The lentil soup is pretty much a family staple food in Germany. Although this is a classic soup / one-pot-dish, every family has their own variants re the ingredients, meaning every family develops their own traditions how they like their lentil soup best.
For some it’s just soupy with lentils and sausages, for others it’s a full blown meal with loads of veggies in it. Here is my version of it with suggestions as my Bavarian grandmother would cook it: with “Speck”.
(Although Wikipedia traces its origins to Austria and Italy, Speck is very traditional to Germany. It is not for the super lean cuisine conscious folk, but I challenge anyone who experiences the delicious and mouth watering cooking smells wafting enticingly through the home not to develop a very healthy and hearty appetite!!

Basic Ingredients:

Lentils (preferably the “green lentil” variety – you can also use brown lentils, but definitely not yellow split lentils)Uncooked joint of smoked ham, 'Speck'
Celeriac (half is enough)
Soup Greens (Suppengrün) – a traditional ingredient in soups and consists of: 1 leek, ample amounts of flat leaf parsley, lovage, the green leaves of carrots (if you can get it), bay leaves and other fresh herbs as you have them.
Ham stock cubes (optional, please taste the end result of your soup first before adding the stock cubes, as you do not want it too salty. If however you do not have any speck and/or a joint of uncooked smoked ham, then you do need the ham stock cubes to give it some flavour!)

Tomato puree (amount according to taste)
Vinegar (I used 2 Tbs. in my soup – again it is according to personal taste. Some families serve the vinegar at the table for diners to add to their own dishes as reqired)
Sugar (1 tps or more according to taste) – I personally prefer the alternative to sugar which was also frequently used by my Bavarian grandmother: chopped up prunes for fruity sweetness.

Smoked sausages (optional – if you cooked the soup with the ham and have plenty left over for another meal at some other time (next day or frozen for some other time), I then tend to add the smoked sausages just heated through with the rest of the soup.
Cook’s tip:
For some reason the lentils and vegetables just leech out the flavour of the smoked pork. It is perfectly fine to add a whole joint of uncooked smoked ham into the soup, provided you don’t cut it up into small pieces. What you definitely do not want to do is to add the smoked saussages at the beginning of the cooking process, else you wind up with all the smoked saussage flavour in the soup and some sort of meat texture without flavour as the saussages.
Soak the dried lentils in water over night. Before cooking drain the soaking liquid and rinse the lentils well (this helps reduce the “wind” production so typical with pulses 😉 )
I did not have speck or sausages at hand during this particular meal preparation.
If you have speck (here in London they sell speck in Polish shops or supermarkets that sell Polish produce), then here’s what you do:
Cube a good amount of Speck and gently fry / sauté till it releases the fat and until browned. Remove Speck (it will be added later when the soup is done) and then fry the onions in the fat created by the Speck. Do not remove any of the delicious and flavoursome Speck fat!

The Joint of uncooked smoked ham cooking with the lentils, vegetables and soup greens
Add the onions and fry them in the speck fat. Cube the vegetables and add them with the rest of the ingredients except the vinegar, sugar (unless you use prunes), tomato puree and sausages with a good amount of water. (Do check the water levels during the cooking process as the lentils plump up). Bring the lot to boiling and then reduce the heat. With a lid on the pot, let it simmer for a few hours until the lentils are soft.

Finally, before serving, add the rest of the ingredients according to taste (including the speck you had put aside earlier). Allow to heat through for a few minutes and then serve with a garnish of parsley.


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