Cream of red lentil soup and how to make perfect cream soup

Cream of red lentils
preparation time: 30-40 minutes

What do you need for 3 servings ?
1 cup red lentils
1 carrot, cut into small pieces
1/2 onion, diced
a piece of leek, diced
4 cups of water
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 teaspoons sweet paprika
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter/can be replaced with olive oil

What now?
1. Sweat onions and garlic on olive oil.
2. When they are soft add the sweet peppers. Wait until release its aroma and immediately add lentils and carrots.
3. Pour 4 glasses of water and cook about 20 minutes until everything is tender . Season to taste.
4. Put everything into a blender – if the soup is too thick add boiled water. Mix at high speed, add the butter and mix until smooth. If you are using a stick blender add fat gradually.
5. Before serving, season with lemon soup, sprinkle with olive oil and sprinkle with your additions: they may be croutons, grilled vegetables and everything else that comes into your head.

 

Some BACKGROUND!
While browsing photos of dishes prepared by professional chefs, I always wondered how they manage to achieve the perfect consistency of cream soup. Images suggested that their dishes are not only delicious. They depicted something more – the unrivaled smoothness expressed in the silky texture of the cream. Just look at it.

źródło: seriouseats.com

This cream is so smooth, light and fluffy, that sometimes resembles foam. Who faced making the vegetable soups know that the process of mixing is only half of the battle. The devil is always in the details, or, in the case of cooking – in chemistry.  We can get a smooth texture by number of ways. Commonly used for this purpose, a cream, which breaks intense taste of vegetables, is not the healthiest chouse. We may also use the cheese, which in contact with the hot fluid create a delicious texture.

How to create the perfect cream out of nothing?

STEP I

***
Prepare your main ingredient. 
This can be any vegetable or grain, such as lentils or chickpeas. Washed and cut into small pieces – the smaller, the faster they will cook.
Some vegetables require pre-cooking, which will emphasize and bring out their full flavor. Best for it is grilling or stir-frying. It goes well for plants with a deep, sweet taste like pumpkin, sweet potatoes, cauliflower or broccoli.

HOW TO DO IT? 
Cut the vegetables into small pieces, sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Lay off on the baking form covered with baking paper and bake at 180 C/ 375F until soft and slightly brown. 

The process breaks down the sugars, caramelize them, bringing out all the sweetness. Besides enzymatic reactions, which result in simple sugars are accelerated by heat.

For my soup I used red lentils and carrots.

 STEP II

***
What gives flavor to the the soup? Alliums – onion, garlic, leeks, shallots, spring onions – and spices. Vegetables such as onions or leeks will not dominate the taste of the whole soup, but only enrich it. Suitable spices will give the flavor. It is important to add them at this stage of cooking – so as tthey can dissolve in fat. Then unleash all its deep taste and lose their ” powder ” flavor.HOW TO DO IT ?
We have a choice of two techniques :

  • sweating –  cooking vegetables in fat over low heat, allowing you to get rid of excess water and breaks their cell structure to release the flavor and aroma.
  • browning – ie sweating on high heat, where after getting rid of excess water a process of caramelization starts releasing sweetness, which allows us to get sweeter and richer taste.

Typically, we think that the more is better, but the sweetness browned vegetables can dominate the main component leading to a bland and boring soup.

SPICES
Add them when the vegetables are soft – both the powdered spices (paprika, curry, ginger, turmeric, cumin … ) and various pastes (harissa, curry paste, tomato concentrate) – fat brings out their aroma and rich flavor . Because most of these products have been pre-cooked, just a few seconds of frying is enough. When the spices begin to smell – the process is finished.

To my cream I sweated onion and leek in olive oil. Then I added red pepper and garlic.

STEP III
***
Choosing the right liquid can affect the final result .

  • broth – preferably homemade. Its mild , neutral flavor enrich the aroma of the soup and is not dominating it.
  • vegetable juice – if you want to emphasize your main component or enrich the soup flavor with a new flavor notes it is the best choice.
  • dairy products – milk or buttermilk will give a smooth texture and a milder flavor, which will work with the very intense vegetables like broccoli and tomatoes.
  • water – works great when you have nothing else at hand.

HOW TO DO IT ?
Do not use too much liquid – just enough to cover the vegetables. If the soup comes too thick, you can always dilute it. Other way might be difficult.
Now just boil the vegetables until they become soft. While in the case of root vegetables overcooking will not affect much the final result,  broccoli , peas, asparagus and leafy vegetables should be removed from the fire immediately after cooking. Of course only if you care about intense color and a nice soup.

STEP IV
 
***
What kind of blender shall I use?

  • blender – will allow you to get the absolute smoothness due to the speed of rotation and vortex moves
  • hand blender – with a little patience and good will you are able to get a smooth consistency of soup, although it will no longer have absolute smoothness 🙂 

HOW TO DO IT? 

The most important part of this phase i fat added during mixing. It can be olive oil or butter, or any other oil which further enrich the taste. If your blender is an old one add the fat very slowly.


STEP V – THE LAST
***
Seasoning the soup at the final stage is extremely important – you never know if there is enough salt till you’ve tasted it in a final form. The best way to get all the taste is by adding acid. Because it is lost by heat while cooking,the best to add it at the end, just before serving. It works great with vegetable notes. You can use lemon or lime. To highlight the flavor also check vinegar or apple vinegar.What you put on top of your cream is equally important, not only for aesthetic reasons. Extras will create a whole flavor and will give the soup a distinct character.
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