This is a recipe from one of Mexico’s smallest states, officially known as El Estado Libre y Soberano de Querétaro de Arteaga. It is a state that is just northwest of Mexico City.
This is a simple but delicious soup. Diana Kennedy tells us that she learned this recipe from the maids that were working at a house she had rented one summer. The maids came from a small rural community in Querétaro. She says, “They loved to cook their simple peasant dishes for me, and this is one of them.” Like I said, it is simple and it is delicious. And I love lentils so I had to make this soup!
QUERÉTARO: Sopa de lentejas – Lentil Soup, Querétaro Style
7 ounces (about 3/4 cup) small brown lentils
6 cups water
8 ounces nopales (about 3-4 medium-sized cactus paddles), cleaned of prickles and cut into small squares
Salt to taste
1 large scallion (green onion), halved
8 ounces Roma (plum) tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoons grape seed oil, or other neutral oil
½ medium white onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeño or serrano pepper, finely chopped
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
4-5 large sprigs of cilantro, leaves only, finely chopped
Rinse the lentils and drain. Place them in a pot with 6 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and cook until soft. Set aside.
Add the nopales (cactus) to a pan and cover with cold water along with the salt and the scallion (green onion).
Bring to a simmer and continue cooking until just tender (about 20 minutes). Rinse in cold water and drain. Remove the scallion.
Blend the tomatoes with the garlic until smooth and set aside.
Heat the oil in a skillet and fry the onion and chile until they are soft.
Add the tomato and garlic puree and fry for another 3-4 minutes over high heat. Stir constantly until it is almost dry and add to the lentil along with the broth and nopales. Cover the pan and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes. Add the cilantro and cook for another minute.
Add salt to taste and serve.
If the soup is too thick, just add some more broth and adjust the seasoning.
If you want to know more about Querétaro, here are some links you might be interested in:
Official State Website (in Spanish): http://www.queretaro.gob.mx/