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February 20, 2017This is about.... NOT a Third World GIRL... INDIAN RED LENTIL SOUP---YUM!
As far as I can tell, THERE ARE 2 TYPES OF PEOPLE WHO VISIT INDIA. Some love it there, revelling in the chaos, the beauty and the daily desperation. Others, like me, are excited to go, but are just as excited to leave. I AM NOT A THIRD WORLD GIRL!! I've been lucky enough to tour there twice with a rock and roll band, called the Dharma Bums. Once WE WERE EVEN GUESTS OF THE INDIAN GOVERNMENT, treated to a myriad of tours and Indian banquets. I ate ALOT of traditional food on that visit. A little history here. When I was GROWING UP IN NJ, IT WAS PRETTY MUCH WHITE BREAD ALL THE TIME. The only ethnic food around was The China Sky, an Ameicanized Chinese restaurant, that made alot of chow mein, fried rice and pepper steak. So is it any surprise that my first introduction to anything Indian was in my 20’s? THAT FIRST SMELL OF INDIAN FOOD HIT ME HARD, AND NOT IN A GOOD WAY. It was like a whoosh of cigar smoke suffocating me. I virtually had to leave the restaurant. BUT I HAD ABSOLUTELY NO REASON TO HAVE SUCH A DISTASTE. Now you're going to think I'm crazy, but I do truly believe that IN SOME PAST LIFE, I WAS AN ENGLISHWOMAN LIVING IN INDIA, AND NOT HAPPY ABOUT IT. And hence, my inexplicable aversion to Indian food. Years later as a practicing yoga teacher, and being exposed to so many delicious Indian dishes, my feelings about the cuisine have done a total about face. Still, I DO HAVE TO ADMIT THOUGH, THAT AFTER MY FIRST VISIT THERE, I WAS BEYOND GIDDY TO BE HOME. This soup is intensely seasoned with smokey cumin, and fresh ginger. IT COOKS UP FAST too, less than 30 minutes from start to finish. I like a little texture in my soup. But if you want, you can whiz it in the blender to make it creamy. Sometimes I ADD A SWIRL OF SIRRACHA ON THE TOP. And I love the flavorful crunch of some TOASTED CUMIN SEEDS TOO. LESSONS Learned: 1. This really does cook up fast and could burn. So pay attention towards the end of the cooking time to stir and add more liquid if needed. 2. It’s easy to toast the cumin seeds. I rinse about 1 Tablespoon of them in a fine mesh strainer and dump them into a small dry skillet. Over medium heat, let them toast, stirring the entire time. And when they smell fragrant after about 2-3 minutes, immediately remove from the pan to a dish so they don’t turn bitter. 3. You can easily double this recipe and freeze some.
INDIAN SPICED RED LENTIL SOUP
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped, about 2 cups
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 cup red lentils, picked through for stones and rinsed
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
4 cups water, vegetable or chicken stock or a combination
½ teaspoon salt or to taste.
Optional toppings: Sirracha, Toasted cumin seeds
Make the soup:
In a large heavy bottomed pot, heat the oil and add the chopped onions and a pinch of salt. Cook until translucent. Add the garlic, cumin and red pepper flakes, and cook till fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the red lentils, ginger, and the water and/or stock. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.
Turn down to a simmer and cover. Cook for 25-30 minutes stirring occasionally until the lentils are very soft. Check often at the end of the cooking time to prevent sticking. If the soup has gotten too thick add more water or stock. Add the salt, taste for seasoning and add more salt if you like.
It’s delicious a little chunky, but you can also puree it in a blender to make it creamy. Serve with Sirracha and toasted cumin seeds, if desired.
Makes 4 servings.