Great Lent has started, which for us Greek Orthodox means we basically eat a vegan diet from now until Easter Sunday. Its one of the reasons the people of Greece live so long. The first day of Lent is called Clean Monday, and the traditional dish served for the evening meal is lentil soup. Believe me, nothing makes you feel cleaner than a bowl of lentil soup for dinner.
This Lenten concept of cleansing the body while strengthening the spirit is ancient (we’ve been doing it for about 1600 years) and uplifting. We develop gratitude for each meal and each delicious plant that grows here to nourish us.
In honor of Great Lent, here’s a recipe for traditional Greek Lentil Soup for you. It’s good for you, and nothing helps us feel full while we lose the winter weight like lentil soup for dinner.
Greek Lentil Soup (Lenten)
This soup is traditionally served during Lent and on Fridays in many Greek households. It is warm, filling and comforting. Do not skip the vinegar or lemon juice at the end – you need it to brighten the flavor.
1 pound dried lentils (brown or green)
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
2 large stalks celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 Tbs tomato paste (I use the kind in the tube)
½ – 1 tsp dried oregano
1 bay leaf
2 quarts water
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
3 Tbs red wine vinegar or lemon juice
Rinse lentils in cold water and drain them, they don’t need to be soaked overnight.
Heat olive oil in your soup pot, over medium heat. Add onions, celery, and carrot and saute until soft. Add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds or so, until you can smell it. Then add tomato paste, oregano and bay leaf, cook until tomato paste darkens a little.
Add lentils and stir to coat with the vegetables and tomato paste. Then add water and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cook, loosely covered, for about 30 minutes, then add about ½ tsp salt. Simmer for another 15 minutes or so, until lentils are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Stir in vinegar or lemon juice before serving; you can also have everyone add their own vinegar / lemon juice at the table.