March 15th, 2009

Red Lentil Soup, part one: South Louisiana

I’m a city girl at heart, but whenever I get the chance to spend the day in the country at my friend Maggie’s, I’m in my little car motoring out to that cozy spread on Bogle-off-Burnt Knob before you can say Bogle-off-Burnt Knob.

Going there is not just a step out of the urban beat; it’s also a step back in time. Don’t get me wrong—everything’s up to 21st century techno-speed— but Maggie (with husband Steve) has created a lifestyle that moves on a slower track, harkens to simpler times.

In the growing season, a day in her life might take in tending garden tomatoes, making zucchini pickles, foraging wild blackberries but it will certainly include walking the grounds to admire the wildflowers, enjoying picnic lunch creekside under the boughs of an ancient tree, or having a coffee and toast on the sun porch— perfect for viewing bluebirds and chickadees at the feeder.

I’ve told Maggie–and she takes it as supreme compliment–that when I’m at her place, I feel like it’s 1978.

We hadn’t gotten together since harvest time last fall; with light green hints of springtime now emerging, I was anxious to visit: review garden plans, inspect the newly-tilled beds, discuss food and life,

And cook.

Maggie comes from a family with Italian and South Louisiana roots—there’s a compelling combo for good food–and she wanted to teach me her recipe for red lentil soup. It’s a common sense down-home recipe—as in down-south-louisiana-home cooking—using ingredients that are simple, readily available, and cheap.

The protein-rich red lentils provide more of a background and body for this soup while the andouille sausage imparts the spice and heat. The package of Savoie’s that she purchased at Publix was made as it has been for 60 years– in Steve’s hometown Opelousas, LA. A little of this lean sausage goes a long way on flavor.

“And, I guarantee,” Maggie said, “there won’t be an ounce of fat from it either.”

We used a quart jar of insanely sweet (candy!) tomatoes that Maggie had put up from last summer’s harvest—they melted into the soup—but it’s fine to use a can of your favorite red-gold.
I don’t know why I forget about cooking with cabbage; a young head, gently steamed–or poached as it is in this soup– is tender, and adds an earthy-sweet element.

Maggie often makes skillet cornbread—another great recipe I’ll share soon. She and Steve like to break up pieces of it into the soup. In the summer, she’ll scrape in some fresh Silver Queen corn.
Steve swears she’ll make a good cook out of me yet!

South Louisiana Style Red Lentil Soup
2 T. Olive Oil
2 Onions, chopped
4 stalks Celery, chopped fine
5 cloves Garlic, minced
6 Carrots, diced
10 oz. Andouille Sausage, sliced
1 cup Red Lentils, rinsed
1 qt. Tomatoes and juice (or 28 oz. can)
1 ½ qt. water
1 T. Salt
2 cups Cabbage, cut into medium shreds

Heat a large (6-8 qt.) stock pot, then coat the bottom with olive oil. Sauté onions until translucent, 3-5 minutes. Add celery, garlic, and carrots. Continue to sauté another 5 minutes, then stir in andouille sausage. Cook for 5 minutes, add lentils, diced tomatoes and juice, and water. Stir well and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally, so that the lentils, as they swell and break down, do not stick to the bottom. Add the cabbage last. Cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Serves 8 generously.

Posted in Gluten Free, Recipes, Rice/Other Grains/Legumes, Soups/Stews

13 Responses to “Red Lentil Soup, part one: South Louisiana”
  1. Tony Says:

    This is worth some extra cold weather.

  2. Maggie Stanford Says:

    Nance, I am honored to be included in your blog and as your friend! I must say, the soup looks good. For your readers, it’s also great to add a big spoonful of cooked rice to your bowl. I’ll be looking forward to our next foray into food and friendship!

  3. Madeleine Says:

    For vegetarians, is there a good spicy substitute for the sausage in this recipe?

  4. goodfoodmatters Says:

    I would use a combination of sweet red bell pepper and hot chili pepper or poblano. And, I’d add some cayenne.
    You won’t achieve that same meaty-smoky flavor particular to andouille sausage, though, but you’ll have a zippy nourishing soup.
    Look for Red Lentil Soup, part 2 (I’ll post in a couple of days)which will feature a North African/vegetarian version….

  5. Wendy Says:

    How would it be to use spicy or sweet Italian turkey sausage for the Jimbo?

  6. goodfoodmatters Says:

    I believe that either would work quite well, and I would opt for the spicy!

  7. Dana Says:

    Yum again from a gal with South Louisiana roots – where they begin feeding Andouille Sausage to infants – here is some advice for the vegetarian question. In many soups I now use a very tasty vegetarian sausage made by Tofurky [comes in 3 flavors: Keilbasa, Italian, and BeerBrat made with ale ] – Chef Nancy could tell if one of these flavors might work for this soup.

  8. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Ha! Thanks for the Tofurky Tip! I must confess; while familiar with the brand, I’ve yet to give ’em a try. But, based on a South-Louisiana-rooted gal’s recommendation, I shall seek the Tofurky out. And report back!

  9. Shanley Says:

    Hi! I’m actually going to make this soup for dinner tonight, but I have one question:
    The andouille sausage I bought is not cooked (it was freshly made at the grocery). Do I need to do anything differently? Should I cook the sausage separately before adding it to the soup, or can I add it raw to cook in the soup?

  10. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Shanley! I would cook the sausage in the soup pot first,draining off any excess grease. (Chances are you won’t need the olive oil.)
    Add the onions and let them cook with sausage. When the onions become translucent, add the celery, garlic, carrots and proceed with the rest of the recipe.
    How great that you can get andouille freshly made!

  11. Shanley Says:

    Thanks for the sausage advice, Nancy! The soup turned out great – so tasty and the house smelled wonderful. I loved how easy it was to make. Husband had seconds last night, and I’m looking forward to teasing my food-obsessed co-workers with the leftovers today. :) This is definitely one that I will make again.

  12. Jennifer T Says:


    I made a variation of this recipe tonight – some elements from the LA soup, and the spices from the Ethiopian recipe – turned out “uber yummy” in Terry’s words. Thanks for the inspiration.

  13. Claudette Patterson Says:

    Miss Nancy,
    That soup looks so good. Thank you for the inspiration and the opportunity to be a part of what you do. The chance to use this blog and prepare all this good stuff is amazing.Thank you Miss Nancy.

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