Saffron Lentil Soup

February 21, 2011



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It’s been too long. I am supposed to be doing something else right now, but I just discovered that that feeling never goes away. So if I don’t do this right now, I might not write anything until May 14th. And that would be a waste of many months.

It’s been tough in most places this winter, and these are the cold doldrums. In lots of cities, there are heaps of hardening, sandy snow. We don’t have that in H-town, but I did have a snow day a few weeks back. Nothing fell from the sky, but there were icicles on my window. It was so nice to have that front come. I even saw a frozen puddle. ¬†While it was cold I made lentil soup and wished I lived in one of those snowy cities.


I haven’t experimented nearly enough with lentils. They seem so humble: tiny little things, typically brownish green, easily mushed. To be honest, beans tend to get away from me all together, unless they come from a can. The soaking process is too technical, I guess. Beans always lose their skins in my pots.

But not lentils! They don’t even need to soak at all. And it’s perfectly ok (actually delightful) if they come apart in a soup. This is helpful for someone who tries at all times to keep one eye on the Constitution while cooking. Tonight, I got spaghetti sauce on my Amendments. I marked due process (from the Fourteenth) with a splattering of red.

In fact, I was learning spending powers on my snow day. I rolled out of bed at 7 to a crystalized pane, had a bowl of oats, and finished a paper (we had to write a snow day paper!) by 11. I made this pot in time for lunch… and it made my Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. I wish I’d saved some to freeze, but I was greedy.


The soup is adapted from 101 Cookbooks, where it’s called, “Lively Up Yourself Lentil Soup.” It does that. Especially if you add a little bit of sausage. Whole Foods has a wonderful spicy chicken link that tastes like it should be from a much bigger, mammalian animal. If you’re picking that up, I recommend grabbing a loaf of Seeduction bread. I flirted with seeds and soup until the Texas weather warmed up, and when it did, I missed winter.¬†Some day, I will make heaping pots of hot soup and snowshoe across my favorite bridge. I’ll hike my way to a pot of coffee at the Dirt Cowboy and enjoy a cold nose and the static of a wool hat. But I’ll remember that this soup first came alive for me in Houston.

Saffron Lentil Soup

2 cups lentils, rinsed, rocks removed

1 T olive oil or butter

1 large, white onion, chopped

A 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes

2 cups water

3 cups spinach

A pinch of saffron

1 spicy chicken sausage (or otherwise)

1/4 c grated, hard cheese for serving (I like Peccorino)


Place about 6 c of water in a sauce pan and bring lentils to a boil.

Cook about 20 minutes, or until tender and drain.

Bring a bit of boiling water to a boil and soak saffron threads, set aside.

Heat oil or butter in a large pot, and saute the onion, adding the chicken sausage as the onion begins to brown.

When the onion and sausage are browned, add the tomatoes, lentils, saffron broth and 2 c of water and bring to a simmer.

After the soup has reduced a bit, add the spinach.

Serve warm with a sprinkling of cheese and good bread.

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