The Spanish ‘Potaje de lentejas’ is one of many Mediterranean dishes where pulses are the highlight (see also the Chickpeas with Spinach). It’s a mix between a lentil soup and a stew, a traditional dish that is unfortunately mainly cooked in people’s homes and cannot be found that often on restaurant menus. This might be due to the believe that it is a simple dish which is not fancy enough to be eaten out. However, you can sometimes find it on lunch menus. But if it’s not a vegetarian place, it will most likely have some sort of meat. I have of course prepared a delicious recipe which is completely vegan!
As with most Spanish dishes, it all starts with a ‘sofrito’, a sauce that in this case is created by frying finely diced onion, garlic, green pepper and tomato. This boosts the flavour of the resulting soup, giving it is characteristic Mediterranean taste. This basic recipe also includes carrots, potatoes and red pepper. Additionally, you could add courgette, leek or green beans, to name a few. In this recipe I used brown lentils, which are small and cook relatively fast. You could also use other varieties (e.g. green lentils), but they might need soaking overnight.
The recipe is for at least six servings. When I cook lentils, I like to cook loads, to either freeze them or have some more on the following day. Lentil soups usually taste better the next day and that is why one of the best kept secrets is cooking them the day before consuming.
Spanish traditional lentil soup with a 'sofrito'
- 1 large white onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 8 tbs olive oil
- 1 large carrot
- 1 green pepper
- 4 tsp salt
- 2 ripe tomatoes
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 3 potatoes (roughly 600g)
- 1 red pepper (optional)
- 350 g brown lentils
- 2.5 l water
- 2 bay leaves
Peel and finely chop the onion. Peel and roughly chop the garlic.
Start preparing the ‘sofrito’ by purring the olive oil in a large pot and placing it over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and fry for about 5 minutes until soft, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, peel and finely chop the carrot, wash and finely chop the green pepper, and add both to the pot with 1 tsp salt. Fry for another 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat if necessary to avoid burning the food.
Wash or peel the tomatoes, roughly chop and add to the pot with the cumin, the paprika and the rest of the salt. Leave for an additional 8-10 minutes.
Peel and roughly chop the potatoes (you can cut pieces of about 4-5cm). Wash and roughly chop the red pepper. Add to the pot and leave for 2-3 minutes, stirring almost constantly.
Add the lentils, mix well for a minute and then add the water and the bay leaves. Bring to boil and simmer for 45-60 minutes, until all ingredients are soft.
Serve warm in a bowl with some bread on the side.
For extra flavour, you can break each garlic clove with a knife before chopping, or you can even leave it in big pieces. Lentils are ideal for freezing, just make sure you do not freeze the potatoes, since they do not taste good.