Dal Maharani Becomes the Queen of Curried Lentil Soup

I am sure that to many people I look like a picky eater.  My daughter was laughingly discussing this, with regard to a friend of hers.  All the things she wouldn't eat and worried about.  And, I found myself totally identifying with that woman. If we go to a restaurant it begins before even getting there.  The number of places I won't consider, don't want to go to.  Would much rather just eat at home, have some crackers and cheese.  And then the business of trying to use and consume less gluten; only animals produced naturally, sustainably, without additives; vegetables raised organically, etc.  It limits what can go on our plates.  Actually I'm thankful choices are out there for the most part, since with age, this has all become more of an issue. We notice the effects more immediately in our bodies.  One of my goals being not to darken a doctor's door.

Since one healthier choice is to have less meat, and in this economy, it's a decidedly frugal one as well, I've been featuring more legumes, tofu, cheese, and fish protein alternatives during the week for our dinners.

That said, this creamy, spicy and delicious lentil soup is truly without peer.  In the lentil world.  I found her lolling about in the December issue of Bon Appetit, in Molly Wizenberg's column. I made a few changes to the recipe, which she in turn got from Chef Anson Klock of Picnic in Seattle.  It is a sort of French Indian merger, with le puy lentils and toned down spicing.  However I did tone things back up a wee notch.  Instead of using curry powder, (I always wonder what spices exactly are in there, and how fresh?)  I used a combination of separate elements.   

Beans and lentils aren't all that exciting by themselves, but in conjunction with some exotic and flavorful little helpers, their earthy, robust strength comes into a new realm.  Traditional Dal Maharani uses a combination of beans and lentils with some cream added at the end to give it, yes creaminess. Chef Klock experimented with achieving that traditional creamy, unctuousness in his soup without using cream, and ended up pureeing chickpeas.  I decided to use besan, a flour made from chickpeas instead, which had the desired effect, without opening a can.

Curried Lentil Soup
3 tablespoons olive oil or ghee
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly toasted and crushed
1 red chili pepper (or to taste), finely minced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 cup French green lentils
4 1/4 cups (or more) water, divided
1/2 cup chickpea flour
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 lemon, cut in wedges

Heat 2 tablespoons ghee or oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat.  Add the onion and carrot; sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and translucent, about 6 minutes.

Add the chopped garlic and spices, stir until fragrant, about 2 more minutes.  Add the lentils and 4 cups of water.  Bring up the heat to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Skim if needed. Cook until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile mix the besan, remaining water and olive oil together in a bowl, adding more water if necessary for a thick batter like consistency.  When the lentils are tender, add the besan mix, stirring for several more minutes to heat and cook the chickpea flour batter.  Use more water to get it to the thickness you want.  Add the butter and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve in bowls, sprinkling with the thinly sliced green onions, and with lemon wedges alongside. Crackers, a nice baguette, or pappadams would go well with this. I'm linking this up with Chaya's My Meatless Mondays, and the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop, co-hosted by Alex at A Moderate Life, so check out the wide range of dishes.  I learn so much from the various recipe exchanges.


Swathi said...

I love lentils, this soup looks delicious and filling.

The Healthy Apple said...

This lentil soup looks incredible; I'm always making lentils during the winter and this is such a wonderful recipe; thank you for sharing! Can't go wrong with the curry as this sounds delish! I love it.

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Katerina said...

Lentils are widely used in Greek kitchen. This soup looks hearty and comforting.

Jason@JLHealth said...

Wow what a great looking lentil soup you've got there! So much flavor!

Thanks for sharing at the hearth and soul hop.

Butterpoweredbike said...

French meets Indian, that sounds like a great fusion. I have a long-standing love of lentil soup, and just the sight of it brings back memories of so many good meals. Thanks for sharing with the Hearth and Soul hop.

Joanne said...

I used to be a picky eater but I've found that having a food blog has convinced me to try so many new things! This soup sounds delicious. I love curry and I LOVE lentils!

Sweet Kitchen said...

I am slightly obsessed with lentil soup and this one looks amazing. I love the idea of French/Indian fusion and I am definitely going to try it!

Good luck with the guanciale - I am seriously impressed!

Miriam said...

I adore lentil soup, great recipe! Miriam@Meatless Meals For Meat Eaters