I had this red lentil soup in a “Fusion” restaurant many years ago, when the word “fusion” was new to the culinary world. It was one of those dishes that you enjoy in a restaurant, and know that you will search all over for a recipe that is similar. The problem was, however, where would I find such a recipe? Would it be in an Indian cookbook? I had several, but there was nothing like this soup in it. Would it be in a Thai cookbook? Or in a “Soup Only” cookbook, such as the ones you see in William Sonoma Stores? I looked everywhere, but to no avail. I even wrote into Gourmet Magazine for the recipe. They used to have a column every month, where you could write in looking for a recipe from a particular restaurant. They never answered me. I reluctantly gave up my search, but the subtle flavors still lingered. I tried hard to erase it from my mind. Then one day, many years later, I was thumbing through a new cookbook I had bought, for the Slow Cooker, and I came across a recipe for red lentil soup that I thought could be it…or at least close. As I read the ingredients, my tastebuds started to come to life, remembering all the delicate flavors. Yes, this could be it! I was ecstatic!
It is indeed very close to that “fusion” red lentil soup I had many years ago. Every time I make this soup, I am still amazed that I found such a similar recipe. The “food gods” were truly shining upon me when I accidentally happened upon it.
RECIPE: For Slow Cooker, but can be adapted to stove top.
2 cups red lentils
1 TBSP vegetable oil
2 onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped (I added this)
2 tsp. turmeric
2 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cracked black peppercorns
1 long red chili pepper or 2 Thai chilies, finely chopped
1 can (28 oz.) tomatoes, including juice
2 large carrots, peeled, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced ( I sometimes chop)
1 TBSP (I do 2 TBSP) freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk
Thin slices of lemon
Finely chopped cilantro
1. In a colander, rinse lentils thoroughly under cold running water. Set aside.
2. In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring until soft. Add garlic,celery, turmeric, cumin seeds, salt, peppercorns, and chili pepper and cook, stirring for about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and bring to a boil, breaking up with the back of a spoon, or squish in hands before adding. Stir in carrots, lentils, lemon juice and broth.
3. Transfer mixture to slow cooker stoneware. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 10 hours or on HIGH for 4 to 5 hours, until carrots are tender and mixture is bubbling.
4. Stir in coconut milk and cook on HIGH for 20 to 30 minutes, until heated through.
5. When ready to serve, ladle into bowls and top with lemon slices and cilantro, if using.
** If cooking on the stove, follow all the steps in order. I would cook the soup, simmering on the stove for at least 1 1/2 hours, or until the lentils are cooked well and the carrots are tender.