Sunday, October 18, 2009

Red Lentil Soup

There is nothing better than a hot bowl of soup to warm you up in the cool days. This soup has a warm, spicy undertone, has a great texture, and is chock full of protein from the lentils. It's a quick soup to make, it uses minimal ingredients, and it freezes like a dream. Out of all the soups I make (Three! Three whole soups! Yay me!) it's my favourite - a rich, flavourful meal that's actually really good for you. Serve it with some nice, soft rolls, crusty bread, or if you really want to stay healthy, some nice crispy chapatis.

Let's talk about the curry paste for a minute. Some people are afraid of curry because it's A) too hot, or B) "I don't like curry." First of all, don't use that yellow curry powder stuff - it's just icky, in my opinion, and it's not very authentic. Curry paste is much better. I use Pataks, and it keeps in the fridge forever, basically. It has different heat levels, so get whichever one your tastebuds can stand. You really need the flavour curry paste imparts, so please give it a try before you dismiss it out of hand, okay? Trust me, I wouldn't steer you wrong!

It's so quick to make, this can easily be a weeknight meal. Now, the original recipe calls for whole spices that you toast and then grind. If you're familiar with my blog, you'll know that I'm lazy, so I can't be arsed with all that. Instead, I use a tip from an Indian friend: fry the spices in hot oil, and then fry the onions in that glorious spice infusion. Much less fussy, and you still get the nice flavour toasting brings out in the spices.

After that, add in some garlic and let it cook a minute or two (any longer and it will burn), then add a can of tomatoes and let that cook for about 10 minutes. Add the lentils and stock, and let cook until the lentils are good and soft, about 20 minutes or so. You can leave it whole, but I prefer to puree it with my trusty stick blender - I loves me my immersion blender!

NOTE: Aside from the spices, there's really only 5 major components to this dish, so choose them wisely. I use whole canned tomatoes, rather than diced, because I find they have more flavour. Also, I use my own stock for the same reason. If you're using canned stock, you might want to let it rest in the fridge for a few hours to let the flavours blend better.

adapted from NY Times

2 tablespoons canola oil or peanut oil
1 medium or large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
Salt to taste
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons coriander
2 teaspoons hot curry paste
Cayenne to taste
salt and pepper to taste
1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes with juice
1 pound red lentils (about 2 1/8 cups), washed and picked over
2 quarts water/chicken stock
Juice of 1/2 lime
For garnish:
Chopped fresh cilantro
Thickened yogurt

1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add spices, and let fry for 1 or 2 minutes. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, and curry paste. Stir together for about a minute, until the garlic is fragrant, and stir in the tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes, until the tomatoes have cooked down slightly. Add more salt if necessary.

2. Stir in the lentils, water, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes or until the lentils have fallen apart and thickened the soup. Add the pepper, taste, and add cayenne if you want more spice. Taste and adjust salt. Stir in the lime juice.

3. If you wish, puree with an immersion blender. Heat through and serve, topping each bowl with a dollop of yogurt and a generous sprinkling of chopped cilantro.


  1. I LOVE curry and lentils, and this looks fantastic to me! I've bookmarked it so I can make it once the weather gets cold.

  2. It's definitely cold here, Leslie. :) I hope you enjoy it; it's my new favourite winter soup.