If I were told I could only make (and eat) one soup for the rest of my life, I’m pretty sure I’d choose this one. It’s an intoxicating blend of the exotic and the comforting and I defy anyone to have just one bowlful. Don’t be intimidated by the ingredient list – just get yourself to a nearby health food store and pick up small amounts of the seasonings. Chop and measure everything before you begin; the soup comes together in a jiffy that way. I’ve adapted this from a recipe given to me years ago by the nice people at Perfection-Satisfaction-Promise, one of the finest little vegetarian eateries in Ottawa. Just looking at this photo makes me smile in anticipation. I hope you love this lentil soup as much as I do.
- 2 cups red lentils
- 2 cups peeled, chopped sweet potato
- 1 ½ cups peeled, chopped white potato
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons brown or black mustard seeds
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon minced gingerroot
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 1/4 teaspoons cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
- 1/2 lemon, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 1 medium tomato, diced
- 1 1/2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
- additional diced tomato and lemon wedges, for garnish
- Pick over the lentils to remove any stones and rinse thoroughly in a sieve.
- In a large pot, add cleaned lentils and 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil then simmer until the colour of the lentils changes from orange-red to yellow.
- In another pot, boil the sweet and white potatoes with just enough water to cover the top of the potatoes.
- When the potatoes are soft, mash with the cooking water until they are beginning to look smooth (I like to have some tiny chunks of potato in the soup for a nice contrast of texture).
- To fry the spice mixture, heat the oil on high in a medium-sized frying pan or pot that has a tight-fitting lid and add the mustard seeds.
- As soon as the seeds begin to pop and become fragrant, turn the heat to low and cover until all the seeds are popped. (Note that the seeds turn gray after popping but will become black again if burnt. If you accidentally burn them, chuck ‘em out and start this step over again. Trust me.)
- Once the seeds have finished popping, add the onions and increase the heat to medium-low.
- When the onions are beginning to soften (after about 2 minutes), add the garlic, ginger and powdered spices. Stir frequently to prevent them from sticking to the pot.
- When the onions are translucent and the spices are deliciously fragrant, lower the heat and stir in the tomato, lemon and spinach to simmer lightly for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir the spice mixture and potato mixture into the cooked lentils; stirring to blend well. Taste and adjust salt; you can also add water if the soup is thicker than you prefer.
Makes 6 to 8 servings, unless you’re me. I could eat the whole big potful.