Saintly Spanish inspiration for a Lenten lentil Soup

PasquaIt’s not surprising that a fine picture of St. Pasqual, patron of kitchens and cooks, hangs just to the right of my kitchen stove.

Though I only came to learn of St. Pasqual last year when discovering a print depicting him by New Mexico artist Barbara Barratt in an area shop, a turn or two on the Internet revealed that devotion to him as the patron saint of the kitchen and cooks is wide spread throughout the American Southwest, Central and South America.

This has fueled an ongoing flurry of art works designed to place him squarely where he would be quite prayerfully content: in the heart of the home.

St. Pasqual was born in Torrehermosa in the Spanish Kingdom of Aragon in 1540 to poor peasant parents, Martin Baylon and Elizabeth Jubera. He spent his youth as a shepherd, educated himself by imploring passersby in the fields where he worked to help him learn to read and joined a Reformed Franciscan order as a lay brother sometime around 1564.

Determined to live a life of poverty and prayer, he chose to live only in poor monasteries, praying as he worked the rest of his life. According to various sites on the Internet, he was assigned to the monastery kitchens which at first troubled him because he thought the work would detract from his prayers.

But he came to take great joy in the contemplation and peace he was able to experience while cooking. Always conscious of the needs of others, his charitable works – which included enhancing the bowl of broth that was the standard handout to the poor who sought sustenance from the monks with cabbage, meat and broth – endeared him to the faithful.

Though devotion to him after his death on May 17, 1592 was largely confined to Spain and  Italy in Europe, the Spanish touched by such stories and by his very real devotion to the Eucharist in an age of religious strife – felt real affection for him.

They carried his story across the seas to the New World where it flourishes still. Known also as the patron saint of good advice and finding lost animals – for which I often turn to him for help – there’s no concealing joy in his serendipitous artistic presence in my home.

Indeed, he inspired this take on a Mexican lentil soup adapted from several sites on the internet as the third entry in our International Lenten recipe series.

Mexican Lentil Soup


-1 cup dry lentils

-6 cups cold spring water

-2 sage leaves

-1 fresh oregano sprig

-1 bay leaf

-bud garlic

-2 tbs. Light olive oil

– 12 -14 oz. Canned tomatoes with juice

-1 tbs. Chili powder

– 1 sweet onion, diced

-salt to taste

-1 tsp. Ground cumin (I look for reasonable Badia spices in the supermarket)

-1/2 tsp. Dried oregano

-1 medium carrot, diced

-1 small red bell pepper, diced

-1 tbs. Chopped cilantro

Directions: Put the lentils in a soup pot with the water, bay leaf, sage and oregano. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat and cook uncovered for 15-20minutes or until the lentils are tender. Remove the herbs. While the lentils are cooking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, rub the garlic bud with a little oil, place it on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes or until soft. When the garlic is cool, slice the top off the bud and squeeze the garlic out of its skin. Puree with the tomatoes in a blender and set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in a saucepan, add the onion, ½ teaspoon of salt, cumin, dried oregano and saute over medium heat until the onion is soft. Add the carrot and peppers and saute until tender. Add the chili powder and the pureed tomatoes and 1 teaspoon of salt and simmer for ten minutes.
Combine the beans and the broth with vegetables, cover and cook on low heat for 30 minutes. Sprinkle in fresh cilantro just before serving. For more spice, add chili powder to taste.



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