The past few days have been grey and misty. We've actually burnt more wood in the past couple weeks than we did for the entire month of April. The damp, raw chill has put me off a bit. I haven't walked as much as I'd like. The soil isn't warming up, as it should so that we can get to planting. Everything seems to be in a state of suspension, while we wait and wait for Spring to show her colors. Even our daffodils have been cheated this year! The first blooms were snapped off or flattened by that snow storm we had a few weeks ago. The stalwart buds that came after the melt have been slow to develop and less showy without their neighboring blooms.
We are in need of color!
All this rain and drizzle has made me fall back on pots of soup and warm cozy meals. Hence, a hot and spicy red lentil soup made its way to the table yesterday for our lunch. This is a different soup from my usual South Beach chicken and red lentil soup. This soup is full of middle eastern and Indian spices and cooking touches. It all starts with a flat pan of roasted tomatoes that have been dressed with olive oil, harissa, and a bit of brown sugar. The sugar creates a blackened char that is really quite tasty and lends a deep body to the soup once everything gets a quick blitz with a hand blender. The tomatoes also deepen the color of the soup ... so gorgeous!
The base of the soup has onions, garlic, ginger root, a serrano chili (seeds, veins, and all), roasted and blitzed coriander and cumin seeds, saffron, turmeric, and Kosher salt and black pepper. Toast the red lentils in this sautéed slurry and add vegetable stock, some of the roasted tomatoes, and fresh cilantro.
This pot of soup smelled wonderful as it simmered to a thick mix. I blitzed it a bit, but let it retain part of the 'veg and legume form' - if you know what I mean. Topped with Greek yogurt, toasted almonds, perfect roasted tomatoes, and more fresh cilantro, it made for a pretty bowl of good minerals, vitamins and fiber. I felt no guilt when we tucked into more of that Boston Cream Pie a bit later in the afternoon.
Red Lentil and Roasted Tomato Soup with Saffron
another Diana Henry recipe
Serves 6 as a starter or 3 as a main course
10 plum tomatoes (I used hothouse over-sized cherry tomatoes), halved
1/4 c. olive oil
2 heaping tsp. harissa
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 tsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tbsp. peanut oil
1 large onion, small dice
4 garlic cloves, small dice
1/2 tsp. turmeric
a generous pinch saffron
3/4 inch piece of ginger root, peeled and small dice
1 green Serrano chili, small dice with seeds and veins intact
1 heaping c. split red lentils
4 c. vegetable broth (or chicken broth if you like)
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for garnishing the soup bowls
Greek yogurt for soup garnish
toasted almond slivers for soup garnish (and to replace bread or crackers)
Making the Soup:
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Whisk together the olive oil, harissa, salt and pepper in a mixing cup.
3. Place the tomatoes on a rimmed baking pan , cut side up. Drizzle the harissa/oil mix over them. Roast for about 25 minutes. hen, sprinkle the tomatoes with the brown suagr and continue roasting until their edges are blackened and crisped a bit. You can turn the broiler on them if they're being stubborn.
4. Remove from oven and set aside six of the most perfect looking tomato halves. The rest of the tomatoes and the cooking juices will go into the soup.
5. Meanwhile, place the coriander and cumin seeds in a small fry pan and toast over high heat for about one minute - until you smell the oils and the seeds just start to brown a bit. Turn the seeds into a mortar and grind to dust. Set aside.
6. Heat the peanut oil in a heavy soup pot. Add the onion and sauté until the onion starts to brown up. Add the garlic, ginger, chili, and al the spices and toss to coat everything. Cook for a minute or two.
7. Add the lentils and toss to coat them with the spices and aromatics juices.
8. Add the vegetable stock and the roasted tomatoes and juices. Season with a bit more salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or so. The red lentils should collapse.
9. Remove half the soup to a blender bowl and puree the soup. Return it to the pan and stir into the more fibrous soup.
10. Let the soup reheat for a few minutes while you toast some almond slivers in a dry fry pan.
11. Serve in bowls, topped with a couple dollops of Greek yogurt, a roasted tomato half, and sprinklings of fresh cilantro and almond slivers.
NOTE: If you would like to make your own harissa, see the link provided below: