Lentil Soup with Yams

January 13, 2011

Good food is very important to me.  It’s not that I’m a picky eater, it is more that there are just soooo many foods I love to eat!  I have to admit though, sometimes I find it a challenge to fit in creative, inspired dishes especially during the busy week.  Did I mention I have two young kids?  That I work full-time?  So, I depend on a weekly meal plan.

At the end of each week, I dedicate a bit of time to write out dinner ideas for the following week.  There is a general formula I follow: 1 soup meal, 1 stir-fry meal, 1 salad meal, and pizza on Fridays.  The other meals are up to my whim.  Once I have the meals planned out, it is easy to construct my shopping list and take care of all the food shopping for the week in one trip out.  It is a relief to return home after a long day at work and know that I have a plan for dinner and all the ingredients required.

Another trick to serving inspired meals mid-week is doing a bit of prep on the weekend.  I find something as simple as chopping some veggies or making a sauce or other recipe element on the weekend can save me a significant amount of time on a weeknight. This last weekend, I went even further and made an entire pot of soup.  The soup’s flavors melded overnight and when I returned from work on Monday all I had to do was heat it up and make a salad.  (This worked out extremely well because I had a sick child too and no time or extra hands to cook with).  This week’s soup is Lentil Soup with Yams.

Lentils!  The gourmet soup powerhouse  disguised as humble peasant food.  How I love lentils.  This is surely the first of many lentil posts (don’t worry, I’ll bring them on slowly in consideration of any wary readers).  This soup calls for French lentils, which hold their shape much better after long cooking than their Indian counterparts.  The recipe is from Thomas Keller’s ad hoc at home.  He has a tremendous ability to take the simplest of ingredients and create something truly magical with them.  There is just a touch of curry powder that adds some background flavor, but the real stars are the yams and lentils.

I probably have no business adapting a recipe from such a culinary legend, but that is the fun of cooking, right?  I did only make some minor changes.  His soup calls for bacon.  I do love bacon (I dreamt of it through my 6 years as a vegetarian or vegan), but right now I’m feeling that just because something tastes better good with bacon, doesn’t necessarily mean that I should add it to every dish.  I also opted out of some of his suggested, no doubt superior, techniques including using a parchment lids for the veggies instead of the pot lid, and enclosing the herbs in a sachet.  Minutes matter to me in the kitchen, so I modified to make the preparation easier.  The result was delicious, so I hope that he would approve.

Lentil Soup with Yams

adapted from ad hoc at home, by Thomas Keller

Serves 6 as a main course

the Soup

3 Tablespoons canola oil

2 cups thinly sliced onions

2 cups coarsely chopped leeks

2 cups coarsely chopped carrots

1 1/2 teaspoon yellow curry powder


freshly ground pepper

2 bay leaves

1 1/2 pounds yams, peeled and diced

2 cups French lentils, stones picked out, rinsed

8 cups Chicken or Vegetable Stock (preferably home-made)

1-2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

the Garnish

cilantro leaves

lemon wedge

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add the carrots, onions, leeks, and curry powder.  Stir to coat in oil.  Season with salt, reduce heat to low, and cover.  Cook very slowly until vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, place the yams in a pot  with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 bay leaf.  Cover with cold water.  Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until just tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain and discard the bay leaf. (It may seem like a waste of a clean pot to cook the yams separately, but this technique ensures that the yams, star of this soup, do not overcook and turn to mush.  It is worth it.)

Add the lentils, other bay leaf, and stock to the softened veggies.  Bring to a simmer and simmer 30-40 minutes until lentils are tender.  Add the vinegar to taste, then the yams.  Heat soup through and season with salt and pepper.

Serve garnished with cilantro with lemon wedges on the side.  This soup reheats well.

Here is a printer-friendly version: Lentil Soup with Yams

You may also like:

Lentil Bulgur Salad with Feta and Mint


6 Responses to “Lentil Soup with Yams”

  1. Amy Zimmer Says:

    Hi Karen,

    You are amazing! the soup looks absolutely divine. It is really the photography that makes me swoon! Yams, your kids eat yams? I love yams! I must have missed that page in the parenting manuals. Only if they don’t know they are there would my kids eat them. Maybe I’ll try the submersible on the whole lot???

    • Karen Says:

      Yes, my kids eat yams. I lured them in with yam fries and the rest is history. Of course, there is no telling on any given day what they will actually eat, but mostly they like them. Good luck!

  2. Janice Says:

    Do you remember the game you created for school (6th grade?) called “The Busy Housewife”? Your hints make every moment count.

  3. Julie Ann Says:

    Hi Karen,
    Do you know if this soup cans well? I am trying to find good homemade soups that home canning works with, something other than chicken soup and beef stew. My family loves these two soups but they are tired of them being the only ones I can :-)

    • Karen Says:

      Julie Ann- this is a low-acid soup, so it would only be safe to can in a pressure canner. I recommend only using tested recipes when canning low acid foods. The soup does freeze well though.

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