My husband and I have always really enjoyed Indian food (from India, that is). In fact, our wedding rehearsal dinner was at an Indian restaurant. While some of our guests felt like they were having an out of this world food experience (or at least, out of country!), we felt right at home among the curries, the lentil soups, the fried samosa, and the delicious naan bread. Definitely one of our favorite foods.
So I was surprised with myself that I had never prepared a dish using the spice combination referred to as Garam Masala. What was I waiting for? Garam Masala, like a lot of premixed curry powders have a wide range of flavor combinations. One garam masala combination is not necessarily more authentic than another one because it varies greatly in India itself. I am looking forward to trying some other garam masala combinations, but I must say that I am sold on the one below. It is a delicious blend of warming spices, like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and cardamom (I am currently in love with cardamom, by the way. It has incredible flavor).
The result is the perfect soup for a cold fall night. It’s rich and creamy from the coconut milk, the pureed lentil and rice combination form a wonderful filling texture, and the spices literally warm and soothe you from the chilly weather. Another plus? It’s both easy and frugal to make! To make it even more frugal, I have doubled the recipe, and kept the amounts of coconut oil and coconut milk the same. Not quite as rich, but still very delicious.
We have enjoyed this soup many times now, and hope you enjoy it as well.
Garam Masala Lentil Soup with Coconut Milk, adapted from James Peterson’s, Splendid Soups-Serves 8
You will notice that I list three choices of legumes. I have listed in order of my preference. Each has it own unique taste. The yellow split pea soup is a delicious pea soup, the red lentils have wonderful texture and the brown lentils are more meaty (and cheap). The color is much prettier with red lentils or the yellow split peas.
1 medium to large size onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons coconut oil, ghee, or butter
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 cup of red lentils, yellow split peas, or brown lentils, rinsed and soaked overnight *
1 cup of brown rice
8 cups of water
1 14 ounce can of coconut milk
1/4 cup of coconut oil or ghee
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 freshly ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
*Lentils are low in phytic acid, so soaking isn’t absolutely necessary, but it does help make the lentils more digestible. Without the soaking, this is a great “last minute” soup. If you decide to use the yellow peas, make sure to soak.
1- In a large pot over medium heat cook the onions and turmeric for about 5 minutes in the coconut oil, and then add the garlic. Cook for a total of about ten minutes, or until the onions are soft and turn translucent.
2-Add the water, lentils and rice to the pot and bring to a simmer. Turn down low, and cook until the lentils and rice are cooked and very soft (about 45 minutes).
3-Using your handy immersion blender, blend to desired consistency (we like it mostly pureed, but with some texture left). Or use your regular blender or food mill.
4-Make the tadka by melting the coconut oil or ghee in a small saucepan. Add the spices and stir until you can smell the spices drifting upwards to you. Don’t burn! Whisk into the soup.
5-Add the coconut milk, and bring back to a simmer, adding salt to taste, and serve. Enjoy!