It’s winter, and that means plenty of soups at our place.
I wish I could say that there isn’t a soup I’ve met that I didn’t like. But that was not always the case. When we were kids, my sister and I each had our favourite soups. And yes, the one that each of us detested was the other one’s favourite! So my poor mum, if she announced that beef barley soup was on the menu, she knew that I would rather go to the dentist than show up for dinner. And if lentil soup was being served, my sister would have rather gone without dinner at all. Not that my mum would have allowed that! So, my mum was usually forced to make both soups in the same week, just to placate the kids!
These days I can actually say that I do like beef barley soup. I think it was a texture thing for me (isn’t it usually a texture thing for most of us?) I just didn’t like the glue-y nature that barley took on once cooked up. But I’m over that now.
But my love of lentil soup has never wavered (and I am sure that my sister has now come over to the lentil side as well!) One of our favourite summery soups is my Moroccan Tomato Lentil Soup, made with red lentils (they cook up so quick and easy, a breeze to work with) So I guess it was time for me to share our favourite winter lentil soup, this Lentil, Sausage and Kale Soup. It is totally like the soup that my mum would make. Plenty of carrots, celery, onions, lentils, and herbs. She didn’t regularly add meat, but it did show up sometimes. Back then she probably didn’t add kale, but maybe Swiss chard or spinach would make it’s way in.
Making a good soup starts with a good stock. And how do you make the perfect stock for a soup like this one? Follow my New You Bone Broth, and you’ll get hooked to making stock once a month, I promise! The initial prep and cooking may take some time, since I recommend a good 12-16 hours on the stove, to get all the nutrients and flavours from the bones, meat, veggies and aromatics. But if you make enough, you’ll have plenty for soups and drinking. And winter is the best time to make stock: you can store the strained stock outside on the balcony to cool down till it is ready to be put into smaller containers for freezing etc. I find making stock one of the most therapeutic activities in the kitchen- yes, I get giddy when I know I am going to make up a batch of stock. I’m a geek.
Now, if you don’t have fresh or frozen stock on hand when you suddenly get the craving for this soup, don’t despair. A carton of good, organic low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock will totally work. What if you have a carton, but it isn’t enough for the amount of soup you want to make? Then you can turn to my trusty Faux Chicken Bouillon Powder. It is totally natural, vegan approved, and actually tastes like chicken stock when you add it to hot water. The base of this powder is nutritional yeast. To it, all sorts of dried herbs and aromatics are added. When they are whizzed together in a food processor or small blender, you will be surprised how much it smells like chicken soup! I’m not encouraging you to make all your soups with this- but it sure comes in handy when you need one cup or so of chicken stock for a recipe. It also comes in handy if you are cooking for a group, but maybe only a few or one is eating vegan. The flavours will make everyone happy, and no one will be the wiser. But maybe tell the vegan eater that it is safe! 😉
This soup uses brown lentils. If you only have green ones around, they will work just fine as well. Both take about the same time to become tender, so it really won’t affect the cooking time or flavour. You can totally leave out the sausage (I usually use a turkey kielbasa) and the soup will still be substantial. Or maybe try another dry cured sausage or even a plant based cooked sausage. It is a classic addition to this french style soup, and one that my mum would add- she did study french cooking! But why not add shredded cooked chicken or turkey if you have it on hand?
Vegetarian or Vegan Option: As I mentioned above, swap out vegetable stock for the chicken stock, or use the Faux Chicken Bouillon Powder for your base. Leave out the sausage and add extra veggies. This soup will still be amazingly hearty and flavourful.
One of the critical components of this soup is the acid. Red wine (or red wine vinegar) is added towards the end of the cooking time. Lentils and acid really work well together- something in their DNA designed them to be best friends. Even at eight years old, I couldn’t have my lentil soup without lots of vinegar in it. My mum always had to place the vinegar bottle on the table. And obviously at eight, I couldn’t tell you why it was needed, but I just knew it was! These days, if we are eating out at our favourite Greek restaurant, the staff know me well enough to add SEVERAL slices of lemon on the side of the bowl of fakes soup I love to order. I will use all the lemon juice I can- it just brightens a lentil soup perfectly. So don’t hesitate to add the amount of wine it calls for. And have that bottle of red wine vinegar on the table for adding later on!
This hearty soup is everything you want a winter soup to be: cozy, tasty, but not too heavy. It will keep you energized but not weigh you down. It is easy to make for a crowd, and leftovers warm up wonderfully. All the veggies in it make it super healthy, and make up for some of the carbs that we’ve been indulging in already this winter season. Add a slice of crusty sourdough, and you’ll be set. Keep warm everyone!
Lentil, Sausage and Kale Soup
A hearty, winter soup that comes together easily. Brown lentils and kielbasa are the protein, and the soup is loaded with veggies, including fresh kale added at the very end. And the unsung star is the red wine!
- 1/2 pound or 1 1/4 cups of brown lentils green lentils will also work
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cups yellow or white onion diced
- 1 large leek sliced into half moons (use only the white and light green parts, clean between the layers if needed)
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp fresh cracked pepper
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 1/2 cups carrots diced
- 1 1/2 cups celery diced
- 6 cups of chicken stock see notes
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 pound turkey kielbasa or dry cured sausage of choice cut into bite sized pieces
- 3-4 tbsp dry red wine or red wine vinegar
- 2 cups lacinato kale chopped
- red wine vinegar or fresh lemon for serving
Wash, and rinse the lentils in a sieve.
Place the lentils into a medium sized bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit for 15 minutes and then drain. Set aside
In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, leeks, salt, pepper, cumin and thyme and sauté until softened, about 15 minutes.
Add the carrots and celery, sauté another 8 minutes or so.
Add the stock, the tomato paste and the drained lentils.
Cover and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for about 45 minutes or so, until the lentils are cooked through and tender. Test by eating one 😉
Taste for seasoning. Adjust if necessary.
Add the kielbasa and red wine or vinegar. Cook for about another 8-10 minutes, or until the sausage is warmed through. If you find the soup a little thick, you can add more stock, or a quick blend of my Faux Chicken Bouillon powder and hot water (see notes below) If you do add more liquid, add more red wine as well! Taste for flavour- you want to notice that bit of bright tang that will come from the wine or vinegar.
Add the kale and stir. Simmer until kale has softened, about 2 minutes.
Serve with extra vinegar or lemon wedges on the side. It really does make a difference!