I feel über-glamorous! I have received my FIRST REQUEST FOR A RECIPE! Admittedly, it is from one of my oldest and dearest friends, so it’s sort of like your mom reading your blog (except my mom wouldn’t, because she is confused by the internet) and suggesting you post that recipe for matzo ball soup. (I am, in fact, going to post a recipe for matzo ball soup soon.)
Anyway, Cecillia asked for a vegetarian lentil soup. I have a wretched cold so today’s soup is hearty and packed with ginger and spice. The great thing about living in a global society is that I get to bastardize all kinds of culinary traditions, probably doing service to none of them. Is it Indian? Is it Arabic? Is it African? Who knows?! It’s yummy, though.
Cece, this one’s for you.
1 cup split red lentils
3 cups water
¼ cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1 large or two small hot chile peppers, seeded and minced
1 scotch bonnet, seeded and minced (you can reduce or omit this if you don’t like spicy)
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and grated (To grate a tomato, cut it in half, remove the seeds, and grate it against the coarse side of a grater until you’ve removed all the flesh from the skin. Discard the skin. Easy!)
1 stalk of celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
4-5 green cardamom pods
1-2 bay leaves
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tablespoon salt (and more to taste)
Juice of ½ lime
Roughly chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) and/or Greek yogurt (optional) for garnish
Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed medium to large saucepan and caramelize the onions and garlic over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Stir in the ginger, diced chiles, cumin, and coriander and continue to cook for another five minutes. Add the grated tomato, celery, and carrot, and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes. The key to packing this soup with flavour is making a really good soffrito from your vegetables, so don’t cut these cooking times short.
While your vegetables are cooking make a cute little sachet of the cardamom, bay leaves, and thyme sprigs by tying them up in a piece of cooking muslin (cheesecloth) like a little gift. (I, of course, ran out of cooking muslin so I had to fish around in my soup for my aromatics when it came time to purée the soup.)
Rinse the lentils and pick through them for stones or any other debris. Add to pot with your sachet of aromatics and the water, and bring to a boil. When it boils, immediately reduce to a simmer, cover, and continue to cook for 20 minutes or until lentils are soft, stirring occasionally and skimming foam from surface as needed (this, I am told, reduces flatulence).
Add salt and cook, covered, for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat, extract your sachet, and purée until smooth using an immersion blender. (You don’t have to puree the soup, but I left a similar, but unpuréed, soup in my friend Jess’s fridge and she threw it away because she said it reminded her of when her son got carsick. She had a point.)
Stir in lime juice, taste and adjust salt as needed, and serve garnished with fresh coriander and, if you wish, Greek yogurt.
There! Pureed! That’s better.