Spiced Red Lentil Soup
I’ve worked with many Indian chefs during my career, and I’ve managed to learn a lot about their food, but that’s just a drop in the ocean when you think of what’s out there. This was one of the soups we used to serve as a pre-starter for customers in the restaurant.
200g red lentils
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp salt
2 dried red chillies
1 tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp fenugreek seeds
½ tsp black peppercorns
4 tbsp vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 fresh red chilli
6 curry leaves
4 tbsp fresh coriander leaves
4 tbsp Greek yoghurt
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the lentils in a large saucepan with 2 litres water, turmeric and salt. Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat, break the dried chillies into pieces and add to the pan with the coriander, cumin and fenugreek seeds and black peppercorns. Toast for 20 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove and place in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder, then grind to a powder.
Finely chop the onion and garlic. Return the pan to the heat, add 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil, the onion and garlic, and cook gently for 10 minutes, until softened.
Roughly chop the tomatoes. Add the spice mixture, onions and tomatoes to the lentils and bring to a simmer. Skim off and discard any scum, then cook for 1 hour over a very low heat, stirring occasionally.
Shortly before serving, slice the fresh chilli. Heat another frying pan until very hot and add the remaining vegetable oil. When the oil is smoking, add the mustard seeds, fresh chilli and curry leaves, then quickly remove from the heat.
Finely chop the coriander. Remove any last residue of scum from the soup, then transfer it to a blender in batches and process until smooth. Return it to the pan to heat through and add the tempered spices and coriander. Season with salt and pepper.
Ladle into serving bowls and finish with a spoonful of yoghurt. Serve immediately.
Extracted from Slow Cooking by James Martin (Quadrille, approx €14). Photography © Tara Fisher.