Esau’s Pottage

Isn’t it funny how you can discover something you have never heard of before only to come across it again and again in the days following.

Recently, I was confronted with Steampunks.   Now I see this movement referenced everywhere—on TV, in literature, on the radio, while shopping for jewelry.


A Steampunk

The same is true for Esau’s Soup.   (Sorry, that wasn’t much of a segue.)  My mom got me a couple of unique cookbooks for my birthday, The Renaissance Cookbook (which I think was self-published) and The Old Farmer’s Almanac Colonial Cookbook.   The former is pretty much fluff but the latter has some interesting recipes and history in it.

We were perusing through cookbooks at Christmas (a favorite pastime of mine) and I came across “Esau’s Pottage.”   Of course from Sunday school classes of long ago, I know the story of Esau and Jacob.   I had forgotten about the mention of soup.

We commented on this recipe on Christmas Day.   The next day I took mom to lunch at Laffa, a great Medi-Eastern restaurant in Tulsa.   What was on the menu?   Esau’s Soup.

I had to order it and it was delicious.

Then, I saw two more references to it that same day—one on the internet and one in Whole Foods.

That’s just crazy.

While I was in Whole Foods, I bought the ingredients.

Here is my rendition of Esau’s Pottage, heavily influenced by Laffa’s version.   Their menu states:  “Esau sold his birthright to his brother Jacob in exchange for a bowl of this lentil soup—that’s some pretty expensive soup! If Esau had had them, he too would have added a blend of creamy tomatoes & chickpeas. Don’t worry, we’re charging less than a birthright!”   This Laffa version was worth every penny!

Esau’s Soup
based on “Esau’s Pottage” from The Old Farmer’s Almanac Colonial Cookbook, “Jacob’s Lentil Stew,” and Esau’s Soup from Laffa.

2 T. olive oil
1  large onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 carrots, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 c. dry red lentils
1/2 c. pearl barley
2 c. dried garbanzo beans, soaked overnight and drained
2 qts. chicken stock
3 c. crushed tomatoes (like Pomi)
1 c. water
1 1/2 t. ground coriander
1 T. fresh parsley, chopped
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot.   Add onion and saute until soft.   Add garlic, carrots, and celery and saute about two minutes more.   Add lentils, pearl barley, and garbanzo beans.   Cover with stock.   Add tomatoes, water and seasonings.   Stir to combine.

Bring to a simmer, cover, and let simmer on low heat for 90 minutes to 2 hours.  Set a timer and stir about every 20 minutes.

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Thick and hearty and comforting.

Soup should be thick and hearty and really is more of a “pottage” than a soup.

If it has been awhile since your Sunday school days, here is the reference to lentil soup in from the Old Testament.


Once when Jacob was boiling pottage, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished.
And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red pottage, for I am famished!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.)
Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.”
Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?”
Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob.
Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

—-Genesis 25: 29-35 (RSV)

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You may want to garnish with more parsley. I didn’t because it was too cold to make another trip to the green house.

For more history on this soup, please visit The History Kitchen whose recipe influenced me as well.

If you want a more authentic version, here is the recipe that sparked our foray into Old Testament food.  Feel free to grab a shin of beef and make the following:

Easu’s Pottage
From The Old Farmer’s Almanace Colonial Cookbook
“From an old cookbook, here is the lineal descendant of the soup for which Esau sold his birthright—the kind of soup to come home to on a winter’s night.”

1/2 lb. green split peas
1/4 lentils
2 T. pearl barley
4 T. white beans
1 good soup bone
1/2 pound shin beef
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 qts. water
salt and freshly ground pepper
large sprig of parsley
extra parsley to garnish

Put the peas, lentils, barley and beans into a large bowl, cover to twice their depth with cold water and leave to swell overnight.   Next day rinse well.   Put the bone and the meat (in one piece) with salt and water into a soup kettle.  Bring slowly to the boil, skim, then add the other ingredients.   Cover and simmer as slowly as possible for 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally.   when the soup is ready the legumes will have dissolved into a puree, and sieving will be unnecessary.   Before serving taste for seasoning, remove the bone, and serve a little of the meat with each serving.   Garnish with scissored parsley.  Serves 6-8.


This recipe may be more authentic, but I will stick with my version.  (Luckily this dish freezes well because this recipe makes a lot.)


Now, where else but my own weird musings could you have read about Steampunks and a Bible tale in the same blog post?  Probably no where.

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