Curried lentil soup, rich with the heady scent of toasted cardamom, coriander, and fenugreek, moves from the humble to the extraordinary. It’s an uplifting perfume but sexy and earthy, too, ginger and shallots cook in grass-fed ghee or clarified butter, an ingredient essential in classical Indian cuisine, that offers the dual value of being one of the most nutrient-dense fats to any home cook.
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Curried lentil soup would be nothing but for its spices. Where a good stock is essential in preparing other soups. the combination of ethereal spices is essential in this dish – which is, of course, not to say that a good stock plays no role in the success or failure of curried lentil soup (, but, more aptly, it’s the toasted cardamom, cumin, fenugreek and coriander that truly elevate this humble pot of pureed lentils and split peas into something deservedly special.
As you toast the spices in a hot skillet, they begin to release their fragrance, but it’s upon crushing them that they blossom with perfume, erupting in clouds of fragrance: the maple-like scent of fenugreek, the sharp and green odor of cardamom all subdued by the earthiness of cumin and coriander. And as those clouds of perfume waft from your mortar, you can’t but help to become more involved in your cooking. No longer are you simply making a meal to feed your family; rather, you’re moved by the fragrance, by the celebration of flavor.
It's the same technique we use in this Garam Masala Chicken Curry.