Not to toot my own horn or anything, but there is absolutely nothing not to like about this soup. Unless you don’t like lentils and frankly, if you don’t like lentils I’m guessing you actually only think you don’t like lentils in which case you are sadly deluded and should make this soup anyway. What’s good about this soup? For a start, it’s stupidly easy to make. No skill required at all, the only slightly tricky bit is making sure you don’t sneak out too early and add the salt before the lentils are fully cooked. If you add the salt too soon the lentils won’t soften properly and you will surely regret your rash spontaneity.
Secondly, its insanely cheap to make. For many people who have managed to pull off a largely more mature adult lifestyle and possess such things as homes and proper cars this won’t matter much but for me, it’s really important. As a family comprising a self employed student and a community-sector worker, when the Dreaded Global Financial Crisis hit my first fear was that my family would be able to afford nothing other than bad white bread and cheap carbs. Then I remembered the brown lentil soup. And, yes, the Dreaded Global Financial Crisis did hit us hard and, yes, the brown lentil soup was with us and is with us still. If you make this from scratch it will probably put you about $10.00 out of pocket but I nearly always have some or all of the ingredients floating around. Its smell-of-an oily-rag health food. Yay for brown lentil soup!
And of course, most importantly, it is really delicious. It’s warm and wholesome and nourishing and deep. It’s easy to eat and it always makes me feel the love. This recipe has been adapted from Kurma Das. Remember Cooking with Kurma on SBS? Certainly the only Hare Krishna show on prime time and one of the few vegetarian cooking shows I’ve seen on TV. Apart from the whole replace-the-garlic-with-asafoetida thing (and I’ve made it clear before exactly how I feel about that), Kurma sure knew his way around vegetarian cooking. I’ve adapted this recipe over time, and so here it is:
Brown lentil soup
- 375g pack of brown or green lentils
- couple of potatoes, peeled and diced into about 1 cm cubes
- couple of sticks of celery, diced (include leaves if you’ve got them)
- couple of carrots, diced into about 1 cm cubes
- Couple of cloves of garlic, crushed or finely diced
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Handful of spinach (optional)
- Bunch of coriander, preferably with the roots on
- Half a teaspoon of tumeric powder
- 2 tablespoons ground coriander (yes, that is the correct amount)
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1-2 teaspoons salt
- 1 – 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
Put the lentils in a medium saucepan with plenty of water. I’m no good at quantities but fill half way up to begin with. If you have coriander roots, wash them well and add a few now. Bring slowly to the boil and cook until mostly softened – this will take around half an hour. In the meantime, heat some olive oil in a pan and when its hot throw in the black pepper and tumeric for a few seconds. Add the potato, carrots and celery and fry until the vegetables are starting to colour and soften. Add the vegies to the softened lentils and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the cumin and coriander and simmer another 10 minutes. You’ll find you have to keep topping up the water. The cooking time isn’t critical – just make sure that the lentils are really starting to break down as the soup will be thicker and tastier like this. Finally, add the salt, lemon juice and spinach if using and wait a few more minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves, a drizzle of olive oil and some yoghurt or sour cream if you have any.