Legumes, domesticated in the Levant close to 10,000 years ago, are featured in some of the region’s oldest and best-loved dishes. Palestinian lentil soup, spiced with cumin and served with lashings of lemon juice, has become a symbol of home cooking.
Before cooking the lentils, rinse them well and check for any debris or other grains. Add the cumin in two stages: ½ teaspoon when frying the onions, and the rest after tasting the soup.
Place the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and about ½ teaspoon of cumin. Saute for about 5 minutes until the onion is translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the celery and carrot, stir, and saute for 5 more minutes until the vegetables soften, stirring occasionally.
Add the remaining ingredients into the pot, increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot with a lid leaving a sliver of the pot uncovered and cook for about 1 hour. If you prefer a smoother soup: Let the soup cool for a few minutes, remove the bay leaves and transfer the soup to a blender. Blend until the soup is velvety and smooth. Transfer the blended soup back into the pot.
Add the crushed garlic and cilantro into the soup. Mix and heat the soup over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice, taste, and adjust the seasoning if needed. Serve hot.