Red Lentil Cabbage Soup is intentionally simple, made without cluttering seasonings or broth. Even better a package of red lentils are perfect for bean lovers because they don’t require any soaking and cook more quickly than any other dried legume. They’re so small that they’ll always turn to mush, so you don’t have to fret about over cooking them. Red lentils are a gorgeous coral red color when dry that do turn a slightly disappointing deep yellow during cooking. But forget about the color because they taste great. The thick, creamy “bean broth” provides a nice backdrop to chunky vegetables like the carrots and cabbage used here.
That said about keeping it simple, a little seasoning would be great like stirring in a spoonful from of one of those Indian vegetable curry seasoning packets, adding a teaspoon of turmeric to further brighten the soup, toasting a tablespoon of cumin seeds with the oil while sauteing the onion, adding a tablespoon of fresh chopped ginger to the onion mix, or just add a little curry powder. All these seasonings are optional, but don’t leave out the lemon juice. The soup needs a little acidic kick in the pants just like black bean soup and borscht. Chicken broth instead of water works, too. Vegetable broth would probably be a waste of effort and money as aromatic onions, celery and garlic are doing a fine job flavoring the soup. And then the garnishes…not necessary, but fun. So much for keeping it simple.
- 1 large onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 2 medium ribs celery (include the leaves), chopped
- ¼ cup vegetable or olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups dried split red lentils or yellow split peas, rinsed
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
- 8 cups water
- 1/2 medium head green cabbage, thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
- Juice of one lemon, plus lemon wedges for garnish and serving on the table
- Salt, to taste
- Cayenne pepper, to taste
- Juice of one lemon, or more to taste
- Garnish with lemon slices, Indian coriander chutney, fresh chopped cilantro, green onion slices, fresh Serrano or jalapeno slices, or plain yogurt, optional
- Sauté the onions and celery in the oil in a large pot until the onions are limp and lightly browned. Stir in the garlic. Cook 2 minutes longer over medium heat.
- Add the lentils, carrots and 8 cups of water.
- Simmer the soup until the lentils are soft, about 40 minutes.
- Add the cabbage and continue to simmer until the cabbage is soft, about 15 minutes.
- Add additional water, if the soup seems too thick. Season with salt and cayenne pepper, to taste. Add the lemon juice. Serve with the garnishes, optional.