Lentil Soup – Two Ways, Part One

Casey will probably tell you that I have never met a curried lentil I did not like. In fact, he might even tell you that two of my favorite things to cook – especially when it’s nearing 8pm on a Wednesday – are either lentils or curried something or other. Can you blame me? Lentils – red, yellow, green, French, or black – are delicious, quick cooking, nutrient packed, and (my personal favorite) versatile. Sneak into the kitchen and you’ll probably see me adding red lentils to couscous, tossing some handfuls into a dish of black beans and rice, or just making soup with lentils and left over fridge veggies. As for curry – I enjoy the depth it brings to a dish, especially a madras curry blended with additional ground fenugreek to mellow the spiciness. Over a year ago, Bon Apetit published this beautiful curried lentil soup recipe. The recipe went straight from the magazine and into my binder(s) of “To-Try” dishes. After a failed attempt at a short cut – read: please use a food processor to puree the chickpeas, an immersion blender and a little water does not produce the same results – I finally got around to making it again. It’s perfect to make on a lazy Sunday afternoon, where you can enjoy the sweet and spicy aromas perfuming your kitchen.

Curried Lentil Soup – adapted from Bon Apetit, 2010

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped finely
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons or more curry powder
  • 2 tablespoons fenugreek powder
  • Pinch of brown mustard seeds
  • 1 cup French green lentils
  • 4 and 1/4 cups water
  • 1 15-ounce can of low salt chickpeas
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Olive oil, to sauté and finish with

Heat the olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium to high heat. Add the mustards seeds to the oil, and listen for them to make a small popping sound. Then add the onion and carrot, sautéing until onion is translucent. About 4 to 5 minutes. (You can lower the heat to medium as well, for a slower sauté). Add one of the chopped garlic cloves, allowing the flavors to mingle. Continue cooking another 5 minutes. Add to the curry powder and fenugreek powder, stirring until the spices are well mixed and fragrant. Add the lentils along with the four cups of water. You can certainly use a mild vegetable or chicken broth here for additional flavor, but the curry should stand out. Bring the soup to a boil by increasing the heat. Once boiling, reducing to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.

While the lentils are cooking, puree chickpeas, quarter cup water (or more, if the paste is too thick for your liking), olive oil, and garlic in a food processor. This step reminds me of making a simplified hummus, which will be added to the soup as a thickening agent. Once the chickpeas are pureed, add them to soup, along with the butter. Season to taste with salt, pepper, or more curry powder. If you allow the soup to sit, it will thicken – simply add water 1/4 cup at a time until you reach the desired consistency.

I served my soup with minimal garnish, but sliced green onion or lemon wedges work. well here.

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