Lentil soup is a popular dish in Israel (and Middle East too), and it has many variations. The recipe always begins with fried onions, but other additions differ from community to community.
Israelis of Moroccan descent consider chopped cilantro (coriander) leaves essential. Eastern Europeans often add sausage or smoked meat to their lentil soup. Some Israelis add a little lemon to make it perfect. Others add thin egg noodles, or beet stems to make it green.
Orange lentils dissolve during cooking. Brown and green lentils maintain their shape, and can be ground as well. As a rule, the fresher the lentil, the better flavor it has and the less swelling it causes in the stomach. Add salt only at the end of cooking; salt tends to prevent beans and lentils from softening.
This is one of the many reasons why so many women are looking so critical when they buy something from a shop or market and they indeed do have a point. If you like to visit an Israeli market and you rent an apartment and buy vegetables for the evening’s dinner, please do the same.
In Genesis (25:29-32), Esau sold his biblical birthright in exchange for lentil soup. Which recipe was it? Here is one Israeli version.
- 1 lb (500 g) brown or orange lentils
- 1 large or 2 medium onions
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 2-4 beef marrow bones (optional )
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- Ground black pepper
- Salt or beef bouillon (stock cube)
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika, turmeric, and/or cumin (optional)
- 1 bunch cilantro (coriander), parsley, or celery leaves, chopped
- Fresh lemon wedges
- Toast or sliced baguette
- Pick the lentils over carefully; there is always a danger of small, tooth-breaking stones.
- Cover them with water and soak for 3 or 4 hours. Drain.
- In the bottom of a large soup pot, saute the onions until soft and then add the garlic.
- Continue to saute for another minute and then add the lentils, bone marrow, celery, and 6 or 7 cups (1.5 to 1.75 liters) water.
- Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for about 1 ½ hours until the lentils are soft.
- Add salt or a bouillon cube and add some ground black pepper to taste.
- Add paprika, turmeric, or cumin, as desired.
- Cook for a few minutes longer, taste for seasoning, and add more salt if necessary.
- The soup can also be blended before seasoning to make a velvety puree.
- To serve, ladle the soup into bowls.
- Sprinkle the chopped cilantro (coriander), parsley, or celery leaves on top and place a lemon wedge on the edge of the soup plate.
- Accompany with a slice of toast on which to spread the bone marrow.
- If bone marrow is not used, the toast can be rubbed with half a clove of garlic and drizzled with olive oil.
- Alternatively, the toast may be placed on the bottom of each bowl and the soup poured over it.
So, if you think that how anyone could sell his biblical birthright in exchange for lentil soup is foolish, I want to know what your opinion is after you tasted this soup. It’s truly heavily. If you’re a tourist, and you taste this soup and go home, take this recipe and save it somewhere, so you can always try to make this soup as good as you’ve tasted here in Israel.
Historically, the recipe for this soup is already old, ancient even. A strong indicator of the age of this recipe is the reference of the soup in the bible, not? One of the few references to any type of recipe by he way.
Variations of this soup are of course many, but what variation will work for you the best is something, which is personal. I personally like the rich soups with loads of meat. Others do like the smooth texture of a soup and others something in the middle. My wife likes the spicy variant and I love the sweet variant of the soup.