Saturday, October 31, 2009

Greek Lentil Soup

Earlier this month, my husband A and I traveled to Greece. We landed in Athens after a very long red eye flight. Excitement was paramount as we had been planning this trip for months. However as we started walking around Athens for first explorations, jet lag and exhaustion started catching up. A lunch stop was deemed necessary.

We had been following Matt Barett's guide for Athens quite religiously and found ourselves to be in the same area as this lunch place he highly recommends, Oinomagerio Paradosiako. So we walked around a bit more, trying to look like we could easily read Greek road names. Then eventually decided we do need to ask for directions and finally found the place.

A quick look at the menu led to a choice of lentil soup and the mixed grill platter. And then the soup arrived. A big bowl of steaming hot goodness accompanied by crusty Greek bread (that has to be another post). The taste was so simple yet comforting. By the time I decided to take a picture, we were half way through it. (Note to self: I need to remember taking pictures before eating now that I am writing a blog.) By the time we were done, the soup had restored us completely. (The grill platter was quite good too).

We were in Greece for a week after that and then for a few days in Turkey. We had lots of great meals in both places. But for me this first lunch in Athens was the most memorable. Just for the simplicity and comfort of this lentil soup. So I tried to recreate it as soon as I got back. After a couple of tries I think I got pretty close to the original. At least A seems to think so.

The key here is lots of garlic and really flavorful oregano. I used Greek oregano (which is a bit like Thyme, per the locals) but you can try this with regular Italian oregano too. Here is my attempt at this recipe. Folks at Oinomagerio Paradosiako, if you ever do read this, please feel free to correct me.


1 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 bay leaves (fresh or dried)
6-8 cloves of garlic (peeled and halved)

1 medium yellow onion chopped
1 14 oz can diced/crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 teaspoon Greek oregano (substitute with any oregano you have)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
salt according to taste

1 cup brown lentils
4 cups veg/chicken stock or water
Juice of half a lemon

- Heat a stock pot and add olive oil.
- Add bay leaves and saute for around 30 seconds.
- Roughly crush the halved garlic cloves, add and saute some more till fragrant.
- Add the chopped onions and cook for another 3-4 mins till the onion is soft.
- Add the diced/crushed tomatoes and cook for another minute or two.
- Add paprika, black pepper and oregano, salt if the tomatoes/stock don't have it already. Mix well so that tomatoes and the spices are nicely combined.
- Add the lentils followed by the stock/water and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to medium/low, cook covered till lentils are soft.
- Stir in the lemon juice before serving.

Makes 2-3 main size servings. You can also double this recipe and eat it all week. A crusty Italian loaf makes a great accompaniment.