Sunday, April 15, 2012

Cooking Challenge Week 15 - One Pot - Lentil Soup with Chicken and Potatoes

I love lentils.  Maybe they're an odd thing to love, but I have yet to meet a lentil soup I don't like, and I've been known to eat leftover tarka dal on wheat toast for breakfast!  This is one of my two favorite recipes (why, yes, I can have two because they're incredibly different!)  This one came from one of my first Indian cookbooks, and is definitely the more versatile of the two in terms of add-ins; the other relies on the standard mirepoix, plus rosemary and bacon.  I'll probably share that one at some point in the future...

Down to business.  The bare bones soup is delicious--I made it that way first, years ago.  The recipe lists two choices of optional additions, separate but equal: pre-cooked diced potato, or pre-cooked rice, obviously intended to help use up leftovers.  We like both, though I lean in slight favor of the potato.  Then I adapted the recipe to use either uncooked rice or potatoes by adding extra water and playing with the cook times--it is a soup, after all!  Then came experimenting with other vegetables.  Cauliflower is okay; parsnip is a definite no, its flavor ended up dominating the whole soup, which wasn't at all right.

This time, however, is the first time I tried adding chicken.  I had some leftover cooked chicken I'd intended to use for chicken salad, but it just didn't end up happening, so into the pot it goes!

Lentil Soup
(adapted from The Complete Book of Indian Cooking)
  • 1 tbsp ghee (or butter)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 fresh green chili, finely chopped (and deseeded if you don't like the heat)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/3 cup split red lentils (masoor dal)
  • 1 cup water
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • lemon juice, to taste
Optional: 1/2 cup uncooked rice or 1 large russet potato, peeled and finely diced, plus 1 cup extra water ; 1 cup chopped cooked chicken

Heat the ghee in a large saucepan and fry the onion, garlic, chili, and turmeric over medium heat until the onion is translucent.   Add the lentils and water and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until all the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.  Mash the lentils lightly with the back of a wooden spoon.

Add the salt, tomatoes, and sugar and mix well.  For the bare bones soup, you're almost done; raise the heat to medium and cook the soup just long enough to soften the tomatoes, about 5 minutes.

If using rice or potatoes, add them now with the extra water, and cook until the rice is done or the potatoes are fork-tender, 15-20 minutes.  If using the chicken, add last and cook just long enough to heat through.

Finally, season the soup with lemon juice to taste.  How much you need will depend mostly on the acidity of the tomatoes and your personal preference.

Serve piping hot with any Indian flat bread to dip, or even just crusty French bread!

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