Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lunch/Dinner: Brown Lentil Soup

As I noted in my lentil entry, there are two kinds of popular lentils in Egypt: brown and red. The red ones are more popular in a soup, but I grew up eating my mom's brown lentil soup, which is what today's recipe will be about.

This recipe is one that my mom learned from her mother. Sadly, I never got to meet her. Though I hear she was an amazing cook and this was one of her creations or embellishments. Although she grew up in Egypt, her part of the family can trace its roots to Lebanon; so it may have some influences from the levantine area, though I'm not too certain.

It's a soup that sits in you for days. It's so filling, and comforting and easy to make. My favourite spicing in this is the cinnamon stick. Like many people, I also have my own quirks, and of them is cooking smells. Though I love to cook, I hate smelling fried onions or heavy cooking. It's a weird thing. Anyhoo, while I was in undergrad, this was always my favourite soup to make because it would easily cut the smell of the onions in my apartment that were brought about by my italian-american roommate who made tomato sauce. Instead, the sweet and non-offensive smell of cinnamon would come wafting through the apartment. It was my secret victory.

As noted in my lentil entry, brown lentils are also known as Egyptian Lentils, since they likely originate from the area. These lentils do take longer to cook, and are not as good in making a mush-like soup, like the red ones. But they have a very particular flavour to them, which is why the cinnamon and garlic pair nicely with it. The best part of this soup is the boiled egg that you eat it with. Many people are often turned off by it, but don't be one of them; the egg adds a nice layer to the soup; though it's not necessary.

You can also add other vegetables to the soup if you want. In this recipe I've added a potato and some spinach.

Total Cooking Time (including preparation): 2 hours
Yield: 4 persons

1 onion
1 tablespoon of olive oil/butter
4 cloves of garlic
6 cups of water
1.5 cups of brown lentils
1 cinnamon stick


2 cups of uncooked spinach
1 or 2 potatoes

1. Dice onion and fry it with olive oil on high heat
2. When onions are soft, add lentils, garlic and water
3. Season with salt and pepper
4. Add cinnamon stick--if adding vegetables, add them now, unless it is spinach, which will be added later on
5. Cover and cook on low heat
6. After 1 hour, check on soup, if it needs more water add some
7. Consistency should not be too thick nor too soupy, adjust water for desired preference.
8. Taste a lentil, if it is cooked, turn off heat and add spinach.
9. Keep lid on until spinach has been fully cooked
10. If you like the flavour of cumin, you can also add a little at the end
11. Boil an egg to make it either soft or hard; depending on your preference
12. Serve peeled egg in a bowl of soup

I would also have a nice hunk of fresh bread with this. You'll see how one bowl is often filling enough. And with the perfect mix of textures and flavours, you'll find this one being a favourite; even amongst your italian pasta-cooking friends.


  1. sigh, i miss the days of the NFC and your lentil soup! a very fond undergrad memory annie! xox

  2. Do you typically eat it with a poached egg? My mom still cooks Red Lentil broth if the weather is cold or if she wants to cheer me up; comfort food at its best.