Spicy Lentil Soup
This spicy lentil soup has an Indian and Sri Lankan influence and is hearty enough to make a complete meal.
We add meat or seafood towards the end of the cooking process but, with the meat omitted, this lentil soup has enough taste and nutrition to make a stand-alone meal. Simply substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock for a vegetarian dish. Serves 4
1 large onion finely chopped
2 tablespoons peanut oil
4 cloves garlic
1 inch square piece of fresh ginger
1 fresh red chilli
1½ inch cinnamon stick
12 curry leaves
1 bay leaf
6 whole cardamon pods
4 whole cloves
½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
2 teaspoons ground paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ripe tomatoes finely chopped
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup brown lentils
1½ litres chicken stock
1½ cups potato diced into 1cm cubes
1 cup of beef or pork, sliced into wafer thin discs about the size of a twenty cent piece. Alternatively uses sliced chicken breast or a dozens fresh prawns
1 cup green peas
2 tablespoons fresh coriander
1 spring onion sliced into thin rings
Thoroughly wash and drain the lentils and set aside.
Finely mince or blend the ginger, garlic and chilli into a coarse paste.
In a heavy pot, heat peanut oil to medium hot and add all the whole spices and leaves.
Stir fry for 30 seconds until the spices are fragrant and immediately add the chopped onion. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are deep, golden brown in colour.
Turn the heat to medium and add the ginger/garlic/chilli paste and continue cooking until the oil separates from the mix. Be careful not to burn this masala. If necessary add a little water to lift any masala sticking to the pan. When the oil has separated add ½ a cup of water and cook out the masala again. When the oil separates once more, add the ground paprika, cumin, coriander and pepper and cook for one minute.
Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan and mix to incorporate. This vegetable and spice base should now be a rich deep red/brown colour.
Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Gently pour in the lentils and diced potato and return the pot to the boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer, cover and cook the lentils until they retain some firmness. Lentils can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour to cook spending on quality, freshness and variety. 35 minutes is a rough estimate but be guided by the packet instructions. You are looking for a finished lentil with a texture similar to 'al-dente' pasta, not mush unless that's your preference.
Ten minutes before serving, turn up the heat a little and add the sliced meat, followed five minutes later by the green peas. When cooked garnish with the chopped coriander and spring onion. Serve with bread such as Chapati or Naan.
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