Click here to watch me make this soup on the WCSH6 207 show.
Vegetarian, can be Vegan
I don’t know about you, but during this past New England winter I needed soupy sustenance to make it through the snow, ice, and general drudge of schlepping around in it. Also, now that we have a home in the White Mountains, soup has become a major food group. I find that I have more time to cook when I am there, and after snowshoeing or XC skiing, coming home to something already prepared, just needing to be heated up, is sooooo great. Since I suspect March and April to be damp, muddy, and as this weekend will prove, rainy — well, soup is still de rigueur.
This delicious and comforting Indian soup or dal, is one that I have been making since the good ol’ 90’s from the wonderful cookbook, Cooking at the Natural Cafe in Santa Fe by Lynn Walters. You know what I love about it? (besides that it’s really tasty, full of fiber and rings my Indian cuisine chimes) Three things to be exact – one, it uses water as a base, no need for stock (yay!), two, it doesn’t take forever because the red lentils and garnet yam are simmering away while you are making the tarka (that’s the mixture in the skillet), and three, it can be frozen. Use a bigger pot and make a double batch! I do, most of the time — divide the extra servings into freezer ziplock bags, lay them flat in the freezer, label and stack. So easy. Remember, no labeling equals UFOs (Unidentified Frozen Objects) so be sure to label! To the original recipe, I added cubed garnet yam as I love their sweet taste and silky texture. Garnet yams are sweet potatoes or sweet potatoes are yams – I can never remember which is which. But if you don’t have access to garnet yams, an ordinary sweet potato will certainly do. And if you’re not a fan, leave it out. The soup will be fine.
I like it a little zippier and sturdier than the original recipe, so I upped the spices, but it is still not too spicy. Fiddle with it and make it yours – find your own heat level. Add a touch of coconut milk for extra creamy yumminess. I use full fat coconut milk because in my opinion, the low-fat version is ghastly. Also, if you haven’t worked with red lentils before, note that they go from this lovely salmon pink to a very unattractive band-aid color.
Don’t worry though, the tomato-onion-turmeric mixture will give it plenty of color and liven things up.
If you make it ahead of time, you might find that upon reheating, it needs to be thinned a bit with additional water. Or, keep it thick and serve it stew-style over basmati rice with a spoonful of yogurt.
I love adaptable recipes, don’t you? What have you been adapting lately? Let me know in the comments!
- 6 cups water
- 1 ¼ cup red lentils
- 1 large garnet yam (about 1 ¼ - ½ lbs.), peeled and cubed
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced or pressed
- 1 tablespoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
- 1 large jalapeno, seeded, membranes removed, and finely diced (or ¼ to ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper)
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ¾ teaspoon cumin seed
- 2 large tomatoes, diced or 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with juices
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt, divided
- ¼ - ½ cup canned full fat unsweetened coconut milk, well stirred
- 2 – 4 tablespoons minced cilantro, plus additional for garnish
- Optional garnish: plain Greek yogurt
- In a large saucepan, bring water to boil. Rinse lentils in a fine mesh strainer, then add to the water, stir to combine and bring to a boil. If they foam, skim off as much foam as possible. Reduce the heat to medium or medium-low, adjusting heat as necessary to maintain a good simmer, and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Add cubed sweet potato and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes until lentils are very soft, have broken apart, and a fork can easily pierce a sweet potato cube.
- While the lentils are simmering, heat a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat for 1 minute, add coconut oil, heat until melted, reduce heat to medium, add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, jalapeno, turmeric and cumin seed, and cook for 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and ¾ teaspoon salt, stir to combine and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until tomatoes have softened.
- Once lentils and sweet potatoes have finished cooking, add tomato mixture, plus remaining ½ to ¾ teaspoon salt, minced cilantro, and coconut milk to the cooked lentil mixture and heat gently for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to combine. Taste, and adjust seasonings accordingly. To serve, garnish with a sprinkle of additional minced cilantro, and a spoonful of yogurt.
Increase the lentils to 1 ½ cups if you would like the soup to be thick and stew-like from the start!