Mother Earth Living

Seasonal Soups and Stews: Savory Vegetable Stew with Lentils, Sweet Potatoes, and Kale

Chase away the winter blues with robust seasonings.
By Madalene Hill and Gwen Barclay
December/January 2002
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Winter vegetables are the makings of an elegant soup.

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With rice or couscous, a bowl of this hearty vegetable stew recipe is a perfect supper for a cold winter evening. SERVES 6 TO 8

• 3 tablespoons fruity olive oil
• 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion
• 2 large cloves garlic, pressed
• 2 cups sliced celery
• 1 tablespoon ground coriander seed
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin seed
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon ground clove
• 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (1 teaspoon dried)
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sweet marjoram or mild oregano (1 teaspoon dried)
• 2 cups sliced carrots
• 3 cups peeled sweet potato chunks, 1 inch in diameter
• 1 cup French green lentils, well rinsed
• 3 cup chopped fresh or canned tomatoes, with juice
• 4 to 5 cups vegetable broth or water to cover vegetables
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (more to taste)
• 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
• Salt to taste
• 2 cups thinly sliced kale leaves, tough center stem removed
• 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
• 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh spearmint, for garnish
• Steamed rice or couscous

1. In a large, heavy pan such as a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil; gradually add the onion, garlic, and celery, sautéing until softened but not browned.

2. Add the seeds, spices, and herbs along with the carrots, sweet potatoes, lentils, and tomatoes. Cover with vegetable broth or water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook about 30 to 45 minutes until potatoes are tender and liquids are slightly reduced; stir occasionally, adding more broth if needed to keep the vegetables covered.

3. Add the black pepper, cayenne, and salt, stirring carefully. Stir in the kale and cook until softened. 

4. Add the fresh cilantro and spearmint just before serving, accompanied with rice or couscous.

Note: Other vegetables could be used, as well as white potatoes or dried beans substituted for the lentils. We prefer the French green lentils that are sold with the seed coat on because they keep their shape, yet cook quickly. Red or yellow lentils, popular in the Middle East, are equally delicious but will cook to a puree. Eggplant would be especially good, as would winter squash or pumpkin. Let your imagination and the produce market be your guide.

Click here for the main article, Seasonal Soups and Stews.

Madalene Hill and Gwen Barclay are a mother/daughter team living, gardening, and cooking at the Festival Institute in Round Top, Texas. Madalene serves as the curator of the gardens and Gwen is the director of Food Service. 

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