What ingredients do you have stored away in your pantry? Or freezer? Or fridge? What do you need to use up first before it goes bad or gets freezer burn? I have chicken broth in the fridge left over from a previous recipe and fresh cilantro, which deteriorates pretty quickly when it has been forgotten in the back of the vegetable bin. But today is my lucky day. I found a terrific lentil soup recipe in a cookbook called At Home with Madhur Jaffrey. Ms. Jaffrey shares uncomplicated recipes from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. In an introduction before each recipe, she tells a story to its history, health notes or to her personal life. I discovered the Red Lentil Curry Soup to be perfect to my needs as I had all the ingredients in my pantry or fridge.
The recipe has two components, the soup and the spice mixture. The soup has only 5 ingredients: chicken broth (use water if you prefer), red lentils, cilantro, carrots and turmeric. Mix the chicken broth with the lentils and bring to a boil, add the remaining three ingredients, reduce to a simmer for 45 minutes.
The broth turns a beautiful golden orange. The lentils will soften in both their texture and colour. The carrots and turmeric enhance the hue and flavour while the coriander provides a fresh taste.
This white ceramic ‘washboard’ is a ginger grater. When you are using fresh ginger, rub a chunk of peeled ginger across the raised knobs and the flesh will shred. Save the flesh along with the juices for the seasoning blend.
The seasoning blend is composed of the grated ginger, 1/2 a chopped onion, cayenne pepper, cumin, curry and coriander powders.
I used canned tomatoes instead of fresh. This saves me the trouble of removing the tomato skins and, the tomatoes are already soft and ripe. Also, I like the canned juice to further flavour the soup, instead of adding water. Usually I buy whole canned tomatoes and roughly cut them into pieces with scissors. The recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of tomatoes; just place the whole tomatoes into a measuring cup and cut them into pieces right there! Sauté the onions in some oil until they start to turn brown and then add the ginger and other spices. Now add the tomatoes plus 1/2 cup of the tomato juice, and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes until heated through. Pour the spice-tomato mixture into the cooking lentils.
The soup has a wonderful aroma with the addition of the tomatoes and spices.
Take the pot off the heat and cool a little before pureeing the soup right in the pot with a hand blender. Simple as that.
Madhur Jaffrey recommends adding a dollop of rice or cooked pasta but a simple sprig of coriander to garnish works well by me. Enjoy.
Red Lentil Curry Soup
1 cup red lentils
4 cups chicken stock (or water)
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1 carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
1 handful cilantro leaves
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 chopped medium onion
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1 tsp. EACH of ground cumin, coriander and curry powder
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
1 1/2 cups chopped canned tomatoes and save 1/2 cup of the tomato liquid
- Place the chicken stock and lentils in a pot and bring to a boil. Add the carrots, cilantro and turmeric, turn the heat to low and cook, partially covered for 45 minutes.
- In the meantime, fry up the chopped onion in the olive oil until some of the pieces turn brown at the edges. Add the ginger and the spices and sauté for a minutes. Reduce heat to low and add the chopped tomatoes and juice. Continue cooking for 5 minutes until cooked through.
- Add the onion-spice mixture to the cooking lentils and once blended, turn off the heat and remove from stove.
- Purée the soup. If it is too thick, thin the soup by adding a little water. Serve with a garnish of fresh coriander leaves.