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!

fall's favorite

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.

Algerian Lentil Soup

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!)

Algerian Lentil Soup

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!)


tigress said...

this soup looks delicious and the perfect thing for a rainy halloween weekend here in nyc. i must try it!

Unknown said...

I agree, spring also seemed to be my favorite, but I've begun to fall in love with autumn. Lovely post!!!! It's great to see you posted something again! :)

shayma said...

another beautiful post, warda.

Ms M said...

Thank you Warda!! Excellent - keep those algerian recipes coming.

I love your blog and I've already tried a couple of things of it. Thanks again. :D

Anonymous said...

Than you for putting into words my feeling about fall!

Raquelita said...

Delurking to say I am a huge fan of your blog. You write beautifully, I love your photographs and your recipes turn out fantastic. I made your roasted butternut squash soup this week and it is a keeper!

noëlle {simmer down!} said...

Warda... I was just thinking about you the other day because I finally found some freekeh and was trying to figure out what to do with it. :)

I love the idea of the fresh herb mix stirred in at the end to give a little brightness to an earthy soup. And that cake doesn't look half bad either!

Laura said...

Exactly what I've been in the mood for...I'm off to the butcher for some lamb bones immediately! Glad that you've returned and are enjoying autumn. It's my favorite time of year...

Noor said...

I love lentil soup this looks amazing.

Sharona May said...

Sounds very good. It is the perfect time of the year for a good bowl of soup.


Warda said...

- Tigress, Hope you had a nice weekend! Please, let me know how you like it!

- Ophy, thank you!

- Shayma, Thanks a lot!

- Ms M, I'm so glad you enjoyed my recipes. Thank you for stopping by!

- Anonymous, my pleasure.

- Raquelita, you are so sweet! Thank you! It's been a while since I made this soup. Thank you for reminding me ;)

- Noelle, Salut! You can add it to any of your soup. For instance, for 8 cups of soup you use 1 cup of freekeh at the end and you stir. You let it cook 10- 15 minutes more and it gives such a smocky aroma to the soup. You'll love it. Lately, I've seen a lady on TV (Moroccan TV, that is! Not Food network ;) ) making chicken stuffed with freekeh and I can't wait to try it. Bisous!

- Laura, thank you for the welcome, and how did you like the soup?

- Noor, thank you (BTW, love your name!)

- Sharona, as I type this, a big grey cloud is heading our way and I was thinking about making a soup for tonight.

Y said...

Interesting! My soup is very similar, minus the carrot and the spices,and the celery gets chopped along with the coriander leaves and the garlic ..but I mash the lentils before adding the garnish and the lemon. I'll try yours soon!
Would you please post a photo of your brown lentils in their dry state? I think I know which you mean, but would like to be sure.

mima said...

J'ai retenu une seule chose de ta soupe de lentilles...c'est "le chocolat chaud"!!! eh oui,nostalgie quand tu nous tiens...
et comme tu dis si bien ,c'est le moment; et durant tout l'hiver,Nèna en preparait tres souvent,je la vois encore le faire bouillir dans une casserole et le verser dans sa belle cafetière en porcelaine,un vrai délice qui donnait de la chaleur au coeur et au corps..
Ou sont passés ces bons moments?il suffisait d'un rien...
PS:j'aime aussi les lentilles!!!

Rose said...

Warda, thank your for bringing the fall colours to Ireland! I miss the autumn season from my home in Canada. Thank you for your words.

Anonymous said...

Warda, your blog is great! AND its helping me keep up my French! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh, The dersa and squeeze of lemon really make this soup shine! The dersa is especially additive! Thank you so much for writing this blog.


Cheryl Taylor said...

Warda, your talking about the doughnuts and hot chocolate has me craving some. Can you share your recipe for S'fendj please?

Warda said...

- Y, I've never tried mashing the lentils. I prefer my soup on the chunky side or I would mash half of it and keep the other half whole. Sorry, completly forgot to post a photo of the dried lentils. Will do soon. :)

- Mima, C'est la belle cafetiere en porcelaine qui me manque...Et la prochaine fois je suivrai tes conseils pour la cuisson des lentils. Gros bisous!

- Rose, you are so welcome. Autumn in Canada is also magic!

- Anonymous, Thank you very much! My pleasure!

- Vivi, I'm glad you enjoyed the soup. The dersa does make a hugs difference.

- Cheryl, your wish is my command. It's actually very easy and so much "lighter", in texture that is, than the regular American doughnuts. No eggs. No butter. No milk. Easy, peasy!

Unknown said...

Now I'm curious about the s'fendj ingredients. I can't wait to see it. Thank you!

Lisa said...

The soup looks wonderful and I can't wait to make it. I fell in love with the seasons when I moved here 5 years ago from Los Angeles. My husband gets a big kick out of me when we're driving and I'm gasping over the beautiful colors in the trees.

cookeaze said...

I love Soup and I can't wait to try this. Your photo is lovely and the recipe sounds delicious and simple :)

Eglantine said...

Cette soupe a l'air vraiment délicieuse

Wendy said...

Just came across your blog, what a beautiful post! Fall is my favorite season too, and this dish looks delish.

Jennifer said...

Just made this last night. Been looking for a good lentil soup recipe and by far this is our favorite so far. Thanks for posting it.

Avi Taranto said...

Warda vous avez un blog qui est vraiment excellent! C'est beaucoup de travail de tout traduire. Moi aussi je fais un blog à propos des repas je prépare, et je parle plusieurs langue (l'arabe inclue) mais j'écris presque uniquement en anglais. Je suis un étudiant qui vit a Tel Aviv et je fais tous mes cours au Souq de Tel Aviv. Je vais sûrement préparer cette soupe aux lentilles. Cela me ferait plaisir si vous alliez sur mon blog:

Shukra 'ala kul al-akel at-tayyib

Anonymous said...

You may want to roast the lamb bones @ 350 degrees for 30 to 60 minutes depending on the size. They will caramelize and add more flavor.

Warda said...

- Excellent tip! Thanks!