Monday, September 24, 2007

JOHN CHUCKMAN ORIGINAL RECIPE: MOROCCAN LENTIL SOUP

I have been a serious cook for decades, this being one of the reasons I was able to serve as restaurant reviewer for a metropolitan newspaper. When I say "a serious cook," I mean someone who goes beyond using the recipes of others and creates his or her own. From time to time I will post some of mine.

JOHN'S MOROCCAN LENTIL SOUP

A rich thick soup, almost a stew, that smells like the perfumes of Arabia. Much like Asian cooking, the work here is all in the preparation of ingredients, such as chopping. Cooking is simple.

SPICES:

Salt to taste - maybe 1 Teaspoon (if you do not used canned stock which is already salty)
1 Teaspoon freshly-ground Black Pepper
1 Teaspoon ground Tumeric
2 Teaspoons ground Cumin
1/4 Teasoon ground Ginger/ or better, a little grated fresh
1 Teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1 Bay leaf (may be omitted)
Ideally a Pinch of Saffron - so expensive, I often do not use

NOTE:

The above spice mix is characteristic of Morocco - it may be used for roasting vegetables, too. You may increase proportionately if you like even stronger spicing.

VEGETABLES & MEAT:

2 19oz. Cans of Red (or green) Lentils. You start with dried, but there is little advantage once you've prepared and soaked.

4 Cups fresh Chicken Stock/ or 2 condensed cans diluted. If you want a thinner soup, use more. For vegetarian version see NOTE under Meat.

1 Can crushed Roma Tomatoes (buy whole and crush with potato masher).

1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste

About 1 Pound of hunks of lamb/ pork/ or chicken lightly sauteed Use inexpensive cut of lamb. You may have meats in chunks or slices or whole pieces of sauteed chicken.

NOTE: Skip meat and substitute vegetable stock for vegetarian version of soup.

Fresh Cilantro (if available) - Don't cook, chop up & sprinkle on finished soup. Also
good without.

2 Onions - chopped

4 Cloves Garlic - chopped

4 or 5 Stalks of Celery - chopped into thickish slices

1 Red Sweet Pepper - chopped into chucks

Lemon zest from half a lemon

OPTIONS:

1 or 2 Potatoes - diced and put in with vegetables.

1 Lemon - sliced very thin & sauteed lightly for relish on top of soup when served.

Croutons - made of baguette style bread, buttered and baked at 350 until lightly gold.

A Cup or Two of Couscous, cooked separately, and stirred in at finish.

EASY DIRECTIONS:

Put stock and tomatoes and spices including zest in a soup pot to simmer. Sautee onions, garlic, pepper, celery and tip into simmering stock mix.

Sautee meat just until browned very lightly and tip into stock mix. If using whole pieces of chicken, brown each nicely. Simmer the whole thing at least half an hour - I prefer a longer time to blend flavors.

Take a couple of ladles before serving and buzz in blender, returning to soup. Leave most of soup ingredients whole. This step not necessary, but nice for a thicker broth.

Serve with cilantro, thin lemon slices, and/or croutons. Warm pita is an excellent accompaniment.

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