les os et le bouquet garni. Assaisonner avec un peu plus de sel et de poivre si nécessaire et la moitie de la Dersa. Servir dans des bols et garnir avec le restant de Dersa.
B'ssahatkoum! (A votre sante!)