March 21, 2010

Spinach Lentil Chicken Soup

How about some soup?

I like the flavor of this thick, hearty soup: The curry powder and cumin combine with the lentils to create a dish with an Indian-style look and taste.

I found the idea for this recipe on allrecipes-dot-com. However, I tweaked what I found significantly to work with the ingredients I had available...and to work with the taste I wanted to achieve.

The spices are key to the flavor of this soup. The lentils will take on whatever flavors they're cooked with--on their own, they're somewhat bland. I use just enough crushed red pepper flakes to add some heat, then I sprinkle in cumin and curry powder. Taste the soup a few times as it cooks, and if it seems to need more spices, add a little more of the cumin or curry powder (or both).

You could use fresh spinach instead of frozen spinach, I'm sure. Probably a whole 8-10 ounce bag would do it. In the case of fresh spinach, you may have to cook it in a skillet before adding it to the soup. I don't know if the heat of the soup will wilt it enough. I'll have to try that out.

To thaw a box of spinach, you can set it out on the counter when you start preparing the meal. If necessary, take it out of the box, place it in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave it briefly to finish the thawing process before adding it to the soup. The heat of the soup will finish thawing some of it, of course, but the soup will be ready more quickly if the spinach goes into it fully thawed.

A word about chicken and beef broth/stock: Unless you make your own broth or stock using discarded vegetable pieces or chicken bones, you'll can save money if you use bouillon cubes and water to create broth instead of buying packaged broth or stock in the store. Generally, you add 1 cube of bouillon (I use Herb Ox brand) to 1 cup of water to make 1 cup of broth. However, you can stretch the amount by using more water, particularly if the dish you're making has various other flavorings or spices (you won't need the same amount of saltiness and seasoning from the bouillon).

Side Ideas: Bread or crackers. This soup is filling, so it can be a main course dish.

Freeze It: I made this recipe for two people, so froze about a half of it in a freezer bag. You can put some away for a rainy day when you want something to warm you up.

Substitutions: Substitute other meats for the chicken, if you like. I use about a cup of cubed (small) chicken, but other options are cooked ground beef, kielbasa, and ham. A cup is probably a good measurement, but do what sounds tastiest to you. It's your food--the recipe is just a list of suggestions. You could even leave out the meat entirely.

Spinach Lentil Chicken Soup
Estimated time: 45 - 60 minutes
Serves: 8 - 10

  • 1 box frozen chopped spinach
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 3 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup uncooked chicken, cubed small
  • 1 onion, diced small
  • 1 carrot, chopped small
  • 1/4 Teaspoon (or less) crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon cumin (add more if you desire)
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder (add more if you desire)
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1-1/2 cups dry lentils
  • 1/3 cup uncooked white rice
  1. Set out the box of frozen spinach to thaw.
  2. Prepare broth by dissolving the beef and chicken bouillon cubes in some or all of the 8 cups of water.
  3. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the cubed chicken and cook thoroughly, about 5 minutes (depending on the thickness of the meat).
  4. Stir in the diced onion and chopped carrots. Add the balsamic vinegar, crushed red pepper flakes, cumin, and curry powder. Cook and stir until vegetables are tender.
  5. Slowly stir in the prepared water-bouillon broth.
  6. Add the lentils and uncooked white rice. Stir well.
  7. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 20-30 minutes until rice is done and lentils are quite tender.
  8. Finish thawing the spinach, drain it some and pull it apart with a fork.
  9. Stir the thawed spinach into the soup. Cook for 5 minutes, till the spinach is heated through.
  10. Serve it up with slices of your favorite bread (or whatever you have on hand) or some crackers. 
  11. Season soup with salt and pepper, according to individual tastes, if necessary.