Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Vegan Italian Lentil Soup

Buying anything other than fruits and veggies seems to require quite a bit of time spent in reading labels these days. And labels have become so much more complicated haven't they? There are so many new ingredients used in each type of food that you feel like you need a degree in chemistry to figure out what is really used in the food. When I read about instances such as this one, it doesn't help much either and makes me feel like  I really need to learn much more about a lot of ingredients I see in labels of different foods.

One of the ingredients I see frequently is something called carrageenan. I have seen it in some ice cream labels and fruit flavored yogurt packs too. I knew carrageenan was used in place of gelatin but did not know anything about what it was made of, whether it is vegan or vegetarian, that kind of thing. Finally a few days back I got around to looking it up and found that carrageenan is a kind of  seaweed extract. There are several types of it that are used in baking and cooking, some have a gelatinous property and some don't. It is said to be a vegetarian and vegan substitute for gelatin. If you want to get more details, here is the wiki entry for it.

I was relieved to learn that carrageenan was vegan/vegetarian. I have been avoiding buying anything with it because I did not have any information about it. That said I am still a little on the fence about it and would like to know more about it before I start to buy stuff that has this ingredient. If you have come across this ingredient and know more about it do share the information below, I would love to hear your opinions on this ingredient :)

Moving on, usually whenever I plan to make some soup I start to think of which bread will be good with it. This time it happened the other way around :)  I wanted to make rosemary foccacia bread and I wondered which soup would taste good with it. After taking stock of my pantry and vegetable bin, I decided upon this lentil soup that seemed quick and simple. I tweaked the recipe a little, skipped the cheese to make this a vegan soup and changed out the herbs a bit. The result was this hearty delicious soup that tasted very good with the wheat foccacia bread I made to go with it. We loved the soup so much I have already made this a few times now and I am sure will make it frequently in the future too :)

Vegan Italian Lentil Soup

Click here for a printable view of this recipe

Ingredients and Method to make Italian lentil soup

1 1/2 cups whole dry lentils (whole masoor dhal)  soaked for 30 mins in sufficient water (the same kind used in this salad)
1 medium onion cut fine
1 can 14.5 oz diced tomatoes
2 large carrots cut into 1/4 inch pieces
3 celery sticks cut very fine
3/4 cup dry multi grain elbow pasta (or any other small pasta)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp dried rosemary (optional)
salt to taste
pepper powder to taste

Soak lentils in sufficient water for about 30 minutes.

In a large heavy bottomed pan heat oil, add onions and saute until transparent. Add minced garlic and stir a couple of times. Add  diced tomatoes, carrots, celery, soaked and drained lentils and water (or vegetable stock) as required and allow the vegetables and lentils to cook until almost done.
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Add elbow pasta, salt to taste, Italian seasoning, dried rosemary, pepper to taste and allow the soup to simmer until pasta is cooked. Adjust water/ stock if required and simmer for a few more minutes until the flavors mingle.

Serve hot with bread of choice. I served this with rosemary foccacia bread.

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