Lentils have been around for thousands of years. There are many references to lentils in the Bible and they have been found in Egyptian tombs. Like other legumes you can cook and serve lentils whole, but they are also great pureed into in soups and sauces. Because they are so tiny, dried red lentils don't have to be soaked overnight like other legumes. It is a good idea to rinse them well because they contain a lot of dust and dirt.
2-3 teaspoons bacon seasoning (grease)
2 1/3 cups diced onion
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup diced carrots
2 cups diced celery
16 ounces lentils, rinsed well
8 cups vegetable broth
2 teaspoons salt, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper, or more to taste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup heavy whipping cream or half-and-half
Red pepper flakes, optional
Cheddar cheese, for topping, optional
Crumbled cooked bacon, for topping, optional
In a medium-size skillet sauté onion, garlic, carrots and celery in the bacon seasoning (grease) for about 3-5 minutes, until garlic and onion are translucent. With a slotted spoon, remove vegetables from skillet and place in crockpot. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well. Cook on low 7-8 hours.
When ready to serve, stir soup and remove 2 cups and set aside. Let the remaining lentil soup cool somewhat, then puree in a blender working in 2 or 3 batches to avoid an explosive mess. Plus, if you put something too hot into a blender you may crack it.
Place blended soup into a stockpot while blending the rest of the soup in the crockpot. When all of the soup has been pureed, add the soup that has been set aside. Add cream or half-and-half and gently re-heat soup on low. When heated, ladle soup into bowls. Sprinkle with a tiny pinch of thyme, red pepper flakes and top with cheese and bacon, if using.
Serves 8 to 12, depending on size of bowl.
Note: You can also use an immersion blender to puree soup. This soup freezes well.
Note: You can add 1pound of cubed ham or 6 to 8 slices of cooked, crumbled bacon into soup after you have pureed it before you have re-heated it.