02 May 2009

Red lentils. Vegetarian soul food.

This is the stuff that gives this blog its name - at least half of the name. Lentils are very nutritious, they contain carbohydrates, proteins, fibers and - very important in stressful times - folate, vitamin B1 and iron. I like to prepare them as a thick soup, but I don't puree them as I like the soft bite they have. This is an Indian-inspired version of lentil soup, but basically I just put in all the exotic spices I have in my kitchen. And the best thing is, you have a heart-warming dinner in just 20 minutes!

RED LENTIL SOUP for 3 (or 2 hungry ones)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
(1 small carrot, diced)
2-3 cloves of garlic, diced
1 small sprig of rosemary
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup red lentils
3-4 cups water
1/4 teaspoon each, dried and ground: ginger, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, chili, pepper
1/2 teaspoon each: garam masala, ras-el-hanout
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 cardamom pods
1 clove
1 bay leaf
juice of 1 lemon
juice of 1 orange
salt to taste
full-fat yogurt to taste (leave out for a vegan dish)

Chop onion and garlic into small dices, and do the same with a small carrot if you like.

Heat up a nice wide pot and pour in the oil. Always heat up your cooking pots first before putting in any fat, this will prevent your stuff from sticking to the bottom of the pot - this is especially effective if you want to brown meat in a no-nonstick pot.

Let the onions, the garlic and the rosemary sweat for a couple of minutes, until they are soft and translucent. Then, put in the tomato paste and let it heat up for a minute or so, this will take away some acidity and some of the "metal can taste". Add 3 cups of water and the red lentils and bring to a simmer.

Here come the spices. Just grab everything that looks exotic and/or smells like Christmas.

Add all the spices, the lemon and orange juice and give it all a good stir. I know, this looks like there's way too much spices, but trust me: it will taste good. And DO NOT add the salt now, or the lentils will take more like double the time to get done.

Let it all simmer for 20 minutes and then give the lentils a taste. If they are soft, but not mushy and some split open, then you're good to go. Add the salt - I think I took about a teaspoon - and serve with a good dollop of yogurt. Or cream cheese. Or crème fraiche.


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