Based on numerous comments on previous posts, I know there are pulse fans among the regular visitors to Consider The Sauce.
And among those, there are those who have their favourite uses for red lentils – be they dals or soups.
Well listen up – I hope you all try this killer recipe.
It may not supplant your favourite recipe(s), but it’ll impress everyone for sure.
Like everything I’m cooking at the moment, this recipe – slightly customised – comes from Nawal Nasrallah’s awesome Irqai cookbook, Delights From The Garden Of Eden.
She calls this lentil brew “the mother of all soups”, and it’s the bestest, tastiest lentil soup recipe I’ve ever cooked.
Funny thing – I used to be a bit sniffy about using curry powder. Too many lingering memories from childhood (sausages and sultanas), I suppose.
These days, I’m much more relaxed about using good-quality curry powders sourced from any of the many Indian grocers in our world.
In this case, the small amount of powder used means the soup does not taste of curry – or curry powder.
Rather, in combination with the other seasonings, it imparts a deep, rich and rather mysterious earthiness.
The addition of flour after frying the onions is the direct opposite of what I’m used to when cooking New Orleans or cajun dishes, in which a usually very dark roux is made and the vegetables then added.
No matter – the effect is similar, although that step could be omitted entirely as not a lot of flour is used.
2 cups red lentils
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 noodle nests or equivalent amount of broken-up pasta
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 heaping teaspoon plain or wholemeal flour
1/4 cup lemon juice
1. Wash lentils and place in pot with 10 cups of water. Bring to boil and cook until done – about 30-45 minutes. Don’t worry, it’s pretty much impossible to overcook them – you’ll just end up with a different texture, that’s all.
2. When lentils are close to fully cooked, heat oil to low-medium and fry onions until a deep golden brown. This should take about 10-15 minutes. Stir frequently.
3. As onions are cooking, add to the lentils the pepper, salt, tomato paste, turmeric and curry powder. Keep on a very low heat and stir gently until the paste and seasonings are well integrated.
4. Also crunch/crumble noodle nests into the soup – doing this feels really cool!
5. Cook soup for about another 15 minutes or until noodles are soft.
6. About five minutes before noodles are soft, add flour to onions and continue to cook over a low-medium heat, stirring often. Cook for about five minutes or until flour is the same golden colour as the onions.
7. Slop a couple of ladles of soup mixture into onion pan, swirl around to loosen all the flour and return pan contents to soup.
8. Cook for another five minutes, stirring occasionally.
9. Add lemon juice, mix in.
10. Place soup in bowls, garnish with parsley.
Your lentil soup looks really great. Excellent choice!
I have two comments though. First, the noodles we usually use in the Middle East are finer than the variety shown in the soup. Next time try it with the authentic vermicelli noodle [sha’riyya in Arabic]. Secondly, I understand your hesitation about using curry powder and turmeric. I really hate the raw metalic taste of this spice when overused or not cooked well. Now, the thing to do, when you brown your finely chopped onion and after you add the flour, add the curry powder and turmeric to the frying onion and stir for about half a minute until the mix starts to emit a wonderful aroma. This will do it!
I am really excited about your cooking from my book, and many thanks for your good words.
Hi Nawal! Thanks for the tips. I’ve been using noodle nests I already had at home – Italian, of course. But I’m sure the sha’riyya will be available from any of our usual Middle Eastern haunts.
Have had your book for about a month now and am still getting to grips with its depth – so many recipes, so much history! And I really love the fact so many of the dishes are real home-style – we’re big on pulses around here! 🙂
I know your tome will enrich us for years to come!
I didn’t have the noodles but this recipe tastes great, plus lentils are healthy. Thanks for the recipe!
Hi Kenny, I saw your flashback to this post on FB. Love the sound of this dish and would like to try cooking it. A quick question… when you say good quality curry powder, did you have a particular brand in mind? Or are various good ones widely available at Indian grocers? My only previous experience with curry powder is of the Keen’s variety so interested to know!
Yeah good question. I’ve been using the same package for years. I know that’s supposed to be a no-no, but I keep it tightly sealed and it’s holding it’s flavour. Besides the flavour role in this recipe is quite subtle, sort of smokey. Forget the supermarket stuff, though. Any of the places in WeFo and near you will have something. But they all DO invariably sell it in pretty big portions. It was this recipe that got me “over” any issues about using curry powder. Indians do! And pre-made curry sauces, or bases, are used in Thailand!
Yep I hear you re: the curry powder. On a similar note, I used to work with an Indian guy who was renowned for his “secret family recipe” tandoori chicken whenever we had a work BBQ. It was so delicious. When I finished working there he confided in me that his secret family recipe was a pre-made spice mix that you can buy at Indian grocers. It tasted brilliant anyway!
Excuse my ignorance, but what is a noodle nest?
She means the noodle/pasta bundles of the sort you can see in the above photo. As she points out in the comment above, the ones I initially used were thicker than “the authentic vermicelli noodle [sha’riyya in Arabic]”.
Thanks. I bought some ingredients from an Indian grocer in Wefo and will make the soup tonight. Will try the author’s suggestion of adding curry and turmeric to the onions with the flour, and also bought some vermicelli with Arabic writing on the packet (authentic!).
Can never have enough good vegetarian recipes.
Ha that’s so cool – I know of at least three inner-west places where that will be tonight’s dinner. These days, I skip the flow and just add the turmeric with the tomato paste and curry powder. I hope you all enjoy it as much as we do. I had the leftovers for lunch in the Star Weekly office with my sub-editing pal Hellen!
Ha, that was a spectacular failure! The very thin vermicelli I used has clumped together in the pot (despite being quite separate when put in) and turned the ‘soup’ into a gluggy mess. Perhaps I should’ve used less and put it in later seeing as it was very thin (or used thicker noodles, which myself and the kids prefer anyway). I followed the recipe very precisely so I don’t think the problem could be anything else.
Not enough water? You’re meant to take the pasta bundle and crush it into 100s of small pieces by hand over the pot. Perhaps I need to make clear this is not a soup you make beforehand – or not entirely. The pasta is added in the last five mins or so, the lemon juice and fried onion just before serving.