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Red Lentil 'Peasant' Soup With Sizzling Mint Butter

Red Lentil 'Peasant' Soup With Sizzling Mint Butter
T. Susan Chang for NPR /

An unadorned lentil soup, for all its earthy goodness, can be bland. In this one, adapted from Turquoise by Greg and Lucy Malouf (Chronicle 2008), finely diced tomato and bulgur give the soup texture and dimension. However, it's the sweet and dark tones of cumin and paprika, combined with the mint butter, that really make it memorable to taste — though, like most lentil soups, probably not to look at.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, finely diced

1 carrot, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon hot paprika

1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1 tablespoon tomato paste

7 ounces red lentils

1 1/2 quarts chicken stock

1/4 cup fine bulgur

1 ripe tomato, cut into quarters and seeded

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 ounces unsalted butter

1 teaspoon dried mint

Lemon wedges for serving

Heat the oil over low heat in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Stir the onion, carrot and garlic around in the hot oil, then add the cumin, hot paprika and 1 teaspoon of the sweet paprika, and saute for 5 to 8 minutes, until the vegetables soften.

Stir in the tomato paste and cook for a minute. Add the lentils and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring from time to time.

When the lentils have broken down and become creamy, add the bulgur. Dice the tomato finely, then add to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and simmer for 10 minutes.

When ready to serve, ladle the soup into warmed serving bowls. Quickly heat the butter in a small frying pan until it foams, then add the remaining sweet paprika and the dried mint. Swirl the sizzling butter into each bowl of soup and serve with wedges of lemon.

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