Lentils are one of my comfort foods and red lentils just deliver that soothing effect to our whole well being. It must be their vibrant, yet earthy and soothing color. It’s good to have split red lentils all the time as they are a good source of protein and fiber and they also cook in less than 30 minutes. And when they are used in soups, they melt into the liquid resulting in a creamy consistency.
Red lentils are always paired with spices. I love using garam masala for another layer of earthy and interesting flavors. I made my own blend of garam masala from whole and ground spices. But I always prefer using all whole spices for their maximum flavor. I also think that there’s no single recipe for garam masala. So, looking at a recipe as a guide and adjusting the amount of spices according to your taste is way better than buying already grounded garam masala. Toasting and grinding them your self will also lift up your spirits.
Although this soup is quick to make, sweating the onions is an important step that you need to do, making sure that the onions are cooked over low heat until they are soft and tender before adding the tomatoes. The onions will impede from softening when you add the tomatoes at once. Sweating the onions also adds sweetness to the whole dish.
I try to avoid anything canned but there are exceptions like canned tomatoes. Roasted tomatoes would also be excellent for their more intense sweet flavor. If you have someone in your family who is tomato-phobic like my mother because of the sourness, then choosing canned tomatoes is as important as choosing fresh tomatoes. Watch the video below from Rouxbe Online Cooking School on How to Choose Quality Canned Tomatoes.
I love anything with coconut. For this soup, I’m using some local virgin coconut oil for sweating the onions and some fresh coconut cream to finish the dish. And I always serve it with extra coconut cream. The best virgin coconut oil I’ve ever purchased was produced by The Farm. The Farm is a medical and wellness resort in Batangas, Philippines which is about 2 hours away from Metro Manila. This is one of the establishments that I want to work for. And I love the taste of coconut in this recipe. The fresh coconut cream is somewhat sweet and blends beautifully with this feisty soup.
This soup can also be pureed but I prefer to serve just the way it is. Feel free to adjust the amount of lentils and it all depends if you want it really chunky. This morning, I have to add another can of tomatoes because the lentils have doubled in size. Which means, I have enough soup for 4 more people.
Soothing Red Lentil and Tomato Soup
2 tbsp virgin coconut oil 1 large onion 2 small dried chiles, freshly ground (optional) 2 tsp garam masala 1 cup red lentils 2 cans (400g)whole tomatoes 3 cupschicken or vegetables stock unrefined sea salt, to taste
1 cup fresh coconut cream, approximately (if fresh is available) cilantro leaves
To prepare your mise en place, first remove the seeds from the whole tomatoes and processed in the blender until roughly puree. Then, quickly rinse the lentils and drain well.
To start the soup, first peel and finely dice the onion. Then heat a heavy-bottom soup pot over medium high heat. Add the oil, followed by the onions. Season the onions with sea salt and cook until the onions are soft and tender. Add the ground dried chilies and garam masala and cook for another one minute. Then add the red lentils, tomatoes and stock and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat, cover, lid slightly open and simmer the soup for about 20 to 30 minutes until the lentils are tender.
When the lentils are already tender, chop some cilantro leaves and heat the coconut cream until lukewarm.
If the soup is too thick, add more stock. Season the soup with sea salt to taste.
To serve, ladle the soup onto soup bowls, then garnish with coconut cream and chopped cilantro.