There is a Spanish saying, Lentejas, si quieres las comes y si no las dejas... which means, "Lentils, eat them if you want. If not, leave them." The Spanish generally use the expression for those times when you are obliged to do something. Although, it is also used when, if you do not take what you are offered, you will get nothing. The English equivalent is more blunt, and would probably be, "Take it or leave it." It's not hard to imagine that the saying started long ago when there was little else to eat; lentils were served day after day, and families probably grew tired of eating them.
Even though lentils are considered peasant food, and many peasant foods have fallen out of favor, if you mention lentejas to most Spaniards, they have fond memories of eating sopa de lentejas (lentil soup) as children, and still enjoy it.
The Spanish know that lentils are nutritious, taste great, and because they do not require soaking overnight, can be prepared in under an hour. So, it's no wonder they continue to be popular for winter soups and stews. Sauté the onions, garlic and potatoes, add lentils and simmer with spices. Add the rice, and the soup is ready. Serve as a meatless main course, or as a first course soup.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings
- .5 lb (250 gr) lentils
- 1 large yellow or white onion
- 1 large clove garlic
- 1 lb (454 gr) potatoes
- 1 bay leaf
- .25 lb (113 gr) rice
- 1 square beef bouillon cube
- olive oil
- parsley for garnish (optional)
Sort the lentils. Lentils do not need to be soaked overnight. Before cooking, spread lentils out on a towel or baking sheet and pick out any debris.
Prepare the vegetables. Peel and chop the onion and garlic. Peel and cut the potatoes into cubes. Pour 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil into a large, wide, heavy-bottom pot and heat. Sauté the vegetables until the onions are translucent.
Stir in the lentils, potatoes and bay leaf. Dissolve the beef bouillon cube in the water. (Omit the bouillon for a vegetarian dish.) Pour enough water into pot to cover the lentil mixture and bring to a boil. Once the water boils, reduce heat to a simmer and cook loosely covered for approximately 30-40 minutes, or until lentils are cooked and soft. (Cooking time for lentils can vary, so check the pot often.) Add more water as needed while lentils simmer.
While lentils are cooking, prepare the rice. Pour approximately 1.5 cups of water into a sauce pan. Heat to a boil and add rice. Reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered until rice is done, about 10 minutes.
Once rice is cooked, mix it into the lentils. Add additional water if needed to make more broth. Stir with a large spoon.
To serve, ladle into soup bowls. Decorate with chopped fresh parsley, if desired.
About's Guide to Home Cooking has Lentil Cooking Tips.