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Monday, December 29, 2014

the perfect gift in a jar - curried lentil soup

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mason jar gift - curried lentil soup

Most good bloggers have wonderful editorial schedules where they publish stuff like this at a time when it will actually be useful (i.e., before Christmas).  I am not one of those bloggers.  Like so many people, I spend the weeks leading up to Christmas running errands, gift shopping, gift wrapping labeling (hubs does the wrapping), making food for the umpteen million potlucks and meals, and attending the zillions of Christmas gatherings.  So I focus on doing rather than writing/posting about doing.

Now that things have calmed down a bit, and I have a few minutes, I wanted to share a gift that I've made for friends/family/co-workers for the last two years.  These soups in a jar are great for so many reasons.

mason jar gift - curried lentil soup

I've done gifts in a jar before (these cowgirl cookies at Christmas a few years ago) and while they are cute, I feel like they aren't the greatest gift to give because they are more about making ME look good than doing something nice for the recipient.  Because making cookies in a jar is actually work, and you need to buy more ingredients (i.e., eggs, butter, milk), and do work.  I don't want to make work for busy people.  I want to SAVE them work.

And also, frankly, the last thing people need after Christmas is more sugar-laden baking.

So enter lentil soup.  I came across the initial recipe on the Good Housekeeping website, but the proportions didn't work right for any of my jars, and it was way too salty.  So I adjusted the proportions a bit and have come up with a great adjustment to the recipe that fits perfectly in 500 mL/2 cup mason jars.  You can easily double it for 1L mason jars, but then it makes a lot of soup, and in keeping with the idea where I want to make people's lives easier, I want to give them just enough to enjoy, but not so much they are overwhelmed with a huge amount of leftovers.

This recipe is awesome.  It's very simple, with no super-processed ingredients.  It's suitable for many different dietary needs (it is naturally gluten-free and nut-free, as well as vegan...though I purchase my ingredients at Bulk Barn, so I would not personally guarantee that *MY* jars are nut-free; if allergens are a concern, you should purchase sealed packages of ingredients that are labeled appropriately).

But best of all, the soup is completely easy for the recipient to make and it tastes fantastic.  I made 17 jars last year.  This year I made 39.  Who knows what next year will bring?

I seem to have this terrible habit of unintentionally destroying printers, so I hand-wrote all my labels, and then just decorated the jars with some butcher twine.  It's simple and rustic, and I think it looks nice.  You could go full-Martha on this if you had the time and inclination.

mason jar gift - curried lentil soup

Lentil Soup Mix in a Jar (this will perfectly fill a 500 mL mason jar)
(modified slightly from Good Housekeeping)

6 oz green lentils (just under a cup)
1 T curry powder
3 T dried minced onion
1/2 t garlic powder (I brain-farted and put 1t in all of mine....they are still good!)
1 T dried parsley
1 t kosher salt
5 oz red lentils (just under a cup)
2 T chopped dried apple

 1. Layer ingredients.  I like to put green lentils on the bottom, followed by seasonings, then red lentils, then as much chopped apple as I can fit under the lid.

mason jar gift - curried lentil soup

 2. Cooking instructions - add three jars of water and simmer 30 minutes (this instruction works no matter how you scale the recipe - 6 cups of water for a 500 mL mason jar, or 12 cups for a 1L mason jar).

Some lentils may need to simmer a bit longer, and people may want to puree the soup a bit (or add more water if they want a thinner soup).  But the basic instruction is so simple and requires no extra ingredients and just one pot.

TIP: dried apples rings are a pain in the butt.  I drop mine into a running food processor a few at a time.  If you aren't making a zillion jars, you could just hand chop them, but they are TOUGH.

