The soup is inspired by the description I found in an ancient text. Greek volvoi are no longer exported, so you can use the lampascioni from Puglia, either sold roasted or in vinegar. Alternatively you can substitute pickled pearl onions, avoiding the bitter taste… More about Greeks’ love of bitter taste.
Scroll down for the second day Pasta & Lentil I usually whip up with our leftover lentil soup.
Makes 4 servings
4 cups water
1 cup brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic cloves
1/2–1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or pinch of crushed red pepper flakes to taste
3 cups Chicken or Vegetable Stock
1 cup pickled volvoi (wild hyacinth bulbs –see the intro), drained, or pickled pearl onions
2-3 tablespoons Greek red wine vinegar, or Kalamata balsamic vinegar, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint, plus some sprigs for garnish
Fruity, extra-virgin olive oil
In a large pot, combine the water, lentils and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Discard the bay leaves.
Wipe out the pot with paper towels. Heat the oil in the pot and sauté the garlic with the Aleppo pepper or pepper flakes over medium heat for 30 seconds. Add the lentils and sauté for 1 minute. Add the reserved cooking liquid, the stock and very little salt — volvoi are usually very salted– bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the volvoi and vinegar, increase the heat to medium and cook for 3 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding a few grindings of black pepper, if needed. Stir in the mint.
Ladle the soup into bowls drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, garnish with mint leaves and serve.
Second Day Lentils with Pasta
Add ditallini, or any small-size pasta (1 cup pasta for each 2 cups lentil) into the leftover lentil soup as you warm it, adding more broth and 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste, a dash of cumin and some ground coriander, if you like, as well as some smoked paprika. Simmer until the pasta is cooked.
Drizzle with fresh olive oil and sprinkle with Aleppo pepper and some parsley, chervil, or mint as you serve the lentil pasta.
Accompany with feta cheese, if you are not a vegan.