• 300 g brown lentils, dried
  • 6 cups water
  • 2-3 tbsp oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 cubanelle pepper (or small green pepper), finely chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • salt
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1-2 tsp dried savory, to taste
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp water

Lentil soup is another Bulgarian traditional dish, as in other Mediterranean countries. However by adding more spices and some vegetables to the lentils gives this soup a quite distinctive taste. Try to use aromatic dried savory, a herb that Bulgarians love, and a paprika with a strong taste as the one they make with dried sweet red peppers, as well as garlic of course, an imperative in Mediterranean diets.

Another particular ingredient is the cubanelle pepper, the commonly used variety in Bulgaria, that is sweeter and more aromatic than large bell peppers that can be used in replacement. You can choose to give your lentils an exotic touch, so why not try adding a teaspoon of indian curry powder or garam masala into your soup before serving.

Directions

  1. Wash the lentils in cold running water. Then place them in a large saucepan and soak them in cold water for 2-3 hours, until they start swelling.
  2. Discard the soaking water. Add 3 cups of clean water to the lentils in the pan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  3. As the lentils start getting tender, add the oil and the finely chopped onion, carrot and cubanelle pepper.
  4. Peel the garlic cloves and drop them whole into the lentils.
  5. Simmer the soup for 20 more minutes.
  6. Add more or less 3 extra cups of water, until the soup reaches the consistency you like.
  7. Add a pinch of salt, the paprika and some dried savory to taste.
  8. If desired, you can now fish out the whole garlic cloves, mash them into a puree in a separate cup and put that puree back into the soup for a stronger garlic flavor.
  9. At the end, in a cup mix the tomato paste with a little bit of water and add it to the soup. Stir well.
  10. Simmer for 5-6 more minutes, until all flavors are well infused.

Leshta is typically served steaming hot in Bulgarian folkloric terracotta bowls, sprinkled with some spicy chili pepper or with a whole fresh jalapeno pepper to bite into. Some people even put the whole jalapeno at the bottom of the bowl before pouring the hot soup over it.

As a main dish it is a very nutritious meal, accompanied with a piece of white crusty bread. Leshta can also be served as an appetizer in a smaller serving size.