You know how it is when you find something you’ve been searching for a long time to get and then you find it and you use it and use it like it’s going out of style? Welcome to my life since one–just one–of the local grocery stores in Ploiești finally started to stock beluga lentils. Again.
One time, a long, long time ago, back when I still lived in the United States and had access to Food Network and all of my favorite professional chefs and cooks, I stumbled upon a recipe called Mulligatawny Stew (Enjoy my Southern Style Vegan Black Eyed Pea & Spinach Stew recipe). Now I’m not sure if the original or authentic version uses black lentils but this version did and I’ve been in love with them ever since. It’s a weird thing that happens, ya know? You don’t think about beluga lentils ever and then you have them and learn about them and now they’re all you think about.
I like to call it the red car effect. You don’t notice how many red cars there are on the road until someone tells you a piece of useless trivia about just how many there are, and now it’s like every other car is a red car.
Go figure, right?
Once again, welcome to beluga lentils.
Black lentils are the sturdiest of all the colors of lentils, even more so than the green ones which have a longer cook time and a more of a bite. they are delicious and because they are so hearty, they soak up more flavors which makes them absolutely perfect for soups and stews. So you already know, both by title and this super long intro, just what I did with them this time around.
Black Lentil & Barley Stew.
When it comes to making stew, as with most things in the kitchen, prep work is Queen. Rinse, dry and chop all of your ingredients so that you can add them to the stock pot when the times come. If you’re still chopping when it’s time to add it to the pot, you’ll end up with super mushy and extra crunchy bits and that’s no bueno for anyone, especially those who have to eat it.
My vegan soup ingredients is pretty simple, just the basic soup ingredients and the pickled relish I used as a garnish to add a bit of freshness during the cold winter months.
Keep in mind that this is a soup which means everything is cooked in one pot (give it up for one pot vegan meals), starting with the mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms until most of the water is gone, about fifteen minutes. Either remove them from the pot and cover, or keep cooking them with the onion, ginger, smoked tofu and carrots.
Cook until they just start to soften and then add kale for another five minutes.
Add water or waste free broth to the pot along with a bay leaf and bring to a boil. If you choose to cook with black lentils, you can add them and the barley at the same time. If you use a lighter colored lentil, add barley and cook for 10 minutes and then add the barley.
Let the pot come to a boil and then reduce it to a simmer for 15 to 25 minutes, until the lentil and barley is softened.
While the vegan soup simmers, prepare the relish by rinsing and chopping scallions, mint, red chili pepper and shallots. Place in a bowl with salt and black pepper, rice vinegar and sugar (optional). Stir together until everything is coated and set aside until its time to plate.
Ladle the soup into bowls and garish with the fresh veggies.