Dal-Inspired Red Lentil Soup

by mary on January 18, 2014

dal-inspired red lentil soup with yogurt and cilantro garnish

dal-inspired red lentil soup with yogurt and cilantro garnish

This lentil soup looks homey and American with its diced carrots, chopped celery, and onions and garlic sauteéd in olive oil. But it tastes more like Indian dal, spicy enough to my taste to mandate a dollop of yogurt to take off the edge.

Julia’s recipe for red lentil coconut soup  at A Cedar Spoon tempted me and I thought approvingly of how quickly red lentils cook. Two dal recipes in 30-Minute Vegan Taste of the East provided more inspiration. I had to include my new favorite ingredient, the curry leaves I picked up last week at the Indian grocery.

Unlike, say, bay leaves, curry leaves are soft and edible with a complex and subtle spiciness. The bundle I bought cost only a dollar and the three recipes I’ve made with the leaves so far have hardly made a dent in my supply. I read that they don’t keep well in the refrigerator and lose most of their flavor when dried. But they freeze well: I plan to freeze the rest. Now that I’ve discovered how good they are I will keep them on hand.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Dal-Inspired Red Lentil Soup
 
Prep
Cook
Total
 
Author:
Type: soup
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 6 cups vegetable stock or part stock and part water, divided (I used 4 c. stock and 2 c. water)
  • ½ tsp. turmeric
  • 8 oz. fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 1 cup celery, chopped (several stalks)
  • 3 small red chilis, minced (I used Thai chilis)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 Tbsp. black mustard seed
  • 15 curry leaves
  • 1 cup onion, chopped(1/2 large)
  • 1 Tbsp. ginger, minced
  • 1 Tbsp garlic, minced (from about 2 medium cloves)
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • several grinds black pepper
  • 1½ tsp. salt or to taste
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, minced
  • ½ cup of plain yogurt (dairy or non-dairy, coconut yogurt would be a good non-dairy choice)
Instructions
  1. Combine lentils, five cups of the stock or stock and water, the turmeric, the tomatoes, carrots, celery, minced red chilies, and the cinnamon stick in a large pot, bring to a boil and then simmer.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil in a medium sized pan. Add curry leaves and black mustard seeds and stir until the mustard seeds pop, about 10 seconds.
  3. Scrape the mustard seeds and curry leaves out of the pan and add them to the soup.
  4. Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. of olive oil in the pan. Add the onions and ginger and and saute for 5-7 minutes until softened.
  5. Add the garlic and sauté for another couple of minutes.
  6. Add ingredients from pan to the soup. Rinse the pan with a cup of water and add it to the soup to pick up the rest of the flavor.
  7. (If you have time, you can do this recipe all in one large pot. I just start the onions, ginger and spices in a separate pan to save 10 minutes.)
  8. Simmer for about half an hour until the lentils are soft and the flavors are melding.
  9. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Serve with a dollop of yogurt and minced cilantro as garnishes.

 

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

yummychunklet January 19, 2014 at 5:41 am

What a delicious looking soup. Great inspiration!
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mary mary January 19, 2014 at 7:10 am

Thanks!

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Maureen | Orgasmic Chef January 19, 2014 at 8:53 am

I really like this recipe and that photo makes me SO hungry.
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mary mary January 19, 2014 at 3:01 pm

Thanks, Maureen!

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penny aka jeroxie
Twitter:
January 19, 2014 at 10:22 am

I miss eating lentil soup. Will have to cook some soon. thanks for the inspiration!
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mary mary January 19, 2014 at 3:01 pm

Thanks, Penny!

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Kim January 20, 2014 at 1:35 am

Not gonna lie, seeing all those ingredients intimidates me. Even though most are herbs and such… I really do love to cook and bake, but when a recipe has too many ingredients I get scared!! I don’t even read the ingredients first, I just see a long list and move on. I want to start trying some more “complicated” recipes! This looks yummy!!

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mary mary January 20, 2014 at 4:15 am

Thanks for the feedback, Kim! I would say just use the recipe in a way that’s fun and approachable for you. I threw this soup together from spices and vegetables that I had on hand, soup’s a good way to use up things. You can do the same thing with appropriate but different spices and vegetables that you have on hand. Or use the recipe to find a new ingredient to play around with just to have fun in the kitchen. Maybe the black mustard seeds– I love their spicy flavor. I fry them up (10 seconds) and use them in a variety of Indian dishes.

