Friday, March 21, 2014

Jan's Lemony Red Lentil Soup

Red Lentil & Lemon soup
This surprisingly simple, delightfully lemony and heartily satisfying soup is the ideal vegetarian/vegan comfort food at the end of a long day -- or even for lunch -- especially when the weather is damp and chilly. My former neighbor Jan shared the recipe with me, and she says she got it from a dear English friend over 20 years ago. Even my carnivorous husband happily devoured this zesty, thick soup and savored the bright citrus notes and rich lentil earthiness.

If your regular supermarket doesn't have red lentils, you can find them in Indian grocery stores (sometimes labeled Masoor Dal) or in specialty/gourmet food markets. or, you can buy red lentils online from one of our Carolina Sauce Partners. Although they're a lovely reddish-salmon color while uncooked, red lentils inevitably turn yellow during cooking. To add color to this dish, I like garnishing the served soup with two or three kinds of citrus zest. This is easy to do if you regularly zest your lemons, limes, oranges and other citrus and store the different varieties of zest in little containers or baggies in your freezer. The bowl shown in the photo is garnished with lemon, lime and orange zest.

I've found that the juice of 1 large, juicy lemon is sufficient for our tastes. I also prefer to use two very large garlic cloves, or 3 to 4 smaller ones, for a bit more garlic flavor. Feel free to adjust the quantities of these ingredients, as well as the salt & pepper, to suit your tastes. For a spicier peppery bite, you could also add a dash or two of ground red pepper, ground jalapeno or even ground habanero powder. Finally, if you are not vegan, you can use ghee (Indian clarified butter, also available online from our Partner) instead of oil.

masoor dal red lentils
1 onion, finely chopped
1 Tbs oil or ghee (clarified butter)
2 cloves garlic, peeled & crushed
1 cup red lentils (masoor dal), picked over and rinsed
2 to 3 cups of water
Juice of 1 or 2 lemons
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp ground pepper (or to taste)
Optional: Grated lemon zest (or other citrus zest) as garnish

Heat the oil or ghee in a soup pot or other large heavy pot over medium heat, then saute the onion slowly until translucent and tender. Add garlic, lentils and 2 cups water, stir and bring to a simmer. Cook at a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, until lentils are very tender and starting to fall apart, adding the additional cup of water or more if the soup gets too thick. This should take anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes.

masoor dal red lentil soupWhen the lentils are tender and the soup has thickened to your desired texture, stir in lemon juice, salt & pepper. Taste for balance and adjust seasonings to taste. Serve garnished with lemon zest or other citrus zest if desired.

Makes around 6 servings, and leftovers can be refrigerated and reheated. The soup will thicken in the refrigerator, so you might want to stir in a little water (or even a little more lemon juice) when reheating. This recipe can be doubled or tripled, too.

Zestfully yours,

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