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Cooking with mum: Lentil Soup

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Lentils and I have had a love/hate relationship over the years, much like most daughters, including myself, have with their mother. As with my mother Carmela, I used to struggle to get along with lentils as a kid. Maybe there was something about how wholesome they were that turned me off, or maybe Mum has just improved her recipe over the years. They say your taste buds ‘mature’ as you get older too, causing you to enjoy new flavours. I reckon there’s definitely some truth to that too.

Mum would often make this soup during winter, cooking up big batches of it so we would be able to have it as a quick meal during the week. It would often form part of a larger meal (usually with chicken or veal cotolette (snitzel) and salad – an upcoming post) and I would always try to bypass the lentils in favour of the rest of the meal.

However, as an adult I’ve grown to love this meal and now cook up my own batches of it so Matthew and I can take it to work for lunch each day. It’s exceptionally easy to make, freezes really well and is one of the healthiest meals in my repertoire. It’s also very, very satisfying – one of those really hearty soups.

Now, Mum used to soak the dried lentils overnight but I think you can definitely get by doing things this way, or even using tinned lentils if you’re really pressed for time. I’m sure Mum won’t mind me saying that.

And now that I’m older, not only do I make Mum’s soup and appreciate it more, I appreciate her more too.

Mum’s Italian Lentil Soup (Zuppa Lenticchie)

  • 375g dried green lentils
  • Olive oil
  • 2 small potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 regular carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 4 celery stalks, trimmed and diced
  • 400g tinned tomatoes
  • ½ red capsicum, diced
  • ½ green capsicum, diced
  • 1L chicken stock
  • 1tbs ground cumin or curry powder (optional)
  • 1tbs chilli flakes (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Extra water if needed
  • Lots of fresh parsley


Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and lentils and sautee until the lentils are well coated and the onions begin to soften.

Add the stock and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and allow the lentils to simmer by themselves, lid ajar, for about 15 minutes.

Add all the other ingredients, except the parsley, and bring back to the boil. Turn the heat back down and simmer for up to two hours, allowing the ingredients to soften and the flavours to intensify. Remember to stir occasionally and add water as required.

Add parsley at the very end and stir through. Serve with extra olive oil drizzled on the top, cracked pepper and some crusty bread.

Don’t forget to keep the scraps for the compost!

Next Monday, I’ll post another of Mum’s recipes, a Sour Cream and Pecan Cake baked with love for my   Aunty Josie’s 50th birthday.

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