Saturday, February 09, 2013

Spicy carrot and lentil soup

I held off on writing this post because I wanted to take a photo of the recipe in the book (the Ultimate Low-Fat one I've mentioned in previous posts).  I finally did that on Wednesday morning but then had a very hectic couple of days.  Today I managed to load the photo on to my computer only to realise that I'd actually take a photo a couple of weeks ago when I first decided to make this soup.  Typical of the kind of thing I'm doing at the moment, just typical.

So anyway, this is one of the soups I made last week and really, really enjoyed.  It was delicious just as it was and also worked with a sausage added to bulk it up into an even more substantial winter meal.

Someone asked in comments last week if I used a recipe for the soups I made.  For the past couple of years, whenever I have made soup I have more or less thrown whatever veg I had on hand into a pot with some stock and let it cook until I remembered to take it off the heat, sometimes using the stick blender to puree it, sometimes leaving it as "with bits in".  I've decided however, that in the interests of not having basically the same soup all the time ('cos no matter what I put in it, the above method tended to produce surprisingly little variety of taste).   The leek and potato soup I made last week was a very basic recipe I have in my head, roughly equal amounts of leek and potato, cleaned/peeled as necessary, chopped small, sauteed in a small amount of butter (lid on) and then enough stock to cover added, brought to a boil, then heat turned down to let it simmer for half-an-hour or so/until the potatoes are cooked through.  I eat some as it is and puree some.

For the spicy carrot soup however, I followed the recipe above.  I even did that thing I always intend to do but don't always get around to and I gathered all the ingredients before starting to cook.  I purposely bought some small dishes to allow me to do this a couple of years ago and if you can at all, I highly recommend it.  You know that way cooking shows make everything look so effortless?  It's because they have everything measured out beforehand.  I find that if I do the same, I am far more likely to be able to follow a recipe accurately and I can devote more attention to actually getting the cooking right.  So here's what I started with:

Starting in the top left-hand corner: vegetable stock, milk (I used a mixture of whole fat milk and water, the recipe calls for skimmed milk, which I don't buy), olive oil, lemon juice, lentils (recipes calls for split red but I had a mix of different ones in a Tupperware container and just used that), tin of tomatoes, carrots, onions, tumeric, coriander, cumin and one red chilli (semi-dried, as they tend to be at this time of year around here).  The recipe calls for garlic as well but I didn't have any.

I put the lentils on to cook with some of the stock, the carrots, onions and tomatoes.  Then I busied myself cleaning and chopping the leeks and potatoes for the other soup and washing what dishes had already been dirtied.  I cooked the lentils and veg in a large deep pan rather than a saucepan and kept the lid on the whole time.  You bring the whole lot to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.  If I hadn't had the lid on the whole time I definitely would have had issues with it drying out so do keep an eye on it.  Once that was cooked I started with the second step of the recipe, preparing the spices.

To do this you heat the oil (you can also use ghee/clarified butter instead of oil), add the spices and chilli and fry gently for one minute.  Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice.  Now, I used a bit more lemon juice than called for in the recipe since I basically just used all the juice that came out of half a small lemon.  But I didn't wait for long after removing the pan from the heat so it was probably a good thing I had extra juice - most of the first half I added evaporate in a hiss of steam as soon as it hit the hot pot.  I added the rest of it and stirred vigourously.

Rather than dirtying yet more stuff by blending the cooked lentil mix in batches, I used my stick blender to puree the whole lot in the pan it was in.  Since there wasn't a huge amount of liquid left in the mix it was a fairly coarse mix.  It's such a hearty, rustic kind of soup though that I felt it suited it.  Once that was done I  added the remaining stock and returned it to the heat for ten minutes.  Fair warning that this is a very spattery type of soup so keep the lid on when possible at this stage too.  I ended up having to wipe down a few things nearby that got caught in the crossfire and no-one needs more cleaning up to do than necessary, now do they.  Once that was done I stirred in the milk and it was done.

I really enjoyed this soup, the texture was nice and the flavour deep and satisfying.  I was worried that using a semi-dried red chilli, including seeds, would make it too hot in comparison to the fresh green, de-seeded chilli that the recipe calls for but if anything it was too mild.  The flavour of the spices was much improved the next day, as is often the case with soups and stews, but the heat still wasn't really there.  Of course the garlic was missing too so next time I'll have to make sure I have garlic around and maybe use a bit more/bit spicier chilli.  This soup was also very filling and is a really excellent winter dish.  I'll be making it again often I think.

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