Thursday, July 31, 2014

Red Lentil Soup

Our little boy, now almost nine months old, loves lentils in all forms. We eat Dal (lentils simmered with Indian spices, typically served over rice or with breads) quite often here and, whenever we put some on his high chair tray, he eagerly reaches for it with his tiny little fists and tries to shovel it into his mouth as fast as possible.  So, yes, we think he either likes the flavors of Indian spices, or Dal itself.  Either way works for me, since lentils are cheap and said Indian flavors occupy a warm and cozy spot in my heart (which is great because I am Indian)!

This soup is inspired from Dal, but has a wonderful flavor which works even if you don't like Indian food, cooks up well in a big batch and is freezer-friendly. (In my experience, Dal, typically does not freeze well, so I was surprised when I discovered that this soup does - probably because it is already pretty broken down and pureed - read on.) I usually double the recipe and stash half in the freezer as soon as it has cooled, for a convenient dinner on a busy night. And why not? That just frees up more time for me to spend with chase after my little one!  

Red Lentil Soup

Red Lentil Soup

Serves 3 - 4

You will need:

1 cup split red lentils
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic (2 cloves)
1 teaspoon cumin powder
optional - 1/4 teaspoon red chili powder
pinch turmeric powder
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 cup water
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
small pats of butter or olive oil to drizzle

Wash and rinse the lentils in several changes of cold water (at least three or four), discard all the rinse water and set lentils aside.
Heat oil in a big pot over medium heat, then add onion and garlic. Saute until translucent and edges of onion start to brown, about 4 or 5 minutes. Then add cumin, chili powder, and turmeric, stir for another minute.  Add tomato paste, broth, water, and lentils and stir well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring up to a boil, then simmer for at least 30 minutes with the lid mostly on (leave a gap for steam to escape), or until lentils are cooked through. Add lime juice and stir well. Then, with an immersion blender, or regular blender, puree the soup and keep warm until serving.
Serve garnished with cilantro and a pat of butter or a little olive oil drizzled on top if desired, with crusty bread and butter. Enjoy!
Note: this is a basic recipe, feel free to jazz it up with other veggies like carrots, celery, zucchini or, better yet, throw some crumbled bacon or browned sausage on top just before serving.