On my way home from a long week in the office this evening, I somehow managed to get a train without heat. December is giving us a cold start to the holiday season here in Chicago, so between the meat locker-like train and the walk home, I needed something to thaw my chilled bones. The Friday night fridge is a lean proposition since I go to the market on Saturdays; dinner was either going to be another round of bacon-egg-slurry or some kind of soup since I had a quart of stock sitting in the fridge waiting for inspiration.
Heidi Swanson posted a recipe for Red Lentil Soup a couple months ago that seemed intriguing. I’d filed it in the back of my mind on the “culinary to-do list,” but didn’t give it another thought until my friend Emily tweeted that she loved the soup and had already made two pots of it. I trust Emily’s opinions on soup, so I knew this one had to be on the menu soon.
This lentil soup doesn’t call for much in the way of ingredients, so I chopped an onion and some garlic and was on my way. I decided to give Heidi’s recipe an Indian twist with some freshly toasted and ground spices, and WOW, it really turned up the volume on the flavor in the soup. I love Indian daals, and this is very reminiscent of those flavors. This is a case where I would definitely recommend toasting and grinding the spices yourself – you want the flavors to be fresh and bold. Brown mustard seeds are one of my favorite Indian spices, and I don’t use them nearly enough – they add a peppery heat and totally change the character of the cumin and coriander in the dish, making a perfect harmony of heat and spice.
The soup cooks up pretty quickly and with minimal fuss, so you can easily make this on a weeknight. I also made some Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Cornbread to go with the soup. And I think that a bowl of soup and warm homemade bread is the perfect kick-off to the weekend.
Indian Red Lentil and Rice Soup
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
1 T brown mustard seeds, divided
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 T coconut oil or olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 T parsley (dried or fresh)
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups homemade chicken or vegetable stock
1 1/3 cup red lentils, picked over and rinsed
1/2 cup brown rice
squeeze of lemon juice, or a tablespoon or two of red wine or champagne vinegar
salt to taste
Garnish: toasted slivered almonds, chopped cilantro
- Heat a small pan over medium heat. Pour the whole spices into the pan – cumin, coriander, peppercorns, red pepper flakes and half of the mustard seeds. Toast for 3-4 minutes, shaking the pan often so that the spices don’t burn. When they begin to get fragrant, pour the spices into your spice grinder or mortar and pestle and grind to a coarse powder. Set aside.
- In a big soup pot, over medium heat, add the coconut oil, remaining whole brown mustard seeds, onion and a pinch of salt. Saute the onions slowly and let them caramelize a bit, stirring occasionally – about 10 minutes of cooking time. When they start to brown, add the garlic and toasted spice mix. Stir for another minute or two, and when the spices are warm and very fragrant, add the chicken (or vegetable) stock. Cover, and bring to a boil.
- When the pot is boiling, add the lentils, rice and parsley. Return to a boil, then reduce heat to low, and cook until the rice is tender – about an hour. Stir the soup occasionally as it simmers. The red lentils will break down into almost a puree and will thicken the soup. If the pot gets too thick for you, add a little water. When the rice is tender, season the soup with salt to taste and a squeeze of lemon juice or vinegar to brighten the flavor of the lentils, then serve. Garnish each bowl with toasted almonds and chopped cilantro.
470 cal per serving, 90cal from fat, 10g fat, 10mg cholesterol, 540 mg sodium, 490 mg potassium, 69g carbs, 11g fiber, 10g sugars, 26.3g protein