For every recipe I share, I try to weave in a personal story, if only to tie together the idea of food as an experience outside just the act of eating. I usually think about what this food means or how to best approach it emotionally. This recipe was the opposite. I had to think of how not to approach it. It is tied to too many individual experiences. Whether eating it at my Uncle’s house after school with an ice cold malt, or the ten o’clock phone call I got recently for a friend desperate for the recipe for her and her sick husband, or just one more warm recipe between now and when the weather decides to finally settle into Spring. Either way, this is an all around flavorful soup with a hint of all things Caribbean!
What can you say about a Lentil. Earthy, compact, nutritional, starchy goodness! There are lots of different types of lentils. The red and French are some of my favorites. But for this recipe, the old fashioned green goddess of a lentil finds a bolder expression of its most humble self. This recipe traditionally is made with smoked pig tail. If you are vegan, you can simply use vegetable stock, or if you avoid pork you can use other smoked meats. For me, this is the only way to truly expose the amazing flavor of this tiny bean.
1 Cup Green Lentils
1 Medium Onion Diced
5 Cloves Garlic Minced
1/2 Green Bell Pepper
1 Carrot Sliced
1 Celery Stalk
1 Salted Pig Tail
1 Small leaf of Big Leaf Thyme
1 stalk of Culantro or 1 Tablespoon Cilantro
1 Bay Leaf
2 Sweet Seasoning Peppers
1/2 Teaspoon Hot Curry
12-15 cups of Water
1/2 Teaspoon Thyme
1/4 Teaspoon Cumin
Salt and Pepper to Taste
In a pan place the smoked pig tail in enough water to cover it, and bring it to a boil for about 15 minutes. Throw off the salted water, add fresh boiling water, and boil for about fifteen minutes. You will throw off the water at least six times to make sure the salt has been boiled out. I once made the mistake of just tossing it in after a few boils. It was beyond salty. It takes a little effort, but is worth it. Then cut it along the segments about one inch.
Heat another pan with enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom.
Add the onions, garlic, bell pepper, celery, carrot, thyme, culantro (or equivalent cilantro), and sweet seasoning peppers, and saute until the onions are translucent.
Then add the hot curry, the cumin, and black pepper, and cook for about one minute, stirring constantly.
Add the lentils and smoked pig tails, and stir to combine.
Then pour in about 12 cups of the water .
Let it simmer on medium heat, stirring occasionally.
I have let this soup simmer for up to three hours. It might take you much less time.
At about the final 15 minutes or so, I toss in the bayleaf, and the big leaf thyme. I get these seasonings fresh from the tree, and they can be exceptionally strong. Stronger than the dried ones in the store. This is all to your taste. I don’t like a strong bay leaf flavor in my food. So, I put it in and once I start to smell the bay leaf, I take it out. The same with the Big Leaf Thyme. It can be very strong. This is where your nose will come in very handy!
Big Leaf Thyme and Sweet Seasoning Peppers are easily found here in the Caribbean. If you are unable to find it, feel free to leave it out. It will still be a good soup!
Add salt to your taste, and cook until lentils are soft and soup is thick and warm! You can spice it up with some hot chilli peppers if you’d like. It is entirely up to you.
Then grab a spoon and Enjoy!!