A lively blend of citrus, cilantro and mint, along with freshly toasted and ground cumin and coriander, gives this hearty legume soup its enticing North African flavor. While toasting whole spices takes a little bit more effort than using the store-bought ground versions, it’s simple and quick to do. Plus, the flavor pay-off is huge!
For the spice blend:1.
If using whole spices, in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat, toast the coriander and cumin, occasionally shaking the pan back and forth, until fragrant and lightly toasted, 2 to 3 minutes.2.
Transfer to a cutting board and let cool, then crush with the bottom of a heavy pan.
For the chermoula:1.
In a blender, combine half of the spices, the oil, lemon juice, cilantro, mint, celery leaves, fennel fronds, garlic, red pepper flakes, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Blend until well combined.2.
Transfer to a bowl. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to use.
For the soup:1.
In a 6 to 8-quart Dutch oven or wide heavy pot, heat the oil over medium heat.2.
Add the onion, fennel, and celery, stirring occasionally, until tender, 7 to 10 minutes.3.
Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon salt and remaining toasted spice blend. Cook 2 minutes more.4.
Add the lentils, tomatoes and their juices and 7 cups of water.5.
Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.6.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, 35 to 40 minutes.7.
Add the chickpeas, and cook 5 minutes more. Adjust seasoning if necessary.8.
Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the chermoula. If desired, top with cilantro and serve immediately.