If curry is not to your liking, here are a few alternate suggestions (omit the curry for all of these):

classic French - 2 t herbes de provence

italian - 1 t italian seasoning (or mix of basil, rosemary and oregano), 2 T chopped sundried tomatoes in lieu of apples

moroccan - 1/2 t cinnamon, 1/4 t cardamom, 1/2 T cumin, dried cilantro in lieu of parsley, dried raisins and apricots in lieu of apples

southwest/mexican - 1 T chili powder, dried cilantro in lieu of parsley.  Omit apples

So better late than never.  Pin this one for next year!  Or just make up a couple of jars for yourself to keep in the pantry for busy nights.

And might I suggest you pair the soup with a quick salad and this fantastic five-minute focaccia for a deliciously satisfying meal.

mason jar gift - curried lentil soup


Deborah Ross said...

I can tell you first hand, as a "gift recipient" :) , that this is absolutely delicious!
I love that you have also posted alternate twists to the recipe AND the link for that fantastic focaccia bread, Yummy!

Anonymous said...

This sounds great! I'd love to see a picture of the soup cooked. What color does it end up?

Unknown said...

What would you say the serving size for this recipe is? Wondering what families may need 2 jars (or the larger jar)...

Anonymous said...

How many would you say this recipe serves?

leslie @ definitely not martha said...

The recipe makes about 7 cups of soup. So that could serve four people a pretty hearty serving, or a lunch-sized serving for six.

For my family of four, 1 jar will serve us dinner, plus a bowl leftover. A large family (i.e., 3-4 kids) or a family of big eaters would probably do best with a larger jar. :)

Anonymous said...

Merci! I am so happy that I found your recipe. I just made 24 mason jars for my family and friends. Thanks again!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this fabulous recipe! I made several as gifts for co-workers this year and the feedback was great! "Show stopping" was my favorite.

joanne said...

I just made the Italian version and I can't wait to give them as gifts, it's so good!

Anonymous said...

How long would a jar of the soup ingredients last?

leslie @ definitely not martha said...

@Anonymous - I've left them in my cupboard for about a year and it still tasted great. :) I wouldn't gift year-old soup, but it definitely has a pretty good shelf-life. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Leslie,
I am putting together jars of your lentil soup and thought I should cook the recipe first. I followed your instructions for the curried version but it hardly has any flavor. What did I do wrong?

Anonymous said...

For some reason, the soup had absolutely no flavor. Guess I need to increase the seasonings.
Any suggestions what
I might have done wrong?

Julie Newell said...

This looks great! For the classic French version - is the only thing different to replace the curry with 2 t herbes de provence (so keep the chopped apples and everything else the same)? Thank you!

Anonymous said...

My kids helped and we gifted them to their teachers. So cute! And my kids were so proud. Thanks!

leslie @ definitely not martha said...

@Anonymous folks who found the soup flavourless - were your spices fresh? My experience has been that this is super flavourful with the measurements as marked, at least with the original version. You could always up the salt, the curry powder, or add something a bit acidic to bring out the flavours. As well, just in case this isn't consistent everywhere, where I used a capital T, that's a tablespoon (equivalent to 3 teaspoons), so if you used teaspoons instead of tablespoons, that could also account for the lack of flavour. Hope that helps!!

@Julie - I would keep the chopped apples if you like them, but it would be fine without. Might be nice to add a bay leaf as well.

Anonymous said...

Hi Leslie, your recipe calls for 3c water for the 500mL jar; but then later say 6c water for 500mL jar...what one do I say?

leslie @ definitely not martha said...

Hey - the recipe calls for 3 JARS of water (which equals 6 cups)

Anonymous said...

This looks great! Does it matter if the lentils are split or whole? Can I do a mixture? Thanks!

leslie @ definitely not martha said...

@Anonymous - you can use a mixture of lentils, but you should check the cooking time of each type of lentil - some types take closer to 45 minutes to cook. It's not a huge deal, but you would want to adjust the recipe for the people you give it to.

Anonymous said...

Never heard of chopped dried apples, are those the dehydrated apple rings that are still kind of soft or something different like apple "chips"?

leslie @ definitely not martha said...

Yep they are still soft but they magically don't go bad.

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