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.
Curried Lentil Soup Recipe
- 1 ½ cups yellow split peas
- ½ cup red lentils
- 1 teaspoon coriander seed
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek
- 6 green cardamom pods
- 2 tablespoons ghee
- 2 shallots peeled and sliced thin
- 1 tablespoon ginger paste
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne powder
- 6 cups bone broth
- 2 cups coconut milk
- yogurt to serve
- lime to serve
- cilantro to serve
- Pour yellow split peas and red lentils into a mixing bowl cover with hot water by two inches. Allow the lentils and split peas to soak for ten to twelve hours, then drain them and rinse them thoroughly.
- Heat a cast-iron skillet over a moderately high flame until hot, then toss in coriander, cumin, fenugreek and cardamom seeds, stirring constantly until well-toasted, about two minutes. Remove the toasted spices from the skillet and crush by hand with a mortar and pestle or grind in a spice grinder. Melt ghee in a heavy-bottomed stock pot over a moderate flame, then toss in shallots and ginger, frying until fragrant – about three to four minutes. Stir in toasted spices, curry powder and cayenne pepper, and continue cooking for another minute or two.
- Pour soaked, rinsed and drained lentils and split peas into the pot with chicken bone broth. Reduce the heat and simmer the soup until the lentils and split peas are cooked through, about forty-five minutes.
- Puree the soup with an immersion blender or run it through a foodmill, then stir in coconut milk and raisins and continue simmering about ten minutes.
- Serve with yogurt, cilantro and fresh lime.