Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Coconut Red Lentil Soup

Simply put, I love lentils and lentil soups.  I realized at some point last week that I hadn't yet made a lentil soup this winter, and when I came across this recipe on Heidi's 101 Cookbooks site I knew it had to be the next soup I made.

Rather than calling for the brown/green lentil that most people associate with "lentil" that results in a brown - and let's face it - bland-looking soup, this recipe uses lentils common to Indian cuisine.  I used to cook alot of Indian cuisine and have a supply of these lentils that I keep around.  This recipe calls for two kinds that I had on hand, masoor dal (small flat salmon-colored lentils) and chana dal, or yellow split peas (larger and yellow).  The salmon-colored lentils turn yellow when cooking and essentially disintegrate, so you would be disappointed if you thought you would still have pink individual lentils left after cooking them.  The chana dal is meatier and retains its shape and some firmness even when cooked through.

What attracted me to this particular lentil soup were the rest of the ingredients.  The base of the soup has some coconut milk added.  This was intriguing to me, because I associate use of coconut milk with Thai cuisine, so thought this might be some tasty amalgamation of the two cuisines.  My friend Sushma, who I would consider an authority on authentic Indian cuisine, tonight confirmed that coconut milk would not be found in any traditional Indian cuisine, though fresh coconut might.  So we agreed that this recipe must have just been someone's culinary creativity at work with yummy results.

The recipe can be found at:
It is quite straightforward but fun to make, and it left the house smelling just fabulous - of fresh ginger and curry.  After softening the lentils, a fragrant mix of green onion, fresh ginger, golden raisins, tomato paste and curry powder is added to the lentils along with the coconut milk.  Sauteing those ingredients together was quite unique and my favorite part of making this dish.

Once those ingredients are added to the lentils together with the coconut milk, the soup is a creamy orange color that is very visually appealing.

The recipe suggests allowing the soup to simmer for 20 minutes or so with the lid off to thicken the soup.  It starts off relatively thin, and I knew that I wanted a thick soup.  So I ended up simmering for probably an additional hour before I felt it was sufficiently thick.

Once again I ended up not eating the soup until the following day.  On Sunday night when I made it I was having my last serving of the White Wine Coq au Vin.  As an aside, I must say that recipe was a big winner.  It was impressively good every time I had some.  A keeper I'll be making again.

I came home at the end of the next day to a house still smelling of curry, and I reheated the soup with much anticipation.  I served it topped with a generous amount of freshly chopped cilantro and green onion.  I happened to have an Alsatian pinot gris on hand which was a great accompaniment.

This soup is really good.  The flavors developed significantly between the first and second day, and it did not need any additional seasoning.  I have greatly enjoyed it both of the times I've had it, and I can't wait for Wayne to try it when he gets home tomorrow as I think he'll really like it as well.  Here's to another vegetarian soup that is flavorful and satisfying yet quite easy to make!

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