Red Lentil Soup with Freekeh, Aleppo Pepper, and Dried Mint
Recipe and photo contributed by Ame Gilbert
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 55 minutes
This recipe plays with Turkish and Syrian flavors and produces a satisfying, hearty soup that is rich in protein and enticingly complex flavors—with a nice, spicy kick. It’s perfect for vegan and vegetarian tables, as well as dairy-free and nut-free diets. We’ve used freekeh, the roasted green wheat, in place of the more traditional bulgur wheat. Freekeh yields can be tricky, but if you have any left over it will make a welcome addition to a salad or add a lovely nutty chewiness tossed into roasted vegetables. The soup is spiced with ground dried Aleppo pepper, a fruity, mildly hot pepper common in Middle Eastern cooking, and dried spearmint, which is sometimes hard to find in the spice section of the market. If you can’t get it, use spearmint tea instead—just tear open a tea bag and use the dried leaves.
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 carrot, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
1½ cups split red lentils (masoor dal)
½ cup tomato puree
½ cup sweet red pepper puree (see Kitchen Tips)
6 cups Roasted Vegetable Stock or low-sodium vegetable broth
¾ cup freekeh
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon ground dried Aleppo pepper (see Kitchen Tips)
1 tablespoon dried spearmint
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, preferably Meyer lemon juice
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
- Heat the oil in a large soup pot set over medium heat, add the onions and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until they begin to become translucent. Add the garlic and carrots and continue to cook for 5 minutes more. Add the lentils and stir to coat with oil. Add the tomato and red pepper purees, and stir to coat. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes more.
- Add the broth, stir, and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes; then lift the cover and stir (the lentils tend to sink to the bottom of the pot, so it is important to stir them up to prevent scorching.) Continue cooking and stirring every 15 minutes, for about 30 minutes total, or until the lentils are falling apart and the carrots are meltingly tender. If necessary, stir in extra water, ½ cup at a time.
- While the soup is simmering, cook the freekeh: in a small saucepan, combine the freekeh with 2 cups water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. You will have about 2 cups of cooked freekeh.
- Stir the Aleppo pepper, mint, and the cooked freekeh into the lentils and simmer, uncovered, for an additional 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice. Add the remaining salt and the black pepper and stir to incorporate. Serve hot.
- An easy way to make the red pepper puree is to use jarred, fire-roasted red peppers and throw them into the blender.
- Use less of the dried ground Aleppo pepper if you’re afraid of a kick, more if you want a bigger one!
- This is a hearty and heart-healthy porridge-like soup. If you prefer, you can thin with some additional broth. If you are not a vegetarian, this soup is also delicious made with chicken broth.