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Stacie January 20, 2014 at 12:18 pm

I don’t think I have seen a few of those ingredients in my store. Maybe I’ve just never looked for them? I’m sure they have got to be there. This soup looks really good though!
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mary mary January 20, 2014 at 9:03 pm

I don’t know, it would be good for me to know how available some of these ingredients that I take for granted are around the country. I live in an area where there are a lot of comprehensive groceries nearby. I just went to Costco and they have chia seeds, blanched almond flour— a lot of things that I think of as specialty healthy ingredients. And they are not alone, it’s easy for me to find what I want. The only ingredient in this recipe that I have to go to a particular store for is the curry leaves, they are only at the Indian grocery.

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kirsten January 20, 2014 at 7:06 pm

Mary,
I’ve got a belly full of dal, after going out to an Indian buffet for a holiday lunch with the family–this is the perfect time to enjoy this recipe. I do need to find black mustard seeds, though–I hit Penzey’s after a sled hockey tournament in Columbus and restocked many of my spices. But I didn’t think about black mustard seeds.
Thanks!
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mary mary January 20, 2014 at 9:12 pm

I have not been to Penzey’s but it sounds like a fun excursion! I buy my spices in bulk at PCC co-op, I find the pricing excellent. I’m due for an Indian buffet lunch, I have my eye on taking the family to the Spice Route here on the Eastside.

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Mike Luque January 20, 2014 at 7:12 pm

Great looking recipe. I’m a big fan of both lentils and Indian spiced foods. Instead of the cinnamon sticks, I’d probably use garam masala. Adds a little more kick than cinnamon alone.
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mary mary January 20, 2014 at 9:12 pm

Thanks, Mike! I’m sure garam masala would be great in this, too!

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Alexis from Hummusapien January 20, 2014 at 10:50 pm

MmmmMmmmM!! I’ve never used curry leaves in cooking but I’m beyond obsessed with curry powder so I’m sure I would be in love :)

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mary mary January 23, 2014 at 3:39 am

They are pretty special…. quite a different beast from curry powder.

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Hannah
Twitter:
January 21, 2014 at 2:44 am

What a perfect warm and cozy bowlful of comfort. Crazy to say it, but the weather here is actually too hot here to enjoy it right now! I would definitely try it chilled though- Now that sounds like a soothing dinnertime treat.
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mary mary January 23, 2014 at 3:41 am

I’ll take that problem! Enjoy your sun and warmth.

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Kiran
Twitter:
January 23, 2014 at 3:04 am

Mmmm… I’m finding comfort in your version of dal inspired lentil soup. Yummy!
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mary mary January 23, 2014 at 3:42 am

Thanks, Kiran!

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the wicked noodle
Twitter:
January 23, 2014 at 7:00 pm

This looks fantastic! I love healthy dishes that pack a lot of flavor like this one!
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mary mary January 25, 2014 at 5:52 am

Thanks, Kristy!

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The Wimpy Vegetarian January 27, 2014 at 6:33 pm

Indian food and flavors are the newest thing to explore (along with Moroccan and half dozen other ethnic food cultures). I love the look of this soup and think I’ll try it this week. Thanks for this great recipe!
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mary mary January 28, 2014 at 3:03 am

I’m actually on trend? How did that happen?!? I hope you like the soup, let me know!

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Teresa January 28, 2014 at 10:38 pm

It was absolutely delicious, Mary! I doubled the recipe — needed two big pots to do that, but I figured there was enough effort in the recipe that I wanted to have leftovers! It was the first time that I used curry leaves and I think they were well worth the effort of finding them.

You didn’t mention when to add the cumin and the ground coriander. I added it to the simmering pot, which was fine.

Differences that I made:
I used one fresh red chili pepper and three very long dried red peppers, which I fished out at the end. It had just the right amount of heat.
Instead of fresh tomatoes, I used a can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes.
I used Dorot frozen ginger, garlic and cilantro.

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mary mary January 29, 2014 at 1:24 am

Teresa, I’m so happy that you tried this recipe and really enjoyed it! Thanks for taking on the adventure of finding the curry leaves and all and reporting back! Your idea of doubling it to have leftovers is an excellent one, I regretted not having leftovers myself. Soups are always better the second day, anyway. I’ve updated the recipe to clarify about the coriander and cumin, thanks for catching that and letting me know. The chilis are of course a flexible ingredient based on what chilis you have on hand and how spicy you like your food, and yes canned instead of fresh tomato works too. I’m glad that the heat turned out just right for you.

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Mireya February 1, 2014 at 5:45 am

Wow, this sounds so flavorful, but where am I going to find curry leaves? Is there an alternative in the produce section? I’m really looking forward to trying this!

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mary mary February 1, 2014 at 5:51 am

You can find them at an Indian grocery. There is no substitute, it’s a unique flavor: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/888497. Curry powder is completely different. You can get them on Amazon, though the price seems very high, especially compared to $1 at my local Indian grocery.

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