This red lentil soup recipe is a delicious warming comfort food widely found in Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine. You can make it over the fire, on the stove or in an Instant Pot.It's amazing all by itself or served with some warm flatbreads, crusty sourdough baguettes and easily adjustable to include protein or to make 100% vegan.
Cook the base vegetables - Sweat down the onion, carrot, cilantro stalks, thyme leaves and garlic in a touch of neutral cooking oil until soft and fragrant. Make sure to season it with salt when you start cooking. This will help keep it from caramelising.
Add the spices and tomato paste - Once the base is cooked add the ground cumin, smoked paprika and tomato paste. Cook the tomato paste and spices for a minute on medium heat(no one likes raw tomato paste or spices).
Add the liquid and lentils - Once the tomato paste and spices are cooked through, add the stock, cream(if you're using) and lentils.
Simmer - Let the soup simmer gently on medium to low heat until the lentils are completely soft and cooked. Make sure to stir the soup often to prevent the lentils from sticking and burning to the bottom of the pan. If the liquid reduces too much simply add a touch more stock or water.
Taste and season - Season with more salt and freshly ground black pepper if needed. You can also add freshly squeezed lemon juice at this point if you are making a red lentil soup with lemon.
Blend(optional) - If you want a smooth red lentil soup then simply blend in a jug blender with the lid vented to avoid exploding hot soup. Alternatively, use an immersion blender.
Serve - Once the soup is done and you are happy with the seasoning, serve immediately topped with some fresh cilantro, smoked paprika and a drizzle of good olive oil alongside freshly baked sourdough or flatbread.
Soups, stews and curries always taste better the following day when the flavours had time to fully settle and blend together.
Makes a perfect cook-in-advance dish.
Can be frozen for longer storage or it will keep in the fridge store airtight for up to 5 days.
Add chilli if you like it hot.
Take care when cooking to not let the lentils burn. Lentils have a tendency to easily catch if it boils too fast and not being stirred often.