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Tajik Green Lentil and Rice Soup

Tajik Green Lentil and Rice Soup

Closely adapted from Caroline Eden and Eleanor Ford. Be sure to use vegetarian stock for a vegetarian soup--I almost always prefer chicken stock so that is my first choice here.

Course Entree, Soup
Cuisine Central Asian, Tajik

Ingredients

  • 2-3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 t cumin seeds
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • salt to taste
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • 1/2 t ground allspice
  • 4 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 3/4 cup brown rice (I used a long grain rice, like brown Basmati)
  • 1 cup green or brown lentils*
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4-5 cups vegetable or chicken stock (use vegetable for a vegetarian soup)
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

For garnishes:

  • crumbled goat cheese
  • herb paste, see below
  • lemon wedges

Instructions

  1. Heat a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil and then add the cumin seeds. Roast until they darken and are fragrant, about 1 minute. 

  2. Add the onions, celery and carrot with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and the onions are translucent, about 7 minutes.

  3. Add the garlic and allspice and cook 1-2 minutes, stirring to incorporate. 

  4. Add the tomatoes with a pinch of salt. Stir and bring to a brisk simmer. Let simmer and thicken for 5 minutes.

  5. Mix in the bay leaves, rice and lentils. 

  6. Add the stock and bring to a boil. The original recipe calls for adding hot water at the end to thin the soup, but I prefer not to add unflavored water to a dish and dilute it. We enjoyed it thick, but if you want it soupier, add more stock. If you are using unsalted stock, add a hefty pinch of salt; if you are using commercial stock, wait to taste the dish at the end for salt.

  7. After bringing to a boil, cover the pot and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for 20-30 minutes, or until rice and lentils are tender (time will depend on type and age of rice and lentils). 

  8. I made the herb paste while the soup was simmering (see below).

  9. When the rice and lentils are tender you may add some hot water to make the dish soupier. I chose not to. Taste for salt and freshly ground black pepper and add as needed.

  10. Serve hot, garnished with herb paste, crumbled goat cheese and lemon wedges.

Recipe Notes

*I used lentils du puy, which are always my first choice for green lentils. As a result, my soup was much, well, greener than the soup in the book and some others I have seen on the web. If you use brown lentils, your soup will be more tomato colored.