Tunisian lentil soup with chicken
If where you live is anything like Seattle at this time of year, a warm, delicious cup of soup will be much appreciated!
Soup plays an important role in Tunisian cuisine, especially during the month of Ramadan, when the fast is often broken with a bowl of chorba. For our first soup recipe here on Our Tunisian Table, we chose a lentil one. Hearty, healthy, and satisfying, it's a staple that should be in every cook's repertoire. Of course, there are many variations of this dish, but as you may have guessed, the Tunisian version incorporates a bit more tomato and spice! We love this soup because it is a great stand-alone meal as it has everything you want-- vegetables, legumes, protein, spice, and of course--amazing flavor. That being said, it also works nicely as a first course to a larger meal.
RECIPE FOR TUNISIAN LENTIL SOUP WITH CHICKEN
Vegetable oil (enough to cover bottom of pot)
1 medium onion chopped
1 heaping tablespoon coriander powder
5-6 cloves of garlic
1 heaping tablespoon paprika
1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt (1/2- 1 teaspoon)
Black pepper (to taste)
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
Meat or chicken (1-2 cups)
1 cup of green lentils
Celery (optional)- a few sticks cut into 2-3 inch pieces (feel free to use the parts with the leaves)
Note: You can add some fresh or frozen carrots to the soup as well.
First: Soak your lentils in water for half an hour. If you don't have time for this, you can put them in the soup without soaking, it will just take a bit longer to cook them.
Boil a medium size pot of water and turn down to simmer. Set aside for later.
Mash together your garlic and coriander in a mortar and pestle. (You can add a little salt to help mash it, keeping in mind it will add to the saltiness of the dish.)
In a large pot, put enough vegetable oil to fully cover the bottom of the pot. Over medium to medium-high heat, saute your onions until they are translucent. Then add your garlic/coriander mix, tomato paste, salt, black pepper, paprika, and cayenne and saute for a few minutes. (If it starts to stick, add a little water.)
Add your meat or chicken and saute it until the outside sears a little bit and it's not leaking juices anymore (a few minutes). Keep stirring so it doesn't stick.
Add enough water to fully cover all the meat. You can add more than that at this point or later, since it's soup and you will be adding lentils. If you are using celery, add it at this step. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn to low heat.
Cook until the meat or chicken starts to get tender and is about 30 minutes away from being done. Keeping checking it and stirring every 10 minutes or so, and add water if it gets too thick or doesn't look like enough liquid.
When the meat is about 30 minutes away from being done, add your lentils. Continue to stir every once in awhile. Taste the lentils for softness which will indicate that the soup is done. (Our pre-soaked lentils took about 30-40 minutes to cook in the soup.)
Taste for salt and adjust as needed. Turn the pot off when the lentils are tender. Serve with bread and enjoy!