Thursday, June 10, 2010

Carrot & Red Lentil Soup with Indian Spices

I believe it's always soup weather. The beautiful Chicago summer days don't make me want it any less. This is a variation on one of my favorite soups, a creamy carrot-ginger number that I've made many, many times. This update came about after the long Memorial Day weekend (was that already 2 weeks ago!?) when we needed to replenish some nutrients lost due to the festivities.

My old carrot soup uses potatoes as a thickener, as well as coconut milk for flavor and body. With a cupboard full of dals (legumes from the Indian grocery store), I wanted to make this soup even healthier and more satisfying. I replaced the potatoes with red lentils (masoor dal), a variety that cooks down to a pleasant mush in very little time. I skipped the coconut milk and added toasted spices and aromatics at the end, as you often do with Indian dishes.

I loved the results and was really glad to add more fiber and nutrients with the lentils. While the potato version often left me feeling hungry in a couple hours, this soup is a hearty main course. You can easily adapt the spices here based on what you have on hand, so don't let any unfamiliar ingredients deter you. Do use plenty of fresh ginger though--the bright, vegetal spice is key.

Carrot & Red Lentil Soup with Indian Spices

Serves 4

3 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 cup red lentils (masoor dal)
2 lb carrots, peeled and chopped
2-3 tsp curry powder (to taste)
1/2 tsp red chile powder (preferably the Indian type)
1 Tbs ghee or oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 white onion, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
1 to 2 hot chiles, finely chopped (Thai, serrano or jalapeno)
Pinch asafoetida (optional)

For serving:
Greek yogurt or sour cream
Lime wedges
Chopped cilantro

In a large pot, combine the water and lentils. Bring to a boil and simmer, partially covered, 20 minutes. Add the carrots, curry powder and chile powder; return to simmering (add 1 additional cup of water if needed to submerge carrots) and cook until tender, about 20 minutes more. If too much liquid boils off to effectively cook ingredients, add water in 1/2 cup increments as necessary; soup should be thick, but not difficult to stir.

Meanwhile, heat the ghee or oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the cumin and mustard seeds. Cover skillet and cook until seeds start to pop. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and cook, uncovered, until tender, 8-10 minutes. Add ginger, chiles and asafetida; continue cooking, stirring frequently, 3 minutes more.

When carrots are tender, add the spiced onion mixture and simmer 5 minutes. Remove pot from heat and puree with an immersion blender or a regular blender (in batches). Return soup to low heat. If soup is too thick, thin with water or broth. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. You can add additional chile or curry powder too if you like. Serve with yogurt, limes and cilantro.


Josh Smith said...

Right now i am in Idaho and it is so cold here (in the start of the summer). How pathetic right so i think i will try this soup since i need something good to keep me warm

Mary said...

This really does sound wonderful. We've just finished a period of heavy rain where your soup would have been welcomed. I've spent some time perusing your earlier posts and I must tell you how much I like your recipes. I'll be back as often as I can to see what else you've been cooking. Have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

Julie said...

Josh: hope you get some summer weather soon.
Mary: Thanks for your kind words!

Deborah said...

I love soup year round, and this sounds absolutely delicious!

Tv Food and Drink said...

Love making any soup more substantial. Always the way to go. Great recipe!

Mike said...

This soup is recommendable for winter and rainy season. It gives so warm and soothing feeling.No doubt Indian spices can make any item tasty. You convinced me to have this soup for tomorrow's dinner.
Major indian spices