Caramelized onion, lentils and mushroom soup – creamy, hearty and decadent soup, topped with smoked sausage and fennel pollen for an irresistible depth of flavors.
I’ve been on a mushroom binge lately, and today’s recipe will again be mostly about mushrooms. It’s a hearty, cozy soup of caramelized onions (because these two can’t live without each other), red lentils for substance and creaminess, and smoked sausage for a good dose of comfort. But there is also a tiny secret ingredient at the end that makes this soup literally sing in your mouth – it’s fennel pollen, and its heavenly aroma is guaranteed to induce instant food cravings.
Traditionally used in Italian sausage making, fennel pollen exudes such an irresistible aroma and can really elevate any dish, be it meat or veggies. It’s similar to fennel seeds, yet it has a subtler, more floral scent. It comes with a price tag to match, but understandably so – after all, it’s pollen, harvested from the flowers of wild fennel.
The first time I tried fennel pollen was on a seemingly ordinary sausage pizza. Even before the pizza made it to the table, I could smell its special and addictive aroma. It definitely wasn’t the usual Italian seasoning. I noticed a few tiny specs sprinkled atop the pizza, and immediately wanted to know what this magical spice is. I didn’t have to ask, it was there in the pizza description – fennel pollen! You won’t see fennel pollen on your regular supermarket’s spice rack. It’s a luxury spice ingredient, that you can order online. I bought my fennel pollen at Amazon, like almost anything else these days (sad but so convenient, isn’t it?!)
I love using red lentils as a thickening agent in this soup. It cooks fast, gets nice and mushy, and a little goes a long way. Smoked sausage and smoked paprika add some depth to it, and the fennel pollen is sprinkled at the end, just before serving for that wow factor.
While the soup is bubbling on the stove, make some cheesy toasts to go with it. The toasts are buttered with some garlic, and loaded with cheese, crisped up in the oven, and sprinkled with more of that fennel pollen magic.
Stay warm, and enjoy your weekend!
Other soups you might like:
Cauiflower fennel soup with crispy basil, feta, walnuts and smoked paprika butter
Pumpkin coconut soup with walnut garlic gremolata
Creamy spinach and okra soup with crab meat and coconut milk
- 4 Tbs olive oil, divided
- 1 lbs onions (about 2 large ones)
- 1 lbs mushrooms
- 1/3 cup red lentils
- 5 cups homemade chicken stock or mushroom broth
- 2 tsp dry mushroom spice *
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- 150 g smoked Polish sausage
- a few pinches of fennel pollen **
- 4 slices good quality Italian bread, such as Ciabatta, or Pugliese
- 2 Tbs butter
- 1 garlic clove, smashed
- 1/2 cup Mozarella, Gruyere or other melting cheese, grated
Heat 2 Tbs olive oil in wide pan, and add the onions, with salt and pepper. Once the onions begin to color, stir and reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue to cook the onions, stirring often, until they are nicely caramelized (about 15-20 minutes).
In a separate pan, saute the mushrooms in 2 Tbs of olive oil, salt and pepper, until cooked.
In a soup pot, add the mushrooms, caramelized onions, the chicken broth, and lentils.
Add the mushroom spice mix, smoked paprika, nutmeg and more salt and black pepper if needed. Cover and cook until the lentils become mushy and disintegrate (20-30 minutes).
Place 2/3 of the soup in a blender (or use an immersion blender) and process until creamy. Reserve the rest, and mix in with the creamy soup before serving.
In a dry pan, cook the sliced smoked sausage, until it gets a nice color on both sides.
Add on top of the soup, and sprinkle fennel pollen just before serving.
Serve with cheesy garlicky toasts.
Melt 2 Tbs of butter, and add 1 crushed garlic clove to it.
Brush both sides of the bread slices with the garlic butter, and toast.
Top each slice with shredded cheese and return to the broiler until the cheese is bubbly.
Sprinkle with fennel pollen just before serving.
* See how to make your own dry mushroom spice mix, or use a store-bought one.