Friday, March 8, 2013

Spiced Lentil Soup with Coconut Milk

When I came across this recipe, I was pretty pumped.  First of all, you know my new love for lentils in soups.  Second, the fact that it has coconut milk in it was very intriguing (not to mention coconut oil).  And lastly it calls for interesting things that I have never even cooked with, like lemongrass.  I knew my family would probably be pretty skeptical, but I was excited to try out spiced lentil soup with coconut milk.  And by the time I was done making it, the rest of my family was intrigued as well because it makes the house smell really good!

Let me just say that lemongrass might be my new favorite thing.  It's a little twiggy-like, like a mixture between a leek and a stick.  You can peel off the outer layers and then you really need to mince what is left because it can be kind of hard to chew.  But it smells amazing!  It's so lemony and bright and makes me want to just gnaw on it.  Luckily I controlled myself and just used it in the soup.

Another reason why the soup was so cool is that it has awesome flavor combinations that you might not expect in a soup: things like cardamom, cinnamon (a half teaspoon!), and citrus juice (I used lemon).  When you saute the onions and lemongrass with the spices, the whole house smells like... I'm not sure where.  India? The Caribbean? Something exotic and spicy and sweet-and-savory at the same time.

I ended up using spinach as my leafy green just because I had it on hand.  The spinach bites ended up being my mother's (and my!) favorite ones, which is surprising because she doesn't like spinach that muc, but it made for a nice soft texture in among all the tender lentils. 

Besides the fact that the lentils have to cook for 20 minutes, this was a pretty quick soup to make.  While you boil the lentils, you work on sauteing the onions anyway, so you can do two things at once, while making your house smell Indian/Caribbean and intriguing your family.

In the end, I thought this soup was awesome, and my mother, who had been skeptical, ended up eating it for lunch two days afterwards.  It is definitely weird, but I knew that when I set out to make it.  Weirdness was expected, appreciated, and devoured.


spiced lentil soup with coconut milk

from Sprouted Kitchen, originally adapted from the Traveler's Lunchbox and Once Upon a Tart

1 1/2 cup lentils, rinsed (green suggested)
4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 1/2 tsp. tumeric OR curry powder (I used turmeric)
2 tsp. dried thyme or 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 Tbsp. coconut oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 stalks lemongrass, outer layer removed, lower portion finely minced
1 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of red pepper flakes to taste
pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
1 1/4 cup coconut milk (use full fat)
3 Tbsp. lemon, lime or orange juice
a few handfuls of swiss chard, spinach or kale
1 cup flake coconut, toasted (optional - I did not use this or the cilantro)
chopped cilantro, for garnish (optional)

1) Add the rinsed lentils, broth, thyme and tumeric or curry powder to a large pot. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes.

2) While the lentils cook, heat the coconut oil in a pan. Add the onion and saute until just browned. Add the lemongrass, salt, cardamom, cinnamon, pinch of red pepper flakes and some fresh ground nutmeg and saute another minute. Add the onion mixture to the lentils and stir, keeping the heat on a low simmer.

3) Add the coconut milk and greens and simmer another five minutes, stirring occasionally until just wilted. Taste for salt and spice and add as you prefer. Finish with the citrus juice and serve warm with toasted coconut flakes and cilantro on top.

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