I am not sure if you have the same problem but in my fridge there are always some vegetable scraps like broccoli stems, some pieces of carrots lying around and drying tomatoes sitting on the counter. If you don’t pay attention to these vegetable scraps they often get moldy and thrown away in the compost. I cringe every time it happens. I just don’t like wasting food!
In order to save these food scraps I used to make lots of soups using the scraps but it didn’t really cut out for me. However, I found a simple trick that made the soup not only special but also very authentic in taste as well.
On the day that I was shooting, I was rummaging through my fridge and these were some of the vegetable scraps that I found which means that these ingredients are not exactly to be followed but to give as a reference. As you can see there are some broccoli stems, some left over carrot pieces (see the ‘kitchen tips’), celery head, some aging tomatoes and also, you cannot see them well, but some kale stems in the bottom of the pan.
Now what is the secret ingredient that you add at the end to bring out the flavours in everything?
Yes, I used the brine of fermented cabbage to fill the gap of bland taste in the broth. There’s no need to add any MSG ladened soup bouillon or salty seasonings. If you don’t have kimchi in your fridge, not to worry, any pickle brine would work such as Sauerkraut. Naturally occurring acidity in the pickle brine brings out the flavour of the soup and also adds umami to the broth.
However, many store-bought pickles are drenched in a lot of sugar and vinegar to recreate the umami taste in fermented food but they are not exactly pickles in a strict sense. Unlike lemons which turns alkaline when it is consumed in our body, vinegar remains acidic in your stomach and affects the pH level in your stomach. Its use may not be good for your digestion, especially for those who have acid reflux.
Another trick that I would like to share is when you are making lentil soup, instead of boiling the lentil in the same pot as the soup, cook them separately in a different pot. I noticed that lentils absorb more liquid as time goes and the next day, it becomes very thick and mushy. By cooking lentils separately, vegetables are not overcooked and your end product is not just a hodge podge of everything. However, if you like thick soup that is great, you can cook them all at once.
Let me tell you something: Do you own a pressure cooker or instant pot? If you do that’s a bonus! It saves so much of your time and it’s so easy to use. The great thing about cooking beans in a pressure cooker is that you don’t have to watch the pot all the time and you can skip the process of soaking overnight.
Store away the lentils that are cooked separately in a container and add the desired amount of lentils on the soup before you warm it up. It looks like it was just made and still tastes great. In this picture, I added a little bit of pearl barley and cooked them together with the lentils to save time but if you have time in your hand, cook barley and lentils separately to make it more visually appealing.
HEARTY LENTIL SOUP
(Yields 4 servings)
1 C kimchi brine
4 white mushrooms
2 tsp oil
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp thyme
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp soy sauce
cilantro to garnish
3 cloves of garlic
2 stems of broccoli
1 C celery diced
1 onion diced
3 tomatoes cubed
1 C cooked brown lentil, unsalted
1 C cooked pearl barley, unsalted
Add 2 tsp of oil in a medium sized soup pot over medium high heat. Once the pot is heated, add chopped onion, carrots, broccoli stems, celery, mushrooms and crushed garlic. Add 1 1/2 tsp paprika and 1/2 tsp thyme with the vegetables to infuse the aroma of the herbs. Add pinch of salt to taste and to sweat the vegetable a little.
When you see the brown bits (not burnt) of paprika and vegetables, add 1 tbsp of soy sauce to sizzle a little bit. By scalding the soy sauce it gets rid of the odour and enhances the flavour of the sauce.
Once onions turn translucent, add cut tomatoes for a more sizzling sound. Add a pinch of salt on top of tomatoes. It is IMPORTANT to season every layer of the ingredients to bring out the flavours, not just dump the large amount of salt at the end to taste.
When the water from the tomatoes evaporate a little bit and has thickened up, add 6 cups of water and bring to boil.
Once the broth starts to boil, add 1 cup of kimchi brine and add 1tsp or more of salt to your taste. Since lentils and pearl barley are cooked without salt, even if the broth tastes a little saltier than to your taste, it is okay because it will get neutralized once you add lentil and barley. Bring to boil again and remove the pot from the heat.
Garnish the soup with coriander leaves, tofu sunflower sauce and top it off with warm lentils and barley. If you are reheating the soup from the fridge, add the desirable amount of lentils and barley in the same pot that you are warming the soup and bring to boil and serve.
On a cold day like this when spring doesn’t seem to have fully arrived yet, a bowl of lentil soup with some “pickled” banana pepper chopped on top will fill you and warm you up. Otherwise the soup is mild in taste and well balanced in flavour with no overpowering taste of kimchi brine. Hope you enjoy the recipe and let me know if you have any questions in comments or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org