If you grew up in a Pakistani household like myself, you probably know that one of the quintessential lunch fares would be a steaming bowl of daal chawal or lentils and rice. On the side, my mother would prepare a roughly chopped up salad consisting of cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and fresh mint from the backyard. A generous squeeze of lemon, some salt and pepper, and it would make a lovely accompaniment to the lentils. There are several different kinds of lentils, but the ones I’m talking about here are split red lentils or masoor daal – slow cooked with minced ginger and garlic, tomatoes, spices, and tamarind – it was heavenly. And if that doesn’t sound good enough, the creamy lentils would be topped off with aromatics in hot oil (tarka) to amp the flavor.
You’re probably wondering what this bit is doing in a post about Moroccan beef and lentil soup. Well, truth is, I was just reminded of my childhood and the way we make lentils back home and I just wanted to share that with you guys. This Moroccan soup has all the complexities of flavor my Pakistani palate is familiar with, and is an homage to all the creative things my mum would do with lentils. Soups, stews, you name it – my mum would experiment and try new things all the time. So here’s my attempt at being creative with lentils and turning a pantry staple into a wholesome, comforting bowl of hot soup.
The heart of this soup lies in a good blend of lentils, meat, and vegetables. If you’re vegetarian, feel free to skip the meat – it’s absolutely delicious even without it. I was inspired by a fridge-clearing lentil soup recipe on The Kitchn and couldn’t wait to make my own tweaks to it (I simply cannot follow a recipe to the dot, it just doesn’t happen!). By the time I was done with my adjustments, I realized I had arrived at a completely different flavor profile! My soup was more Moroccan inspired with the addition of rich, intense spices and the choice of vegetables.
I started off with soaking about a cup and a half of whole black lentils (you can also use green) for about 2-3 hours. The longer you soak them, the quicker they cook because they absorb water during the process which speeds up cook time. Next, I chose my spices to season the beef with – cumin powder, coriander powder, red chili flakes, paprika powder, cinnamon powder, and turmeric powder. For the vegetables I chose chopped carrots, red bell peppers, onions, and baby spinach. Go ahead and switch out these with similar vegetables – it’s nice to have a mix of hard vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, carrots etc) and leafy greens (spinach, kale, bok choy). For the broth we’re using vegetable stock and canned tomatoes (a combination of fire roasted and regular). I made this soup at the cooking class I taught with Little Spice Jar, and someone asked me why I used canned tomatoes and not fresh – my answer was, I find canned tomatoes more intense in flavor and you know the flavor will be consistent, whereas with fresh tomatoes, different varieties can have slightly different flavors.
Cooked for about 30 minutes, this Moroccan beef and lentil soup is nutritious, flavorful, and absolutely lovely for lunch or dinner, all year round. Serve it hot with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt, a sprinkling of chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon. Add a hunk of good, crusty bread on the side, and you’re going to thank me for life :)
Here are some pictures followed by the recipe. Enjoy!
Moroccan Inspired Lentil & Beef Soup
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- ½ tsp dried red chili flakes
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- ¼ tsp cinnamon powder
- 2-3 dried bay leaves
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 large onion, chopped (any color)
- 11/2 cups green/black lentils, washed and soaked for about 2 hours
- 11/2 cups chopped carrots
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 2 cups baby spinach, packed
- ½ can crushed fire roasted tomatoes
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 4-6 cups vegetable/chicken stock
- Juice of one lemon
- Heat the oil over medium heat in a 6 qt dutch oven and sauté the onions for about 2 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic and ground beef and cook until the beef is brown all over. About 3 minutes. Add all the dry spices (cumin, coriander, chili flakes, turmeric and bay leaves) Stir to coat and fry for another couple of minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Toss in the washed and soaked lentils, tomatoes, and enough stock to cover the ingredients. Cover and simmer.
- After about 15 minutes, add in the carrots. Check every ten minutes or so and give it a stir. Add more stock if needed.
- Add in the leafy greens and red bell pepper when the lentils and carrots are tender and cooked through. The carrots should be tender but not mushy.
- Total cook time should be around 30-40 mins. Serve hot with chopped parsley and a dollop of sour cream or yogurt and good crusty bread on the side.
This recipe can be made vegetarian by removing the meat. Additionally, the ground beef can be substituted with equal amounts of ground chicken, lamb, or turkey.
Until next time!
– Fariha ♥